Personal Development

Is emotionally-charged decluttering healthy?

Folding clothes in the Marie Kondo way | Where my heart leads

Marie-Kondoing has taken off. Like Googling has become a verb, Kondo-ing has become a verb to mean purging things that do not spark joy. Netflix even aired a Marie Kondo show early this year. In the trailer, you see people distraught as they part with their belongings, as if they’re parting with a loved one. Their emotional responses – their red, crying faces made me wonder, is there something amiss in the approach?

The KonMari method theoretically

The idea

The idea is – by purging all that doesn’t spark joy, you’ll be living surrounded by only belongings and relationships that spark joy in you. Theoretically by doing so, you’ll be more joyful, fulfilled, happy.

The method

The Konmari method is easy to follow. First, you decide what to keep and what to discard. Then with the things you decide to keep, you organise them so each has a place in your home.

As an early adopter of the ‘Kon-marie‘ method after reading Marie Kondo’s first book, The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up, I felt I found ‘the best guide for decluttering.’ I happily tackled the categories in the way Marie Kondo suggests. The results made me happy.

I decided to keep only the clothing that sparked joy. As Kondo suggests, I folded the clothing like sushi rolls so each would stand on its own. I hung my clothing like she suggests with dark colors on the left, and light colors to the right so it looks like it’s rising: from heavier left to a lighter right.

Armed with a ‘guidebook on tidying up,’ I felt empowered to finally tackle the stack of random printed material and notes piled on the desk, and anything else that could use a ‘cull’ (ahem, an edit).

What gave me pause

While it felt good to declutter, the framework for deciding what to keep and what to discard later gave me pause.

With some time and distance to my kondo-ing, I realise that in my fervour, I had discarded things that either A) I somehow despised; B) associated the item with some memory I found unpleasant. Both criteria met Marie Kondo’s for not sparking joy. However, there was a piece not addressed – the emotional association, and in these cases, a negative one.

When we discard something because it doesn’t spark joy, we are in fact judging the item. It’s like, ‘Ok, this [enter object name] doesn’t give me [enter feel good factor] anymore, let’s toss it.’ or “Uh, this reminds me of [whomever that gets on my nerves], I’m not going to keep it”

I suppose it’s like rather than confront what was making me uncomfortable, I had simply wanted to just get rid of it.

A different deciding factor: emotional charge

When we discard something based on whether it ‘sparks joy,’ we judge them for not giving us joy. Whereas, another way would be to look at whether we still have an emotional charge to the thing/person/incident.

Those things with an “unpleasant” memory or emotional charge was actually an opportunity for me to look at why it seemed unpleasant. When there was no longer an emotional charge, that means I have resolved that issue and the item has served its purpose.

Decluttering can be a great exercise. Decluttering neutrally presents an opportunity to resolve what we may not have wanted to look at. When we apply this to how we declutter things, relationships, etc, perhaps it’s simpler and more complete.

The goal is similar: for a life that Sparks Joy. Yet in abundance and without limitations on how many books one should own!*

*As Marie Kondo suggests keeping only 30 books, people began to weigh-in on whether that made sense or not.

Background: Marie Kondo is a Japanese decluttering and organising expert. When her book The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up came out, it quickly caught on in the English-speaking world. On the Netflix shows, she is invited to homes to help families declutter.