If you are interested in minimalism, you may be a little confused or overwhelmed at the sheer volume of information out there on the topic (kind of ironic, right?). There are so many ideas about what minimalism is and is not. You may wonder how to start minimalism. You may wonder if there are guidelines or whether there is a “right” method to follow.
The truth is, minimalism means different things to different people. Most start with reducing their possessions, which can simply give you a more aesthetically pleasing house, but for many it is much deeper than that. Getting rid of belongings, reducing commitments, freeing up your time, and other areas of minimizing can make room in your life for whatever things are most important to you.
According to Marie Kondo, organizing consultant and author of the best-selling decluttering book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, “When you put your house in order, you put your affairs and your past in order too.”
The “life-changing magic“ of Kondo’s book was one of my first introductions to minimalism. I read it shortly after reading Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids by Kim John Payne, which completely rocked my world and changed the way I parented, including a total downsizing of the amount and types of toys my kids owned.
However, I found that changing things around for my kids was easy. When I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I was forced to examine my own stuff, and how it was affecting my life and priorities.
Put simply, Kondo’s book details what has come to be known as the Kon-mari method of decluttering. Her method is very methodical and easy to follow, and she moves through each category of possessions in a very detailed way. Instead of focusing on getting rid of things, she focuses on keeping only the things that “spark joy” or add value to your life.
She encourages readers to go through their entire house at once, to make an event of it, rather than to do a little at a time. For me, it would have taken a few 40 hour weeks in a row to get through it all (which was impossible with little ones running around, and a part-time job). However, I did the best I could to complete an entire section (as outlined in the book) at a time, even if it took all my free time for several days. The time-consuming “work” was partly the physical moving things around, but also the emotional and mental decision-making and “work” of letting go of things.
The book is a wonderful and encouraging starting point if you need help figuring out how to minimize or let go of your belongings. Kondo addresses many of the reasons you may have a hard time letting go of things. “People who can’t stay tidy can be categorized into just three types: the ‘can’t-throw-it-away’ type, the ‘can’t-put-it-back’ type, and the ‘first-two-combined’ type. Ninety percent [of my clients] fall into the third category,” Kondo says.
She even dives into the guilt we often feel when letting go of things that were gifts. She explains, in her calm and positive way, “The true purpose of a present is to be received. Presents are not ‘things’ but a means for conveying someone’s feelings. When viewed from this perspective, you don’t need to feel guilty for parting with a gift. Just thank it for the joy it gave you when you first received it.”
Yes, she did say to “thank” the gift. There are many times in this book where Kondo recommends speaking to and addressing items, usually to thank them for serving their purpose in your life. This could most likely be attributed to her background in Shintoism , which maintains there is divinity or “sacred essence” even in inanimate objects. I chose to gloss-over these parts of the book. Thankfulness is something we could definitely slow down and meditate on more often, though I believe the thanks belongs to God and not an inanimate object.
There were a couple other themes throughout the book that may not fit in with a Christian worldview. Kondo talks about envisioning the life you want, and imagining how your life could be if you had less clutter. I chose to pray here and ask God what kind of life he would want for me, and also for him to show me what kind of life I could have with less stuff. I also asked him to show me the things that are getting in the way of that. If we pray and align our hearts with Christ, and not with our flesh, our desires should line up with those of the Lord. In this sense, “the life we want” is okay to pursue; we just have to make sure we are submitted to God.
The idea of an object “sparking joy” is also a main theme in the book, which could be interpreted as joy coming from an object. If you are a Christian, Scripture says our joy should not come from our earthly possessions, but from the Lord. Rather than focus on whether something “sparked joy,” I chose to focus on whether something lined up with the vision and goals God has given me, and if so, I would keep it.
This doesn’t mean I kept only “useful” things. I kept some things just because I enjoyed how they looked or how they contributed to the atmosphere of my home. I believe this is part of my vision from the Lord, and God doesn’t say we can’t enjoy our things. So the end result is similar to what Kondo was advocating in her book (surrounding yourself only with the things you love), just with the recognition that every gift is from God, he is the “sparker of Joy” and he deserves all the credit and thanks.
Overall, this book was an incredible read that offers quite a bit of insight into how and why you might want to reduce your possessions. It forced me to consider the “why” behind the things I have held onto that no longer serve a purpose. I would recommend it as a good starting place to minimalism, especially if you have a LOT of stuff to go through and no clue where to start. Just keep in mind that while the method certainly works, there are parts of this book that do not line up with a Christian worldview.