It’s one of the most commonly asked questions of couples: what’s the secret to a lasting, loving relationship? Now, as the Marie Kondo craze spreads far and wide, there are likely to be a fair number of people offering up a surprising new answer: “Tidy up together.”
If you hadn’t already heard of the Japanese organizing consultant and her 2012 bestselling book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, chances are her Netflix TV series – titled Tidying Up With Marie Kondo – has put her on your radar. Not only does the show offer a very digestible way to absorb the author’s KonMari Method in practice (which is helpful if you’re still sceptical about the idea of only keeping items that “spark joy”), it provides insight into how decluttering can enhance your relationship.
With a nod to February being the month of love, we bring you five reasons why cleaning up could just be one of the most romantic gifts to give your partner.
UNDERSTAND EACH OTHER BETTER
If you’re already a neat freak while your partner seems not to notice when dishes pile up in the sink, it can be easy to get stuck in a cycle of nagging and then resorting to frustratingly picking up after them. You can, of course, employ Kondo’s method on your own and hope your other half is inspired by example, but the goal is to work through your entire home together. This can take some convincing but, as seen on Kondo’s Netflix show, even the most stubborn people end up appreciating the process.
Several couples on the show admit to arguing as they began deciding which items in their home they wanted to keep or throw away. But slowly a battle of wills turned into learning about what’s important to each other. By employing the KonMari Method together – which recommends picking up each object and exploring the emotion attached to it – you might discover new things about your partner’s values, vulnerabilities and history. There could be a very sentimental reason behind them holding onto that old postbox that’s been gathering dust in the garage for years!
LEARN TO RESPECT YOUR SPACE
At the beginning of each episode, Kondo meets a new couple or family and then chooses a spot in their home where she sits on the floor and closes her eyes for a minute. This is what she calls introducing herself to a home. Although not every couple actively does this with her, just watching Kondo “meet” their home instils a sense of connection within them too. It’s a precursor to the next step, which is learning how to connect with the feeling of joy that material objects do or don’t bring. Once you’ve identified which items add value to your life, your home will feel more meaningful. The long-lasting effect of this is that both of you will have motivation to ensure it stays that way.
ALIGN YOUR VISIONS
Even if our communication with our partner is generally healthy, we might still be harbouring a few unexpressed dreams for the future. Perhaps they’re buried along with that box of photographs or books you haven’t looked through since university days? Aside from the practical benefits of sorting through mail, papers and documents – like getting your finances in order – the process can open up discussions about what you both really want. Do you want to start saving to buy a house? Do you have enough money or space for a second child? How would you like your relationship to evolve? Reconnecting with items from your past and letting go of baggage where necessary can help you take stock of where you are and where you ideally want to be in the future.
BECOME MORE DECISIVE
A common side-effect of living with physical clutter is suffering from a cluttered mind. This can leave you feeling helpless. You know you need to clean up but you don’t know where to start. You know you need to make an important decision but you’re avoiding it. In Kondo’s book she explains how many of her clients report feeling more confident and decisive after tackling the first hurdle. Perhaps because they get to know themselves a bit better through the process, or simply because they practiced making decisions about what to keep or toss along the way. Your partner will not only be impressed by your immaculate underwear drawer but also by the way you’re becoming more proactive in all areas of life.
MORE TIME FOR EACH OTHER
The first couple featured on the show have two small children and were struggling to find time or motivation to perform mundane daily tasks such as folding laundry. Their sense of mounting anxiety about not staying on top of chores was aggravated by work exhaustion and concern that they weren’t giving enough positive attention to their kids or each other. As with most of the families featured, it took this couple about one month to Marie Kondo their entire home. The result? By ensuring all items were neatly sorted, with things like cleaning products and kitchen utensils stored in specific spots for easy access, the overwhelm was replaced by happiness when performing mundane tasks. They even managed to get their kids involved in folding the washing Kondo-style, turning it into a family activity. As Kondo writes in her book, “I have learned from my clients that what really brings joy to our lives is savouring daily life, instead of taking it for granted.”
Have you tried the Marie Kondo Method? What is the one area that has been the best for you and your partner? If you’ve not tried it yet, would you consider it? We’d love to hear from you! Tell us in the comment below.