Tag Archive | konmari

The Practice of Asking “Why?”

The working title of this post was The Practice of Letting It Go.

Then it started: Perhaps the title of this post should have been “The Practice of Giving Yourself Permission. I was looking at the human characteristic of doing things we really don’t want to because there’s some imaginary (and usually arbitrary) rule getting in the way.

Of course, by writing that, I was a pretty good example of that very phenomenon.

Which is why the article is not called “The Practice of Letting It Go.

Why Do We Keep the Things We Don’t Like?

When my partner and I embraced the Kon Mari style of organizing, we enjoyed the way it gives you a kind of “boot camp” for overcoming this phenomenon. By “forcing” us to choose to keep only the things that brought us a “spark of joy”, and eliminate everything else…we found that it became much easier to let go of other things as well.

Gone are the days of hoarding birthday cards: “It’s done its job – I had a happy one! Throw it away. We’re more likely to give away a good book to a friend, or a jacket to a relative, or anything, really, because it’s pretty clear to us that a) we have the things we need and b) we’re fortunate enough to have access to more things if that changes.

I’ve felt it expanding into time, as well. Not always – I’m not a Time Lord, yet – but I have had moments when I’ve noticed myself rushing to get something done, to accomplish some goal…and I’ve made the conscious effort to let go of the arbitrary schedule (or even some not-so-arbitrary-but-still-not-dire schedules) and just let the things that are happening fill the time, trusting that what needs to happen will happen.

It’s been great.

Spread the Joyous Word of “Why?”

Coming full circle was talking with a dear friend the other day, as we discussed her child’s bedroom furniture. “I really don’t like the dresser,” she said.

“So why do you keep it?” I already knew her kid didn’t need it for clothes. I don’t exactly remember her answer, but it had something to do with family duty and a feeling of obligation to the past…and so I asked again:

“Why do you keep it?”

She got a look on her face of relief – of even a giddy, naughty joy. It was as if I’d given her permission to get rid of this thing that she didn’t like, that she didn’t want in her house.

I didn’t, really. Permission isn’t mine to give. But I get that it’s hard to give yourself permission to get out from all the expectations, both real and imagined, that are put on us from so many sources. So I’m glad that simply asking Why? helped her past that.

It helps me, too, to remember to keep asking Why? of myself.

It gets easier. With practice.

Image courtesy of K.Prarin Lekuthai, used under a Creative Commons 2.0 License.

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Guest Post: What is a Spark of Joy?

DSSbutterflyI’m happy to welcome my partner Natasha to the blog with this guest post. Her company, Domestic Systems Solutions, helps people create space and relieve stress in their homes and workspaces. I asked her to write about that great concept: the Spark of Joy.

As I start writing this post, I realized that there are quite a few definitions of spark.  For the sake of the post I am going with the one from the Oxford Online Dictionary:
Spark:  A trace of a specified quality or intense feeling
and “joy” from the Merriam-Webster dictionary:
Joy : a feeling of great happiness: a source or cause of great happiness : something or someone that gives joy to someone

When looking at these definitions, “spark of joy” seems simple enough, right?

It comes down to a specified quality or intense feeling of joy. When I think about a “spark of joy” I immediately think of hearing an “I love you” from a partner, child, or grandchild.  It can be when you are opening a gift or watching a sunrise. In these instances there is an actual physical feeling in the body.  It may make you smile; it may just cause a tingling feeling. Whatever the feeling, you know it’s there.

What does it mean when we are talking about creating space?

Marie Kondo, in her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. talks about using this feeling when decluttering your space. Keep in mind we are talking decluttering here, not just organizing.  There is a huge difference between getting rid of things and re-arranging them (I will save that rant for another post, though).

The point of decluttering is to get rid of things.  It creates space and a feeling of freedom (trust me on this).  The resistance comes from our attachment to things.  We may need or feel connected to it in some way. Marie Kondo’s method is the best way I have seen to help anyone figure out what is truly something they should keep and what they can let go of.

Does it spark joy?

Let me use some pictures as an example. I had a box of Polaroids I took when I was twelve. That box followed me from Nebraska to Washington, DC, to Texas, back to DC and finally to Wisconsin.

I threw them out.

Some of you are fainting merely reading that.  Think about it though: they stayed in the box in storage, and I only looked at them whenever I moved. While some of them made me smile they did not create any intense feelings. The problem becomes the part of our brain that says you SHOULD keep them. They are pictures of your family, after all!

I also have a picture of my grandparents that makes me smile (and, yes, miss them) but the memories it invokes make me happy.That’s the picture I kept.

Think about it: do your happy memories of that family christmas rely on those photos? If so, great! Keep them. I have found I can remember times like that without that box (in storage!) and honestly I felt lighter and more free being able to give up that extra weight in my life.

There are things we love that we should by all means hold onto. All the other things are taking up space in our life, weighing us down. I don’t need things to remind me of what I love. Some things create that spark of joy – and by decluttering, I have plenty of room in my life for those.

I dare you to look around, touch the things you have and decide if it gives you a spark of joy or if you are holding onto it because you think you should. I guarantee that letting go of the “shoulds” will make you feel more free.

Need help? Drop me a note on my Facebook page and I’ll be glad to talk!

 

MicroAggravations: Things You Don’t Love

A while back I mentioned the idea of “micro-annoyances” here on the blog, planning on following up on them later. Today’s the day!

In case you don’t have time to click the link, the idea of “microannoyances” is working alongside the term “microaggression”, defined as:

…the everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership.

That’s a whole bunch of social and historical stuff that is, happily, not the province of this post. Instead, the idea of microannoyances is something like the “the everyday environmental irritations that register consciously or unconsciously based solely upon the systems and environment a person inhabits.

I want to be clear: I’m not talking about things people do. That’s a whole other thing! I’m talking about things like my old coffee cup.

I loved that coffee cup. I bought it when visiting a mentor and friend in San Francisco, and it was expensive. It also didn’t work terribly well. It didn’t hold very much coffee, the base was too wide to fit in most drink holders (including the one in my car), and the lid was prone to leak. Actually, there were two lids, one to seal it up tight (i.e., only leak sometimes) and one for when I was drinking coffee (i.e., leak and/or spill at the slightest provocation).

Oh, and did I mention that the perfectly cylindrical form meant that it would roll quickly and erratically across any flat surface, often spilling hot coffee everywhere? I learned to be extra vigilant when I used that coffee mug, because I never knew when things would go terribly wrong…

So the question becomes: why did I keep it? If it caused me that much stress, why did I keep it around?

The answer is: because I loved it. Or, rather, I loved what it represented to me.

The Shattering Desymbolizing

Kon-Mari-ing the kitchen helped me look at that travel mug in a different light. Did I really love the mug? Or did I love what it represented to me? The answer was pretty obvious: what I loved was my mentor, the things I’ve learned from her, the conversations and friendships we’ve had

By transferring that love to an annoying little object, I was actually tarnishing the affection. In fact, I was connecting it to a lot of stress, to inefficiency and worry and even scarcity (remember, it didn’t hold much coffee in the first place). Recognizing all of that as part of the KonMari process was pretty liberating.

As an added bonus, it was a gift from another friend, so there are happy thoughts associated with it as well.

Best. Travel. Mug. Ever.

It wasn’t just coffee mugs, of course. I did it with everything I owned. But the coffee mug makes a good example, because I got rid of every travel mug I owned except for two – one, the StoJo that I backed on Kickstarter and that makes plane travel immensely more convenient, and two, a Starbucks mug that is the exact opposite of that other one: it’s stable, it holds lots of coffee and keeps it hot forever, it’s stylish, it has a handle that doubles as a clip and it even can be configured for left-handers like me.

Can you imagine what a pleasure it is to drink coffee out of that mug? What a reversal of the experience

Monday I’m going to be recommending a practice, but for now, let’s just take a look around at your environment and ask: what don’t I love? What are the irritations that I overlook everyday, the things that drive me just a little nutty but don’t seem like enough to really take action against?

 

The list might be surprisingly long. Don’t worry about it; we’re not saying you have to do anything about it. Just being aware is enough.

 

For now.

Building the Box

“Please. Draw me a sheep.”

For some folks, reading that is going to make them smile. They remember the story that is attached, of a lost pilot in the desert and a Little Prince who kept him company for a time. I warn you, those who are tempted to pick it up again: it’s not a happy book. It’s a beautiful book, and a poignant book, but it’s not the book to pull out for date night.

I speak from experience.

That particular sentence, though, and the result are a merry little life lesson. I won’t give too much away, but let’s just say that the pilot had not spent a lot of time polishing his sketching skills, and so his many attempts to draw a sheep were met with dissatisfaction from the Little Prince. Finally, frustrated entirely, he simply drew a box and said “the sheep is inside!”

Notice, it doesn't say "Amazon".

Notice, it doesn’t say “Amazon”.

Of course, that meant that the sheep inside was the perfect sheep, exactly as the Little Prince wanted, and so he was able to keep it with him forever.

It’s a neat little parable for a lot of things, and it came to mind as I contemplated a project that has wormed itself into my peripheral internal vision.

The Grand Unified Theory of Me

As you’ve possibly noticed from the many quotes and diverse posts, I’ve been exploring a few particular overlapping venues of the human psyche. There’s the plethora of cognitive fallacies in Daniel Kahnemann’s Thinking Fast and Slow, the mind-blowing way they shape our entire society as described in Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Can Mean So Much, the way we’ve possibly stumbled on a solution in Jane McGonigal’s Reality is Broken, and most recently McKeown’s Essentialism has been tying things together.

That’s what’s been having my mind swimming, as I sketch out the ideas in the books in my notebooks. There are so many connections. Take the idea of trade-offs, for example: Scarcity talks about how “slack” eliminates the need to choose; Reality is Broken talks about how gaming makes you more capable and less stressed about choosing; then Essentialism reminds you that tradeoffs are inevitable, and successful people don’t avoid that, they leverage it.

Oh, yeah, and then there’s the whole KonMari thing that creates slack in your life by making a game out of figuring out what is actually essential…

But as my house has been getting closer and closer to it’s essential state, I find myself wanting to apply the same process to my internal life. To KonMari my brain, so to speak. But how does one do that?

The start, I believe, is to figure out what the priority is. Money? Success? Fame? Security? Sex? YouTube fame? Happiness? Knowledge? It can’t be everything; it needs to be one thing, and trusting that if you choose the right thing then everything that follows will also be good.

Once the priority is set, then it’s just a matter of building the box to put it in – and that’s where the years of writing this blog come in handy. Tweak the morning routine? No problem! Change that habit? Piece of cake, done it hundreds of times. I’ve got asanas and mantras and credos and principles and even a law or two that are just waiting to be used to create this structure of living, this Grand Unified Theory of…Me.

I hesitated with that last word, and it still feels a little selfish, but rationally, how could you come up with a Grand Unified Theory of Anything Else? Einstein couldn’t do it for fields, parents can’t do it for kids until it’s far too late to do any good, and evidence has shown that even in something as intensely studied as finance you can do as well using a dartboard to manage your portfolio as an MBA.

So yeah, if I’m going to have any luck using all of these tools to shape this raw material into a unified theory of anything, it’s gonna have to start with myself.

How About That Priority?

It will probably come as no surprise to the readers of this blog, considering the day that this post is written, that when thinking about what the priority is, the only word that makes sense is Love. Not in any simple, puerile way (and believe me, I’ve gone that route!) but in big Buscaglia-Moore-Huber sized chunks. Every single time I’ve changed something about to increase my loving connection with someone else – partner, child, sibling, grandchild, parent, friend – it has rewarded me far more than anything else.

But those have been small steps. In the KonMari sense of the term, I’ve been tidying up bit by bit, but things always get messy again; I feel as though I’ve been wandering around a workshop, using tools to fix and tune up various things, but now I’m wanting to roll up my sleeves and build something. No, I’m not talking about things like relationships or families or Great Masterpieces; I’ve done all that (well, maybe not the third, but two out of three).

This will be much harder. But every bit as worthwhile.

“And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

 

Essentialism: Scarier Than KonMari

The post title isn’t accurate; KonMari could be considered to be a form of Essentialism. Certainly David McKeown, author of Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, is a fan. But having read an interview with him (after reading this article by Margaret Everton) I found that while yes, I have jumped on the Essentialist bandwagon, there is also a kind of Essentialist Cliff.

Unintended Side Effects

Let me explain how this KonMari technique has side effects: Natasha and I are almost done with our process. Really, only three categories remain: the grandsons’ toybox, the stuff under the bed, and the storage locker in the basement.

After that we’ll be done. Really, truly, literally done with applying this philosophy to every physical possession we own.

The results have been great. I started this process after a particular phrase in the book resonated: unhurried spaciousness. While we live in a small apartment (relative to most of our peers) there is a feeling of open focus, a relaxation of the noise and a lessening of the micro-aggravation of clutter. I don’t worry about tripping over my shoes, and going into my closet is a pleasure instead of a reminder of where I stash all the stuff when I want the place to look tidy.

In fact, it’s such a pleasure that I’m reluctant to tackle those last three areas. Like a book with characters that you love so much that you read it more slowly to prolong the pleasure of their company, a part of me wonders: what do I do when I’m done? What will life look like when there’s not always that “y’know, someday I need to go through that drawer…” hovering in the back of my brain?

Natasha has solved that problem: she’s already made plans with a friend of ours to “KonMari” the kitchen. It’s also funny how “KonMari” has become a verb meaning “ruthlessly discard.” I threw away a malfunctioning-but-pretty charging cable with a triumphant shout of “KON-MARI’D!” while on a road trip. So there are ways that the philosophy will stay in our lives to some extent.

Essentialism vs. Minimalism

At the same time there is a need for restraint. For example, in her book Marie Kondo recommends taking everything out of the shower – even the soap – and putting it in a cabinet so that you can take it out when you need it. She brings up the issues of hygiene (seriously, is it any fun to clean a soap dish? Especially when you put the soap back and it’s instantly dirty again?) but really I think it’s just a level of enjoying taking things out from where they belong and putting them back again – perhaps another way to prolong the joy of tidying up.

I wanted to do that when we KonMari’d the bathroom. Natasha, wisely, suggested that it would get annoying to take things out and put them back every time – and it wasn’t like we had a lot of unmanageable bottles and such anyway.

That was when I realized that I’d crossed a line, where I was KonMari-ing for KonMari’s sake, rather than because it made my life more effective. In fact, it wasn’t even productive – I was creating busy work for myself, much like Gollum pulling out the One Ring and muttering “Oh, precious, yessssss, spark of joyyyy, yesssss…

Which brings us to the way Essentialism is different than Minimalism and certainly different than Productivity. To quote Mr. McKeown, “It’s not just less—it’s less, but better.” It’s not about having only five shirts – it’s about having the seven shirts that each means something to you that is exquisite. Margaret Everton touches on it as well:

As we follow those internal pulls and sometimes irrational desires, the superfluity disappears and leaves us each with our own messy and eccentric authenticity…Our personal relationship to items gives them significance, an essence that goes beyond their physical properties.

Which brings you to the question: how much significance do you want to give your items? Really, things only have as much existence as you give them; I happen to be using this collection of connected wood pieces to write, so it becomes a “desk” – but if it were covered with plants, it might be a garden, and if it were in the woods, it would likely be an aviary (come to think of it, our cat doesn’t think it’s a desk at all; it’s “resting place number three”).

One thing that Essentialism encourages is for you to look at not just what things mean to you – but what you let them mean to you. For example, do you fall into that group of people who, when they lose their phone, act as though they’ve just been through a breakup? There’s even a beautifully onomatopoetic name for it: nomophobia.

The Scariest Lifehack I’ve Ever Read

Even Spider Games are Less Scary.

Even Spider Games are Less Scary.

Which brings me to why I’m frightened to listen to David McKeown’s book (available on ScribD, as it turns out). The interviewer asked “How can adults learn to play more?” That’s a question I’ve been working on for a while, especially while listening to Jane McGonigal’s Reality is Broken book and realizing that I don’t play nearly enough. I would expect to hear some recommendations for games, or maybe some kind of triggering habit change hack. No, instead Mr. McKeown just said five words of terror:

Take email off your phone.

He and the interviewer have a good chuckle about how that suggestions leaves a pit in the stomach and an instant litany of reasons why that’s fine for some people but entirely out of the question for me. He doesn’t spend a lot of time rebutting, but he makes the telling point that if email access actually made us more productive, we wouldn’t keep saying you should turn it off when you want to actually get things done.

I’m tempted to try it, if just for a week. Not having no email at all, just not having it on my phone. Even as I type it, my muscle memory has the urge to reach out and check the little black mirror sitting on my desk. Of course, I could do it with some cheats – leaving things like twitter and instagram on there, or a page in my mobile browser open to my email account. But just as KonMari requires you to be ruthless, this kind of Attention Essentialism would require both the physical act of removing apps as well as the mental discipline of saying “no” to checking mail on my phone at all.

Honestly? I’m really writing this post because it’s not that I don’t want to try it – but because I don’t want to try it alone.

Anyone else with me? Starting tomorrow, going until next Monday, no email on the phone. Let me know in the comments, and I’ll see you on the other side!

Pruning the Loveless

I promised a while back that I wasn’t going to keep harping on about the whole Do what you love philosophy, and I’m not – really. I confess, though, I still like reading about it. A lot! Everytime I come across some article about “following your passion” – whether in favor of it or against it – I devour it, whether with an eagerly nodding head or a skeptical tsk-tsk, they’ll learn attitude.

That’s why I don’t write about it any more; nobody wants to hear some pedantic nitwit talking about that kind of stuff.

I say this just to reassure you: this is NOT going to be another one of Those Posts. Also, I owe you an apology; at some point I failed to actually record the URL of the article that contained the technique that I’m about to discuss. So I can’t forward you on to the article, but I guess that’s ok, because if I did that I might seem like I was urging people to follow their passion.

And I said I wouldn’t do that.

Don’t Let In What You Don’t Love

The article was talking about how difficult it can be to figure out what it is you love, because you can love different things at different times, and what does “love” mean, anyway? How do you know that what you love is going to love you back?

The idea of trying out things until you figure out what you love is not very efficient. Just go with the numbers – the time required to think of something, try it out for a while, evaluate it – it just kind of seems ridiculous, given the number of things you could do. That’s the price of civilization and a more mobile class structure; in the good old days a person knew their place, after all, and were likely born into their occupation as well. None of this “multipotentiality” stuff!

Instead, the author (and believe me, it’s killing me that I didn’t bookmark this article!) suggested that instead, we simply choose to only do the things that we want to do. That bring us joy. Now, before you go into a whole list of reasons why that’s not practical, let me just acknowledge that as a discussion that is truly interesting and worthwhile and can we please have it another time? Preferably with some cigars and whiskey and maybe some classic jazz vocalists in the background?

Because that’s not where my mind went when I read the article. No, he said the word “joy” and my mind instantly shifted into “KonMari” mode, because the phrase “spark of joy” has become the mantra for at least a week here at the Dance of Smoke and Ash (what Natasha and I fondly call our apartment). We’re almost done with Marie Kondo’s methodology, and everything we touch is rated on the “spark of joy” scale. Does it give it to us? Or not?

As it turns out, this becomes a good way to keep from acquiring more clutter, as well, which I found out as I put my “love powers” to work at a thrift shop. Natasha and I were there looking for a couple things – a small table to put next to my writing chair, and possibly some tapers for candles we were keeping.

Now, as GoT fans, we could probably get behind these...

Now, as GoT fans, we could probably get behind these…

No luck on the table, but she did find some small glass star-shaped tapers. My first reaction was relief – something we needed had been acquired! The more I looked at them, though, the less happy I felt. The star-shapes had a kind of ’70’s teenage-girl’s-room feeling to them, and it just didn’t match with the feeling that I wanted to create with the planned candlelit dinners. That’s when it hit me: I didn’t love them. They didn’t bring me a “spark of joy” – nor did Natasha seem terribly attached (I freely admit that there are things that I have no attachment to but that bring a happy smile to her face. Call it the Commutative Spark Principle).

So why would I let it into my life? This was what that article was talking about: don’t let things in that you don’t love.

We put the tapers back for someone else to love. We can wait a while, until we find something else we actually love.

Loving Things

Ultimate Kami

Ultimate Kami

Thank you, bear! Good job!

– me to Natasha’s stuffed bear
just before sending it off to the grandsons.

One of the stranger parts of the KonMari method probably hearkens back to Ms. Kondo’s background in the Shinto religion. I’m not going to try and summarize an entire belief system in a blog post (we have wikipedia for that) but one aspect of it is the idea of kami:

kami refers to the divinity, or sacred essence, that manifests in multiple forms: rocks, trees, rivers, animals, places…Kami and people are not separate; they exist within the same world and share its interrelated complexity. – Wikipedia

The KonMari method doesn’t actually talk about kami, or shinto, but there is a strong suggestion of anthropomorphizing your belongings. You might think that this would make it harder to part with this, but instead it turns into a more complete interaction: instead of getting something for a purpose, using it, and then keeping it around “just in case”, you can say “thank you” and send it on to serve that purpose somewhere else. If you need your teeth cleaned, for example, you go to the dentist, you get them cleaned, and then you don’t say “Hey, I might need my teeth cleaned again – can you just come home with me and hang around in the back of my closet?” The tendency to hang on to things makes much less sense if you think of them as personalities with purpose.

Reducing Technology Stress

Thinking of it as a personality also helps out in other kinds of stress-inducing situations, such as when tech goes wrong. For example, to prepare for a camping trip this weekend we took the car into the mechanic to get some minor repairs done. While it was there, Natasha made a comment about how BunBun (our car’s name) was “…in the hospital.”

Good anthropomorphizing! But “hospital” sounded kind of dire, so I made an adjustment: “No, BunBun is in the day spa, so she’s fresh and ready for the trip!”

One of the most useful paradigm shifts you can make about troubleshooting any kind of tech is to remember: Technology wants to work. Whatever it is – your computer, your blender, your door – it was designed to do a thing. It wants to do it! Too often we act like our technology is out to get us (c’mon, raise your hand if you’ve yelled “Why are you doing this to me?” at something that wasn’t working) when what’s actually happening is the technology is asking for help. Unlike you, most tech is pretty limited in scope and purpose; can you imagine how frustrating it would be to only be able to do one thing and then have that thing taken away?

It’s All in Your Head…Just Like Everything Else

For those who scoff at this being “unrealistic”, I will just remind you that everything you see is “unrealistic” – reality is far too complex for our brains to handle. Instead we filter the information to figure out what is important, and what we want to see. I’m not suggesting that you “believe” anything, but rather that you “act as if” the things around you have personalities (perhaps watching Disney’s Beauty and the Beast might help).

Why? Because if you are putting out loving expressions not just to people (cuz you’re already doing that, right?) but also to the things around you, and creating imaginary dialogues where the things are loving you back…well, that’s a whole lotta love in your day.

Sounds like a pretty nice place to be, whether you’re cluttered or not. Why not give it a try?

 

Why Are You Hanging On?

When we really delve into the reasons for why we can't let something go, there are only two: an attachment to the past or a fear for the future. - Marie Kondo

One of the many reasons I’m able to handle this “KonMari” method of ruthlessly purging my stuff is because in the book Ms. Kondo brings up many pertinent questions about why we hang onto things in the first place. The above quote is one of the better examples of this; when you pick up something and you feel that tug of possessiveness, ask yourself: is this fear of the future (But what if I need this later?) or is it attachment to the past (I must honor the memory) or a combination of the two (I can’t donate that to the bookstore, what if the person who gave it to me finds it and thinks I’m an ingrate?). 

Part of the fear of the future has to do with the scarcity mentality – what if I need this in the future and I don’t have itIt’s easy enough to let that be argument enough to put it back in the drawer – but what if you take it further? What if that happens, you need it in the future and it’s not there? What would you actually do?

The answer is one of three things:

  1. You’d use something else.
  2. You’d go out and get it.
  3. You’d do without.

When you put it like that, it suddenly becomes much less fearful. Ms. Kondo says in her book that sure, people have missed things that they discarded through the KonMari process – but never to the point of emergency, and usually it’s accompanied by a sense of liberation and a can-do attitude. Much like I found when I started minimalist travel, you really don’t need as much as you think, even in day-to-day.

Honoring the Past

The other side of things is a bit more tricky. Surely we need to hang onto that ashtray Eldest Twin created in middle school, all the packages of school picture that we forgot to mail to relatives, and that T-shirt from the convention where I met that woman that I dated that time? If we throw them away, aren’t we saying we don’t care? That we are ready to forget? That these experiences didn’t mean anything?

Well? Are we?

I’m pretty sure, when you think about it, the answer is “no”. It’s kind of ridiculous; your memories of these events, of these people, are your own, inaccurate and spotty as they may be. They are not contained in any one item, nor is the joy you remember (which, happily, grows as time goes on and you forget the bad parts).

It can still be hard to let go of things, but Ms. Kondo has another question to ask: What was the purpose of this thing? Let’s say it’s a birthday card. What’s the purpose of that card? To wish you a happy birthday. Did it do that? Yes. Then it’s doneTime to let it go.

Natasha embodied that as she picked up a cute little stuffed patchwork bear that had rested on a shelf for months. “My Mom sent me that to make me feel better,” she said.

“Did it make you feel better?” I asked, and she knew where that was leading.

“Yes, it did!” she exclaimed. “Thank you, Bear! Good job! Goodbye!” And into the discard pile it went.

(Yes, talking to your possessions – including your entire dwelling – is also part of the KonMari technique, but I’m not quite up to that yet).

Whether You Kon or Kon’t

I’m not saying that Marie Kondo’s book and methods are for everyone. It’s scary, for one thing, even though there’s a sneakily growing suspicion I have that it would make the world a better place.  Others agree.

What I do think is that asking these kinds of questions can help in all kinds of ways – and not just when we’re cleaning out closets. How about asking that question about your habits that you want to change? Am I hanging onto this because of a fear of the future, or an attachment to the past?

Come to think of it, might not be a bad idea to apply it to the habits you think are ok, as well. Not because they necessarily need changing – but rather because intentionality is the cornerstone to an informed and well-lived life.