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Inhabiting the Gray Area

February 2, 2019

 

 

Mental health is a hot term these day. With good reason, but as with so much in our FOMO-Insta-driven lives, it's used more as a hashtag than a literal practice for most people. It's easier to jump on a bandwagon--or at least create the perception of it--than it is to actually implement. 

 

Or in some cases, easier to watch a Netflix show and espouse minimalism than it is to do the hard work of uncovering the *why* instead of temporarily fixing the effect. 

 

Quantifying & Commodifying Joy

Marie Kondo is far from an unrecognized personality these days. From her book on tidying up to her Netflix show on the same topic, she's building an empire based on helping people throw things away and declutter. 

 

To set the record straight: I'm in no way against any of these things. I live with a perpetual stacker of *things* (meaning that my husband will stack virtually anything rather than take care of it... Mail, books, etc) and hoarder of clothes that don't fit and other random accouterments. I'm constantly searching for things we can throw away or donate or, basically, just get out of the house. My favorite computer button is Delete. So I 100% agree that a good decluttering is good for the soul and the home. And it was with this mindset that I sat down to finally see what all the KonMari fuss was about. 

 

The premise is simple: Marie Kondo helps people declutter their homes and, in the process, provides some lite insight and the kind of pithy wisdom that is apparently the hallmark of organizational gurus before she Mary Poppins-it out of there. It's a simple, unfussy premise. But the empath in me is so horribly conflicted by the actual people who are clearly KonMari-ing as a distraction to the true underlying issues.

 

If I Just...

We've all fallen victim to this mindset, right? Where we think if we can accomplish this one thing, everything else will fall into place.  We talk to ourselves overly harshly, judge ourselves on some surface quality, and think it could be the first domino to fall in a long line of perceived issues.

 

If I just lose ten pounds...

If I just spend an extra hour at work everyday...

If I just quit smoking...

If I just stick to my diet...

If I just tidy up my house...

 

When I did my yoga teacher training, there were a lot of aspects that were life changing. At first, it felt like intense therapy, like a storm was constantly whirling around me. But it abated after a few weeks, and I could see myself as an island within a calm sea. And then a few weeks later, with a consistent meditation practice and deep internal reflection, I realized that everything was still just below the surface. To continue the metaphor, now that the seas were calm, I could see all the issues and garbage I had buried but never truly dealt with. 

 

KonMari-ing is stilling of the waters. But it doesn't deal with the deeper issues that the people on the show are really facing. An untidy house is just a symptom of something larger. A wish, or an unmet longing, something that has yet to be expressed in its true form. While the house might be tidy for a little while, without working through the real issues, it'll just revert back to its previous state. And be another way to feel inadequate.

 

At the end of the day, a Netflix show is a Netflix show. But as it relates to mental health, there's a lot left unaddressed with the potential for a lot of damage. I don't have any kind of metaphorical coup de grace with which I can close this post. But I will promote another  Japanese-founded aesthetic: wabi-sabi. Wabi-sabi relies on age and individuality to define the beauty and value of objects. On finding beauty in imperfections. 

 

Because ultimately, it's not about the objects that are cluttering your house. It's your own thoughts and imperfections. And finding a way to honor them is the first step toward overcoming them.

 

 

 

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