Marie Kondo’ing your Consciousness
I began this year gung-ho in my quest to do less. I launched into de-cluttering my To Do list and cultivating the downtime my spirit has been so desperately needing. I cleaned, and listened to podcasts. I took a bath, and watched the new astrology forecasts. I stepped away from the crush of my inbox, and caught up on my favorite blogs.
On the outside I was doing way less, so why did I still feel so stressed?
We live in a time that prizes accumulation of almost all things, including information. Even when we are “doing less” there is still a quiet expectation that we will continue to grow our bank of knowing. I was seriously simplifying my surroundings, and yet I found my level of overwhelm still stuck at high-voltage, and I couldn’t understand why— until I began looking at the non-physical things that were very literally taking up space in my psyche. As per usual, it was a pile of books that finally brought it all home for me.
Next to my bed was a literal tower of highly recommended novels. (You know, those tomes that are endlessly splashed across your news feed as must-reads). Having accumulated a good pile of such books, I decided it was high time to make a dent in the mountain. I love reading, but as the first few weeks of the year wore on, working through the books began to feel like an uphill trudge. It wasn’t that they weren’t beautifully written (they were) or lacking meaning (they were all that and more), they simply weren’t bringing me joy. They weren’t for me, and they actually made me feel less like myself when I was reading them. They were, in short, taking up precious space in my inner home. And it was time to clear house.
We are often in such a rush to secure a seat at the collective tea table, that we don’t think long enough about what we are filling our cups with. We don’t see our own psyches as a home or realize that each idea we encounter is a guest that we have the power to invite. We forget that not only do we have the option to cultivate an inner sanctuary that really nurtures us, but that if we say “no” to the guest of someone else’s thoughts we are not misinformed or narrow of mind, we are simply discerning homeowners.
I’ve long been a fan of Marie Kondo’s system of tidying, her philosophy of viewing all the objects in your closet as animate, and only keeping the things that truly bring you joy. I’ve recently been diving into her show on Netflix, and it’s been a delight to watch her help people pare down, letting go of the heaps to actually find themselves beneath the rubble. I particularly love how she begins each session on her knees, greeting the home with a smile as peaceful as a cumulus cloud.
We know that the physical objects that take up space in our house begin to clutter and choke our emotional life, but we forget that the non-physical inputs, the words, thoughts, ideas, conversation, and art, we allow into our brains does the exact same thing. What would happen if we took as much time and care with our consciousness as we do with our closets to carefully weed out the thought-objects that do not bring us joy?
The inputs—books, advertisements, movies, media etc.— you allow into your consciousness shape your experience of life. Think about how you feel about the world after watching the morning news versus playing with your dog or reading a much beloved book of poetry. What we allow into the homes of our psyches matter. The things that we bring into our brains take up space, and very literally create the contours that we live within.
In animist belief systems (the life philosophy that underlies Marie Kondo’s work, as well as my own) everything on Earth is seen as animated by consciousness, containing their own sentience and life force— this includes the old clothes in your closet, but it also includes an article in the newspaper, a phone call, comments on social media. They are each forces of consciousness, with their own feeling tones and reasons for being. In Marie’s method, when you let go of an item she suggests you hold it and say “thank you” as you release it from your space.
It is up to us, as tenders of our own inner sanctuaries, to ask ourselves: what kind of home do I truly want to live in? To let go of the self-judgement that says we should always be good hosts, and respond by Marie Kondo-ing our consciousness of all those inputs that drain our joy. (With gratitude, of course).
Because you do not have to read all the things. You don’t have to be up to date on the news. Or watch all the Instagram stories.
Truly, you don’t
Each home has its own innate floor plan and flow. What works to make one home feel cozy, will make another place feel cramped. We are all different— and what our homes need to flourish are different too. There is no judgement here, only the wonder of our utterly unique selves and inner havens. Whatever makes you feel you are at home is good and worthy. You have the power to create, edit, and tend that inner space as you need.
So, I invite you to join me in the only real resolution I’m making this year. To watch and read and absorb what inspires you and makes you feel good. Welcome in only that which feeds your joy, and let go of the rest.
In the meantime, I hope you’ll excuse me if I bundle up that stack of New York Times bestsellers and trade them in at the used bookstore for more whimsical fantasy and nature poetry.
I’d say “forgive me,” but I already know that you understand completely.