I’d been waiting for a couple of months for Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: the Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, so when it came in for me at the library on Friday, I resolved to read it this weekend and return it, because it’s in high demand.
It’s a very eye-opening read, and when I poked around a bit online I found some videos of Kondo speaking and consulting in someone’s home, folding socks and underwear, and — this one strikes fear in my heart — organizing a book collection. There are also many fan videos done by people applying the KonMari method of tidying.
Kondo’s KonMari tidying requires going through all of your belongings, systematically and deliberately, choosing what to keep, and designating a place for everything. This small book is packed with detailed examples to help you get started. What do I make of this phenomenon? When I finished the book I wanted very much to tidy. Kondo notes, “In essence tidying ought to be the act of restoring the balance among people, their possessions, and the house they live in.” The Computer Scientist and I have been striving for that for years.
In our early 30’s we read Your Money or Your Life, and decided to be more conscious of how we wanted to spend our life energy. Eventually that meant selling everything that didn’t fit in a 26 foot U-Haul and choosing meaningful work that also allowed for more family time. Today our lives are a little busier, and we’re not always as focused as we’d like on where our life energy goes, but we live in a smaller house than we have previously. Still like everyone else, we sometimes feel overwhelmed by stuff accumulating, and end up going through the garage, or a closet, or some cabinets, just about annually. We always wonder how that happens.
Kondo says that if you apply the KonMari method thoroughly, you’ll change the way you relate to things altogether, and will learn to “see quite clearly what you need in life, and what you don’t. . . .” First of all she says you shouldn’t just do a closet or even a room at a time. Also, she suggests tidying things most of us would never think of getting rid of — documents, for example, and mementos, which she says most people never look at.
She describes how freeing it is to have only what’s important to you, all kept in its place. For example, living this way means never getting stressed out looking for the thing you need — which happened to us a couple of years ago, when we were trying to track down some financial information dating back a number of years among boxes of “important” paperwork. And she notes that her clients find, “Life becomes far easier once you know that things will still work out even if you are lacking something.”
Which sounds like a “first world problem,” and it is. But she’s hit a real nerve, as the popularity of her book (which is a bestseller in several countries) and her YouTube videos can attest. A mind-shift like Kondo describes is very appealing, “If we acknowledge our attachment to the past and our fears for the future by honestly looking at our possessions, we will be able to see what is really important to us.” That’s a kind of “mindfulness of stuff,” that seems very healthy. The Computer Scientist and I are intrigued to say the least, although her “ikki ni” or “in one go” house-wide approach sounds like it would require us to take vacation time to manage it.