I may be one of the last people to hear about Marie Kondo and her ‘life changing magic’. My wife introduced me to her through the Netflix special, ‘Tidying Up’. I am told she has written a book as well, and although I haven’t read it, it helped convince me to check out her show. After all, anyone who manages to get famous for writing a book about cleaning must be special.
It is well established that Marie Kondo and The KonMari method is positively impacting people’s lives. As a counsellor, I can’t help but think that it is not just because people now have organized drawers (although that definitely can help). But, it’s more than that. I realized how similar her approach is to what I consider good therapy and it leads me to believe ‘Tidying Up’ is good for your mental health.
Here are three reasons why:
1. Marie Kondo exudes positive energy and her approach is honest and caring. Similar to a good counsellor, Marie has a clear, defined approach to her work. She breaks down her tidying support into simple steps and helps her clients meet their goals, one manageable task a time. Change is hard and it can be difficult to know where to start. It’s important to remember that even a small step can be effective in the long term. It’s encouraging and motivating to see the changes others are making and having personally organized only one drawer of t-shirts I can attest to the fact it feels satisfying to have made a start.
2. While for Marie the task is tidying, the practice of gratitude is universal. One of the first exercises Marie presents to her clients is to thank their home for the safety and security it provides. She builds on this concept by having couples amass their clothing in a single pile to be sorted, keeping only those items that ‘spark joy’. Marie doesn’t (at least in the confines of the hour long show) specifically say that she’s trying to help people be grateful for what they have but the impact is obvious. Outside of tidying, gratitude is an excellent strategy for managing anxiety and often the way forward when feeling challenged or overwhelmed in life and in relationships.
3. Healing can occur in indirect ways. For Marie, tidying becomes a common ground through which couples come together towards a shared goal. Focusing on issues directly, or ignoring them altogether, are patterns we easily fall into. It’s easy to become focused on who is right or wrong and that is a difficult place from which to move. Finding a shared goal that both people are committed to and is not directly related to a source of conflict is a great way to build connection and leave room for some of those more difficult issues to be addressed. As Marie Kondo has so gracefully highlighted, the task of cleaning can help improve seemingly unrelated aspects of relationships within ourselves and with others. It is the same reason many therapists recommend exercising, spending time outdoors or finding a creative outlet. Indirect approaches to problems can have powerful impacts on overall mental health.
Whether it be organizing your home, managing stress, coping with anxiety, or addressing relationship issues, the same principles apply. Working together on a shared task, practicing gratitude and communicating without blame or judgement are, in my experience, some of the most effective approaches to lifes challenges. And that is exactly what Marie Kondo does through ‘Tidying Up’. She demonstrates how our environment can have a powerful impact on our state of mind and shows that a change in one area can make a difference in many other aspects of our lives.
I guess what I’m saying is, the lessons of this entertaining mini-megastar’s approach could be quite therapeutic regardless of whether you practice her folding method, or not. But she’s got my wife convinced so for at least the near future, I’ll be tidying up.