Watching Netflix’s new show about tidying up a house the “Marie Kondo way” is fascinating to me.
Part of the fascination is seeing how much fighting the couples featured on the show do about household work. And it’s not fascinating in an “I can’t relate” sort of way, but more like, fascinating in the way you watch an old video of yourself and notice things you didn’t in the moment.
I relate. A bit too much.
Her now well-known practicing of taking out each thing from each drawer, closet, nook, and cranny, and asking yourself, “Does this bring me joy?” is practiced again and again by weary people just looking for a bit of sanity amidst the clutter.
And it got me to thinking of how freeing it was for these people to give up some things, and how I interact with people every day who wish they could do this same thing with the things they feel bad about in their life.
Like, I talk with people every day, who pick up that memory, that “time I didn’t call my mother back, and she died unexpectedly, and I never got to say goodbye,” and they look at it, the sadness of it, the hurt of it, and they just put it back in the drawer of their soul.
It doesn’t bring them joy, but there it still is.
Or they take out those hateful words they said to their spouse in a fit of rage, the words that put that person over the edge, and they can’t take it back…it’s already been used and there are no returns on words like that. And they look at it with tears in their eyes, and they put it back.
Or they take out that time someone told them they were lazy, or stupid, or slutty, or no damn good, and they look at it crying, and put it back in the drawer of the soul because they just don’t know how not to believe that after all these years.
And sometimes I’m the person taking the memory out. The memory of something I said, or was said to me. Something I did or did not do. And I just lug all of this crap around with me, constantly, and when I pull it out I know it does not bring me joy.
But I put it back in my spiritual closet, anyway.
The genius of Kondo’s work is not that it’s revolutionary or innovative. The genius in her work is that she has a system of closure for acknowledging the relationship and usefulness of things in such a way that we can give them up.
The genius is in the ritual goodbye.
And the church has such a system, too. It’s called “Confession and Forgiveness.”
And it works, by God. It’s one of the things I’d say the church gets very right. The system of saying goodbye to the hurts we’ve done or we’ve had inflicted on us, it’s a good way to get rid of them.
Of course we’ve messed up the process a bit. We’ve said confession blesses God more than it blesses the person, thereby turning it into a demand of guilt rather than an opportunity for healing and wholeness.
But when it’s done right it can be…freeing.
Like giving away things that not only don’t bring you joy, but bring you strife. Like letting you let go of things you argue with yourself about, replaying a terrible tape of that terrible time as if re-watching it would make anything change…
It doesn’t. It won’t. Acknowledge you’ve lost your usefulness for that memory, and give it up, by God.
I will admit, there are some times when I’ll pull out a memory, a deep wounding memory, one that I know has lost its usefulness, and I’ll look at it, with tears in my eyes, and slide it back into my heart.
Because I’m just not ready. For some reason or another I hold on to things that hurt long past their due dates, by choice. But each time I do, I know the day will come when I will give it up, like that old T-shirt that’s not fit to wear anymore but I just can’t let it go.
Confession is not a fix-all, just like Kondo’s process is not a fix-all. Honestly, her work exposes a much deeper and more insidious problem than keeping things too long: we buy too much.
Which has a spiritual counterpart, too. Because too often before I say a hurtful word, or just after someone has said something terrible to me, I’ll decide to keep that memory, to “buy it.”
And I don’t have to. I know I don’t. Forgiveness gives me permission to say no to carrying it around, to say goodbye to it before I ever grab it and claim it as mine.
If I’ll just do it…if you’ll just do it.
We could all probably use some Marie Kondo in our houses.
And I’m willing to bet we could all use some for our souls, too.