It was Marie Kondo who started me thinking.
You might know her as the wildly popular author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and the founder of the “KonMari” organizational method. Famous for encouraging her clients to let go of items that don’t “spark joy,” she speaks and writes on how to organize your home—and, in some ways, your life.
I will confess to having read Kondo’s The Life-Changing Art of Tidying Up and her Kurashi at Home, and stealing many, many of her tips and practices. Other practices she advocates, derived from the Shinto religion (Kondo was a shrine maiden during her childhood) and from practices like Feng Shui, I have chosen not to use or have adapted to my own faith. However, two Kondo principles lingered in mind long after I finished reorganizing my house:
- Your environment influences how you live your life.
- It is enriching to strive for the inconvenient life.
The first principle is simple enough. If you want to live a life, for example, where you enjoy a quiet, reflective morning every day, you must arrange your environment so that a quiet, reflective morning becomes possible. Maybe that means leaving the coffee pot in an easily accessible place, or packing up your work things the night before, or placing a reflective devotional reading right by your coffee cup.
The second principle simply acknowledges that our pursuit for a convenient life creates clutter of both matter and mind. For convenience, we buy things in plastic that don’t last, clutter up our house with trends and fads meant to make things easier, and multitask in order to get everything done. The result is that we don’t take our time on much of anything singularly and we rarely invest time, effort, or resources in what lasts. We forget that process sometimes matters as much as product.
Both of these principles have changed the way I think of my faith and spiritual life as I head into the new year.
Fundamentally, as a believer, I have two goals: to love God, and to love others. But both of these practices cannot be rushed. They can’t be multi-tasked. I can’t buy things to make them easier, and in both cases, speeding up means cutting corners. Yet speeding up is what I—what we—often try to do.
We jam pamphlets in mailboxes and pass around links to The Chosen rather than spend a half hour of our precious evening on a phone call to find out how someone else’s aunt in Tuscaloosa is doing. We write a check to fund the entire church dinner but don’t want to spend two hours doing the onerous work of setting up and tearing down folding chairs. We choke down a five minute Burritos with Jesus devotional alongside our lunch that we have promptly forgotten, verse and all, by dinnertime. We say that we’re “praying without ceasing” when what we’re really doing is remembering God belatedly in two-minute tidbits each day rather than stopping to ask a question, or really listen.
And most of this rush is facilitated by our environment. As I type this, I have my phone next to me. And so my impulse—if I’m bored or mad, if I want to know how much something costs, if I want to do anything—is to pick it up and noodle around. My prayer requests sit by my upstairs “writing desk,” which is great in the evenings, but which also means I look at them 0% of the work day. Because my Bible is a bit on the bulky side, I have it downstairs in a basket, which means I use the phone Bible when I’m upstairs—which is exactly the opposite of what I want to do.
But if I change my environment, or if I embrace a life of inconvenience…
Instead of reaching for the phone, maybe I reach for the prayer request list I’ve moved next to the work computer. Maybe I “waste” a half hour each evening concentrating singularly on something I would otherwise multitask (like trying to dust or text someone else while I’m listening to someone talk). Maybe I set up my morning coffee to be listening-to-God time. Maybe I sit and let myself enjoy and concentrate fully on setting up the folding chairs.
One of the greatest and most immediate impacts in the aftermath of my mother’s passing has been the simple revelation that this life goes much faster than we think. I am already forty. What will I do with my days? If I drop dead tomorrow, what do I want to have been caught in the middle of doing? Am I investing in other people rather than myself, or am I doing and arranging my life in such a way that grants me the time and energy to invest in others?
Examine what your life says your priorities are. Convenience or inconvenience? What does your environment point you to? Consider, and then move forward from there.