The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo
If anyone tells you that things have souls and feelings – I bet you call him CRAZY.
But take a look around your home. How many useless things can you name in 30 seconds? If you counted more than 5, I have bad news for you: Huston, YOU have a problem. It’s time to break up with some old useless stuff and make space for new ones.
This is all about Marie Kondo’s book. Amazing topic, right?
I bet I caught your attention. But don’t worry! We all suffer from the same disease: having a box with memories, at least one drawer with “diverse things” and a garage full of objects that “might be useful someday”.
But Marie Kondo’s book – The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying – was written to put in order your thoughts, life and stuff.
All you have to do is to start reading it!
Marie Kondo is a Japanese cleaning consultant – quite famous in her native country. After this book appeared and was published in more than 30 countries, she’s considered a specialist in this area. The method she uses is called KonMari, a combination of her names.
TIDYING UP / THE LIFE-CHANGING MAGIC OF TIDYING UP
She admits that she was fascinated by the subject of tidying from a very early age and was always looking for ways to improve this skill. She managed to transform her passion (and obsession, some might say) for a clutter free space, into an innovative business model and she offers consultancy to individual clients and companies that want to transform their lives.
This book is only one of the four she wrote on this particular subject, but it’s also the most well-known, outside Japan. The structure of the book is very easy to follow, it only has 5 big chapters, each dealing with some specific topics.
The KonMari method consists of two big steps that you need to take in order to tidy your house. First, you need to gather all your belongings from one category and start discarding the things that you don’t need. Living in a consumerist society, at first, you might be under the impression that you need everything. So, the key question is: “does this spark any joy?”
If the answer is yes, you can keep the item: we should be choosing what we want to keep, not what we want to get rid of. The trick in applying this method is tidying by category. This means that you should first start with your clothes, then books, then random objects and only in the end you should approach sentimental items like photos or letters.
By following this category rule, you won’t be tempted from the beginning to procrastinate or be absorbed into memories of the past, or become too emotional to continue the process. An interesting topic that I found in this book was about the stuff that we receive as presents.
Many of us have old gifts that we don’t really like or use, but we don’t want to throw them away because we don’t want to hurt the feelings of the person that got us those presents. Marie tells us that it’s ok to let go of those things. Their purpose in our lives was fulfilled and their mission is complete:
“To truly cherish the things that are important to you, you must first discard those that have outlived their purpose.”
The author stresses the importance of tidying quickly and in one session because only this way it’s possible to have a complete shift of perspective: The key is to make the change so sudden that you experience a complete change of heart.
You need to understand the difference between tidying and cleaning. You will still need to clean your house on a regular basis. Only that now, because it has so much more free space and no clutter, this process will be easy and it will take much less time. The key is putting the objects in their place after using them. How do we know where their place is? You can designate a place for each object, but the design of the house itself will also help you: Your house already knows where things belong.
The author has very strong beliefs about the importance of folding properly. She says that if you stack your clothes one on top of the other, chances are, that the items at the bottom will never be used. And I have to agree with her.
So she even made a few videos to teach us how to fold properly and how to arrange things in your closets and drawers so that you can see all of them when you open the doors. The big advice isn’t to pile things up. Not even books. Even if we tend to put them in a pile because it saves some space, the ones at the bottom of the pile will be forgotten and they are just occupying extra space.
For me, this part from the book was the most difficult to read. I love books and I have large shelves with books everywhere. I don’t feel like I could choose only 30 books to keep in my house. But I also understand a bit the author’s point of view. I’m aware that I might never read some of the books that I purchased from impulse:
“For books, timing is everything. The moment you first encounter a particular book is the right time to read it.”
What I think might be a little difficult for some people from western societies to understand, is the rituals that Marie Kondo has with the objects. She treats them as things that have a certain energy and even “feelings”, addresses them daily to show her gratitude and when she parts with an object it’s usually done in a small ceremony that she designs.
It was weird for me at first too, when I started reading that she greets the client’s houses and has a small dialogue with it, but after thinking about the cultural differences between Japan and the US or other western countries, I decided to be more open minded and not to label these actions.
The secret to tidying is to sort by category. Because if you only clean one closet at a time, you will be surprised to discover that you have similar items in other closets as well. So, for example with the clothes, search for all the items around the house and make a big pile in the middle of the room.
Only then, you can start taking each item in your hands and ask the magic question: Does it spark joy? Do the same with all categories (books, miscellaneous, photos) and then you will really have an organized house.
Be careful with the items that promise you extra storage. This means most clutter for you to stack. You already have the necessary space for all the items that are important to you. You don’t need more space, you need to discard the items that have outlived their purpose or that bring you no joy.
Keeping a clutter free house will help you reevaluate your entire life. You will gain clarity and perspective. Many of Marie Kondo’s clients said that their lives were completely changed after this process:
The key is to be ready for such a change and put some effort into this once in a lifetime process of tidying your house.
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