I grew up with a declutter queen. She would purchase and read every new decluttering or organizational book and pass it on. We ran across Marie Kondo a long time ago. I “KonMarie’d” my house. But after watching all 8 episodes of her Netflix show this week, I took out 3 bags of trash and filled two boxes to go to the thrift store. More than that, she taught me some other things.

Treat people with grace. Marie walks into total messes on her show with pure joy and delight. I would judge someone for letting their home to reach that point of excess. But she never seems to judge anyone. She looks on them with grace, and kindness, and teaches them how to clean up their life… by making them do it. Which brings me to…

Show willing people how to fix their problems, then let them do it. Marie teaches people. How to sort their clothes. How to arrange books. How to decide. But ultimately, she lets them do it. That is why her method works. Why there’s no rebounding. Because the person doing it has to commit to it, has to want to do it, and has to do it. She does not force it upon them. They are making the choices of what to keep, and what to let go of, not being “told” what they OUGHT to keep or give away. She is not tidying for them. They are tidying. It’s hot. It’s long hours. It’s hard work. But at the end, they can say it is “all theirs.” Because THEY did all of it. At the end, they have something to be proud of, because they put in the hours.

I think there’s a lesson there for me, and not just about tidying. I have to learn to “teach” and not “do.” I try to teach and wind up doing. It’s easier for me to correct someone’s work than send it back and say, “Here’s what’s wrong with it. Please fix it.” They will never learn if I keep doing it for them. How you learn is by doing.

Marie Kondo photographed by Weston Wells for The Coveteur

Think of everything in terms of “going forward.” In one episode, I saw Marie handle a sentimental man with grace. He was trying to decide whether to keep the original post box on the house when they purchased it. It had sentimental value for him. Marie had a question for him: “Is this something you want to carry into your future with you?” And, instantly, he said no.

I am hard on other people. I am hard on myself. I forgive others, but not myself. Guilt can hound me for decades. Things I should have not said or said, things I have done or not done, relationships that have failed, mistakes I have made. That is no way to live. I do not want to carry those things forward with me. I have to let them go. Learn to say no, and “I forgive myself.” Because I am not perfect, I never will be, and that’s okay. I am learning. I am a better person today than ten years ago, so why should something from my past haunt me? It’s dead. Gone. No longer relevant.

I need not carry bad feelings, shame, guilt, or anything else with me into my future, any more than I need to hold on to physical things that no longer have value. So, I can let them go.

So, thank you, Marie. You taught me how to organize my drawer and throw out old makeup. You showed me how to fold shirts and arrange my closet. You allowed me to let go of old boxes of stuff I did not need to hold on to. And you taught me how to let go.