The One Lesson Marie Kondo Teaches That No One Talks About

Marie KondoHow many of you were like me and binged watched the entire Tidying Up series with Marie Kondo in 1 sitting?

The show was a surprise hit; love it or hate it, it had everyone talking.

Besides how to declutter, I learned one of the most important lessons from watching the show.

Why We Love Marie Kondo

The Tidying Up with Marie Kondo series was such a hit for a couple of reasons.  First, there is a bit of a voyeuristic thrill in peeking into other people’s home and seeing their mess.  It’s why the show Hoarders is so popular.  We are at once fascinated and we can pat ourselves on the back that at least our house doesn’t look like that. We might have a pile of papers, but we can still see the floor.  We might have a couple of pizza boxes from the weekend, but it’s not so bad that rats have taken up residence in them.

Next, there is an instructional aspect of the show.  Marie Kondo as the host is herself adorable as she shows her clients how to tackle the daunting task of making over their home.  She teaches us how to start, and start with the easiest category of clothes.

Most of us can pick out some pieces that we love and pieces that admit we never wear. Then she directs us to those papers; those old instructional manuals for digital cameras or your smart thermostat.  She gives us permission to throw them all away and it’s so liberating! Miscellaneous items and mementos are last.  She leaves them last for good reason.  She reasons by the time we get to those items, we’ll have more experience with deciding what we love and what gives us joy.

Kinda useful stuff if you want to tidy up and don’t know where to start.

But finally and most importantly, each episode was a tale of transformation.  In each episode, we see the before; families on the verge of break up, young graduates struggling to become respected adults, moving on after a life-altering loss.  Then we have the satisfaction of seeing how Marie helps these people transform their lives through folding their clothes.

Heroe’s Journey

As a society, we love a good transformation story.  These stories give us hope.  Not only are these stories entertaining, but they are also aspirational.  We all have struggles.  We all aspire to be something more than our current ourselves. These stories show us it’s possible and storytellers have capitalized on these themes since the beginning of time.  Writing classes gives us a term: the Hero’s Journey.

Most of the stories we love fall into this theme; from Harry Potter to Titanic.  Harry goes from mistreated foster kid to the star who saves his friends and the school he calls home.  Rose goes from oppressed betrothed to an adventuress who breaks the rules to become a pioneer in the modern woman movement.

Ok, what does this Marie Kondo, the Hero’s journey all have to do with personal finance?

It is all tied to how some people responded to the step where Marie Kondo walks you through culling your books.

Wow, were books a huge trigger for many people. The mere suggestion that maybe you should toss some books out was matched with outcry (hello, Twitter).  Some were so turned off by any suggestions of discarding books that they refused to even watch the show.

Funny enough though, that didn’t happen with clothes. There were no fashionistas that balked at donating ill-fitting or unworn apparel.

Why is that?

It is because the fashionista’s view of themselves is fundamentally different than those who love physical books. Fashionistas view themselves as change-makers and early adopters.  They are constantly re-inventing themselves and their closets.  Clothes are an expression, like a laugh or a tear.  Both fleeting.

Whereas the book lovers might view themselves as a traditionalist, they are connected to their books.  Their books are not a tool to overtly signal who they are on the outside, their choice of books showcases their character. Often times, the books have shaped them into the person they became or shaped their view of the world. So shedding books isn’t like a python shedding outer skin, it’s more akin to leaving a limb behind.

The fashionista and the book lover are just two examples of our life stories. These are the stories that we tell ourselves and this is how we interact as we move through life.

Choose Your Own Adventure Story

It may be hard to hear, but are you tied to some unhealthy storylines surrounding money? Like the book lovers who refuse to even think about getting rid of an outdated textbook, do you cling to a money story you feel is part of your being?

Do you tell yourself you are just too impulsive to follow a budget?  Do you say, you just don’t have a head for numbers?  Does leaving investing to your father, husband or boyfriend sync up with a part of you that believes the story of the damsel in distress?

We often live our lives just at the introduction of stories.  We are at the beginning of the hero’s journey.  We are still unsure of ourselves, we know there are challenges and tests ahead of us. Instead of facing them, we turn back and live in the introduction some more.

How to Have a Fairy Tale Ending

To be the hero in our own story requires us to face the challenges ahead and to come out of the other side.

Ask yourself, what is the transformational story you want with your money?  For us to keep to a budget or to get our financial lives in order, we have to align our personal story to what we aspire.

Do you want to be the person that retires early on a tropical beach?  Do you want to be the person that can take their family to Aruba? Do you want to be the person that starts up a charity? Or volunteer to foster children?

Once you know that, you can start on your own hero’s journey.

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