Jan 31, 2019
As mentioned previously, I am trying to clean my home this year and it just so happens that Netflix has graced us with the TV series Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, a follow-up to her best selling books that urge the organizationally challenged to keep the possessions that "spark joy" and discard others.
This series has also sparked criticism, but usually for less than accurate or rational reasons. One woman was upset for her own inability to take out the garbage bags full of sorted trash. Another viral comment claimed that the organizational expert recommended keeping only 30 books, which was never actually said in the show. There was so much backlash that others took up the opposite end of the spectrum, explaining the links to shintoism while condemning the perceived racism in some of the backlash.
One older piece that spoke to me mentioned the privileged of de-cluttering-- that a minimalist lifestyle is predicated on being able to easily replace anything that breaks or wears out, which is not actually an ability all of us have. Before starting the show, I noted that this woman would not likely be taking into account the difficulty I have in finding fitting clothing or the guilt I feel about throwing away stuff, even stuff that other people would toss without a second thought.
It was with this in mind that I began the show, expecting to feel attacked because my home is extremely messy, not to the point of being on a show like Hoarders, but far worse than anyone I saw on the Netflix program. To my utter surprise, Marie Kondo came onto the screen with cheer and encouragement. After 10 years in Japan, I should have expected something like this, but the natural guilt and shame of a messy home coupled with living in a country that prides itself on a place for every thing and everything in its place led me far astray.
I'll agree with her on many things, but talking to clothes? Nope. Not doing that.
Even more shocking, in one of the later episodes, a woman like me learns to deal with her clutter and exploding closet. this is despite her wanting to hang onto joyless clothes that fit right now and her plans to have another child in the near future. She's also an expat from Pakistan and feels the need to keep more parts of her home culture with her abroad.
I may be a white lady from Texas, but this lady is my people.
Overall, there is a lot of good in this method. It makes sense to keep things that make you happy, store them in a way that you can find and use them. When you consider the Shinto element, greeting the house and getting a feel for what you want it to be can be very helpful moving forward. Many of her suggestions are thoughtful and logical and there is a lot to be gained from the show even if you aren't ready to utilize the whole of the method.
That said, I do have two personal disconnects with the material.
The first involves talking to clothing. Folding laundry in my opinion is a chance to check for wear and tear. I am already exhausted pretty regularly and lack the extra mental energy to talk with my clothes. It's a sweet idea but it won't work for me the majority of the time and that's okay.
My second problem with the method has everything to do with my own personal brain. When creative and happy, I can see so much potential in any article of clothing that discarding it feels sinfully wasteful. When depression rears its ugly head, joy abandons me entirely and nothing I own will spark more than a sad sigh.
A process like this may seem arduous to the point of forfeit for people like me, but the better take-away from the show isn't that we should all do all the things Marie does perfectly. Instead, we should take what we can from it and use what works for us. I've already started eyeing my clean laundry and asking myself about my waiting sweater. Does it spark joy, or does it just fit over my form? It's halfway in-between, so today it lives on.
The most important take-away I have is permission to get rid of things I no longer need or use. It is okay to say goodbye to them and I did catch myself saying goodbye to our old bathmat as I placed it in out burnable garbage and thank it for the eight years it spent drying and discoloring under our feet.
A working mom/writer/teacher, Jessica explores her surroundings in Miyagi-ken and Tohoku, enjoying the fun, quirky, and family friendly options the area has to offer.
I hear you! Some of my stuff doesn't spark joy, but it does the job. I'm afraid this also includes footwear. Ladies with monster feet like me (25.5 to 26 cm), not just foreign women but robust Japanese women, wear comfortable dude shoes not because they like them, but because the shoes fit. There's no joy going on here. It's simply a matter of making do. But I also embrace the idea of turning over things to see if they still make me happy. I've been slowly spring cleaning as my budget and time allows, disposing of things that have served me well but are tattered, and investing in bath and kitchen things that make me smile when I see them. Letting go is a spiritual thing, too.
Well written I like Konmari because it is great motivation to declutter. I agree with you though about not getting rid of things because they happen to fit. I've always thought about my things as whether they increase my quality of life. I guess that is the spark joy part. either it is useful or makes me happy, otherwise, it can go and make someone else happy or make space for something else that will make me happy. The problem I often have is organization, especially in a foreign country with smaller spaces to put things. Trying hard to organize and clean daily steals all my time which is much more important to my quality of life. Adding more mental strain by thanking while folding would make me want to throw it all out and go naked instead. I think I agree with every part of what you've said
The first time I read the Konmari book was in Germany and so I thought greeting the home meant saying "tadaima". Although I held on to a lot of items I was able to let go of a lot too (mainly manga, I didn't enjoy reading anymore). Although there were not too much of a visible effect it did help me question future purchases.
@TonetoEdo I completely agree. Also, as a lady above the 25cm mark in footwear, I recommend any outlet mall with a Sketchers store. They sometimes go up to size 10 US (27cm!) which is what I wear currently due to the width of my feet. Sprucing up is always a good call, but you're right about utility.
@edthethe I am so glad it's not just me. Also, stay tuned. Next week I'm going to write about another cleaning strategy that actually helped me a lot more and comes in the form of a book. If you want to check it out beforehand, here it is: https://www.amazon.co.jp/Manage-Your-Home-Without-Losing-ebook/dp/B01CXE9M5E/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1548991188&sr=8-1&keywords=how+to+manage+your+home
@Striffy That is excellent that it helped you, even if not in a very visible way. Anything that helps you is worth it.
@edthethe I can’t say I thank items when I’m cleaning and tidying. But I do thanks to things when I part with them. I Ilived in a 4LDK, but now a 1DK solo. I’ve always kicked everyone out and listened to the radio, or podcasts, or music while I clean.
@JTsuzuki I’m looking forward to your blog, too!