04 Apr Embracing Joy & Tidying Up
Do you ever feel like you are a little (or a lot) “late to the party”? This happens to me with some frequency, in part because I don’t watch a lot of television and I’m not very social media savvy. The most recent occasion of realizing I was culturally out of touch occurred regarding the Marie Kondo fad. I happened to overhear a conversation at church about the Konmari approach of “tidying,” and I had no idea what was being discussed. The only information I received was that this Japanese approach to de-cluttering is based on asking oneself the question, “Does this bring me joy?” as one goes through all of one’s belongings.
I was intrigued enough to head to the local library a few days later where I checked out a Marie Kondo book and started reading. Perhaps what piqued my interest is that my bedroom closet has been a giant source of irritation for several months now. I can’t find anything because I can’t see anything because the rods and shelves are so jam-packed with “stuff.” I was sick of it. Sick bordering on desperate. Joy sounded like a more appealing option.
I haven’t even come close to doing a full-scale Konmari tidying of my closet, much less the rest of my house. But, even a small foray into this approach has been illuminating. For starters, just as Marie Kondo suggests, knowing what brings us joy is not always as straightforward as we might think. We might assume, for example, that there is nothing about a screwdriver that imparts joy, but I am actually delighted when I am able to fix a loose knob just by reaching into my tool box and finding the right tool for the job. Now, she does raise an excellent question about how many screwdrivers I need….obviously, my toolbox has not yet been subjected to the Konmari method.
I was also fascinated by Ms. Kondo’s distinction between what she calls “tidying” and cleaning. In her words, “tidying up means confronting yourself. Cleaning means confronting nature.” By that she means that cleaning deals with dirt and dirt accumulates whether we do anything or not. We know this, since we can dust a piece of furniture and the very next day, dust has already begun to congregate on it again.
The responsibility for mess and clutter, however, lies 100 percent with the person. As she says, things do not multiply on their own. Some of us probably would like to challenge that, but she is telling the truth!
Part of what intrigues me about all this is that I am wondering how it applies to more than the stuff we own and accumulate. For example, what insights might be gained if we asked the “joy question” of our habits? So many of our habits are the result of unconscious repetition rather than thoughtful choice, not unlike allowing stuff we don’t really need or even want to pile up in our homes because we don’t take the time or trouble to think about their impact. Does that “screen time” habit really bring us joy? Does it inject us with energy and delight, or does it simply take up space in our lives? Would we experience more joy if we spent that time visiting a friend or volunteering, reading an inspirational book or praying, or simply enjoying the sunset and appreciating the trees now in spring bud?
If I applied the Konmari method to my eating and exercising, or my interactions with my neighbor, or my spiritual practices, what might I notice? What might I learn about myself? I don’t know for sure, but I’m feeling the nudge to expose more than just my closet to the questions and effects of “tidying.”
I can’t help but wonder if we avoid asking such questions precisely because it forces us to confront ourselves. It forces us to confront the emotional mess and clutter that we are 100% responsible for. But it doesn’t surprise me a bit that this is the pathway to joy. Jesus says the same thing, just using different vocabulary.
As we move towards the conclusion of our Lenten journey, this is an ideal time to ask yourself, “what brings me joy?” And what changes do you need to make to embrace more joy?
Yours for the Kingdom,