Stuck in a relationship rut? Start by sorting your sock drawer… the results can be dramatic.
The 2019 Netflix series starring Japan’s tidying guru Marie Kondo suggests that a de-cluttered home leads to happier relationships. This is true, but it’s not for the reason that most people think.
Granted, a wardrobe that doesn’t erupt the moment you touch it may grease the wheels when it comes to living in harmony with your partner. But, unless you’ve been having some seriously nasty rows over tidying, it’s not going to be a deal-breaker.
Instead the magic of Kondo’s celebrated method lies in you realising what – and who – it is that you value in life.
Kondo’s world-famous approach lies in throwing out items that don’t instinctively “spark joy”.
According to her, there are only two reasons why we might find this process difficult: when we have attachment to the past, or when we fear the future.
The more you discard your belongings, the more you become aware of the values that guide your life.
You begin to see patterns in the things that you’re reluctant to throw away; not because they make you happy, but because they have some hold over your past or future.
“The question of what you own is actually the question of how you want to live your life,” writes Kondo, in her top-selling book.
“Attachment to the past and fears concerning the future govern not only the way you select the things you own but represent the criteria by which you make choices in every aspect of your life, including your relationships.”
For example, if you find you have a strong attachment to the past when you’re decluttering your home (for example, you find it hard to let go of sentimental letters or presents), it may be that you also “find it hard to move on to a new relationship” because you can’t get over the ex you broke up with years ago.
If you’re prone to worrying about the future, on the other hand, you may keep belongings that you don’t really need “just in case”. Similarly, you may choose a partner based on the need for security, or the fear of being alone, rather than qualities that you actively like.
Either of these thought patterns make it hard to cut ties, because, as Kondo says, “we can’t see what we really need now, at the moment. We aren’t sure what would satisfy us or what we are looking for.”
Kondo’s method shows that the only way to find out what you need in life, is to eliminate what you don’t. Items become a metaphor for relationship problems; we can “face them now, face them sometime, or avoid them until the day we die”.
The magic of Kondo’s method is that by dramatically whittling down your possessions, you are placed firmly in the present; for the first time in ages (possibly ever), you can see what you really want in life.
And this in turn will cast light on your wider relationship values: the people you are drawn to not in and of themselves, but because of attachment to the past or fear of the future.
This is why it’s not uncommon for couples to get divorced after one or the other of them follows the KonMari method. By honestly confronting their items, they are able to see more clearly what relationships they would be happier discarding, too.
But the outcome of decluttering doesn’t have to be as dramatic as divorce.
By Kondo’ing your home, you have greater confidence and headspace to shine a light on what your version of happiness looks like, in the present (plus the habits that might hold you back from achieving this).
And this, in turn, can hold powerful implications when it comes to improving the quality of your closest relationships, too.
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