As a family we are always on the look out for inspiring TV shows to watch. We also watch TV for pure entertainment, of course, but the shows we value the most are those introducing us to new ideas, places or people. 

A couple of days ago we started ‘Tidying Up with Marie Kondo’ on Netflix and were instantly hooked. We were already interested in (and practicing to some extent) minimalism – reducing our reliance on material possessions – so the ideas in this show were already somewhat present in our lifestyle. Still we immediately started to apply Marie’s approach to our clothes and have 6 large bags to discard and find new homes for. We plan to apply the method to all areas of our home. 

For those not familiar with her philosophy it essentially boils down to only keeping things in your life that spark joy for you and that you want to take into your future. She has a systematic methodology that includes mindfully deciding what you want to keep and then respectfully and gratefully removing what no longer serves you. Finally you organise your space with a focus on ease of access and having a place for everything.

If you want to know more there are videos with Marie on YouTube, the Netflix show and her website

Straight away I appreciated the lightness and inner spaciousness simply by starting a few simple first steps and I’m looking forward to decluttering other categories of my physical space. It also struck me watching the show how the process of physical decluttering and tidying had a powerful transformative side-effect on the couples and families involved. 

This got me thinking about applying the approach more consciously to my family and my relationship with Mona. Here are some of my initial reflections on this. I want to stress that I have not yet experimented with the ideas below but wanted to share them while they are fresh. A later article will cover the results of this experiment. 

Tidying Up – Our Relationships

Categories

Marie recommends tidying each category of stuff (rather than by location) so she has clothing, books, papers, etc..

Applying this to my relationship the first step is to identify the relevant  categories that could do with some decluttering. For me it will be:

  • activities (what we do with our time)
  • finances (how we earn and spend money)
  • dreams and plans (for the future)
  • memories (the past).

This order is not random. I start with the easiest and put the hardest at the end. Dreams and memories are much more personal than the other categories and potentially more challenging to let go of some things. By starting with the easier first the idea is that I get more skilled at deciding what to keep and what to let go of. 

Deciding what to Keep (and what to Discard)

In the physical tidying you take each category in sequence and start by putting everything of that type in one place, so for example you would put all your books in a giant pile on the floor. Then you methodically take each item one by one and check with yourself if it brings joy to you and if you want to take it into your future. Those items that pass the ‘joy test’ you set aside. The remainder you thank for whatthey brought to your life and then place them onto a discard pile. 

I want to apply this same method to my relationship categories above. So I will go through each category, collect together all the items and then review each one by one. Because most of these are not physical items I will write down lists or post-its with the items. For example, I will write down all the activities I do or the most significant memories of my time with Mona. 

I see this as something to do both on my own, and together with Mona. We carry both a personal set of memories and a joint set. It is important to recognise all. 

Once I’ve collected notes of everything in a category I will then review the items one by one and ask myself, ‘Does this spark joy’ and maybe also ‘Do I want to take this into my future’. 

What I hope to end up with are two lists for each category. This might look something like: 

Activities – a clear picture of the things we do together that bring us joy and we want to keep doing – and those activities we want to stop as they no longr serve us. 

Finances – what we spend money on that brings us joy and – and things we’ll stop buying. This will require a conscious look at what we get for our money. 

Dreams and Plans – cleaning out all the things we said one day we will do or achieve, so that we’re left with a focused list of the things we want in our future that we are committed to. The items we want to drop might require some ritual to let them go. 

Memories – we have so many of these and neither of us want to stay stuck in the past. So I imagine we will be left with a clear narrative about the experiences that define us and we want to remember – those that were joyful and we cherish as well as some that were painful but brought us a lot. We will also have a set of memories we want to let go of. Of course we can’t forget memories, even those we really want to discard. Maybe the best we can do is recognise them, thank them for bringing us to where we are today and then choosing not to relive them over and over. 

Organising

In the KonMari method everything we choose to keep has its own place and is neatly folded and stored for easy access. 

The same principles can apply to the results of the exercise above where we keep well organised through calendars, task organisation and conversation.

I imagine using our joint calendar more and a combined personal organisation system for tasks and activities.

I imagine a simplified financial set-up with streamlined payments and regular review. 

I imagine a visual representation somewhere on the wall with our dreams for the future. 

And I imagine setting aside time for family story telling where we recount the memories of times we want to cherish. 

And I want to always remember in my relationship that it’s about choosing joy. 

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