before kondo, kondo, beyond kondo

five years before marie kondo was conceived, i was born, a virgo oldest child to military grade parents who were also 2/3 of the sagittarian horde in our household. i was not so much a neat child as a particular one – i like things the way i like things. i came out of the womb adjusting my hair and pushing my sleeves up, wanting more touches of color in the hospital room.

military life, moving every 2-3 years, gave me many opportunities to learn what i loved, how i wanted my room/home to feel, and how to let go.

in my mid 20s i moved from NYC to Cali, having realized after ten urgent important years that i was incompatible with the new york lifestyle. i wanted less performance, less rushing and elbowing, to be less on, less at the center. i wanted a simpler life. so for that move, i committed to only driving across country the things i loved and needed. i would pick something up, assess if i loved it, go through the internal struggles of negotiation and making excuses for why i wanted to keep things i didn’t love, and let go of most of my things. i gave away things i loved but didn’t need – i lovingly curated boxes of books for dear friends, i let people shop in my donation bags. sometimes i still come across those items in a friend’s house and they make me smile.

i decided to do this practice a few times a year, especially with clothes. it has served me well. people have commented that it’s a virgo thing that i do this. perhaps. i don’t like clutter but i do like things, and acquire new lovely joy-inducing things regularly. but! i don’t like cleaning. so i tend to live in spaces small enough to clean quickly – and the less clutter, the less cleaning. and order serves my creativity – when everything is in place my mind can settle in on what doesn’t exist yet, or what i am learning to say.

i first heard about marie kondo from a friend who knew of my practice. she said, “this is like what you do, but she made a whole book about it.” i didn’t read the book, nor have i watched the show, but her konmari method of tidying up, minimizing clutter while increasing home joy, is now ubiquitous in my world. i feel like she’s living the life i could have lived if i hadn’t failed french and joined the rebellion. i am so grateful she exists because friends who once chalked up my practice as my weird virgo shit now text me pictures of their reduced belongings and the bags of stuff leaving their home.

marie kondo is not a virgo, so maybe there are forces at work in this world stronger than astrology. in part she traces her methods back to shinto religious practices. i love this idea, as this reduction ritual has always felt sacred to me. how to be in love and not attachment? how to see what i have as treasure without growing greedy?

all this to say that i kondo’d my kitchen yesterday. while i do my clothing regularly, and recently did my bedroom and bathroom, the kitchen had been getting away from me. i had a set of rainbow colored knives with the paint peeling off, unused and dangerous. i had eight more mixing bowls than anyone needs, and tupperware with no lids, and tea that hasn’t been considered for a decade.

this kind of cleaning gives me home joy. taking bags of stuff out of my home to donate and toss and recycle gives me home joy. coming back into my apartment and seeing the space i have reclaimed gives me home joy.

but/and i was also reminded of my little bag obsession. whenever i clean my home i find little bags full of chapstick, pens, gift cards, stuff i think i’ll need when i travel. in transit i never open these bags, but they’re with me just in case. it’s not unusual to find 3-4 little bags in my suitcase.

in the kitchen i learned i do the same thing with tea. i assemble little ziplock bags with an assortment of my favorite teas. i travel with them, rarely drinking the tea, and then bring it home and put it in the tea area. i found four meticulously assembled baggies with black, green and herbal teas. two had tea balls in the bag for loose tea, though i hadn’t packed loose tea.

i’m thinking of this as the nomadic clutter of home joy. because i live a life of frequent travel, home has to always be with me where i am. i love my apartment, and without thinking, i bring the small comforts of home joy with me everywhere – a reminder of my extensive tea collection, of my self care practices, of my body having needs. even if i don’t open and use what’s inside, these little bags are sacred, and i love what they represent.

but i am upgrading my home joy game. i’m going to just have one beautiful small bag – of tea, chapstick and pens – and carry it like i do my altar bag, as a sacred beloved thing, functional if needed, but not needed because i need function, just needed because i need home.

the place i am interested in exploring a bit is what we actually need, all of us. how do we kondo at a collective and interdependent level? what if what brings you joy is a zionist soda machine, or artifacts made of ivory, or fancy temporary technology that harms the earth, or a wasteful amount of personal space that requires tons of heat and energy resources? there’s a space for connecting kondo’s thinking to a just transition, to being in right relationship not just to home in the individual sense, but to all of us having enough and having joy in the home of the whole.

perhaps that’s in the book i haven’t read yet, i just haven’t heard it in the flurry of excited energy around konmari. and i don’t know that i will watch the show, cause i live this method in my heart. i am mostly writing this as a note of gratitude, that kondo has made my ways less weird, more delightful, and more common. and an invitation, to see it all as home, to measure it all with joy.

Author: Adrienne

VIRGO (Aug. 23-Sept. 22): Your uprising against the forces of darkness has got to do more than say "no." A fierce, primal yes should be at the heart of your crusade. (rob brezny, long ago)

One thought on “before kondo, kondo, beyond kondo”

  1. The book also talks about how your life changes once you put the things you love in a place. I think of it as a place in my heart, that they’ve fluttered open for me, something that I’ve longed for and forgotten. Then other things open up, like my want to write and my desire to sing (my journals and ukulele remind me). And that transitions into my daily life, where I try to maintain a writing and singing practice, and it shows with the people I’m with, because I’m lighter in life, because I put what I love in its place in my heart. Just examples of how kondo has affected me. I moved around a lot in Chicago and now in NYC, and had to keep only what I loved and needed with me, and I’m so happy for that. Thanks for sharing ?

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