“We do the purge communally, so you show everybody what you have. There’s a certain accountability to it,” Rapp added. Their fellow priests can also challenge them on specific belongings, inviting them to reflect on whether they actually need a certain item.
“We don’t actually need what we think we need,” he said.
For lay people, especially families with children, the criteria for what to keep may look different.
“It is really difficult when you have children of various ages to keep possessions simple, because there are various needs in the home happening all at the same time!” said Alicia Hernon, a mother of 10 children and the co-director, alongside her husband, of The Messy Family project and podcast.
“It’s hard for moms to give away clothes when you know you will have a child who will wear those clothes or play with those toys in just a few years,” she told CNA. “Yes, I would love to get rid of all the extra toys and clothes, but not if I will have to replace them for the next child hitting that stage just a short time from now.”
“For us, living simply means that I had to have an effective storage system for clothes and a set time to take them out when needed. It also means that we had to do the same with certain toys.”
But while simplicity may look different for families – especially large ones – Hernon said there are still benefits to a simple lifestyle, especially because it helps family members “focus on the people around us.”
“The fewer possessions we have, the less there is to clean, maintain and manage,” she said. “The fewer possessions children have, the more they will be encouraged to play outside and play with each other.”
Catholics seeking to implement Kondo’s methods may notice that some of her practices display a sense of animism, the idea that inanimate objects have spirits. Kondo, who served for several years at a Shinto shrine in Japan, greets the houses that she enters before tidying them. She encourages people to talk to their possessions, thanking them for the role they have played in their lives. She suggests that the used items that one has discarded “will come back to you as the thing that will be of most use to who you are now.”
While Catholics should not take part in practices that do not align with the Catholic faith, this does not mean they need to reject the KonMari Method of tidying altogether, Rapp said. Catholicism has long understood how to embrace what is good in other cultures, without accepting ideas that are problematic.
Some of Kondo’s ideas can be adapted to a more Catholic worldview, the priest said. For example, rather than thanking a book or piece of clothing for its usefulness, Catholics can offer prayers of thanks to God, who is the true source of all material blessings.
“Thank you, Lord, for giving me this. It’s been very valuable for my life in these ways. I’m going to let go of it now,” he suggested as a prayer to offer while purging.
Recognizing everything as a blessing from God makes it easier to be detached, he noted. “Because God has given me all of these things, I can let go of them. I can give them away.”
Ultimately, Rapp said, simplicity in possessions is about building gratitude, detachment, and trust.
“If you want to follow Jesus’ way of simplicity, you have to accept that it’s a bit radical, and you have to be willing to detach. I think that’s the big key, this attitude of detachment.”
“You have to sort of trust that ‘I can let go of things, and my needs will be taken care of’,” he said, pointing to the passage in the Sermon on the Mount in which Christ reminds his followers of how God clothes the lilies of the field and feeds the birds of the air, instructing them to trust that God will also take care of their material needs.
“We as human beings feel a need to provide for ourselves,” Rapp said. “Letting go of things is an invitation to really trust in the Lord, and to celebrate and feel the providence of God, that God really does provide for us, that God has provided for us in remarkable ways.”
For the Denver Companions, purging physical things is a reminder to reflect on spiritual poverty, which is more important than material poverty.
Rapp said the community undergoes a similar process of seeking to identify excesses or unhealthy attachments in the spiritual life, asking themselves, “What do I cling to? My time, my energy, my friendships, my talent, my opinions?”
This helps them recognize all of these things as gifts from God, and opportunities to give thanks and practice detachment, fostering spiritual poverty, since God promises his kingdom to the “poor in spirit.”
“That’s what we’re really looking for,” Rapp said. “We don’t find our peace and happiness in things.”