Last January, I got the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. I had joined a closed Facebook group called KonMari Adventures after one of my own Facebook friends had shared several posts of her experience of tidying and recommended the group. After a week of reading the stories that the women were posting – stories of the results they were experiencing from doing the author’s discarding and organizing process, I had to get the book and read more.
I consider myself a fairly organized person and if you came to my house, you would likely not say that it was cluttered. But one of the key goals of the KonMari process (named after the author Marie Kondo) is that create a lifestyle that sparks joy.
I followed the KonMari process by doing my clothes first. I appreciated that the book empowered me to rid myself of clothes that didn’t fit well; those that I had enjoyed at one point, but did not any longer; and those which I had been drawn to and bought, but which actually never suited me. I appreciated these items for what they had given me (part of the process) whether it was joy in the moment when I found and purchased them or the lesson they taught me about my style and clothing preferences.
Realizing the Connection between the KonMari Method and Leisure
After completing the clothing categories, I moved on to books. I re-read what Marie Kondo had written about how to approach the discarding of books. I love books and was dreading the category. She explains that half finished books should be let go – that the time to read them has likely passed. I found this to be a particularly freeing idea. Many times, I have purchased a book or have been given a book that I was excited about, but after getting down to reading it, I have discovered it was not as interesting or engaging as I hoped or expected it to be. When this happened, I ended up denying myself permission to purchase or start a new book until I “finished” the one that I was not interested in. I now realize that while I denied myself the enjoyment of others books, I likely let the critical moment of interest in those other books pass as well. I began to see my half-read books as missed opportunities to experience joy – barriers to more enjoyable reads and maybe the best read of my life. It was during the process of going through my books and reflecting on Marie Kondo’s advice that I began considering how this process could create space for new or enhanced leisure.
This was further reinforced when I got to the paper category. Among the collection of papers that covered my home office floor, were programs and ticket stubs I had kept from various performances I had attended over the years. I realized it was an excellent opportunity to reflect on the types of performances I had most enjoyed and to clarify, for myself, what I wanted to see more of in the future. In this way, the KonMari process was an opportunity for leisure self-awareness.
Clarifying How “Stuff” May Be a Barrier to or Opportunity for Leisure
The next category, the Komono category (miscellaneous things), is a rather large one, but contains subcategories that are arguably related to our leisure like crafts, games, puzzles, CDs/DVDs, and sports equipment. For me, these categories were a bit of a trip back in time to the various points when I enjoyed and engaged in cross stitching, tole painting, scrapbooking, wreath making, card making, and candle making. None of these hobbies were things I was actually doing in the present nor had a desire to do. Similar to books, I had been telling myself that I should not take up anything new until I used up all the things I had already collected for these various hobbies. I decided this thinking, although perhaps logical in some ways, was a barrier to new leisure pursuits that I would enjoy more in the present. I got rid of all of the supplies for things I knew I was never going to do again. I made room – both physically and psychologically – for new things I wanted to pursue in my available time (like knitting – which I had just learned to do and was excited about working on).
I also donated the collection of jigsaw puzzles I had accumulated over the years as gifts. As I stared at the pile of them, I concluded that I am not someone who does a puzzle more than once. Therefore, once it is done, it has served its purpose for me and it time to let someone else enjoy it. By donating the ones I had, I gave myself permission to be able to select a new puzzle to do if and when one captures my attention (and one may never capture my attention again, which is okay).
Another notable discard was my roller blades. I had acquired these when I lived in a community with lots of paved, flat trails near my apartment and when I had a couple of friends who loved to go often. I had not roller bladed in 15 years. I did not miss it, but often felt guilty that I had the equipment for something that I was not doing. I did not want to keep feeling guilty for the leisure I was not doing or did not have a desire to do. So, bye, bye roller blades. I now had space for my new snowshoes.
In sorting through my games, I rediscovered ones that I knew one of my nieces would enjoy. Sometimes when tidying up and decluttering, you can find things that will facilitate leisure, create memories, and will spark joy – things that had become buried with the stuff that does not.
Freedom is one of the common, essential characteristics of leisure. Generally, freedom as a characteristic of leisure has been conceptualized as being free from obligation (i.e., work) or constraint as well as being free to choose what to pursue. The KonMari process gave me the chance to reflect on the potential for the “stuff” I had collected and the attitudes I had developed about my stuff (e.g., you cannot be wasteful, you do not get a new book until you finish the one you have) to limit my sense of freedom to choose leisure that would bring the most joy at particular points in my life. I do recognize that you need to be privileged with stuff to have this problem and I also recognize that some individuals have no problem purchasing new things even if they have unfinished projects or books. However, there are many individuals for whom stuff carries a weight and may preclude them from regularly evaluating their leisure interests or what needs they could be meeting through particular leisure pursuits. When there is an opportunity to shed these materials that to not bring enjoyment or weigh us down for whatever reason (e.g., guilt), it may lead to a clearer understanding of may spark joy and what satisfying leisure one might want to pursue as a result.