on moving from objects and people that have served their purpose in your life

i’ve seen some pretty harsh critiques of marie kondo’s ‘life-changing magic of tidying up,’ but i really enjoyed it. as 2016 winds down, i’m thinking a lot about one of her more poignant lessons. to paraphrase (longer passage excerpt below): everything you ever own need not be used for its full lifetime. not every item of clothing needs to be worn threadbare by you and not every object you possess needs to be kept until it no longer functions. some things are good for an instant, a season or two, years, or forever. it’s important to be able to know when that function has been served and then be able to let that thing go.

in a strange twist, she also applied that general thinking to people in our lives. with people it seems like the “usefulness” is more about teaching lessons. and, just like objects, sometimes the lessons are learned quickly and others they’re learned over longer stretches of time.

but with both objects and people, they’re good for a time, and then the time comes to move on. in my view, this is natural. in our consumerist society, this truth is paradoxical. on one hand, we have little problem gathering and disposing of things, but on the other we hoard things that are borderline useless and for entirely too long.

i really believe that to truly cherish what’s important, you must move on from things that have outlived their purpose. as i’m planning out my personal retreat, i’m carrying this thought in with me and seeing what unfolds. who knows where that’ll lead me…

When you come across something that’s hard to discard, consider carefully why you have that specific item in the first place. When did you get it and what meaning did it have for you then? Reassess the role it plays in your life. If, for example, you have some clothes that you bought but never wear, examine them one at a time. Where did you buy that particular outfit and why? If you bought it because you thought it looked cool in the shop, it has fulfilled the function of giving you a thrill when you bought it. Then why did you never wear it? Was it because you realized that it didn’t suit you when you tried it on at home? If so, and if you no longer buy clothes of the same style or color, it has fulfilled another important function—it has taught you what doesn’t suit you. In fact, that particular article of clothing has already completed its role in your life, and you are free to say, “Thank you for giving me joy when I bought you,” or “Thank you for teaching me what doesn’t suit me,” and let it go.

Every object has a different role to play. Not all clothes have come to you to be worn threadbare. It is the same with people. Not every person you meet in life will become a close friend or lover. Some you will find hard to get along with or impossible to like. But these people, too, teach you the precious lesson of who you do like, so that you will appreciate those special people even more.

When you come across something that you cannot part with, think carefully about its true purpose in your life. You’ll be surprised at how many of the things you possess have already fulfilled their role. By acknowledging their contribution and letting them go wth gratitude, you will be able to truly put the things you own, and you life, in order. In the end, all that will remain are the things that you really treasure.

To truly cherish the things that are important to you, you must first discard those that have outlived their purpose. To get rid of what you no longer need is neither wasteful nor shameful. Can you truthfully say that you treasure something buried so deeply in a close or drawer that you have forgotten its existence? … Let them go, with gratitude. Not  only you, but your things as well, will feel clear and refreshed when you are done tidying.

—Marie Kondo, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, pages 60-61