The first time I thanked a book it felt strange. Sharing feelings with inanimate objects is not something most adults do - aside from the occasional words of encouragement to a sputtering car.
Now, not only do I talk to my stuff, I also encourage my KonMari consulting clients to do the same.
This is one part of the KonMari Method that many people consider “wooey.” In Marie Kondo's The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, she encourages readers to thank discarded items for the role it has played in your life. For example, you might thank a green shirt for showing you how bad you look in that colour. Or, you might thank an old suitcase for reminding you of a wonderful vacation.
Most clients ask if I actually want them to express their feelings for each item. I tell them that saying it out loud is optional, but I encourage them to at least go through the process mentally. Without exception, every client has said this strange process has helped them.
So why is this important and why does it work?
Things are not just things. Consciously or unconsciously, our possessions are wrapped-up in a web of our emotions. Depending on our attachment, the web is weaker or stronger. For example, I may look at a hammer and see no reason for attachment. Yet unconsciously that hammer might connect to a childhood memory of spending time with my father in his workshop. The idea of discarding the hammer may elicit feelings of guilt for not spending enough time with him.
These feelings pop up across all KonMari categories - but clothes, books, and mementos seem to generate the most anxiety.
Discarding clothes can result in guilt about over spending habits or body image. Books can generate nostalgia for a certain time in our life. They can also reflect our ego (having this book makes me look smart, for example). And mementos can be especially difficult. For example, gifts from relatives or items that remind you of your grown-up kids can be difficult to discard.
The KonMari Thank You is a release mechanism. It releases you from guilt by reminding you that the things you are discarding are not worthless. They served a purpose in your life and now you are moving on. Here are a few examples:
To a dress you never actually wore: Thank you for the joy of buying you which helped me get over a crummy week.
To a book you haven’t picked up in years: Thank you for reminding me I love to read biographies.
To a box of your daughter’s toys she no longer needs: Thank you for reminding me of this wonderful time in my life.
For all categories, I add an extra Thank You to items I’m going to donate.
Thank you for the opportunity to give another person joy by passing you on.
I imagine someone in need receiving this item. It brings me contentment to know my stuff can be of further service.
The KonMari Thank You won’t quash all the anxiety associated with discarding possessions. But I encourage you to try it out and see if it helps. At the very least, your hammer will appreciate the sentiment.