Tidying Up Your Relationship with Marie Kondo's Advice

Posted by Thea Harvey, MA, MFT on August 11, 2019 at 11:11 AM
Thea Harvey, MA, MFT
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Tidy up your Relationship - Imago Relationships North America - Harvey Center for Relationships

I caught the Tidying Up with Marie Kondo bug. Like so many, my family and I were enthralled by her Netflix series (now we have a garage full of giveaway bags). On The Late Show, Stephen Colbert asked her why she thought so many Americans were captivated by her show. “People want to unclutter their hearts,” she responded. You can watch the segment here.

The series goes into the homes of families who feel overwhelmed and paralyzed by their stuff. Like magic, Marie steps in and transforms their lives with the KonMari Method, not only tidying up their homes but their intimate relationships. As a marriage and family therapist and certified Imago therapist who specializes in couples, this caught my eye. Imago Therapy is a relational modality that focuses on intimate partnership.

During each episode, I witnessed couples getting closer and appreciating each other more, which was visible by the way they communicated with one another. The show illustrated how shifts in behavior can create desired change. Marie Kondo’s approach to organizing also doubles as relationship advice. In fact, it compliments my work as an Imago therapist at several turns. Using a proven formula makes the impossible seem possible.

Couples who once were at an impasse and could not imagine a way to move forward could do so by following manageable steps. As seen in the show, intimate relationships can dramatically improve. Her process helps couples deepen intimacy while tidying up the mess around them.

Here are 5 ways Imago Therapy helps you Marie Kondo your relationships.

1. You can change

The show beautifully demonstrates how partners can continue to grow and change. It is essential to keep growing and moving forward in your relationship. Couples often come into my office wondering if people ever change. The answer is YES with a method. This show exhibits that positive modifications to behavior are possible.

In my work as an Imago therapist, I utilize a step-by-step structure called the Behavior Change Request. Within this format, partners stretch into their best selves. Our partner holds the blueprint for our individual development. Relationships are best when partners facilitate each other’s positive growth.

2. You have a vision

Together couples work towards a common goal to organize their home. They share a joint vision of the future. Their vision keeps them connected and on track even when they get stuck and find it difficult to change. Item by item, couples’ sense if the thing they are holding sparks joy and if they want it to be part of their future. They keep on task until their vision becomes a reality.

“We are working together on something that will definitely be life-changing,” beamed Wendy, an empty nester, from episode two. This process is similar to designing a relationship vision, a series of positive statements that describes your ideal relationship. A relationship vision is a powerful tool to bring your hopes and dreams into fruition. My husband and I wrote an article on HuffPost, check it out to create your own relationship vision.

3. You can manage your space

Couples learn how to manage their environment. It’s very common for couples to argue about the area they share. “The biggest fights we ever get into are over money and cleaning,” laments Kevin, a show participant in season one. Throughout the series, couples complain of feeling stressed out by their belongings. In organizing they reduce their anxiety. Anxiety causes disconnection in relationships. When anxiety lessens, couples can enjoy each other more.

Each item finds a place in the home creating more ease and calmness for the inhabitants. Partners also take responsibility for their own clothing and knick-knacks. This is important for differentiation, which makes it easier to see and understand that you are two different people in one relationship.

Taking accountability is an invaluable skill within intimate partnerships. When you are accountable for your actions and their repercussions, you create trust within a relationship and in yourself. When you stop blaming the other partner, that’s when the transformation occurs. At one point, a participant begins to weigh-in on the significance of her husband’s shirt. “As a rule focus only on the clothes that belong to you,” Marie gently admonishes.

4. Communication

Couples who once argued about the clutter started talking about other topics and interests. Some even became more romantic. The constant battling ended when a system was integrated into the house that managed the chaos.

In the last episode, Alishia and Angela admitted, “The bickering declined.” They also shared how the process allowed them to get to know each other better. They learned why certain sentimental items were essential to their partner. These exchanges deepened the experience for all the participants.

In my practice, I teach a method of communication called the Intentional Dialogue. It provides a pathway for couples to communicate effectively through difficult conversations. The process is an opportunity for partners to be seen and heard. Seemingly impossible conversations occur because couples utilize the dialogue structure.

5. You have more time for each other

Couples found more time to enjoy one another when they were not bogged down by their clutter. Many complained of feeling swamped by their home. Some rooms were avoided because of the mess. The atmosphere in the house was tense, nothing seemed to get done, and items were difficult to find. This added to the stress.

However, their interactions changed after they integrated an organizational method leaving more time to laugh and love. Having successful systems in place makes life and relationships easier to manage.

As a marriage and family therapist, it’s an honor to share various relationship protocols from how to discuss difficult topics to repairing ruptures in the connection. These skills enable partners to be playful, creative and remember why they fell in love.

Couples uncluttered their hearts and re-discovered the daily joy of being together.

“My method of tidying not only cleans the surfaces of your home but helps you consider how you want to live and what kind of relationship you want to have with your family and friends and all the things that surround you,” Marie summaries.

Just like there's an approach for tidying up, there's a guide to improving your relationship and getting the love you want. The framework I use with couples is a step-by-step process that enhances connection. It teaches you how to move through conflict quickly and easily and live the relationship of your dreams.  Change is possible with a method.

If you need some help tidying up your relationship, we're here to help. Check out our workshops, therapy and facilitators today!

Connect. Transform. Thrive.


This blog post was written by Thea Harvey, MA, MFT.

Thea is a licensed marriage and family therapist, wife, and mother who specializes in couples counseling. With her husband, Duane Harvey, she co-founded Harvey Center for Relationships with the mission to help couples thrive. She's a certified Imago Relationship therapist. Her work with couples is informed by years as a meditation and yoga teacher. 

After studying at Harvard University and graduating from Wellesley College, she moved to Los Angeles to fulfill her childhood dream of living by the beach. Disillusioned by her work as a political consultant she quit her job, traveled the world, and discovered a love for yoga. This affinity led her to become a yoga and meditation teacher and strengthened her desire to serve others. To further her skills and knowledge, she graduated from Antioch University with a Master’s in Clinical Psychology. It wasn't until she met her husband that she experienced the transformational alchemy of couples counseling. This profound shift led her to train with couples experts John and Julie Gottman, Esther Perel, Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt, Stan Tatkin and Ellyn Bader. 

Thea is a trained Kundalini and Hatha yoga teacher and incorporates music, meditation and yoga within her sessions, providing useful tools to manage relational stress and reactivity. With her husband, Duane, who is also a marriage and family therapist and certified Imago therapist, she created the Tantric Couples Conversation workshop that invites couples to expand their sense of pleasure, sex, and intimacy. Duane and Thea not only want couples to feel safe in their relationships but also heightened states of ecstasy.

Together they blogged about relationships for the Huffington Post and were repeated guests on the I Do Podcast.  Thea and Duane formed the Harvey Center for Relationships, a family practice, that includes Thea's step-son, Brendan Harvey, and her sister-in-law, Tracey Harvey, both certified Imago therapists. 

Thea believes change is possible for even the most despairing couples. The relationship and communication skills she teaches her clients, she uses in her own marriage and as a board member for Imago Relationship International, and on Parent Council for her daughter's school.  These practices form a cornerstone to her personal and professional connections. And, when she's not working, you'll find her experiencing infinite joy dancing. 

Check out Thea's website, she'd love to hear from you!  

Topics: Family Culture, Healthy Relationships, Decluttering Your Life, Stress Relief, Healthy Communication, Imago Relationships, Relationship Vision, Intentional Dialogue, Tidying Up

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The Imago Relationships Blog features content from our team of professional therapists, workshop presenters and facilitators who are passionate about helping you discover a new way to communicate and love your life.

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