Sparks Joy? How to Marie Kondo your Relationships

by Bibi Raven

A few things are on everyone’s lips at the moment - Brexit, Trump, and Marie Kondo.

While the two former topics are in the political category, to some Marie Kondo is equally as controversial. The 4-foot-7 Japanese tidying expert and creator of the much-loved KonMari method has the world under her spell with her Netflix series Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.
She's telling everyone (in her adorable voice) to toss everything and anything we own that doesn’t immediately ‘spark joy.’

Though the focus of the KonMari method is most applicable to the junk in our homes (and our handbags), there’s something to be said about applying her inspiring advice to relationships. Merely change the question “Does it spark joy?” to “Does he/she spark joy?”, and you’ve got a simple, practical way of assessing your relationships.

I know it’s a lot easier to get rid of an old pair of shoes than a boyfriend. But are they really that different?

Wait. Don’t answer that.

Here’s the lowdown on how you can use the tried and true words of MK and apply them to your relationships with everyone from your marriage partner to your best mate.

1. Don’t Hold on Forever 

It’s sad to think of letting people go, particularly if you’ve known each other for a long time. But sometimes relationships need to be tossed out. Like an old pair of jeans!

We all have that sexy pair of skin-tight pants at the back of our cupboard. The ones that we fit into years ago, but sadly, as much as we jump up and down and lie back on the bed, they just don’t seem to fit anymore.

Like those pair of jeans, as we grow older (and wider), we outgrow our relationships. There’s no shame in accepting that it could be time to cut ties and move on. Rather invest your time and love in a new pair of jeans, I mean person, that fits you just right.

2. But Don’t Be Too Hasty

You might really be in the groove of KonMari-ng your life, thinking “Don't like ‘em? Dump ‘em!” to everything and everyone. But unfortunately, relationships and people are a lot more complicated than immaterial objects.

The connections with others that really matter are the ones that survive ups and downs, and as such, you should consider the long-term aspects. You don’t want to be too rash, kicking someone out of your life because you’re having a bad day or because they’ve done something to piss you off.

Keep in mind the benefits of your relationship. Remember that time they picked you up when your car broke down? Or when they came over with comfort food after a breakup? Or when they held your hair back when you partied a little too hard? It’s good to have these sorts of friends around, even if you don’t love them all the time. And as far as marriage goes, you might want to listen to this out-of-the-box marriage advice from therapist Susan Pease Gadoua before throwing in the towel.

3. Take the Time

In her book The Life-Changing Magic, Kondo estimates that the entire process of tidying your house should take six months. Six months? That’s a hell of a long, tidy up session.

Just as you take a significant amount of time to clutter-free your house, so should a certain amount of time be dedicated to your relationships. This tip is twofold.

On the one hand, take the time to assess your relationships regularly. Set aside a time when you can be left alone to make a practical list of pros and cons. What are you benefiting from the relationship? What are you giving in return? What word springs to mind when you think of your relationship with that other person? Do they make you a better version of yourself?

These aren’t easy questions that can be answered in a second. They take some serious thinking and reflection.

On the other hand, take the time to be with the people you love. Relationships are an investment, and the only thing that you should be investing is time. That means putting down your phone and actually engaging with them. Having a meaningful conversation. Do a fun activity together. Just lie in bed in silence. All things that will make your bond even stronger.

4. Don’t Show Love with Material Things

If there’s any fundamental truth about the KonMari way, it’s that less is more. Having fewer bits and bobs cluttering up your home can really give you a sense of freedom and weightlessness you didn’t even know you needed.

So why do we continue to give our loved ones crappy presents that clutter up their lives? This ends now.

Instead of the cliche piece of jewellery or technological gadget, treat your partner to a minimalist anniversary gift that won’t collect dust. I’m talking about unforgettable experiences and activities that create new memories as a couple. Memories are so much more meaningful, and you simply cannot put a price on them. It will also help you grow together, which is one of the secrets to a long-lasting relationship.

5. Be Brave

Getting rid of the old and welcoming the new isn’t easy. In fact, it’s bloody difficult.

But KonMari has a tip - be brave. Be brave in welcoming someone new into your life. And be brave to let go the ones that are bringing you more worries than joy. In the words of Ms. Kondo, “When we really delve into the reasons for why we can’t let something go, there are only two: an attachment to the past or a fear for the future.”

When it comes to relationships, many of us have a fear of never finding someone else better. But as the old saying goes, there is plenty of fish in the sea. If a particular fish isn’t doing it for you anymore, be brave and let them go.

When less time and energy is being spent on negative people in your life, more space is made available for better, more meaningful relationships. That means making more friends and meeting more people - people that really spark joy in your life.

6. Have a Look at Yourself Before You Clean Your Surroundings

Adopting the KonMari lifestyle is a very inward journey. You may be cleaning up your house, but in fact, you’re cleaning up your mind. It involves a total mind shift for it to really work long-term.

In the same way, remember to analyse yourself as well as the other person. Don’t be too quick to assign blame for relationship problems when it could, in fact, be you. Be open to the idea that issues such as intimacy and commitment could be stemming from your own personal problems. There’s no shame in realising where you have gone wrong and adopting a new way of viewing the world and your relationships. It’s all part of the KonMari way.

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