This article, shared with me by a beloved friend, offers a very astute and much needed perspective on how the tidying wave that is sweeping across the world is affected by class advantages inherent in the desire to “tidy”. I must begin by stating that Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, is a family favorite and has indeed changed our lives. With that said, I was enriched by the perspective of the article linked above for pointing out the level of dis-empowerment that goes into our relationship with stuff when we are struggling financially to make ends meet. It reminded me of the perspective I was offered as a child that in the “Projects” of Chicago having bulimia was a pretty rare thing because who had food to waste? And for my friends that lived in the projects anorexia was common, but it wasn’t a choice, it was a simple lack of familial resources. This was juxtaposed with the kids at dance school, where we all had eating disorders of one kind or another and most came from well-off families. Having an eating disorder can be a sign of privilege, although the poison of negative body messaging affects everyone, especially targeting women and girls. Then place on top of that the cheap price of food at places like McDonald’s, and as a friend in massage school once pointed out, poor people almost can’t afford not to eat it! This friend had grown up in a family without much resources and had eaten McDonald’s for at least two meals a day for as long as she could remember, and intended to continue indefinitely. People may say, if only people would eat better, they would have better health and there would be less obesity, but eating “better” requires access, education, resources, and inclusion. Poor people and their eating habits is not the issue. Poverty and the way that poor people are made to feel about themselves, is the fuel that runs the engine of our market economy. I could go on . . .
This all to say, a fundamental aspect of the human psyche is geared towards free will and the feeling of choice that one has.
I’m personally grateful every day that I felt the choice to have kids and that I can locate the series of moments when I used my free will and made that conscious decision. When parenthood is more challenging than I think I have the grit for, I remind myself of the choice I made and the grace that responded to bless me with the care of these beautiful beings. This feeling of choice returns my power to me in those moments and from that place of power, I am able to become responsible for those little humans once again. Then I think of all that people all over the world who are raising kids without that feeling of “I chose this” to save them from their dark moments and I feel such sadness for them and their children. . . Raising kids is hard enough and not having the safety net of one’s own power restored, must be a truly intense and dangerous predicament. . .
SO back to the subject of tidying. To tidy one’s unwanted and unloved physical possessions is liberating, and yet for those who don’t feel like they have enough to begin with, the idea of tidying probably seems offensive. When those very same people are made to feel like the worst offenders of consumption by shopping at big box stores, they are put into a defense position just to maintain their sense dignity. The truth is, we are all under a consumptive spell, a manipulative marketing scheme that has brought us to our knees and those within impoverished communities are the hardest hit. When we are chronically hungry, we crave fat and salt instinctively, we gain weight as adipose tissue (fat cells) to keep us alive in the long winter ahead. Similarly, when we feel a lack of safety or provisions, we start to consume, gather, and even hoard belongings to help us get through whatever scarce situation we may encounter. We are looking for comfort and safety. For the growing number of poor folks in this country, Walmart and the like are what make life seem possible.
We live in a society where nearly all of us feel the breathlessness of scarcity, no matter how much or how little financial resources we have and in general we are led to live way beyond our means, as a method of running our economy. Stuff is created with the sole purpose of becoming obsolete and leading us to buy more to replace it. The Story of Stuff
is a good watch for an overview of how our economy was designed. In Marie Kondo’s book she says that the only reason we hold onto things that we don’t need is because we’re either holding onto the past or fearful of the future. Yup. So for those, like the author of the article, who got rid of precious family memorabilia (one of the most advanced “levels” of tidying) out of necessity rather than out of choice, it is hurtful and traumatizing.
Tidying as an act of liberation is about choice and feeling the underlying right to make that choice. If we are making it out of fear-based circumstances or from a place of being shamed, its not going to feel like an act of freedom, its going to feel like an act of panic. If we get rid of something that we have been holding onto because we might need it someday, it is a privilege to say, “well if that’s the case, I’ll just get a new one.”
I do think the message of tidying is valid and liberating, but it will need a much deeper exploration to be able to reach those who are most deeply targeted by a marketing system that says we are not enough as we are and if we have more stuff, we will be safe and comfortable. This is playing on our deepest fears and human triggers, so it will be hard to unweave. Ultimately it is important for every human to feel enough and to have enough. It will be challenging to change anyone’s beliefs and actions while in a state of poverty and fear. . . .
All people deserve fresh whole foods to eat, clean water, shelter, clothes, love, simplicity, work that is fulfilling, and above all everyone deserves the respect of freedom.
So may it be . . .