Tidying Up as Ritual

Like many Americans, I’ve been intrigued by Marie Kondo‘s method of tidying up. I consider myself a pretty tidy person, but Marie Kondo takes it to a different level. I started watching her TV show because I wanted to see the untidy houses that she would help tidy – voyeurism through reality TV. What I found most interesting, though, was Kondo’s use of ritual in motivating people to tidy their homes. Kondo doesn’t shame her clients. She doesn’t shovel clutter into trash bags to be hauled to the dump. She doesn’t tell people what they should keep and what they shouldn’t keep. Instead, when she first enters a home she pauses to honor and greet the space by kneeling on the floor with her eyes closed. Then, she asks her clients to bring their items to a central location. (For example, if they are working on clothes, the client might pile all clothes on the bed.) Each individual item is considered separately. If the item sparks joy, it is kept and tidied. If the item does not spark joy, it is thanked and discarded.

The act of holding each item, considering it, and either keeping it or thanking it, is a ritual. In this ritual, the item is honored for its contribution. It is looked at, held, and addressed. The ritual of deciding whether to keep the item or discard it helps the client connect to the past and look toward the future. Perhaps the item once brought joy, but no longer does. In that case, the moment of joy is remembered, honored, and released. If the item continues to bring joy, that joy is celebrated and future moments of joy are anticipated. This powerful method of tidying up is free of guilt. It meets the client in the present moment and invites them to move forward.

Once the decisions to keep or discard are made, the items to be kept are honored by intentional storage. Nothing is shoved into drawers or piled at the back of closets. The kept items are to be treated with respect, either folded neatly, hung, or placed in small boxes. The goal of the Marie Kondo method is to easily see all of your items, either in a closet, cupboard, or drawer, so you can find them when you need them. Even in the act of storage, items are honored for their function and purpose. This, too, is ritual.

Some of Marie Kondo’s practices are likely connected to her Japanese Shinto background. In the Shinto religion, there is a belief that inanimate objects carry kami, or divine essence. Kami exists in everything from objects to animals and people. It is the sacred and, thus, is to be honored.

I’m no Marie Kondo, but I do have a ritual of tidying my home before I go to bed. I plump pillows, fold blankets, and line up remotes in the TV room. I pick up the dog bowls and put them away. I wipe down the kitchen counter and disinfect the sink. I use Windex to clean the slobber from my dog’s favorite window-to-the-neighborhood, before pulling the shades closed for the night. I plug in my i-phone, place my robe on the wicker hamper, and line-up my slippers beside the bed. Once of I have done these things, I’m ready to go to sleep. By doing these simple things, I honor the day and my home. When I don’t do these things, I feel like something is missing.

What are your rituals around your material possessions? Do you have a ritual that helps you feel connected to and grateful for your home? At Rites of Passage, we design rituals to mark the big and small moments of life. If you are interested in discovering how ritual can improve your life at home, we’d love to talk to you!