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The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Franciscan Simplicity

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Editor’s note: DCSC member Madonna Enwe shares about a book she read about decluttering and organizing, reflecting on how it helped her learn simplicity and presence in the moment.

“Life becomes far easier once you know that things will still work out
even if you are lacking something.”

This is a line from Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. When I decided to read this book a few weeks ago, I was oblivious to the role that it would play in helping as I finished out my year of service at FMS and move on to the next step in my journey. It offered me a lesson in simplicity and being content with where I was, right here and now.

I have always had an issue with holding on to the things that have guided me through different phases in life; I have  a book that a friend in highschool gave me, a journal from almost a decade ago, and papers I wrote that I am fond of looking back on. Most of the things I was holding on to, I had had for more than ten years. One of them was a self- made book I used for the last three years to guide me through the application process into medical school.

Through Mrs. Kondo’s book, I learned that holding on to these things either kept me in the past or constantly thinking about the future when I thought I would need them again. I also noticed that holding on to these things was a way of telling myself that I wasn’t where I wanted to be, that I still needed many things to happen, or that I needed all of these physical things for my life to be better. It encouraged me to appreciate my belongings and not to focus on what I wanted to get rid of, but rather to learn and to value what I decided to keep. This also reminded me of the practice of Franciscan simplicity which ensures us of the peace we receive when we appreciate and care for all that God has provided for us.

With every page that I read, I knew I needed to gain the the courage to get rid of some things in my room, and—in my head—it sounded like a great idea, but I still needed something to help me let go. The final push I needed came when I got accepted into one of my first choice of medical schools. For once out of the few moments in my life, I felt that I was okay with where I was. And so, a few days later, I came back to my room and quietly went through my things. It became an easy process for me to be happy with my present, even if everything was not as perfect as I had expected.

Things come and go, and I am learning to let them go so that they don’t define me by my past or future, but by who I am and where I am right here and now.

Reflection Question: What is something you are holding on to that you may be liberated by letting go of?

During her year as a member of DC Service Corps, Madonna serves at Catholic Charities Refugee Center as an employment specialist where she works directly with refugees and asylees and conducts assessments, orientations, and job training. During her year as a DC Service Corps member, Madonna hopes to take the experience of working directly and in-depth with others and apply it to all of her future endeavors, specifically, medical school. Madonna graduated from Dickinson College in Pennsylvania with a degree in neuroscience.