Tidying up, Mindfully.

Marie Kondo strikes the perfect note for a generation focused on mindful, joyful living

You have to hand it to someone who turns organizing sock drawers into a transformative experience. But Marie Kondo has done just that. Most people have heard about the Japan-based tidying expert by now–her name and inspirational slogans seem to be everywhere. Star of the hit Netflix show, “Tidying up with Marie Kondo” and author of the bestseller, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” Ms. Kondo devised an approach to organizing that fits perfectly with today’s preoccupation with mindfulness and joyful, meaningful living.

Feel the Magic

Curious, I recently tuned into an episode of her Netflix show to see what all the fuss was about. Tiny in stature, Ms. Kondo literally sparkles as she enters a home, like a band of sunlight flooding a dark room. She makes me think of Cinderella’s fairy godmother, as if everything would indeed turn out fine now that she had arrived. In this particular episode, she helps a frazzled couple with two young children organize all of their belongings by category, instructing them to first thank and then discard any item that fails to “spark joy.” By the end of the episode, the house–which initially appeared to be a hopeless mess–was crisply pristine, the couple gazing at each other fondly while their toddler-age children happily fold clothes.

The show deliberately does not address the psychological disorder known as hoarding. Participants are messy but not dysfunctional. As a result, most viewers can relate to their predicaments, which seems to be a key aspect of the show’s appeal. These are regular folks who probably know deep down what needs to be done but for various reasons can’t pull themselves out of the quagmire they’ve descended into–both literally and metaphorically. They need help re-prioritizing, reevaluating, and mindfully putting their stuff–and their lives–back in order.

Focus on Joy

Ms. Kondo’s philosophy is, according to her web site: “Keep only those things that speak to the heart, and discard items that no longer spark joy. Thank them for their service – then let them go.”

This way of thinking is so much more in keeping with the modern mindset than some older shows that shamed people into getting their act together and forced them to painstakingly get rid of excess stuff, room by room. Not a word of gratitude or spark of joy in sight. Today, Instagram is full of inspirational quotes and messages along the lines of, “live your best life” or “do what you love now.” Marie Kondo is perfectly in tune with that sensibility. Having her in our homes a pleasure. She loves our sentimental treasures as much as we do and would never force us to throw away an object that brought a smile to our lips and/or hearts. She’s the opposite of tough love.

Get Started

I’m not sure I’ll become a regular watcher of the show but I have to admit to being influenced by just one episode. I’ve started to imagine my t-shirts lined up vertically in my dresser drawer in neatly folded parcels. What would it be like to open the drawer and simply pull out the shirt I wanted, without digging through a massive pile of (mostly unloved) shirts? Maybe I wouldn’t be frustrated enough to start throwing everything on the floor until the right one appears and cramming them all back inside so that the drawer barely closes. It hasn’t happened yet. But I’m starting to visualize those neat rectangles–and it sparks joy.


Famous Birthdays

Judy Blume (b. Feb. 12, 1938). One of my favorite childhood authors. “Are you There God, It’s Me Margaret” taught me more about getting through middle school than anything my parents disclosed.

Boris Pasternak (Feb 10, 1890 – 1960). The Russian novelist won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1958 for Doctor Zhivago. I also loved the movie starring Omar Sharif and Julie Christie.

Thomas Edison (b. Feb. 11, 1847 – 1931). The inventor of the incandescent bulb, phonograph, movie camera, and much more. He’s known for saying “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.” However, I also like a quote I saw displayed in my chiropractor’s office–further evidence that he was ahead of his time: “The doctor of the future will give no medication, but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, diet and in the cause and prevention of disease.”

Last Week in History

Feb. 11, 1990 – Nelson Mandela was released from prison in South Africa at age 71, after 27 years of incarceration for attempting to overthrow the racist apartheid government. He was elected president in 1994, in the first all-race elections.

Feb. 10, 1968 – At age 19, Peggy Fleming won the gold medal at the 1968 Olympic Winter Games in Grenoble, France.

Feb. 12, 2000Charles Schulz died, one day after his last Sunday original Peanuts comic strip was published.

Word of the Week

Gaggle. I love this word, which refers to a flock of geese, particularly when not in flight. Marion Webster also defines it as, “a group, aggregation, or cluster lacking organization,” opening up all kinds of possibilities for using it in everyday speech. Side note: when you type “gaggle of…” into Google‘s search box, the following top suggestions pop up: nuns, geese, turkeys, ducks, crows, hens, birds, witches, swans, and gay gooses.

Hanging with the Gaggle

Cool Link: Wild Black Leopard Photos

British wildlife photographer Will Burrard-Lucas took the first professional camera trap photos of a wild black leopard in Africa. Locals had reported sightings but no one had been able to capture him on film. Check out his photos published in The Guardian.  All you can see at first is a pair of bright penetrating eyes as this magnificent creature emerges out of the shadows.


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