There's been a lot of renewed buzz about Marie Kondo and her tidying method since the release of her Netflix show, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, the main principle of which is to go through all of the items you have and only keep the ones which “spark joy,” but which also includes gratitude for items you no longer want in your life and figuring out what items and lifestyle you want to be a part of your future. Thinking about your possessions like this touches a nerve in ways that most organizational methods don't, and the show becomes about so much more than just cleaning up your house; Kondo's clients go through emotional transformations that may make you start to tear up, if you're anything like me.
When Kondo's books first came out, I was intrigued by them, especially hearing about Anna’s experience with them, but while I haphazardly applied her main idea by trying to eliminate clutter and live a more minimalist lifestyle, I never tried her official process. When Dave and I watched the Tidying Up show, though, we found it very inspiring, and since we had been planning to go through some of our stuff for a while, we decided to give it a try. We’ve only gone through our clothes so far, but we’ve already seen that the process works, both in making our space tidier and stirring up deep emotions.
Although I knew that Kondoing can make you examine your life, I didn't really expect that going through my clothes would be that intense, at least compared with going through old papers and books; I was excited about getting rid of clothes I didn't really like or no longer wore and freeing up more space in my closet. The only emotion I thought I would feel would be annoyance at having to try on a lot of my clothes again, which I inexplicably really hate. (That hatred is what prevents me from shopping for clothes very frequently, which is probably why I didn't think I would care that much about getting rid of them.) But my experience turned out to be more complex than that.
The biggest reason for my mixed emotions was that I was forced to confront all of the implications of the fact that I've gained a significant amount of weight in the past year, even though it was needed, healthy weight. For one thing, some of the clothes that sparked joy when I held them in my hands no longer fit me when I put them on my body. Even though I knew that the benefit of my weight gain sparked far more joy in my life overall than those clothes did, it was still hard to have to let them go. It might sound surprising that I hadn’t more fully anticipated this situation—I did gain twenty pounds, after all—but most of my clothes that I wear on a more daily basis still fit or actually look much better on me now, so I didn’t think my weight gain would force me to get rid of a significant amount of clothes that I still loved.
Unfortunately, part of the reason why a lot of my clothes fit better now is that I had a tendency in the past to buy clothes that were too big for me, and I found that some of them still didn't fit me, even with twenty more pounds, which begged the question of how ridiculous they had looked on me before. Those clothes, along with others that fit but just didn't do me any favors, tangibly reminded me of both my past intense fear of immodesty and my low self-esteem that warped my perception of what good-looking, well-fitting clothes looked like and downplayed the importance of taking care of myself. They also brought up the exhaustion of past depression that made extraneous concerns like clothes seem pointless. While I'm grateful that I'm in a much better place now, I still feel sad sometimes about the darkness in my past, and it was hard to have to deal with those feelings again.
The other feeling I had to reckon with was frustration that Dave wasn't getting rid of as many clothes as I thought he should. Going through our clothes together confirmed my long-held suspicion that Dave has more clothes and shoes than I do, and while I had no problem with this in terms of my femininity or his masculinity being “threatened,” I hadn't really considered that it meant that we might not be equally vigilant in streamlining them and that we might not have the same goal of, say, not needing to hang any extra clothes in another closet. I realized, though, that I had made the classic error that keeps many people from seriously considering Kondo's method, which is thinking that the goal is to become as minimalist with your possessions as possible. The real goal, as I understand it, is rather to maximize the joy you feel from your possessions and surroundings, and that could mean owning ten shirts or fifty shirts. Dave has a lot of different hobbies that require different types of clothing and shoes, and he also doesn’t get as overwhelmed by things as easily as I do, so it makes sense that he wouldn’t be able to or want to pare down his wardrobe as much I wanted to pare down mine. It wasn't fair of me to impose my vision of what brings me joy on him, and as long as his amount of stuff isn't creating problems with storage or causing chaos, which they aren't, I need to live and let live, especially because letting Dave do his thing doesn't keep me from doing mine.
I had all of these insights just from sorting through all of our clothes, not to mention a tidier dresser and closet, so I think Marie Kondo's method has been a success thus far. It’s worth processing more complex emotions to get to the joy, and I highly recommend it.