Years ago, as Pinterest began to monopolize a bit too much of my time, I read an article that changed the way I saw my belongings. “The Japanese Closet” or something of the sort. I was in a newborn haze at the time, I don’t remember much. It introduced (to me at least) the concept of removing everything you own from a space, holding and acknowledging each piece, and seriously discerning whether or not it you needed said piece. Before I knew it, I was folding clothes differently, organizing by box, and edging ever closer to the most minimalism I could handle at the time. These routine practices were a welcome sense of control while I blindly navigated a difficult season with four young children.
And it’s only expanded over time.
Recently, the adorable guru of tidying, Marie Kondo, has been featured on her own Netflix Series, Tidying Up. She’s darling. She flutters about people’s homes, organizing, folding, challenging material comforts, and introducing the world to the KonMari method.
All the while, she remains sensitive, cautious, and kind.
Although a practical solution to decluttering the Western world from it’s excess materials, this approach to worldly possessions should speak to us Catholics.
“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”Mathew 6:21
We are all called to separate ourselves from anything that isolates us from God, and how often is that “anything” a thing?
So here’s my abbreviated Catholic approach to KonMari, with all my apologies to the lovely Marie Kondo:
- “Clothes, books, paper, komono.” Although we’re not all called to consecrated life in a cloistered cell, we can all take a page from monastic life, and it’s wisdom in whittling down belongings or attachments to basic needs so as to fix our gaze on our Beloved. Things become distracting, they can make our lives easier and more pleasant, but they can also hold the power of separating us from our needs, our obligations, and our God. So how much do we “Treasure” our belongings?
- “Thank you for your service.” I found it odd to be “thanking” inanimate objects before eliminating them from the home. Although the act of holding, and releasing each item would prove cathartic, I’ve actually wondered if that dialogue does not elevate the material itself needlessly. Instead, here are a few alternative ways to say goodbye to that extra cheese grater.
- “Thank you Lord, for providing me with this.”
- “I know that someone else would benefit from my donation of this.”
- *Just chuck it in the box* It can’t hear you anyway.
- The Closet. In her clothes organization, Marie advises that ALL CONTENTS of the closet be emptied onto the bed so that you are confronted with the magnitude. This is important. Not only for you to see the literal pile of stuff you keep in just one small space of your home – but it should, as Christians, be an unsettling encounter with all that we own – and all that others lack. It becomes much easier to part with belongings if we remain aware of the want and need facing so many others.
- “Does it spark joy??” Well, no. But the bandaids have to stay anyway. Joy is a funny word, and I feel like it shouldn’t apply to possessions as much as implied in her method. Don’t get me wrong, I get just as giddy over a new shampoo as the next girl. But I’m not joyous over it. I’m not even joyous about my favorite dress. Joy should be reserved for things far more eternal than things we keep in boxes. My children spark joy, but their crap all over the floor does not. So alternatively, I ask myself:
- “Does this serve a common purpose?”
- “Have I worn this at all this year?”
- “When was the last time my children played with this?”
- “Would I miss this if it were gone?”
- “Is this a distraction that I should eliminate?”
- Honoring the home. I actually found this practice of hers lovely. As someone who can be sensitive to places – I have a strange relationship with our home. Don’t worry, it’s weird. I believe in taking time to acknowledge your home. To thank God for your home, and to respect the tremendous gift from God that a home is, is a perfectly valid way to spend 30 seconds on the floor. Unless you have hardwood floors like us, that hurts.
- Dying to self. It isn’t hard for me to get rid of things. It’s easy, and liberating. But while I long for clean surfaces, simplistic silhouettes and discrete sentiment throughout our home – my husband differs from those ideals. He can be attached to things in a way I’m not always sensitive to. While I could holler about how much we DON’T need things, it takes him longer. He has to process, he has to let go of things in his own time, and I need to shut up. For me, keeping silent and patient is dying to self.
While going through my closet, I came across a small box that I often forget about and rarely open. It’s moved from apartment to apartment, house to house. Despite my neglect of it, I always insist on keeping it. It’s just a box of photographs from high school. They’re mainly from my photography courses, but there are several of me, my friends, my family, our home, and the innocent silliness of youth.
I decided I could let this box go – I didn’t need it. It no longer served any purpose, apart from nostalgia.
But then I recalled memories of seeing pictures of my parents when they were young, before marriage and children. I loved to see them, especially my mom’s. I loved to see who they were in the “before time”. I loved to see them being silly and naive, innocent and spontaneous. And I’m sure, at times, I needed to see them, as a grounding reminder that they too – were teenagers.
The small box remains on the shelf.
So I imagine my grown children and I sitting at some futuristic dining table. While I bounce one of many grandchildren, they peruse this small box, the one tribute to my adolescence. As he puts the lid back on the box, I can just see my one son look up and say:
“That’s really cool Mom – but I’m glad there’s only one box.”