Monday Morning Moment – the Cultural Phenomenon of Decluttering Stuff and Disposing of Relationships – the Marie Kondo Effect

Photo Credit: Lucy and Claudia

[Starting with Marie Kondo but not staying there, so for those not a fan, hang with me a few minutes.]

Marie Kondo is a petite and lovely Japanese decluttering guru. Her book and Netflix TV show Tidying Up are based on her KonMarie method of organizing one’s home. Such that joy is sparked. She ascribes to the Shinto belief that cleanliness is essential to a good life. In Kondo’s thinking, disposing of everything in your home that doesn’t spark joy brings an order and spiritual calm you wouldn’t have otherwise.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing  – Marie Kondo

YouTube Video – 10 Amazing Tips for Tidying Up with Marie Kondo (the KonMarie Method)

Shintoism: How It Influenced the Lives of the Japanese – Saki Yoshida

The Hidden Religious Promise Behind Marie Kondo’s Decluttering ‘Magic’ – Karen Swallow Prior

Because of the popularity of the KonMarie decluttering method (and other similar approaches), homes (in the West anyway) have less stuff and more open spaces. These are great days to shop in thrift stores because they are full of higher end clothing, antiques, memorabilia, and the nearly new impulse buys of the minimizing upper middle class.

This decluttering can be a good thing because it is visually refreshing and potentially allows for a greater enjoyment of the stuff we do have in our home. The problem comes when we indiscriminately toss items just because they don’t spark joy (joy being a tall order coming from material things). It sets in motion a wider worldview on what is disposable in life. What should be cut out of our lives (possessions) or cut off from our lives (people)?

In this culture of trending decluttering and downsizing, we must beware that the freedom we feel in letting go of things can transfer into an ease in letting go of people. Intentionally, ruthlessly letting go of people…maybe without even being aware we’ve changed along with our homes.

– Cutting off family and friends in the insatiable pursuit of joy –

There are always consequences in decluttering, disposing, letting go …and for sure in cutting off relationships with people.Photo Credit: Haiku Deck

You might say that some people don’t deserve further access to your life – they are complicated or difficult (even abusive). [I am all for getting help and setting boundaries when necessary…especially in the face of abuse.] It’s the cutting off of relationships that feels like it alters who we are as people, set in families, in particular.

My older brother, Robert, experienced enormous loss in his life. Because of all the losses and setbacks, he developed thick skin and a tough heart. He was hard on all of us who loved him. Brutally hard sometimes. There were plenty of occasions I could have walked away from him and not looked back. Fortunately, we had a mom who loved us all well, even when her oldest treated her as he treated us. Also, fortunately, I had two friends who kept counseling me to look beyond the contentiousness and mean words to what was going on inside him. “Hurt people hurt people” they would tell me. I finally came to the place where I didn’t react when he tried to push emotional buttons that would always end in sibling fights and walk-outs. My two younger brothers and I determined together not to get baited and to try to lean in, in love. It wasn’t long at all until he changed – almost as if he woke out of a long and terrible dream. He remembered he loved us and that we loved him.

I thank God that I didn’t cut him off. He died at a young 61, and those last years of being his sister were sweet. Those years were full of joy actually. Worth the wait…and the willingness to give up my own way.

We have all probably had the experience of drifting from relationships, of neglecting friendships, of just not showing up emotionally or physically.

This is part of the imperfect nature of life. What bears examination is the very intentional, thought-out cutting off people from our lives.

“Does it spark joy?” is the question Marie Kondo asks the person deciding whether to keep something or dispose of it.

“Make sure everything you keep sparks joy.” “Unless something makes you happy in your life, why would you hang onto it?”Tidying Up

“Does it spark joy?” Is the Wrong Decluttering Question – Joshua Becker

Beware of the worldview that decluttering leads to joy, because where, then, does it stop?

One writer goes as far as saying out right: “When you are confronted with people who do not bring joy to your life… it’s 100% okay to toss them out of it.”

There is so much being written about how to “Marie Kondo” relationships we perceive as toxic or at the least annoying and joyless. I chose not to link to those in today’s piece.

One really helpful article, though, about the reasons we cut off family members can bring real insight into why we rationalize such a decision:

10 Reasons Why People Get Cut Off From Their Family Dr. Barbara Greenberg

Click on the link and read Dr. Greenberg’s analysis on cutting off family and why we should think it through again. In brief, here are her 10 reasons people make this choice:

  1. Modeling
  2. Power and Control
  3. Exhaustion
  4. Rewriting Narratives
  5. Loyalty
  6. Perceived Slights
  7. Money
  8. Caring for Elderly or Sick Parents
  9. Abuse
  10. Lack of Elasticity

It’s just something I’m thinking about this Monday morning.

People are not stuff. They are made in the image of God. They matter, even with all their cluttered baggage, this side of Heaven. They aren’t disposable. Who we become across our lifetime is framed by those in our family and among our friends…who don’t always spark joy…nor do we.

I welcome your thoughts…in the Comments below.

The Hidden Religious Promise Behind Marie Kondo’s Decluttering ‘Magic’ – Karen Swallow Prior

Our Disposable Culture Means We Toss Relationships As Quickly as We Throw Away Objects – Charlie Sorrel

The Real Reason Marie Kondo’s Life-Changing Magic Doesn’t Work for Parents – Tanya C. Snyder

‘Tidying Up With Marie Kondo” Isn’t Really a Make-0ver Show – Sarah Archer

Clean House, Full Thrift Stores: How Marie Kondo Inspired Mass Decluttering and Donating – Mary Ellen Wright

What Japan Can Teach America About Family Caregiving – Barry J. Jacobs

350 Family Quotes – Wisdom Quotes

10 thoughts on “Monday Morning Moment – the Cultural Phenomenon of Decluttering Stuff and Disposing of Relationships – the Marie Kondo Effect”

  1. so true and so good. I was kind of talking with my mom about this a few weeks ago. we had a situation in which someone gave her advice to “just leave” and not ever return, but the situation was with a fellow believer. but while new boundaries have been and needed to be set and the relationship will be drastically different in many ways, we can not just write off the uncomfortable or unlovely or un-joy-sparking people in our lives. Some of those people have brought the most learning to my life and sometimes the best stories too. 😉 Thank you for sharing and always pointing us to truth! Love you so.

    1. Alicia, thanks for taking the time to comment and for sharing your life. So sorry about what happened with your mom. Relationships can be so messy, but they don’t have to be damaging if we lean into each other, giving love and support. I know that you do that for her. Much love!

  2. I tried for years to maintain a relationship with my very difficult and abusive adoptive mother who kicked me out of the house when I was 18. My sister & I were adopted when I was 7, she was 5. I encouraged my sister to look past the bad and focus on the good. Growing up our “mom” favored my sister and I endured physical and verbal abuse, but I forgave her. In fact I really never took it personally. I had been well nurtured by my birth parents and was very resilient. My sister was her favorite until she married a Mexican guy and had a child. She told family and friends “I cannot stand that kid” ~ her own grandchild, from her favorite daughter. I thought I was doing ok. A few years ago she decided she no longer wanted either of us in her life and wrote us both one of her infamous poison pen letters (on Christmas Eve no less) , essentially saying that she needed peace and that she had decided to choose our younger adopted brother because he could do more for her ~ mow the lawn, help her around the house etc. So, as much as I tried to be a member of her family I am no longer a part of her life. I have come to the conclusion that forcing myself into her life was the wrong thing and maybe I have been doing just that without being aware for years. I agree that removing people from your life that do not bring you joy is not the way of Jesus, but I don’t know what else to do when they close and lock the door ~

    1. Oh Claudia…wow! You describe such a hard situation which you did all you could to make better. You, even as a child and young woman, did all you could to redeem a relationship with a person who clearly has major problems. You did what you could. Maybe one day, she will unlock the door and ask your forgiveness…but you can know, at least that you did NOT lock a door, even though you had every reason, in the world’s eyes, to do so. I hope your life is better now…I’m thinking you are incredibly resilient, as you mentioned. As you look back was there a person in your life during those abusive years who was there for you (after your birth parents)? Who reminded you of your great worth?

      Also…your email address Wild Rose Ranch sounds like a beautiful, nurturing place. Thanks so much for commenting. Whew! God bless you, Claudia, and remind you each day of His love for you.

  3. I am definitely wary of just getting rid of all people who don’t “spark joy” because sometimes for a season, or sometimes a hurt person just is not pleasant. But we need to ask God to show us why this person is in our life. No one should tolerate abuse, but sometimes prickly people don’t bring joy but we shouldn’t just toss them aside.

    1. Yes. I decided to write about this after my daughter told me about these mommy “chatrooms” she visits online and how often the advice to “cut off” family members (particularly moms-in-law) comes freely and without much thought. Again, boundaries are definitely appropriate in many situations. Disposing of relationships should be a sober undertaking…more costly than one might think in the heat of the moment.

  4. Lack of commitment in relationships is a chronic issue in today’s society, and it is only getting worse as so many people have closer friendships with their PHONES than the family around them. I truly believe the answer to the problem is answered in love. Having been on the cut off side of things before, I was hurt, sad, and didn’t understand why, but I still loved them. I prayed for them, asked for healing of my own tender feelings, and left the rest with God. He recently restored a friend to me, after five years of “ghosting”. Love, without regard to the benefit it would be to you. Love those who hurt you, and may never come home to you. Love. God honors that in our hearts. And He’ll then help you grow and give you more love to share.

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