Thank You, Next: Marie Kondo and the Joy of Letting Things Go

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Marie Kondo

I moved recently, and as anyone who has moved knows, it is a lot of work. This move was especially difficult for me because so much of my stuff had been sitting in storage. Previously, I made the move from Florida to North Carolina. While waiting for a stable opportunity in NC, I stayed with my parents and took small freelance jobs. The transition from living on my own, which I’ve done since college was extremely difficult. While staying with them, I took the essentials and left everything else in storage – that is, until moving day.

Moving day was a strange compilation of the feeling you get on Christmas morning when opening up new toys – except I basically forgot I owned them – and horror at the number of useless things I have somehow managed to collect. Sorting through my items and attempting to give them new homes despite now living with significantly less furniture (I gave all of mine away so I didn’t have to lug it from Florida to NC) was an anxiety-inducing task. In my panicked state, I decided I needed a break, however, I am not good at turning off my brain completely so I figured I would jump on the Marie Kondo hype train and try to spark some joy and design inspiration into my new abode.

Marie Kondo is a Japanese organizing consultant and author of Spark Joy and Life-changing Magic: A Journal: Spark Joy Every Day who now, as of January 1st, has a Netflix show, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. In the show, she helps clients who have become overwhelmed by clutter within their homes. Traditionally, shows that focus on minimalism stress me out. Minimalism is the focus away from the excessive and overly decorative.

Considering my massive comic book collection, art collection, and figure collection, I am not interested in being a minimalist. Unlike most minimalist approaches and shows, Kondo’s is different. She never shames her clients and she approaches the de-cluttering process with utmost care and respect, not only for her clients but for their items.

Kondo’s method divides items into five categories: clothing, books, papers, komono (miscellany), and mementos. Kondo always starts with clothes, asking her clients to pile all of their clothing into one space. This helps them visualize how much they have. From there she asks them to pick up each item one by one and decide for themselves if it sparks joy. If the item does not spark joy, she has her client thank it, yes thank the item, and then put it aside to either be donated or given away. That same process is then continued with each category.

As I watched the show and how Kondo has her clients thank their items and watched as she meditated in their home, treating it like it is its own entity, I realized how therapeutic the process is. Part of the reason I moved from Florida to North Carolina was that the job market in Orlando is downright terrible, but the other part is I am just not healthy enough to live so far away from my family. Prior to moving, I was working freelance jobs mostly because I was too ill to continuously go into an office.

When you work at home, or are forced to work from home, it can be very depressing. Anyone on medical leave can tell you, it is not a vacation. I was exhausted with my house and sometimes turned to retail therapy to feel whole. Seeing a new item, whatever it might be, helped me cope with the fact I was staring at the same space all day, every day.

Between treating my depression with retail therapy, a breakup, and a move, I was surrounded in knick-knacks, cups, clothing, and more that I did not need, and to put it bluntly, no longer sparked joy. As I was able to gather my thoughts and sort through the items I found myself taking in Kondo’s method and thanked them. I thanked a silly Captain America keychain for making me smile when it sat on my desk, I thanked an old sweater for keeping me warm in sub-zero temperature my previous office seemed to be set at, and I thanked items for giving me comfort when I needed it most.

There is often the notion that a wealth of material items equates to vanity or materialism but it is not always that simple. In episode four of Kondo’s show, “Sparking Joy After a Loss,” Kondo helps a widow who has recently lost her husband to illness sort through his items. During the immensely daunting task of sorting through her deceased husband’s clothing, Kondo reminds the woman the purpose of the exercise is not to throw everything away.

It is ok if something that is not needed brings joy, it’s ok to hold onto it. When tearfully dropping off her husband’s items to the donation center, the woman remarks that she still has the memories, and nothing can take that away. In my new job and new apartment, those difficult moments and the lessons I learned from them stay with me even if the items do not.

Kondo has said the reason she thanks these objects is partially to lessen the guilt felt when giving them up but also to appreciate what the item has taught her. I recently decided to part with a Funko Pop an ex-boyfriend gave me but I thanked it for bringing me joy and teaching me about myself at that moment. It was a very bittersweet moment because it was symbolic of the new chapter in my life. I am moving on without him, I decided I don’t want him in my life anymore so it is only logical to let go of things he gave me. Kondo’s method forced me to ask myself, do I want this in my life going forward?

In a world of Arianna Grande’s “Thank U, Next,” it is nice to know a similar sentiment can be applied to items. We all are holding onto something superfluous because it means something or came to us at a difficult point in our lives, Kondo’s message teaches us that it is time to say thank you and let it go.

Tidying Up with Marie Kondo is now streaming on Netflix.