A Story of Talking to my Clothes

This week, I Marie Kondo’d my closet. For those who have yet to be exposed to this new Netflix show: “Tidying Up” – the KoniMarie method includes something called a “once-in-a-lifetime tidying marathon,” which means piling five categories of material possessions — clothing, books, papers, miscellaneous items and sentimental items, including photos, in that order — one at a time, surveying how much of each you have, seeing that it’s way too much and then holding each item to see if it sparks joy in your body. The ones that spark joy get to stay. The ones that don’t get a heartfelt and generous goodbye, via actual verbal communication, and are then sent on their way to their next life.


In some ways, this year feels like the “once-in-a lifetime tidying marathon” for my soul and for life. Moving to a new place, being in this program, all of the emotional work – it is a part of bringing it all out, exposing just the volumes and depths to being a human. We are tempted to cover up and even forget those shoes in the bottom of the pile – or the parts of ourselves we don’t want the world to see – but when it is brought into the light, we really can see that not everything is working, or serving us well. The sheer intensity with which we rake through our souls brings everything out onto the table.  We are confronted with the good, bad and ugly. 


The next step is getting rid of things that don’t spark joy.  Maybe, like me, you have seven grey sweaters and some of them just simply aren’t necessary anymore. As we comb through ourselves as fellows – we can thank the attitudes and operating assumptions, maybe the habits or patterns of our lives, that raised us and have brought us to this point. They have served a function to protect us, but maybe now aren’t necessary to keep. We can let go of things and use only those that serve a purpose to bring life, not death. 


During her lecture, Marie demonstrated how the body feels when it finds tidying joy. Her right arm pointed upward, her left leg bent in a display of glee or flying or something aerial and upright, her body arranged I’m-a-little-teacup-style, and a tiny hand gesture accompanied by a noise that sounded like “kyong.” Joy isn’t just happy; joy is efficient and adorable. A lack of joy, on the other hand, she represented with a different pose, planting both feet and slumping her frame downward with a sudden visible depletion of energy. When Kondo enacted the lack of joy, she appeared grayer and instantly older. There isn’t a specific enough name for the absence of joy; it is every emotion that isn’t pure happiness, and maybe it doesn’t deserve a name, so quickly must it be expunged from your life. It does, however, have a sound effect: “zmmp.”


You can own as much or little as you want, as long as everything you own is truly treasured. How different would our lives be if we tidied our souls like this? If everything we did, everything we were – was measured by this test? If we chose to engage – in relationships, conversations, vocation – that was lifegiving and sparked joy within us? And in the marathon, we are on mile 14. Over halfway. And once the work is done – Marie encourages us that we can feel lighter and live freer without our objects weighing us down. My hope for us as fellows is that we will feel lighter and freer as we learn to happen to our lives and only let things in that truly spark joy. 


And for those who aren’t sold on this whole “tidying” idea – at least check out Goodwill sometime soon. This “ruthless war on stuff” could work in your favor. Thrift stores nationwide are experiencing the “Marie Kondo effect” as donation bins overflow. 



 Marie Kondo’s “JOY” pose