Much of Oriental medicine is based on theories that are entrenched in Asian culture and Taoism. I don’t know if Marie Kondo realizes that she is practicing Oriental medicine or not, but her Japanese cultural heritage would give her a natural advantage of a deep understanding of lifestyle practices that lead to a good life, which is what the Tao aspires to.  Understanding how the Kondo method employs Traditional Chinese Medical (TCM) theories one must have a basic understanding of the practice of Asian medicine.

According to TCM theory, there are Five Elements or Five Phases. Associated with each Element are specific energetic organ systems, emotions, seasons, and so on; this is a fundamental theoretical basis in Asian medicine. The Fire Element, for instance, encompasses the Heart and Small Intestine energetic systems and the emotion associated with the Fire Element is Joy. The two energetic functional organ systems are interconnected and can easily impact one another. The Heart houses the mind and any mental illness, such as hoarding, would implicate an imbalance of the Heart in forming a TCM diagnosis. These imbalances are referred to as Shen Disorders.

The Small Intestine works to sort our nutrients ingested and decide what to keep and what to send on to the Colon to be discarded on the physical level. Psychologically, the Small Intestine energetic system of TCM must sort the endless stream of information that we must sort through during these modern times and decide whether the input is beneficial to us or if we should let it go; e.g. you may have viewed the teacup pig video on Youtube, but it is not deeply entrenched in your mind the way your spouse’s birth date is. Because of the technological age that we are living in, the input can easily become overwhelming and damage the Small Intestine function of TCM. As a result, we as a culture struggle with simple sorting and prioritizing our basic belongings.

The popularity in the U.S. of Marie Kondo’s simple decluttering methods reflects a societal imbalance where people flock to technology-free retreats and where children are provided with special programs to allow them time in nature. By instructing us to contemplate on whether or not our simple possessions spark joy, Marie has blessed us by teaching us how to activate our innate Fire Element. My goal as a Doctor of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine is often to dissipate congestion and blocks that stifle the free flow of Qi in the body. By discarding our material rubbish and allowing for the free flow of Qi in our cherished homes, our minds are also healed. Thank you, Marie, for compassionately doing the healing work of 1,000 acupuncturists!

Learn more about the Fire Element of Chinese Medical Theory here!

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