Tidying Up

“Does this spark joy?’ If it does, keep it. If not, dispose of it.

Marie Kondo

On the surface, Marie Kondo is a petite Japanese lady with an unhealthy obsession for tidying. If you’ve read her books or watched her Netflix show, you know she’s fixated on finding things to keep instead of scrounging for things to throw out.

This makes her a brilliant ambassador for Aparigraha, the fifth yama. This virtue is about restraint from greed. It centers around keeping only what is necessary and important for your current stage of life. Note that tidying is not a one-time operation. It is in fact a continuous process that must be done repeatedly and frequently to help develop a state of non-attachment. And like the preceding yamas, this intent applies to both the mental and physical worlds.

Living a life without attachment is easier said than done. Letting go of things is a tough 2-phase process. You have to depart with something physically first before you can send it off emotionally. The time it takes to become detached varies from person to person and thing to thing. Irrespective of how long it might take, don’t forgo the goodbye ritual.

The ritual is the most important part of the send-off. It is exactly the time when you celebrate the joy something has brought to you and articulate why it no longer belongs in your life. Without this reflection, you don’t crystallize this wisdom and therefore become susceptible to the same mistakes over and over again.

Unfortunately, there are times when someone else does the tidying for us. There wasn’t a single reason for it not being in your life. To this, I don’t have a good answer. But, maybe you’ll find solace in this Chinese parable:

A Chinese farmer gets a horse, which soon runs away. A neighbor says, "That's bad news." The farmer replies, "Good news, bad news, who can say?"

The horse comes back and brings another horse with him. Good news, you might say. The farmer gives the second horse to his son, who rides it, then is thrown and badly breaks his leg.

"So sorry for your bad news," says the concerned neighbor. "Good news, bad news, who can say?" the farmer replies.

In a week or so, the emperor's men come and take every able-bodied young man to fight in a war. The farmer's son is spared. "Good news, bad news, who can say?"

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