Tidying Up More Than Just Your Home

| Caitlin Kline, LCSW

Part I

You’d have to live under a rock, or not have Netflix (are those two really different?) to not know about “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.” If you do live under a rock, I’ll give a short synopsis. Marie Kondo is a Japanese woman who has taken the heap of mess you call your closet and your junk drawer by storm! She shows people how to go through the things in their home and decide what to give away/throw away and what to keep. You make this decision based on what “sparks joy.”

There are five categories: clothes, books, papers, komono (miscellaneous- such as kitchen, garage, bathroom), and sentimental items. She also offers ways to store and organize the items that you decide to keep in a space-efficient manner. (I draw the line at the folding my shirts into tiny squares!)

I started thinking about how we can take this same concept and apply it to our time and relationships. Does this person “spark joy” in my life? I know that everyone has asked themselves this question in one way or another. I also think that there are many different schools of thought on this subject. In some family cultures, if someone chews with their mouth open, that’s grounds for no longer being invited to Sunday dinners. On the other end of the spectrum, there’s the no-matter-what, they could have been a mass murderer (well- maybe not to that extreme) commitment to our loved ones. Loyalty to family, friends, or otherwise is a spectrum.

There’s also the challenge of ambivalence when we consider whether to “thank” this person for what they have offered you in your life and let go. (I forgot to mention, if you decide that something doesn’t “spark joy,” Marie Kondo’s method instructs us to thank this item for what it has brought to our lives before we let it go.) The ambivalence may be feeling obligated by how long you’ve known this person, what they have offered you/done for you in the past, being worried about how they will be without you, are they going to change the behaviors that are troublesome, or can this be fixed?

I once heard a wise statement about this subject from a former colleague- all relationships end by death or decision. When we address “Tidying Up” our relationships, the concept of self-respect comes up for me. The Marie Kondo process is meant to lighten people’s loads, both with tangible items and mentally. With people and relationships, it’s not always a black or white answer. It may be somewhere in the grey- can you manage this relationship with boundaries or limits? Can you address the problems in the relationship in a constructive manner? If those things have already been attempted and this person is still not “sparking joy,” maybe it is time to thank them for being in your life and end the relationship by decision.

None of these are easy questions and there is no perfect solution. There may be no consequences either way if you decide to keep your prom dress from 2009 (because dammit, it sparks joy!), but people are more complicated.

Today's the day to make a change.