I truly believe I’ve found my spirit animal — it’s Marie Kondo.
I’ve written before about her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. But this week I finally got around to listening to the entire audiobook and I have to admit I’m a convert (mostly.)
Now I understand why she’s such a rockstar in Japan and why there is a waiting list to work with her!
In her book, Marie explains that she started “tidying” when she was 5 years old. Like a classic middle child she did it to get attention and praise from her parents. Since then, for Marie, tidying has become a celebration. She even dresses up for the event.
Marie says everything you own wants to be of use to you. Isn’t that such a nice way of thinking about it? That was a huge mindset switch for me.
Does It Spark Joy?
To start the decluttering process, or as she calls it — the “KonMari” method — Marie suggests taking each item individually into your hands and asking yourself one simple question: Does it spark joy?
I love ridged rules. Very black and white. The less wiggle room you have, the more forceful you become with your decision making. So ultimately it takes less time. Love that!
I know what you’re thinking, is it really a good idea to throw stuff out on a whim? What if I need it later?
Marie’s advice is:
- Ask yourself — why do you have it?
- Then reassess its role in your life.
- Acknowledge that sometimes you have to say, “thank you for teaching me what doesn’t suit me” and let it go (for stuff that you bought that doesn’t fit, or you thought you would like or use and didn’t.)
- If something doesn’t spark joy but is necessary — keep it until it’s done serving a purpose though.
Detox Your Life
She calls tidying a form of “detoxing” and believes reducing what you own will have an effect on your body too. The air inside becomes fresh and clean. You feel less cluttered not just at home, but in your mind.
Another great side effect is that you feel greater confidence and decisiveness when faced with issues and questions. When you’ve made the decision to throw out half your stuff, you’re ready for almost any decision!
In Marie’s opinion far too many people live surrounded by things they don’t need “just because”. I have to admit I can be one of those people! Collecting reusable bags that I may need one day, or buying a dress that I may wear to a fancy event because it’s on sale.
Marie says to always have a designated place for everything. I already do this for the most part, as evidenced by my closets. She also suggests only buying what you will use. For example, leave that top you wanted in the store until you are ready to use it. It will be waiting for you when you need it.
Using her method, I got rid of 7 bags of clothing and 2 boxes of books. Not to mention several garbage bags of old receipts, coupons and old checks.
Now when I step foot into my closet — it looks like one of those posh boutiques where all the clothes have room to breathe. It looks like each piece was expertly curated and chosen just for me. That’s because they were!
As much as I enjoyed Marie’s take on tidying, there was a few things I disagreed with:
- She tells you to dump out the contents of your purse every single day and have a spot to keep your frequently used stuff (wallet, phone, etc.) This might be a good solution if your purse is constantly messy. But it just doesn’t seem very efficient to me.
- Tells you to tear off labels from boxes and take tags off clothes immediately. Which is a bit too impulsive for my liking. Maybe because I had lots of stuff with tags still attached! However I tried it and it did make the clothes feel more “mine” immediately.
My favorite part of the book is that she encourages you to express gratitude to your stuff daily. Treat each item as though they are alive. It’s a little kooky, but I love this idea!
Our belongings work hard for us and that should be recognized. My friend Terri and I have gotten really into this and have been texting each other ideas for taking better care of our stuff.
This week I left the closet door open so my clothes could get some fresh air and sunlight and Terri massaged her sweaters.
Marie’s message is simple, but true. There is NO greater happiness than being surrounded by ONLY things you love. Letting go is even more important than adding.
Get This Stuff Out of Here!
Ok so once you go through the process and purge — then what?
You’re left surrounded by clutter and for me that’s a terrible combination. I hate having unfinished business staring at me. (That’s probably why I had such a big problem when we renovated our apartment!)
Now you decide. Do I throw out or do I donate?
If you’re going to donate I suggest checking out your options in advance. Believe me , once you get all those bags of stuff all around you — all you want to do is get them out of your sight.
If you have a car and know of a church or donation center where you can drop it off — great. Set aside time to do it right after you clear your clutter.
If you’re like me and live in a city without a car your options are limited. Sure you could take a cab but then you’re lugging stuff all over the city. There are services that will come and pick up the donations for free or for a small charge.
My problem with the pickups is that you need to schedule them in advance and I didn’t do that. I wanted the stuff moved out of my apartment now. So I hired a lovely TaskRabbit to come and take my stuff and bring it to Goodwill for me. Money well spent! I’m all about outsourcing and lowering my stress levels.
So what do you think of Marie’s tidying technique?