Last month, I discovered a book called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying-Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo, a Japanese cleaning expert. In the book, Marie describes how she helps her clients sort everything in their homes, encouraging them to ask themselves if each item brings them joy. Items that do, stay; items that don’t, go. It’s a simple but revolutionary idea – keep the things you absolutely love and get rid of the rest – and it’s taking the world by storm (the book was translated from Japanese and published in English in October 2014.)
Marie is straightforward in her approach; the book is divided into five sections which are subdivided into mini tidying lessons. The main points in the book are as follows:
- Tidying is a marathon – go through your whole house until everything is perfect.
- Finish discarding everything before you organize.
- Decide what to keep (not what to get rid of) by asking yourself this question: does it spark joy?
- Tidy by category, not by location.
- Store your things so they shine.
- Your life begins after putting your house in order.
Marie recommends tidying in this order: clothes, books, papers, komono (miscellany,) and mementos. Start with the easy things first and work your way to the hardest, things that have sentimental value. By proceeding in this manner, you will develop your intuition about what to keep and what you can live without.
The process of assessing how you feel about the things you own, identifying those that have fulfilled their purpose, expressing your gratitude, and bidding them farewell, is really about examining your inner self, a rite of passage to a new life. The yardstick by which you judge is your intuitive sense of attraction, and therefore there’s no need for complex theories or numerical data [about how many of each item you should keep/discard.] All you need to do is follow the right order. pp. 64-65
As of today, I have used the KonMari Method to declutter and organize my linen cabinet, clothes, shoes and accessories, and books. Sticking to the order, I will continue sorting papers, miscellany, and mementos. Papers shouldn’t be too hard to do because I have whittled down the piles of paper over the last couple of years. I have a massive amount of miscellany, which Marie defines as:
- CDs and DVDs (actually don’t have any of these)
- Skin care products
- Valuables (passports, credit cards, etc.)
- Electrical equipment and appliances (digital cameras, electric cords, anything that seems vaguely “electric)
- Household equipment (stationery and writing materials, sewing kits, etc.)
- Household supplies (consumables like medicine, detergents, tissues, etc.)
- Kitchen goods/food supplies (spatulas, pots, blenders, etc.)
- Other (spare change, figurines, hobby supplies/equipment – I will probably have to break this down into further categories as I’m very fond of seasonal decorations and what my family calls objets)
Marie recommends this order because it is easier to start with more personal items and clearly defined content. She urges her clients to take stock of their komono and save only the things that bring them joy. Surrounding yourself with things you’re keeping “just because” or out of guilt hinders your ability to enjoy your possessions – such an “aha!” moment for me!
The final category, mementos, will be tough, as I have all of the family photographs and sentimental items from my mom’s estate. I completely understand why she encourages you to save these items for last. She promises that if you reduce until you reach the point where everything “clicks,” all will be well. I’m going to hold her to that!
I’ve read the first three sections, which are all about sorting each of the five categories. Section four is about storing your items, and section five is about how to transform your life through tidying. It sounds farfetched, but I am already happier for tidying my wardrobe and books, so I expect to be ecstatic by the time I’m finished with mementos! I’ll review the last two sections once I’ve completed all the tidying.
Are you inspired to declutter and organize your home? Want to do it together? Buy the book, then come back and tell me how the KonMari Method is changing your life. (I’m not affiliated with the book and will not make any money if you decide to purchase it. I just think it’s the best thing since sliced bread, and I want to share it with everyone!)
Click the links below to read all the posts in my Tidying Up series.
Quotes are from The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Act of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo, Ten Speed Press, Berkeley.