The Spiritual Principle That Makes The Kondo Method So Effective
If you, like the rest of the country, have recently found yourself glued to a screen watching the KonMari method in action, chances are you've picked up on a few of the decluttering queen's unorthodox habits. Whether it's lighting incense to purify a space, thanking inanimate objects, or sitting in meditation to prepare for a revamp, Kondo has a way of deepening traditional cleaning with a layer of spiritual self-inquiry.
Her numinous approach is due in part to her upbringing. As a teenager, she volunteered at a Shinto shrine, a place where the spirit world and the physical one intermingle. (In Shintoism, the entire world is thought to be a conduit for energy, and every material object holds its own special meaning.) In the oft-read pages of her first book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Kondo compares entering a client's home for the first time to passing through a shrine; both moments are charged with a similar anticipation.
That's not the only reason she considers cleaning a quasi-spiritual experience. In her book, Kondo goes on to compare tidying to meditating under a waterfall: "While not exactly a meditative state, there are times when I am cleaning that I can quietly commune with myself," she writes. "The work of carefully considering each object I own to see whether it sparks joy inside me is like conversing with myself through the medium of my possessions."
When approached under this lens, some of the peculiarities of the Kondo method start to make more sense. Each step of the process is meant to help people forge a deeper connection with their stuff, and by extension, themselves. Her strategies, all the way down to her meticulous sock fold, all work to make us more invested in everything we own so that we'll be more inclined to honor it moving forward.
Kondo isn't the only one who recommends tending to your inner landscape as you're renovating your outer one. Here, a few mbg experts share a few ideas on how to make your next decluttering session a more spiritual experience:
1. Before you get started, let your intuition tell you an intention for each room.
"Using your powerful imagination, visualize your space as you dream it! Write down exactly what you desire with careful attention to detail. Maybe you would like a meditation room that is mostly white with a simple rug, pillow, and candle? Maybe you'd love a dining room table where all your favorite people are seated around a beautifully displayed meal. Maybe you and your dog are wrestling in your newly renovated outdoor space. Whatever the space inside you may be, feel it, hear it, see it, taste it, smell it. The more details you can muster, the easier it will be to make them reality."
2. Clean in the morning.
"A monk's day begins with cleaning. We sweep the temple grounds and gardens and polish the main temple hall. We don't do this because it's dirty or messy. We do it to eliminate the suffering in our hearts. When you visit a temple, you feel a blissful tension in the tranquil space. The gardens are well-tended and spotless, without a single leaf on the ground. Inside the main temple hall, you naturally sit tall and feel alert. These things serve to calm the mind...
"Cleaning is a way to eliminate gloom in the mind, but, even if you work really hard at sweeping and mopping, it won't really make you feel refreshed if you do it at night. In Buddhist temples there is no such thing as starting to clean after the sun has gone down...
"By the time everyone else is emerging, you've finished your cleaning and are all set for the day's work. Cleaning in the morning creates a breathing space for your mind so you can have a pleasant day."
3. Top off your decluttering session with a crystal-infused spray.
"Fill a large mason jar with:
- 1 black tourmaline stone to protect against negative energy
- 1 shungite stone to neutralize stagnant energy
- 1 citrine stone to bring light and positivity
- 1 fluorite stone for its soothing and calming properties
"Fill up the jar with spring water. Before putting the lid on the jar, say, 'This water is programmed to purify and cleanse my environment, and it is filled with light and positivity.' Place outside under the sun and moon for three days. The water can be added to a spray bottle to spritz in all the corners of each room or any area that feels stuck or stagnant. It can also be added to water that you mop floors with to purify and cleanse the energy from the ground up."
Emma Loewe is the Senior Sustainability Editor at mindbodygreen and the author of Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us. She is also the co-author of The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide To Ancient Self Care, which she wrote alongside Lindsay Kellner.
Emma received her B.A. in Environmental Science & Policy with a specialty in environmental communications from Duke University. In addition to penning over 1,000 articles on mbg, her work has appeared on Bloomberg News, Marie Claire, Bustle, and Forbes. She has covered everything from the water crisis in California to the rise of urban beekeeping to a group of doctors prescribing binaural beats for anxiety. She's spoken about the intersection of self-care and sustainability on podcasts and live events alongside environmental thought leaders like Marci Zaroff, Gay Browne, and Summer Rayne Oakes.