"The KonMari system is rooted in gratitude and respect."
Along with the new year come the new resolutions that people make to turn bad habits into good. It’s around this time that people sign up for gym memberships, vow to eat healthy, and promise to cull the clutter in their homes.
Speaking of clutter, it’s likely no coincidence that Netflix released “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” on Jan 1. It’s a show starring the author of four home organizing books including the 2011 bestseller “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing,” which has been published in more than 30 countries.
The show’s first season sees Kondo visiting the homes of a wonderfully diverse group of people and teaches them the eponymous KonMari technique for organizing, which sorts all items into four categories: clothing, books, ‘komono’ (miscellaneous including documents), and ‘sentimental items’ (photos, memorabilia, etc.).
Culling items follows a set procedure. For clothing, Kondo instructs each client to pile all their clothes on the floor or bed. Each item is held to see if they “spark joy”—Kondo describes it as a physical reaction, in the “cells of your body”—“Ching!” Items that don’t make the cut are thanked and put away for donation or the trash. The clothes are then folded in a special way so that they ‘stand’ in drawers or boxes, making them easier to see and pull out. After Kondo’s intervention, each family’s home is much less cluttered, space abounds, and many bags of items are donated to charity.
The KonMari method also changes relationships and family dynamics – the tension between one couple eased when their house became less messy, a widow struggling to let go her late husband’s belongings finally did it, the dad and tween kids of a family decided to give mom more help with chores.
Some critics don’t get where Kondo is coming from. One claimed a “clash of energies” between clients and Kondo, with some of them skeptical of Kondo’s ritual of “greeting” each home she enters. But, the critic conceded, the KonMari method subdues the mess in the end.
Based on social media comments, Filipinos are much more in tune with and appreciative of Kondo and her methods, and one reason why is perhaps because animism is a feature of the cultures of both the Philippines and Japan.
Animism attributes a soul or a spirit to natural phenomena—trees, rivers, lightning – and objects in the material world—stones, posts. These spirits can help or harm human interests.
Kondo once worked as a Shinto shrine maiden. Shinto is rooted in Japan’s ancient past, and is a belief system that recognizes “spirits” (kami) and “essences” in nature and things.
This animistic aspect of Shinto obviously has a huge influence on Kondo’s philosophy that she understatedly describes as “tidying up.” It can be observed in the way she “introduces” herself to the house: first she searches for a spot, often near the entry, where she kneels and “communicates” with the house, making graceful, sweeping gestures with her hands on the floor. Her respect for the spirits that reside in objects can be seen in the way she “wakes” books by tapping them with the back of her hand, and in the way she thanks each item for their service.
As Filipinxs we are taught to say “tabi-tabi po nuno” when passing an anthill and to be careful when chopping down trees because they have a resident “diwata.” We see Kondo’s hand-tapping at stores where vendors
“bless” their goods with a fan of paper currency.
Because of this cultural background I can readily buy into Kondo’s suggestions to talk to my house and thank it for protecting me and my family, and thank each article of clothing as I fold them neatly.
My take on KonMari is that it’s not only about throwing out unused items and making the house neat and clean, it’s also a mentality of mindfulness. It’s being grateful for what you have, of buying only what you truly need, of recycling reducing reusing, and letting go the rest to share them with others. With letting go comes the blessing of positive change and the freedom of moving on and forward.
Kondo’s system is rooted in gratitude and respect—respect for things, respect for yourself, respect for others, and respect for nature and the world.
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Are you a ka-Konmari? Caritas Manila (caritasmanila.org.ph) will pick up your items for free: call (632) 564-0205, 562-0020 to 25, 0905-428-5001, 0929-834-3857, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. FB and Twitter: @DrJennyO