So I watched Tidying Up with Marie Kondo on Netflix. For those who had yet to watch it, the show format is like Cesar Milan's Dog Whisperer (where he goes around helping dog owners with their dog problems), but for home clutter. Marie Kondo is a renowned tidying expert helping people clear out clutter in their home, and each episode focuses on the human stories behind people's homes and their stuff.
One of my favourite scenes is the home-owner's shock of a big pile of clothes reaching high up to the ceiling after Marie asks them to take out all their clothes and pile them up on the bed. Love it. After that she makes the home-owner hold the clothing and ask if it "sparks joy". If it does, they get to keep it. If not, they have to thank the piece of clothing and discard it gently (not slam dunk the piece into the bin). She also invites them to do other weird rituals like thanking the house (yes, the big inanimate object called a house) for providing shelter and protection.
It feels weird at first for sure, but going beyond the surface, I can see why it's a nice practice for life and living. In our age of rampant consumerism, everything had become disposable. We crave for more and more, often discontented with the thing we have now in our hands. Always looking out for the newer, faster, better, cheaper. Our relationship to material things is broken, and we have developed an unhealthy disconnect to things we own.
That's why I thought the 'weird' practices of saying thanks to your house and keeping joyful stuff is pretty ingenious. They are simply practices of gratitude and joy disguised as decluttering and tidying up. Practising gratitude had been shown to improve our mental wellbeing, contentedness and overall happiness. And what better way to change our relationship to the stuff we own than through acknowledging its presence, expressing gratitude and choosing joy.
After the series debuted, there were some articles that argued that tidying up is pointless if it doesn't stop us from buying more crap after that. Marie Kondo is silent about consumerism on the series. She doesn't explicitly tell the home-owners to shop less. But that doesn't mean she supports it. In fact, I'll venture to say that through her practices, it subtly (in classic Japanese humility and restraint) hopes that by nurturing a healthier relationship with material things, we learn to moderate our consumption habits. By feeling more thankful and contented with our things, perhaps we'll buy less. By choosing to keep things that bring us joy, perhaps we'll start buying only things that bring us joy and stop buying things that don't.
Marie Kondo isn't about tidying up and decluttering. She's about nurturing a healthier relationship with material things and a more wholesome materialism. A more conscious consumerism with a tinge of minimalist. You don't have to agree with her techniques, or do her 'weird' rituals, but there's certainly something worth trying out in terms of practicing gratitude and joy for our material things.