The life-changing magic of tidying up your love life

This Spring, Marie Kondo is changing lives. The diminutive organising expert is a hot conversation topic, thanks to her bestselling book ‘the Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up’ and her popular Netflix series ‘Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.’ She has a fanatical following; everyone seems to be asking, ‘does this item spark joy?’ as they clean out their closets, and local thrift stores are overflowing with discarded personal possessions.

Apart from the fact that I now store my t-shirts vertically, her principles have also transformed my love life. Her ‘KonMarie’ method involves categorising your belongings into five groups: clothes, books, paper, komono (miscellaneous items), and mementos. I’d like to propose a sixth category: relationships. When everything we own must ‘spark joy’, is it time to do a spring clean and remove unrewarding emotional ties from our lives?

People aren’t objects, of course. But as I watch her consider each household item and place it lovingly to one side, it saddens me that one woman can show more thoughtfulness towards inanimate objects than most people do for their relationships. \”Before you discard anything, you need to thank it, and dispose of it gently,\” she says.

Freelance journalist Amy Gray got it right when she posted on Twitter, \”I wanna know why she doesn’t ask if their husbands spark joy or if they should be thanked and removed.\” But it’s not about vengefully ditching our partners when they don’t measure up. It’s about making a compassionate choice to let people go, once we realise that they’re not right for us.

I tend to hang onto relationships far longer than I should. It happens particularly in the early stages of dating, where a combination of loneliness and magical thinking result in me keeping someone around long past their use-by date. I put up with rudeness from the guys I spend time with, hoping they might start treating me better. I ignore signs of disinterest while trying to win them over. We’re not designed to fit perfectly with everyone, and these efforts mean that I’m clinging to the wrong people.

If we want good people around us, we need to make room for them; this particularly applies to our romantic lives. By letting someone go, I’m doing both of us a favour. I’m giving them, and myself, a chance to do better.

This method is effective regardless of whether the other person is behaving badly or we’re simply incompatible. When a beau demonstrates disinterest, it’s often because he hasn’t yet realised that his heart isn’t in it; magical thinking goes both ways. If a man in my life is dishonest or unreliable, it’s an opportunity to set a boundary and (hopefully) ensure they treat their next partner with more respect. Either way, I’m grateful for the good times we did have, or for the opportunity to learn what isn’t right for me. Even unsuccessful relationships serve a purpose!

Seeking joy rather than mediocrity minimises drama. It prevents me wasting time with people who can’t give me what I want. But what if the feelings are complicated? It’s easy to be unsure of whether the people in our lives consistently bring us happiness. Marie Kondo says that we learn through practice. With delicate confidence she assures us,  “Your sensitivity to joy will be honed as you progress through the tidying process.” She’s right – with every ‘no’, I better understand how a good connection is supposed to feel.

If that spark isn’t there, I’m happy to say, ‘thank you for your service’ and simply let them go.

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