It seems no matter where we turn these days, Japanese consultant and Netflix star, Marie Kondo, is there- advising people everywhere how to tidy, fold, and declutter their homes.
With Lent beginning today, we at STA suggest an additional/alternative application of Ms. Kondo’s tidying principles. As a Catholic school, we gently advocate that we Christians focus our intentions and attentions not so much on decluttering our homes as much as on decluttering our hearts.
There are many tenets surrounding Ms. Kondo’s organizational services but there seem to be six main points that stand out above the rest. We use these “Basic 6” as reference points by which to “clean house” from the inside out. There is no rush; we have 40 days in which to fully organize, reorganize, sort through our mess.
1. Commit to tidying up
Ash Wednesday is the first day of the rest of our lives. Thus, it is the perfect time to “tidy up” our thoughts, our habits, our routines. It is time to set aside the voices that rent space in our heads, the societal clamor that vies for our attention, the ticking beats of tapping feet that demand responses, reactions, results. (We must answer email, we must return that phone call, we must go go go!)
It’s time to pull out the weeds that negatively influence our behavior and inhibit us from chatting with God personally on a regular basis. So let’s identify some weeds and start tugging.
2. Imagine your ideal lifestyle
According to Ms. Kondo, when we imagine our ideal lifestyle, we clarify the kind of life we most want to live. If we imagine aligning our lives with God’s intent, we set ourselves up for tremendous joy.
Thanks to the “Fab Four” (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), we have good guidelines laid out for us. It’s up to us to follow them. But they’re not difficult guidelines; they were created for the likes of fishermen, carpenters, even tax collectors- folks who didn’t have a lot of spare time to Google tips and tricks. Such is the art of good writing (a shout-out to Gospel author Luke, especially.)
3. Finish discarding first
“One cannot truly clean or ‘tidy up’ if one does not first get rid of the non-essentials.”
The junk. The baggage. The ick. We all have it lying around inside of us. A year’s worth (maybe more) of pain, hurt, resentment. Lent gently opens the door and invites our weary souls to a place of rest. Through the next 40 days, let’s fall into a place of quiet discernment and really focus on navigating our hearts through this maze called life, focusing our eyes on the Lighthouse Keeper- a bearded fellow, likely wearing sandals.
Having trouble following the light? The signals? Let’s close our eyes and listen with our hearts. What are the things in that inhibit us from developing a full relationship with God? Are there people in our lives whose energy does not mix well with our own? Just like in our homes, sometimes it is necessary to scrub underneath every surface, sweep every corner, dust every item to ensure we really clean deeply.
4. Tidy by category, not location
“Throw everything that requires tidying into one big pile and tackle the pile.”
This is easier when dealing with tangible items rather than issues of one’s soul. But it can still be done, even when applied to our spiritual journey.
Many times, we are overwhelmed, burdened by life. Choices- either others’ or our own- create hurdles and hiccups in an otherwise hope-filled life. Sins- either others’ or our own- cast hurt, angst and sorrow into the world that can only be remedied through forgiveness.
Let us place all our pain into a pile this Lent. Really ask ourselves what is at the root of our discontent. Ask the Lord to lead our hearts to a place of reconciliation.
And then let’s be open to the peace that ensues as God gently picks up our piles... and rolls them into the tomb.
5. Follow the right order
Ms. Kondo advocates strongly that in order to tidy one’s home properly, it must all be done in the right order. “One must start with the least meaningful and work toward the most significant, all the while following a vertical folding pattern designed to provide clarity and visibility.”
The same can be true when tidying our souls. First, let’s identify the little things that distract us from God. What are our easy vices that can be nipped and nixed? Are we spending a lot of time Netflix binging? Scrolling through Facebook or Instagram? Are our schedules so full we don’t have time to rest and relax? We don’t have to drastically omit every reminder of our human weakness, but by reducing cheap distractions from our lives, we can Facetime God- and thus see and hear Him more clearly.
After cutting out the easy things, let’s continue with the more significant extrications. Free ourselves from that which locks us into a place of spiritual imprisonment. Are we clinging to a toxic relationship? Is there a habit or behavioral pattern that is creating more division than wholeness? Have we wound ourselves tightly around “a pillar of the past” that has us tethered to a life of spiritual immobility? Lent is the time to let go of the things that bind us to lifetime sentence of spiritual confinement.
Yes, let’s fold ourselves into a vertical folding pattern- ever pointing our souls toward Heaven.
6. Does it spark joy? “Keep only the things that bring you joy.” These are, arguably, Ms. Kondo’s greatest words of wisdom. Keep only the things that bring you joy.
Tidy, clean, organize. Discard, label, fold. The more we create space in our hearts for the Lord and empty ourselves of the unnecessary, the meaningless, the insignificant… the greater our joy.
God needs a place to dwell within each of us. This Lenten season, let’s tidy up, make room, and rearrange our inner possessions so that we may better see Him, hear Him, find Him in this chaotic world we call home.
Together, let’s clean house - and move freely toward the promise of Easter.
1 Peter 1:8