A week and a half ago I arrived home from an experience that challenged me physically and mentally, that challenged my beliefs and values, and that sent me back to New Zealand with new ideas, perspectives and openness. In short, that old cliché: a life-changing experience.
As a writer, my first instinct when I got back was to sit down at my laptop and write in detail about my yoga teacher training. But a week and a half later I still can’t summon the words I would need to truly convey to you what happened to me over those four weeks. The vocabulary doesn’t exist.
What I can tell you is that I left Indonesia with my senses renewed. It was as though I were seeing and tasting and touching for the first time. I felt ready – no, not just ready but hungry to experience everything with this new heightened sensitivity.
Off the back of this ineffable month, it’s not over-dramatic to say that I felt I was essentially rebuilding the way I ever experienced anything at the age of thirty.
It was in this frame of mind that I came across Marie Kondo and her Netflix series, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. Unless you’ve been living off grid (like me) for the last month, you’ve probably come across the Konmari-kraze for only keeping items that ‘spark joy’ by now.
It was the perfect storm: Kondo’s series, and then book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying, were just what I needed. I was desperate to let go of the things that no longer serve me – I’m speaking here of things like spending too much time on social media, or getting stressed by world affairs I can do nothing about. The idea of only holding on to the things that bring me joy (possessions, of course, but habits and behaviours too) came just at the right moment.
As I touched each item of clothing to see which ones ‘sparked joy’ I considered what else I should hold onto, and what I should let go of.
On the discard pile: habitually looking at my phone; mindlessly scrolling social media; watching TV in the evenings as the default option, pulling at my hair (a decades-old addiction).
To keep: the joy of tasting every mouthful of hot, delicious, nourishing food; disciplined daily exercise; quiet, calm mornings.
I ended up packing three big bags full of clothes I no longer need or want. Discarding was a therapeutic process. It also reignited my guilt and shame at having personally caused so much unnecessary harm to real people and to our planet (to say nothing of my bank balance).
Critics of Kondo say her methods encourage a throw-away society. I’ve chosen to take a different message. When we are mindful and conscious and grateful for the possessions and people in our lives, we take better care of them, crave less of what doesn’t serve us, and experience more joy from what we have.