It’s official, I’m old: I’ve become addicted to tidying. And the clever Japanese lady behind my newest addiction goes by the name Marie Kondo.
If you haven’t heard of Ms. Kondo and her two books that teach her innovative ‘konmari’ tidying method, I would highly recommend checking them out. They’re short and an easy read.
Her principal rule is to only keep items that ‘spark joy,’ and discard the rest. When I first heard this I thought it was a bit odd , I mean, who finds joy in their toothbrush? In their iPhone charger? In the toilet bowl cleaner?
But those necessary items aren’t what she’s tackling. The basic necessities for life make up a vastly small fraction of the 300,000 items that the average family home possesses (according to the LA times).
The majority of this stuff was purchased to meet wants, not needs. Marie Kondo realized that most of this frivolous clutter not only adds zero value or happiness to our lives, but actually makes us more stressed and eats up our time dealing with it all.
Marie also found that most books and experts on clutter made tidying rules too rigid, like ‘one should only have 7 coats’, or ‘you should get rid of any shirts you haven’t worn in 2 years.’ But everyone is unique and stuff is emotional, not numbers-based. So these strategies either don’t work at all, or they work temporarily and then we rebound and end up back where we started.
By having only the stuff you love, you’ll pass a threshold of what she calls a ‘click point’ where you realize you have everything you need and nothing else. Her claim is that once you complete her method once, you’ll never have to do it again.
Here are some of the highlights for me from her first book, ‘The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.’
- Go through everything one-by-one
We create an emotional bond with everything we own to some degree. But the more we collect and consume, those connections to the things we love gets diluted among all the other things we don’t like as much. In order for her method to work, you go through each item one at a time, hold it in your hands (don’t just look at it) and ask if it sparks a positive connection with you.
Once you have only the things that truly matter to you, you’ll take better care of those items and develop an even stronger relationship to them.
- Storage solutions are not solutions
Our typical method of dealing with clutter is to find better ways of hiding it. We store away things on shelves, in closets and away in bins, assuring ourselves that ‘we might need it one day.’ Marie calls storage ‘superficial clutter,’ and should be avoided as much as possible. Big storage no-no’s also include storage lockers (the worst of all: paying to store stuff you don’t use!) and storing stuff at your parent’s house.
- Mementos and memories
Memories are the toughest one of all, and so she recommends to leave these items until the end, once you’re a tidying pro. I was curious on how she would tackle such an emotionally sensitive category, but she has a great perspective.
‘If you’re hanging on to pictures of a former boyfriend [for example], you’re better off to discard them. Hanging on to them makes it more likely that you’ll miss opportunities for new relationships.’
She also says that sorting through old pictures allows you to process your past and move on. We live in the present; the more you store of your past is more weight that holds you back from living in the here and now.
- Sort by category, not room-by-room
The problem with tidying one room at a time is that we don’t keep all our clothes, books, or knick-knacks in one place. By getting all you’re clothes in one big pile and going through it this way, it gives you a sense of how many items of clothing you have and you’re guaranteed to not have duplicates of anything once you’re done.
And if you’re going to do it, make some time for it and do one category all at once. When you’re done, Marie guarantees you’ll never have to do it again!
- Don’t feel bad about getting rid of things
Many of the items we keep, we hold on to solely because we paid good money for it and just feel bad about getting rid of it. We all know that feeling: you stare at that jean jacket in the closet and know deep down you don’t like it. But we can’t ditch it because it was $120! Marie says: consider it as a lesson. It has taught you what doesn’t suit you; accept it’s contribution with gratitude and move on.
Leo Babuata tells us to ‘identify the essential, then eliminate the rest.’ Ms. Kondo takes that mantra one step further by identifying what items bring us positive benefit in our lives, and ditching everything else. Once you’re done you end up with a home filled with only items that spark joy. Doesn’t that sound great?
Photo from here.