Tidying Up Your Mind
Using the KonMari Method to Let Go of Unhelpful Core Beliefs
You have likely heard about the Netflix show Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. You may have spent hours binge watching it and wistfully imagining what your home would look like if you took the time to declutter your belongings. Maybe you even felt inspired and started the process of tidying up your home. Whether you finished that process successfully or gave up part way through, you are now aware of the principles of the KonMari method. These same principles can be applied to “tidying up your mind” in order to let go of unhelpful beliefs that can lead to depression, anxiety, shame, guilt, and other negative emotions.
If you aren’t aware of the method or principles, you can still use this tip. Let’s lay them out before getting started.
The show is based on Marie Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. In it, she outlines several principles for tidying up your home that can also be applied to tidying up your mind. Here are some important guidelines:
Visualize the Life You Want to Have
Marie Kondo talks about visualizing the home you would like to have, and asking yourself why that is what you desire. She emphasizes that your home reflects your values and your state of mind. When tidying up your mind, you can start by envisioning the life you want to have. What kind of person are you? What do you value? What sort of relationships do you have? How do you treat others? How do you treat yourself? Find a comfortable place, close your eyes, and take a few moments to visualize what your ideal life and self look like. Ask yourself why those things are important to you. For example, you might see yourself as a kind, self-assured, passionate person, who makes time for self-care, volunteering, and being with loved ones, as those are things you value. Or it may be something completely different - as long as you understand where your desires come from, they will be beneficial in helping you to become familiar with your current state of mind and belief system.
Keep Only What Sparks Joy
Now that you know what type of life you would like to strive for, you can begin to examine the belief systems you already have. In the KonMari method, the main strategy used to figure out what to keep and what to get rid of is being in tune with whether something sparks joy inside of you. Something that sparks joy makes you feel excited, warm, and happy. If something does not spark joy, there will be an absence of those things, or you may even have a negative or heavy feeling associated with them.
When decluttering items, Marie Kondo suggests that you hold them in your hands individually, bringing them close to your body and really getting in tune with each item to see if they spark joy. While you cannot hold your core beliefs in your hands, you can bring them to the forefront of your attention and get acquainted with them.
Core beliefs are assumptions you have about yourself, others, and the world that you learn from a very early age. They usually have to do with competence, worth, and lovability. When you hold negative core beliefs, such as “I am unlovable” or “Everyone is untrustworthy,” your mood, attitude, and experience of the world can be significantly affected. You may experience depression, anxiety, fear, guilt, or other negative emotions. Positive core beliefs, however, give you a healthy sense of self-worth and competence. To identify your core beliefs, you will need to notice your thoughts. You can do this by journaling, meditating, or using mindfulness exercises. Once you identify a thought, start to see what’s underneath of that thought. You may find it helpful to use a laddering technique, which encourages you to ask “why does this matter?” and “what does that mean?” to your thoughts. Here is a laddering example:
Thought: “My house is messy.”
Why does that matter? What does it mean to have a messy house?
“Having a messy house means I’m a slob.”
Why does that matter? What does it mean to be a slob?
“Being a slob means that I can’t take care of myself.”
Why does that matter? What if you can’t take care of yourself?
“If I can’t take care of myself, I am helpless.”
Here, “I am helpless” would be your core belief. You’ll know that you’ve hit a core belief when it encompasses an absolute truth about yourself, others, or the world, be it positive or negative. A positive core belief might be something like, “I am competent” or “People are good overall.” Once you have identified some core beliefs, take the time to get to know them. Say them out loud. Notice how it feels to say them. Pay attention to how they affect your mental, physical, and spiritual state. Then ask yourself, does this belief spark joy? Does it make me feel excited? Warm? Happy? Confident? Does it align with my ideal self? If yes, hold on to that belief. If not, let’s try to let go of it and begin tidying up your mind.
Express Gratitude for What You Let Go
Letting go of a core belief is a little more complicated than donating an old pair of jeans to a thrift store. You have held these beliefs for a long time, so it may take a while and some practice before they start changing. First, see if you can understand why that core belief may have developed. Perhaps you felt helpless because someone told you that you were, or because you have felt like you were not in control of circumstances around you. Next, see if you can uncover why a belief like that may have been helpful for you at some point in the past. For example, feeling helpless can sometimes absolve us from feeling guilt or blame about certain situations when those emotions would have been overwhelming. Even if you cannot find something helpful about the belief, see if you can express gratitude for the time it served you. Say thank you to your belief, and then you can begin to let it go. You may want to replace your belief with something more nuanced and that sparks more joy, such as “Some things are outside of my control, but there are many things I have control over.” You can read more about letting go of negative core beliefs here: https://www.therapyinphiladelphia.com/tips/automatic-negative-thoughts-and-core-beliefs/.
Keep Things that Spark Joy Accessible
Marie Kondo encourages people to keep the items that spark joy accessible and easy to find. Once you identify beliefs that spark joy and feel beneficial to you, try to keep them at the forefront of your mind. You may want to write them down and put them somewhere you will see them often, make them a daily mantra, or keep a note in your phone. You can have items that remind you of the beliefs in spaces you frequent, such as your office or bedroom. You can also start doing new activities that reinforce positive beliefs, such as volunteering or taking a class. The more you reach for these beliefs, the more precedence they will take over any remaining negative beliefs. When you notice previously undiscovered negative core beliefs, you can go through this process from the beginning.
If you feel that you would like a therapist’s help with understanding unhelpful beliefs and tidying up your mind, contact The Center for Growth at 215-922-5683 or https://www.therapyinphiladelphia.com/contact/.