Is having a tidy house really magical? According to Marie Kondo it is. The writer of the best-selling book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” has taken the world by storm with her spiritual approach to decluttering. Marie Kondo herself is a tidying fanatic. She found her love for tidiness as a child, keenly reading through housekeeping magazines for tips, and happily volunteering for cleaning duty throughout high school. The key to her success is her self-developed (and self-named) method called “Konmari”. Konmari is more a ritual than a practical guide, with three key aspects to creating a peaceful space:
- Visualise – Why do you want to tidy up? And what will your life look like after doing so?
Visualisation can be a very powerful technique for success – elite athletes and career climbers are often coached to visualise themselves winning a race or standing at the top of a mountain to successfully complete the task. Marie Kondo wants you to imagine what your space will be like after your Konmari process is finished – will you have a spacious living room where you can proudly entertain your guests? Or a tranquil bedroom where you can relax on your clear bed after all that tidying?
Imagining your tidying goals before completing them can also help you steer through the mountains of clutter which you will inevitably meet in the next few stages of Konmari.
- “Spark Joy” – Does this item make you feel happy straight away? Does it bring you good memories, or does using it or wearing it still make you feel great?
We keep things for many different reasons, but Konmari first encourages us to decide whether the item truly brings us a sense of happiness. The average US woman owns 7 pairs of jeans, but in reality only wears 3 or 4 of them. Is it because they’re a perfect fit? Did you buy them especially for that concert? Then keep them. This doesn’t just apply to clothing, but anything you own that gives you a positive experience (so of course that includes useful things as well).
- Is it a gift you never use, but is from someone you love? The first two points seem fairly obvious, but this is where I think the Konmari philosophy really starts to get interesting. Whilst a gift may “spark joy” because you feel good about the person who gave it to you, Kondo argues that if you never use it, then it’s better that you get rid of it. Her reasoning is that your friends and family would not want you to feel burdened by their present if it no longer suits you. “Just thank it for the joy it gave you when you first received it.” It feels a bit dirty to re-gift, but you could be giving someone else the opportunity to feel “joy” from your gift instead.
- Cut back on paper – If you are a regular reader of our blog then I hope you are doing this anyway, but Kondo agrees that keeping lots of papers in storage Is annoying (as well as not very environmentally friendly). Personally I have electronic copies of most of my records i.e. bank statements, payslips etc. But I am caught out all the time with paper I find in my wallet – usually old receipts and coupons I forget I am carrying until I open my wallet (yet again). Taking photos and scanning these papers with your phone are simple ways to get rid of these papers for good.
- Get folding – Folding is a key part of the Konmari ritual. Kondo believes that correctly folding your items gives them proper respect – how can your things look after you if you don’t look after them? Whilst I don’t really believe in Kondo’s theory that your carefully folded clothes are “on holiday” in your drawers until you use them, I am a big believer in fixing before throwing. Shirt got a hole? Patch it up yourself. Shoes looking tired? Give them a polish. I try to think about how my grandparents had so little, and they took such care looking after the things they had – keeping every little button so they could sew it back onto a shirt they wore every day.
- Create a space for your purse/keys – Daniel Levitin, neuro-researcher and author of “The Organized Mind” is a strong supporter of this stage of the Konmari process. “Place memory evolved over hundreds of thousands of years to keep track of things that didn’t move – such as fruit trees, wells, mountains… what it’s not so good at is keeping track of things that move from place to place.”
In other words, your brain has evolved to help you find your way around by remembering big things that don’t move (like buildings and mountains), but it’s not as evolved for keeping track of small things that can move around all the time (like your car keys or your wallet).
You can use this feature of your brain to never lose your keys again, by making it a habit of putting them back in the same place in your house every time. A hook, a little shelf, a decorated box – all of these act as a prompt for your brain as long as it is a static space (i.e. it doesn’t move).
Marie Kondo has created a little bit of magic in the way her Konmari style entwines spirituality and a sprinkle of cognitive science around the treatment of your everyday items. Ideally, practising Konmari for the long term will help you choose your material things more wisely and treasure the things you already have, reducing your need to keep everything, everywhere, all at once.