“From the moment you start tidying, you will be compelled to reset your life. As a result, your life will start to change. That’s why the task of putting your house in order should be done quickly. It allows you to confront the issues that are really important. Tidying is just a tool, not the final destination. The true goal should be to establish the lifestyle you want most once your house has been put in order.”
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up
In her #1 New York Times bestseller, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, Marie Kondo lays out the game plan for how to completely reinvent your space, and yourself. The KonMari method appears as a peculiar way to fold clothes – but it is more than that. It is finding catharsis from addressing the clutter of your life. The KonMari method basis is letting go of what does not “spark joy”; it is a purging and repurposing of your current possessions, while reformatting the way you think about the world around you. Under a unanimous vote of my book club, we had decided to read and implement Kondo’s “Life-Changing Magic” to see how truly enchanting it is.
If the title wasn’t a complete giveaway, then I’ll spoil it for you now; there is true magic in Kondo’s words. It was almost as if I was reading the spellbook of a master witch, albeit of dusting and laundry, but magical nevertheless.
Her book teaches the physicality of mindfulness. Kondo reinforces the idea that the internal (inside our minds and bodies) and external living space is symbiotic. Your mental state is reflected in your living space. Kondo states, “People cannot change their habits without first changing their way of thinking,” and “Visible mess helps distract us from the true source of the disorder.” The cleansing process Kondo directs the reader through is spiritual more than physical. It is a testament to the human ability to let go to live better.
Her words resonated within me in a way that made me feel unsettled. It was the realization that I was uncomfortable with my lifestyle and how I have led my life for most of my life. The thought crossed my mind, “do I know myself anymore?” This idea was most prominent in what I owned. Most of it was not was not indicative of the ghost of who I am. My possessions were things that I held onto out of guilt. Guilt is something that is confused with pleasantries far too often. Those graphic t-shirts and nerdy knick-knacks given to me as gifts by people I love are the physical embodiment of my unhealthy social behavior.
Tendencies of saying “please” and “thank you” and “sorry” in excess, being 110% for others at the expense of myself, it was all there in the Star Wars salt shakers and psychedelic cat shirt. They were reaffirmations of the unhealthy amount of guilt I harbored inside me. I felt as if I threw them away: I was ungrateful. They were not pleasant reminders of the people I love because every time I looked at them the only thing I felt was neglectful. Even as I write, a pang of guilt comes out with this truth, but that feeling has curbed with this process.
The KonMari method did not have me only meditate on the physical clutter but the mental clutter, the thoughts that circulate my mind. The challenge posed throughout the book is to evaluate why you are the way you are, and what are the indicators of this. For myself, the biggest part was addressing my instinctive behavior, which I came to understand was conditioned behavior. I wanted to appear kind, likeable, nice and normal; but I knew I was not open and honest to others, and to myself. I was so afraid of the reactions I would receive that I suppressed parts of who I am. So, in Kondo’s advice, I let go of the behaviors that did not “spark joy” and reintroduced me to myself.
Physical purging and organizing was therapeutic to say the least. The way I dressed, and the activities I partook in were reviewed for joy sparking. Most of my physical life did not “spark joy”. I did not realize how incredibly self conscious I had become. During the process, all of my clothes were put on trial. The goal of the closet purge was to only wear clothes that made me feel good all the time; from loungewear to formalwear and all in between included. If it was not worn regularly, or was kept on the pipe dream of losing another five pounds to fit in, it was dropped in the donation pile. I started embracing my love for pink despite a lifetime of distancing myself from hyper femininity to seem more “cool”. I ditched the video games I only played for my boyfriend, and switched out looter-shooters for my watercolors and sketch book. I stopped letting people be rude to me without a response. I believe that was the hardest, to command respect; taking shit from people definitely did not “spark joy.”
Since my KonMari cleanse, the decision came to make an active effort to be vocal about who I am. Each time I was open, honest, and proud of myself I felt a layer of anxiety shed off and the magic sink into my skin. There was peace and happiness every time I showed my true self. I am no longer a secret to myself and others; I am no longer the vision of what others want me to be. Just as the clutter of those gifts had left my home, the clutter of what others wanted for me left my head.
Sometimes I felt my intelligence or interests left me with profound loneliness. In the past, if someone showed interest in me I did not want to disappoint, so I became what they wanted. This led to failed friendships, relationships, and career prospects because there was a line in the sand I would not cross despite bending over backwards before. Understanding dishonesty with myself and others as the reason for my prolonged loneliness was a tough pill to swallow. There are many factors to blame for this conditioned behavior (e.g. movies, TV, social media, family, friends, society), and it is important to acknowledge, but I was the one deciding to act. The next act was named change.
So how does all of this make me “all of a sudden” decide to become a witch? Kondo says, “The question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life.” I felt I had lost who I was in my conquest of achieving who I thought I wanted to be. Realizing I wanted none of those achievements was the biggest piece of clarity I could ask for. Just like those knick-knacks, I was surrounding myself with the goals others wanted me to achieve. I made it my mission to get to know “me” again. I listed all that I love, untainted by the influence of others. Hobbies to fictional characters made the list , and between them all was the word in the title of Kondo’s book: magic.
My new creed is as follows: “I will pursue whatever will spark joy in my life without shame. I will not let embarrassment or fear stop me. I have alienated my true self out of the fear of being judged by my peers. Embracing my interest will lead to supportive relationships with others. There is no reason to fear being alone, there is no reason to fear being myself.”
I thought personal identifiers were below me, but it was a factor in the loss of my sense of self. To use the term, capital W, Witch, as an identifier was a big leap. Halloween costumes were almost witches, such as Glinda and Hermoine. From childhood, I craved magic so fiercely. But, magic is for children, they say, for fiction and fantasy, there is no place for magic in reality… so they say. I wanted to breathe the magic back into my life. I wanted to take ownership of that magic. Already, I was doing, and believing in the same things Witches do, all that was left was to take the plunge and call myself what I always felt I was: a Witch.
It sparked joy.
Luckily, I have a support system that is ride or die, who embrace me in my totality. One of the most important feats in this process was I joined the ranks of my support system, I supported me. They did not care what I did as long as 1. It did not hurt anyone, 2. It made me happy. You know what happened because I expressed genuine passion in my interests? My loved ones gave me presents I actually liked! Shocker!
Deciding to reinvent and reevaluate you, and your life as a whole, is a tall order, but not an impossible task. Tough, emotional, and freeing are just a few words to describe the experience of the KonMari cleanse. Getting rid of possessions can feel like a true loss, there is no negation to this feeling, but the weight lifted is a gift. I am not Marie Kondo, her exact expertise is a magic all on its own, but my takeaway from her teachings is exactly what she promises in the title of her book: tidying up is life changing.
I am hesitant to say one side of the tidying up is more important than the other, but the change in mindset is revolutionary; the peace from an organized living space is astounding. It all works in tandem. I didn’t just decide to call myself a Witch and say “okay I’m done! Called myself a Witch and that’s all I needed.” If anything, it sparked the fire. My candles have a color coded organizer, my tarot cards have boxes where they sleep when not in use. On a less witchy note, my closet is organized to the point that I can reach in and grab exactly the dress I want without looking! Now that is real magic!
The term Witch is interchangeable for each person, although I totally believe Marie Kondo is a Witch in her own right (and rite). From reading her book, the ability to choose who and what you are is a personal meditation. Marie Kondo made me: a gardener, a good friend, a better daughter, a more loving partner, a pink lover, a more mindful person, a Witch.
What does she make you?
“Many people carry this type of negative self-image for years, but it is swept away the instant they experience their own perfectly clean space. This drastic change in self-perception, the belief that you can do anything if you set your mind to it, transforms behavior and lifestyles.”
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up