the life-changing magic of being tidied up

Marie Kondo is everywhere these days due to her new reality show, but her book and method of decluttering one’s home have been around for several years. The prevalence of articles and social media posts about her and her method of ridding oneself of things that don’t spark joy, got me thinking about the time someone practiced KonMari on me…

In the summer of 2015, my life was a tangle of loose ends. Living in a tiny apartment after my marriage ended, my existence pretty much revolved around going out way too much, and dealing with the anxiety of dating again at the age of 40. A certain friend of mine, K, had a lot more experience than me in this department… she’d been mostly single over the last decade, so I leaned on her a bit more than my other friends to discuss the ins and outs of Tinder, first dates, etc. I’m sure my boy-craziness got a little annoying or trying at times, but I thought I was at least in a better place than I had been when I was going through the divorce itself, burdening friends with the details of my failing relationship and how awful and depressed I felt. At least now I was having some fun?

Coincidentally, K had recently shed her single status and was dating a guy she had fallen pretty hard for, despite him being 9 years her junior. I’m not sure if she felt like my somewhat desperate demeanor was going to be contagious, but it was almost as if she was afraid my “energy” was going to somehow mess up her otherwise perfect life, despite us living 1200 miles away from each other. Funny, I never felt like her singleness was a burden or threat to me when I was in a relationship. I’d routinely listen to her prattle on about whatever guy she was crushing on, stories of bad dates, good sex, and everything in between. She had a habit of calling when she was getting in the car, talking at me for the duration of her drive time, and abruptly ending the conversation when I tried to talk about my life by cheerily announcing, “Gotta go!” because she had arrived at her destination. I’d accepted these calls as a fact of our friendship, without complaint or feeling put upon, because that’s what girlfriends are for… right?

K is one of those people who has a very busy life between work, socializing and other activities, so between that and the boyfriend, I didn’t think too much of it when she was difficult to get a hold of. At one point I suggested via text that we make a “phone date” to catch up, so that we could talk at a time that was convenient to her, since I had a more flexible schedule. A couple days later, I got the following as a response via email:

I am sorry to be harsh but I feel like you aren’t hearing what I’m not saying.  The reason I haven’t been reaching out to you is because I feel like we aren’t on the same wavelength.  It’s not something you did – I have changed a ton in the last couple years and my life has altered greatly.  I just can’t work to maintain relationships that aren’t feeding me right now and I feel like you want a lot I can’t give.  I care about you and wish you the best but I just don’t feel like talking or visiting – it’s just not where I’m at.  I hope you can understand and respect that.  I really do mean it with kindness.”

It slowly dawned on me as I re-read her email… I’d been Kon-Mari’d! This was well before “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” had become the international  phenomenon it is today, but the book had been out for a couple years at least, and K had read it and been quite influenced by it. In a funny and ironic twist, she’d actually credited ME with being the one to introduce her to the book/ method, although I don’t recall having done so. But the line about relationships not “feeding” her (what are you anyway, a vampire?) made it clear that this was the impetus behind her action. Friend no longer sparking joy? Kick them to the curb! Never mind if there’s 15 years of history there. Admittedly, K had always been more of a surface-y type of person than most of my other close friends, but I never imagined I’d be ditched for asking for dating advice, or because I was single and she was in a relationship.

Initially, I took her missive more or less at face value, at least the part about being in different phases of life and not meaning it in a cruel way. I sent her what I thought was a graceful reply, acknowledging that although I was saddened to hear she no longer wanted to have an active friendship, that I accepted her for who she was and what she had to offer no matter what “wavelength” she was on, and letting her know that should she change her mind, I would welcome her back into my life anytime, no hard feelings. I even thanked her for the support she had offered through the worst parts of my divorce! But just a couple weeks later, I found out that she was in Detroit. This put things in a whole new light, making her actions seem motivated less by what was “feeding her”, and more by a mean-girls desire to not be obligated to see me during her visit. Obviously the timing of her email was directly related to the fact that she didn’t want to have to deal with the inconvenience of having my messy self hanging with her cool-as-ice posse. Strangely enough, this realization made it hurt less, not more. It almost amused me, picturing her agonizing over it, not wanting to have to invite me to stuff but knowing it would be totally weird if she didn’t, blowing me off for weeks in hopes that I’d “get the message”, and when I didn’t, finally deciding to act in a way that would make things easiest for her. Honestly, I do have a little envy for people who can boldly and guiltlessly act in their best interest even if it hurts others. A lack of conscience must come in handy at times like those. 

The most difficult part of all this was not losing her as a friend; I got over that part with surprising speed. It was the knowledge that she would have to tell our mutual friends what she’d done (since they’d wonder why we weren’t hanging out on her visit), and that I’d suffer the embarrassment of having people know I got friend-dumped. Looking back though, I’m sure it reflected much more poorly on her than on me. I mean, I hadn’t done anything other than be mildly neurotic about my romantic life, whereas she had cast off a 15-year friendship for totally selfish reasons. And she didn’t even follow KonMari protocol by thanking me at the end of it for my service!

For a while, we kept up appearances that everything was “cool” by continuing to follow each other’s social media accounts; she’d even throw me the consolation prize of a complimentary comment on occasion. (I’m sure this was stemming not so much from a genuine warm feeling, but rather to come off as less of an asshole to our mutual friends. Or maybe the relief of knowing I was now at arms’ length—phew!!—made her feel more comfortable to interact once in a while.) Then, on her 40th birthday, she posted something about how proud she was that she had made it to 40 with, among other things, “no divorces and no children out of wedlock”.

At that point any desire I had to keep up a friendly rapport went out the window. What a self-aggrandizing twat! I messaged her something like, “Funny, in spite of my divorce and kid out of wedlock, I’m doing better than ever.” I didn’t think the original comment was necessarily meant to throw shade at me personally (and if it was, all the more reason for her to piss off), but like, what a self-involved and judgmental thing to say. I know she has many friends other than me who have suffered the trauma of a divorce, or who have kids “out of wedlock” (what are we, in the 1950’s??? This is from someone who considers herself a proud feminist, FFS!) I also know for a fact I was not the only one taken aback by the comment, but I was apparently the only one who called her out on how it came across. For doing so, I got promptly blocked and deleted. I thought the dramatic and disproportionate reaction was pretty funny given that this is a person who prides herself on being extremely enlightened and self-aware. My message was merely intended to convey, “Hey, maybe step back and think about how your comments sound to people who have gone through those things,” or, “Everyone does life differently, there’s no need to act superior if people have had different life experiences than you.” In retrospect, I should have known that saying something wouldn’t actually get her to be self-reflective, but it really was less about that and more about standing up to someone whose words were thoughtless and offensive.

Ultimately, it was no love lost. I’m kind of glad it had the ending that it did, getting rid of any lingering feelings of nostalgia and freeing me from having her take up any space in my brain anymore. (Ok, yes, I did just write several paragraphs about her, but this is the first time in a few years I’ve even really given her any thought, partly because Marie Kondo is everywhere right now, and partly because I heard K was just in Detroit again.) Consider this MY final KonMari purge of anything having to do with her.

The boyfriend, incidentally, dumped her not too long after she sent me that email… I didn’t receive this news with any malice or glee whatsoever; in fact I felt bad for her, but it did reinforce for me that there’s a reason why I take a long view of friendships and don’t just abandon them when they aren’t actively “serving” me (maybe because I don’t see my friends as my servants?) I would have offered support and a listening ear, had she wanted or needed that, as I had many times before. Of course I have let certain people drift away in the course of my life if things aren’t jiving, but if I’ve made it a decade and a half with someone, I consider that person almost like a sibling, and treat it as a “for better or worse, in good times and in bad” situation. I place a high value on shared history; on the loyalty and commitment that long-term friendships represent—unlike family, it’s a chosen bond. Unsurprisingly, I also choose not to part with many of the items KonMari would have me throw out, such as old letters, photographs, etc. But if these things and people add a little clutter or disorder to my life at times, I’m OK with that tradeoff.

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