The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Japanese organizational expert Marie Kondo, is one of those books that EVERYONE is talking about right now... Yay for minimalism and simplicity living becoming more mainstream ideas! :D
The book is popular for good reason too... whether you're already a hardcore minimalist, or a borderline hoarder, or somewhere in between, it probably has something to say to you that you will find helpful. Depending on your level of familiarity with the philosophy behind minimalism, simplicity living, etc, a lot of the ideas might not be NEW to you, but there were subtle shifts in Marie Kondo's approach that gave me a whole new perspective on aspects of the topic (photos and childhood mementos, for example), and really helped me "finish" my own minimalist household transition.
Here's a quick run-down of some of the ideas I found valuable... if you are intrigued by them, it's a good indication that you will benefit from reading the whole book! Also, I am mainly paraphrasing and/or relaying my own interpretation of the concepts, so if anything is confusing it is probably my fault and not Ms. Kondo... in which case, read the book before drawing any negative conclusions too. ;P
"Aha!" moments and perspective shifts I found valuable:
- DON'T do a little at a time! So many organizational strategies involve doing a room a day, a thing a day... that kind of progress aims too low. It's too slow -- you'll never get where you're trying to go unless you live in some magical universe where nothing new is coming into your house, and, once organized, nothing is being taken out of its place. No junk mail, no happy meal toys, no holiday gifts... and nobody leaving socks or toys or books scattered around... is that you? Um, I didn't think so! So aim to get your WHOLE house sorted and purged as quickly as is feasible for you. Marie Kondo claims that NOBODY, who has used her system to organize their whole house all at one go as she recommends, has ever lapsed back into clutter and disorganization. Personally, I was totally willing to try it out just because I want to test such a dubious claim! Also, I totally related to this quote:
If, like me, you are not the diligent, persevering type, then I recommend aiming for perfection just once. -Marie Kondo
Touché, Marie Kondo, touché! Honestly aiming for perfection even just once is asking a lot of me... ;P
- Try to wrap your mind around how out-of-control our culture's consumeristic, materialistic culture has become. You probably have wayyyy more stuff than you even realize, and much of it is neither useful nor making you happy. For example, clothes. I would have guessed that I had around 40-ish items of clothing in my winter wardrobe, and figured that was a lot. You know how many I really had? Closer to 90. Say whaaaaaat? If you need a wake-up call, just start counting. How many books / DVDs / shoes are in your home right now? Are they "paying their rent" (to borrow a phrase from 2009 Sarah Eliza...), or are they freeloading and taking up space without giving you anything in return? Another favorite quote:
This excess is caused by our ignorance of how much we actually own. [...] Things stored out of sight are dormant. -Marie Kondo
Note: Putting things into organizational containers is not going to solve your clutter problem, because they basically are just a way of HIDING the problem... and the problem is too much stuff.
- Hold each item, and ask yourself Does this bring me joy? I found that holding "the thing" really did help to trigger emotions and associations with it, and helped me to decide whether I was keeping it out of habit or out of enjoyment. I recently went through a bunch of old photo albums, taking each photo out and holding it as Ms. Kondo recommended, and now I have a single album full of photos that all ACTUALLY give me the warm fuzzies, rather than three albums full of blurred shots, accidentally captured frowns, and awkward poses. Additionally, a collection of Happy Meal mini Cabbage Patch Dolls from my childhood unexpectedly brought me so much joy that I just finished out the collection by buying two more on ebay... but since I simultaneously got rid of a ton of stuff that DIDN'T bring me joy, I considered it a worthy swap. ;)
- Decide what to KEEP rather than deciding what to PITCH. Go ahead and just assume you're donating EVERYTHING to charity. What items do you immediately want to hide from yourself?? :P I have been working on attaining minimalism in my home for a while now (since before it was cool!) and I have to say, this tiny shift in perspective probably made the biggest difference for me. You know that grey area of "well I USED to really like it," or "well I love the person who gave it to me so I SHOULD like it"...? Picking what things to keep rather than what things to get rid of more or less skips that grey area. They will either jump out at you as things that truly are meaningful to you, or you will be so busy "saving" your real favorites from the donation bag that you hardly notice any others.
Another, more dramatic way of looking at this -- if your house burned down, what things would you be trying to grab on your way to safety? Someone commented on one of my minimal wardrobe posts that her wardrobe got "reset" after her house burned down... just hearing that was a huge perspective check for me! Our "things" are not permanent fixtures of our lives.. They are only valuable in as much as they are special or helpful to you.
- Not every item you own has to be used. Some items have a lesser role to play in your life - you can get rid of these things without guilt. They WANT you to pass them on to someone else! Some people are weirded out by the way Ms. Kondo anthropomorphizes her belongings, thanking them for working hard for her, carefully caring for them so they will "feel" appreciated, and crediting them with loving her and wanting to make her happy. I mostly felt sad that Ms. Kondo had to learn "unconditional love" from objects rather than from people, but I am all for the idea of feeling gratitude for the things we have... if you want to say you are grateful "to" the object instead of "for" an object, I'm fine with that too.
Here's the key part: Ms. Kondo believes that if an item isn't bringing you joy, it "wants" to be passed on to someone else, and you should let it go guilt-free. Example: if you purchased an item on sale and then never wore it, you can get rid of it without feeling badly because the "job" of that particular item was not to be worn threadbare, but simply to bring you joy in that moment (and perhaps to also help you realize that that style doesn't suit you, so you won't make a similar impulse buy again). The same for gifts - if you view gifts as a symbol of affection or appreciation, then their "jobs" have been fulfilled in the moment of giving, when they communicated that sentiment to you. If the item itself doesn't bring you joy, its okay to "home" it elsewhere, shame free. No more guilt! You owe nothing to your "things," because the items that do not bring you joy have already finished their job, and "want" to move on.
- Store things vertically whenever possible. Ms. Kondo points out that "stuff" stacked horizontally will quickly turn into a messy pile, and whatever is towards the bottom will probably be pretty hidden from sight. When you store things vertically (yup, stand them up on their ends rather than laying them flat...) they will generally be more visible AND take up less space. After purging the things I didn't really need I tried vertical storage with the office supplies in my desk drawer, and so far it has worked GREAT! Nothing is stacked on top of anything else, everything has room to breathe, and it is all immediately accessible without shuffling or digging. It is a thing of beauty friends! ;P
(I realize these pictures aren't particularly pin-worthy due to the lack of coordinating colors and decorative boxes... but honestly I don't NEED any of that, because it just IS organized. The container store HATES people like me... I did line the drawer with scrapbook paper to perk it up though.)
(In case you're curious, this drawer contains: printer paper, envelopes, extra printer ink, two external hard drives, white out tape, 2 kinds of glue, tape, an eraser, thumbtacks, mechanical pencil lead, various sizes and types of paper clips, three different electronics cords, post-it notes, a mini stapler, a staple remover, rubber bands AND a tape measure. And yes, I can find any of it at a moment's notice.)
Things I Disagreed With:
- The recommendation to fold your clothes whenever possible. Marie Kondo has a whole system for folding, and it sounds like it works for her. However, I am not nearly patient or careful enough to fold everything without ending up with a wrinkled mess (and ironing is against my religion... ;P), so I feel strongly that hanging my capsule wardrobe works better for me. Read more about that here!
- The idea that cleaning will give you diarrhea. Ahahaha I thought that one would get your attention, lol! But seriously, one of the odder moments in the book is when Marie states, "One of my clients cleared out a closet and shed that she had neglected for ten years. Immediately after, she had a strong bout of diarrhea after which she felt much lighter." Sorry, I don't necessarily see the connection? Though I guess maybe dealing with the stress of all those piled-up, useless, joyless items could have caused a physical response... I don't think this one is necessarily a COMMON side effect of tidying up, however...
A quick side-note....
Minimalism isn't going to LOOK the same for everyone. The point of minimalism isn't that things are somehow evil... I cherish many heirlooms, gifts, and souvenirs I've accumulated over the years. The point of minimalism is that you are being choosy about what you surround yourself with, and that your priorities lie outside of simply accumulating "stuff." The things you have are things that bring you joy -- you don't waste time and money buying, cleaning, or storing stuff that doesn't - and you are able to focus more fully on living your life as a result.
Wouldn't you like to be able to say this?
Although not large, the space I live in is graced only with those things that speak to my heart. My lifestyle brings me joy. -Marie Kondo
After a six-year journey and some Konmari style motivation and perspective shifts, I can say that. :) What about you? If you are already there, please share your story with us! And if you are not there yet but the idea if it appeals to you, I know you can get to the point where you can say it as well! Good luck on the journey... and keep me posted! I would love to cheer you on!
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