February 6, 2019

I can’t say I’ve ever read Marie Kondo’s “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” nor have I seen the uber-popular Netflix series that just came out. But, that doesn’t mean I don’t know what the craze is all about. Her contention is that by eliminating things from your life that don’t “spark joy,” you’ll not only be tidier, but you’ll also be happier. It makes perfect sense. I know that when I make my bed in the morning, I feel more at peace when I come home to a bed that’s ready for me to slink into. Or, when I take my clothes out of the dryer right away and fold them, I am happier than when I leave them in there for an extra day (or week?) to get cold and wrinkled. Now, we’re talking about “things” here. Things come into our lives for a certain period of time and sometimes significantly, but often unceremoniously, leave our lives.

In my work as a dating coach, I don’t deal with things; I work with people. Day in and day out, I see the inner workings of people, primarily in an emotional time in their lives—when they’re ready to meet a new partner. They want this partner to last their entire life, through thick and thin, sickness and health, teeth and dentures. I love this idea. My parents have been married for almost 40 years, which, in this day and age, is rare and beautiful. But how realistic is it? I know that I’m sharing my inner monologue here, but it’s something I think about often since I hear break-up and make-up stories every day.

So often, people consider anything short of a long-term relationship or marriage as a “failure.” Even when a relationship comes to fruition and does result in years of happiness or the “marriage” label, but then something, or nothing, happens to end that relationship, people still see the relationship itself—or even themselves—as less-than. That couldn’t be further from the truth, though. Just like many of the items Marie tells us to assess for that “joy” factor, they were perhaps once the most wonderful things, and now you may only have memories of them.

I have a dress I bought in 2008 when I was on a business school trip to India. My friend Sally and I bought matching ones, and I loved it beyond belief. It’s a tunic of sorts, but since she and I are both about 5’1, we wore it as a dress with leggings. It’s orange, and it has sequins on it. And a pattern. And so much flair. I wore that dress for years… until I didn’t. It’s not that I don’t like it anymore—quite the opposite—it’s just that tastes change. I have not applied the KonMarie method to that dress as of yet. Yes, it’s taking up space in my closet that could be devoted to something else—or nothing else—but I also don’t want to erase all of those years of joy. The reality of it, though, is that even if I donate the dress, it doesn’t erase those memories at all. In fact, I’d be ending the dress’ reign on a high note, rather than looking at it with disdain for the rest of my life because it’s something that I used to love but have no use for anymore.

Not all relationships are meant to go the distance. Some are, of course, but some run their course. That’s not inherently a bad thing. No, your marriage was not a failure if you were together for 10 years and made two beautiful children. It sparked a lot of joy in that time, did it not? It’s just that the joy, for whatever reason, ran its course. I’m not getting into the things one might do to potentially prevent this from happening—relationship counseling, date nights, etc.—but sometimes it’s inevitable.

So, no, we can’t KonMarie people (even if we want to sometimes), but we can assess people for the value they have—or had—in our lives. Relationships take work. Sometimes that work pays off, and sometimes, often through no fault of our own, it doesn’t. That’s okay. Something, or someone, new will bring joy into your life. Maybe not today or tomorrow or next week or next year. But acknowledging something good for what it was is a great place to start.

We can’t clean out memories in the same way we want to clean out our closets, but that’s the beauty of life. It’s full of memories, some good and some bad, but they make us who we are. Kind of like my orange sequin dress.

Can We Apply the KonMarie Method to Relationships?

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