Like many others, I am loving (probably mildly obsessed with) the Netflix series by Marie Kondo entitled “Tidying Up.”  I read her book a few years ago and gathered many loads of “stuff” for donation.   After logging countless hours this past year at home on the couch due to fatigue and recovery from illness, I felt the urge to tidy our home again.  With Marie’s guidance as my inspiration, I and my family have experienced immense satisfaction in letting go of things that fail to “spark joy.”  In addition, I have been amazed at how this process has also initiated some needed conversations within myself and with my family that have truly excited my spirit.  


Marie Kondo is a jewel of a person--petite, kind, and exuding of light and warmth.  Her presence mesmerizes me.  She is encouraging, truthful, and beams hope through the TV.  I’m going to share a little secret here:  Watching her has a similar calming effect on me as Mr. Rogers did when I watched him as a child.  


Marie’s process requires persistence and focus, but the results are worth the effort.  The experience has provided me with more gratitude for my home and life, clarification of values, and inspiration to tackle other challenges.  Allow me to explain in more detail.  


Gratitude for Our Homes and Lives

One important step that I overlooked in my first attempt at tidying years ago involves greeting and thanking the home in which we live.  In Season 1 Episode 1, Marie entered the chaotic home of a young family with two toddlers. Before she directed them in how to clean their closets, she sat on her knees in the middle of their living room. She bowed her head and quietly expressed a prayer or greeting to the home.  She explained to the couple that she desired to thank the home for providing the family shelter, a space in which they could grow and laugh together. Her prayer created peace for the family on television.  I personally shed a few tears because I realized I had some prayers and greetings to do in my own home.  


I have lived in the same home in Charlotte for the past 16 years.  My husband and I have remodeled most of the exterior and interior of this home over the years.  We had planned to sell the home a few years ago as we were designing a new home in another neighborhood.  For many reasons, our move did not work out, and we stayed put.  During the past year, I have been especially angry with my home, probably because I have spent too much time here as of late not feeling well. But that is not the house’s fault… So, before I began to empty my closet, I sat down on my knees in Marie Kondo fashion, prayed to God and expressed my genuine appreciation for our home.  It has served many purposes including an affordable shelter, a space for our children to play from newborn to teen years, a center of numerous family gatherings, a healing realm for me, etc.  This simple but important prayer provided me a needed reset of my frustration to a place of greater gratitude and peace, not only with my home, but also with myself. Now, I felt ready to tidy.


Confronting Our “Mounds” in Life Is Necessary to Change

Marie recommends starting the tidying the process with clothing by emptying the entire contents of the closet into a space in order to visualize and sort our belongings.  This is a vastly different experience than examining our clothes one by one while they still hang in the closet.  If you are skeptical, try it both ways and compare.  It takes more time and energy to empty the entire closet, but the results are significantly more impactful.  Looking at the huge mounds of clothes all around my bedroom directly confronted me with the enormity of the wardrobe I had accumulated. As I touched each item, I asked myself whether or not it sparked joy, and I thanked the items that I was ready to discard or pass on to others.  The act of physically touching each item and asking if it sparks joy is important, and I had done this in previous tidying experiences.  What I learned from watching Marie was the second step of expressing thanks for the items that needed to go.  No one forced me to purchase and wear these clothes, shoes, and handbags.  Most served me well for years, and others just represented a holding place in my closet. As a life coach, I see this process-- addressing the whole issue (looking at mounds of clothes), noting what has worked well, and what has not, eliminating the things that no longer work, and embracing the strengths of the items that bring joy and confidence as critically important to initiating and maintaining lasting changes.  These steps not only apply to our closets and homes, but to our lives and activities.


Tidying Can Initiate Values Conversations

So, how did this relate to relationships?  Well, my daughter, son, and husband also decided to clean out their closets after seeing my excitement and tangible results.  Emery is a teenage girl, and the desire was there, but confronting her piles of clothes and letting go was more emotional than mine.  She and I had several conversations (some with tears) about the very real fact that all in our family have FAR more than we need (even when we tidy up our things). This insight stands in stark contrast to our materialistic consumptive culture that advertises that we need more stuff to be happy.  It took a couple of rounds to really finish the process AND gain a sense of peace about things of which she was letting go, but she made it to the finish line.  I am proud of her for working through it.  She and I both have enjoyed being able to see our favorite clothes more easily.  


Even though my husband felt his closet was in good shape, and it was in many ways, he still was able to donate several lawn bags full of clothes.  It was fascinating to watch our son Dean (almost 13 years of age) touch each of his clothing items and say a genuine thank you as he let some of them go.  For Dean, it was very easy to hone in on what he enjoys, so his process was the quickest of all of us.  There’s a calming effect in watching someone else do that that also benefits the observer.  Although it wasn’t a barrel of laughs at all times, it was a shared experience where we all accomplished what we set out to do and we ended stronger, lighter, and more in touch with our joy.  We all have a renewed desire to keep and consume less stuff, so we can be more generous to those who have genuine and very real needs.  


Reconnect with Your Values and Joy

As a life coach, I see these steps that Marie models: prayer/greeting of the home, the full emptying of the closet, the physical act of touching each item, the process of asking myself if the item sparks joy, and thanking the items that we plan to discard or donate as valuable steps to life changes as well. So many of my clients have the desire to become healthier, lose weight, land a higher paying job, spend more time with the family, etc.  In most cases, my clients have beaten themselves up for what they don’t have and have “failed” to do.  They have forgotten that they have value as they are in the present moment and have many limiting beliefs that prevent them from growing.  Many also have become disconnected from what they really enjoy and lack self-confidence.  Working with a life coach, Marie Kondo via Netflix, a close friend, spouse, or mentor can often help us “trust” and share what our true and genuine hopes are. Marie’s method of having you ask yourself repeatedly what sparks joy, and why, forces us to really look at and understand the reasons why we buy and keep the things we do.  Sometimes, we buy or hold on to things for far too long because of who gave them to us, what they represent, or fear that we may lose the opportunity to purchase those things again.  Taking inventory of “our stuff” allows us to learn more about ourselves and then choose which things will move with us into the future.  


Pairing Down Can Lead to Increased Focus and Trust

By pairing down our things, we can focus more easily on the things that matter—we can see our strengths and we can spend less of our time and energy on things that distract us.  This is so true when we must make changes.  Novel experiences can initially frighten us at times, but when we are in touch with our strengths and have support and some practical strategies to take on the challenge, we can push past the fear and work through it.  When we doubt our abilities, we tend to shy away from new things and people, and we limit our forward movement and growth. When we are able to trust ourselves or others, very real physiological effects take place.  These include release of the hormone oxytocin, full availability of the neocortex to make decisions and take action, and an ability to intervene in and change neural patterns.  In contrast, when we experience distrust, we awaken our amygdala and become worked up and primed for signs of danger, we experience fight/flight/freeze, and we make defensive decisions.


Once we can recognize that we are enough as we are, we can greet ourselves in real time and commit to making desired changes and enlisting support when needed.   We can eliminate distractions that are sucking up our energy.  We have to confront not only our “clothes mounds” but our “life mounds.”  We need to take inventory of the things that prevent us from changing and learn to trust ourselves and others.  For those of us that rely on our faith, we seek God’s direction and strength to help us through each and every step.  This more often leads to repeated sparks of joy and increased confidence to make needed changes and to live more full lives!  So, whether you start by cleaning your closet or jump right into life goals—don’t wait any longer to spark more joy!   


Self-Coaching Questions to Spark More Joy

a.  Write down at least 10 things that spark joy in you. Include activities that require time and/or money like travel, but also make sure that at least half of your list includes things that could be done every day with very little preparation or expense (take a walk, pray, meditate, read, listen to a podcast, sing, play an instrument, exercise, call a friend, journal, cook, etc.).  In addition, make sure at least a few of your activities include other people.  You need others to live a full life!











b.  Look at your above list.  Pick 2-3 activities and commit to doing these things in the coming week.  Evaluate how you feel after you have completed the activity.


c.  Write down three adjectives to describe yourself at your best.  




d.  Take an honest look at how you spend your time. What is one thing that distracts you and keeps you from embracing your best self.  Work to replace that distraction with more life-giving activities like the ones you listed above.  



Joy is the simplest form of gratitude.

~Karl Barth


Perfect happiness is a beautiful sunset, the giggle of a child, the first snowfall.  It’s the little things that make happy moments, not the grand events.  
Joy comes in sips, not gulps.

~Sharon Draper


May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with the power of the Holy Spirit.

Romans 15:13


Related References


Kondo, Marie. (2014).  The life-changing magic of tidying up—the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing.  Berkeley:  Ten Speed Press.


Kondo, Marie.  Tidying Up.  Netflix--Season 1. Episode 1 (Tidying with Toddlers).


Mendelson, C.  (2005).  Home comforts:  The art and science of keeping house.  New York:  Scribner.


Ravitz, J.  (January 18, 2019).   Marie Kondo’s tidying isn’t just about appearances. There’s a psychological and spiritual upside too.




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