My KonMari journey is a common one - I read the book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, implemented the method in my home which resulted in more clarity and time to pursue the things that matter most to me.
A “KonMari’d” life, however, is not a perfect one. I still experience personal struggles the same as anyone else. I live with cycles of hypomania and depression. My KonMari practice does not make me immune to bouts of depression (I’m coming out of one one right now), but it does make me more resilient to them. Here’s what I’ve learned:
I am attuned to joy. Going through my home, one object at a time, and asking myself, “Does this spark joy?” not only left me with fewer possessions and more clarity around what brings me joy, it trained my brain to notice joy. Each decision made over and over carved out new neural pathways and formed new connections in my brain. Noticing joy is now my natural orientation. Recognizing joy and feeling gratitude for these things in my life has reduced the frequency and severity of my depressive symptoms.
I detect problems earlier. When I’m experiencing a depressive episode the overall sense of joy is dimmed. Loss of interest in favorite activities is a common symptom of depression. This is easier to notice post-KonMari because I know that most things in my home and life do spark joy for me. When these things cease to elicit a positive emotional reaction, it’s clear that the problem is my lens, my brain, and not the stuff. Instead of wasting time blaming my surroundings, I immediately recognize the real issue - that I’m going through a depressive episode and can give myself time and space to address that.
I have the bandwidth to absorb setbacks. Simplifying my life allows me to slow down and recover. In The Mayo Clinic Guide to Stress-Free Living they use the analogy of driving down a freeway. Many of us are speeding at 100 miles an hour, inches away from the car in front of us. When something goes wrong, it causes a huge pile up. In my life, I’m driving a slower speed and I give myself plenty of room so that I can swerve and correct before causing an accident.
When I’m feeling depressed, sometimes I can’t get out of bed or find the energy to take care of things, I can recognize my state and show myself compassion without the fear that everything is falling apart.
My surroundings provide respite. Showing up for my life when in a depressive state is easier now that my surroundings are joyful. My home provides respite, not stress. When I’m depressed chores don’t get done, the bed goes unmade, and laundry piles up, but this does not overwhelm me. I know that when I recover from this state I will have the energy and capacity to put it back together again in little time.
My work and hobbies are a retreat. Same goes for the people in my life, my hobbies, and my work. I have a tendency to isolate when depressed. The people I have kept in my life are supportive and forgiving. My hobbies and work are a retreat, not a chore, except accounting, which is always a chore. The work of being of service to others never feels like a burden, even when I’m dealing with the worst feelings of depression. Showing up for others - my daughter, an organizing client, a community service project - are among the most restorative of activities. They are my medicine that take me out of myself and cycling negative thoughts and get me back on a loop of purpose, joy, and fulfillment.
Simplifying your life, being organized, practicing mindfulness and relaxation, as well as spending time with loved ones and on your favorite activities are recommended coping mechanisms for depression. The KonMari Method provides training for these skills. These are all tools that I can call upon when in a depressive state instead of trying to learn them when I’m feeling my worst. Ultimately KonMari is resilience, not just from a bout of depression but from all of the stress, uncertainty, and change that we encounter in life. Perhaps this is why now, more than ever, Marie Kondo’s message has struck a nerve.
I witness the healing power of the KonMari Method every day working with clients, and through my own experience reflecting on the resilience it’s afforded me, I’ve come to believe that KonMari is a form of social work.