The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying-Up

By Marie Kondo

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I listened to an audiobook version

I debated waiting to write this ramble until after I had tried out the KonMari method, or at least a modified form that fits my style. But since I thought I would start in early April, I figured I would at least gather my thoughts on the book first. The KonMari method allows its participants to create a home filled with only the items they love. In a way, it feels similar to the minimalist living that I have heard so much about lately.

Before diving in, I will give my mom a shout out for all she has taught me about organizing, planning, cleaning, etc. I realized I knew quite a few of the “tricks of the trade” already thanks to my mom’s dedication and example.

The KonMari Method of Decluttering

With the KonMari method you do all your decluttering at once. At first, this terrified me. How am I supposed to declutter my entire house in one day?! However, Kondo doesn’t expect that to happen. She means you tackle everything in as short of a timeframe as possible. There are only two steps to the process and you absolutely must do them in order.

Step 1: Discard (donate, throw away, get rid of in some form or fashion)

Step 2: Decide where to keep or store things

Kondo said it is essential that you don’t consider where you might keep an object while you are decluttering. The point is to only keep those items that bring you joy. In turn you must respect and thank those items you are discarding. No one has ever had trouble finding space for the remaining items after this process, so there is no need to consider its place in your house until you have finished decluttering.

The KonMari method requires you to think of your objects in categories, rather than cleaning room by room. A room by room method causes problems because most people keep the same item in more than one room for convenience sake. This category method intrigues me. I like the idea of knowing that everything I own in a specific category is in a central location before I assess what I should and should not donate or throw away.

The categories are:

  1. Clothes
  2. Books
  3. Papers
  4. Komono (Miscellaneous items)
  5. Sentimental items

Kondo does not tell you what you should or should not keep. In fact, she declares that her clients have the final decision on what they should do with their own belongings. The only way to effectively declutter, and not rebound, is to hone your own decision-making skills and understand what brings you joy personally. Something may bring joy to one person, but be absolutely pointless to another. There is no standard there. Therefore, the best way to declutter is to gather everything up step by step in the categories as listed in order. Clothes are the easiest. There is often less sentimental value associated with them and it is a great way to practice honing your decision-making skills, which will be needed in the later categories.

Before You Start

Before beginning the decluttering process, Kondo says we must answer these questions:

  1. What do you want your life to look like post-clutter?
  2. Why do you want it to be that way?

During the process, for each and every item you hold you must examine and ask yourself: does this item bring me joy? Your goal in the decluttering process is deciding what to keep, not what to get rid of. That is a very important distinction. If you decide it does not bring you joy anymore, you must thank the item for its role in your life and be willing to part from it clean, like a breakup gone right. When she says each item, she means each item. You must touch every single item you own during this process, no exceptions. This will probably mean touching thousands of items over the course of the project, but that is a good thing. When done this way, you can be confident you are not making mistakes and you will know exactly what you own.

After Effects

Decluttering the home declutters the mind. It is through decluttering that we are able to not only organize our living space, but we also have a clearer mind with less distractions, such as “I should clean this space instead of thinking about actual issues I am dealing with right now.” Kondo points out that people often use cleaning as a distraction to keep them from focusing on their next test, big project, or life event. Through the KonMari method we are only surrounded by items and things we love, so we don’t have that excuse anymore and are able to more fully focus on living our lives to the fullest. Kondo states that this method allows people to gain self-confidence in their own decision making skills in general and allows people to move forward with their lives.

Kondo argues through decluttering we will also be able to change our life both inside and outside the home. She says that at the core people do not really change, but the way our passions are manifested may change over time. As people consider what objects in their home truly bring them joy, they in turn realize what brings them joy in life. People have switched their careers and been so much happier because, through decluttering, they rediscovered their passion that had been buried under all the mess. An example she used was a young employee for a corporation (I don’t remember her details) went through the KonMari method with Kondo. After she had finished, she realized the only books she had left were on social work. She recognized that had actually been her passion all along, but she was so busy with everything else that she hadn’t noticed. After a year or two, she had been able to become a social worker and is much happier. This situation will not happen to everyone, nor is it a sure-fire way for fixing our lives, but it helps us think and gain confidence in our ability to make big life-changing decisions ourselves.

Organizing

Kondo also gives tips on organizing and setting up the home post-decluttering. I will not go into too much detail at this time, I may make it a post in the future, but one thing that stuck out to me was emptying my purse when I get home for work. There must be a reserved place for the contents while I am at the house, but it gives the purse a chance to rest and allows for me to know exactly what I did that day. It also allows for less confusion when switching purses, as I am fully familiar with the contents at all times. The most important take-away for organizing is that we must respect our belongings by being grateful for their service to us and know that everything has its place and it must be returned to that place for rest when our need for the item that day is done.

Conclusion

I am interested in this process mostly to have a better grasp of what I own. I also like the idea of it helping with processing what brings me joy in life. Why own a bunch of items that you don’t like? It just sits there unused and unwanted. It reminds me of Toy Story 3, when Andy gives his toys to the girl who loves them and plays with them again. While Kondo regularly talks about discarding this, throwing away that, she really emphasizes the need to respect what we own and focus on the positives of the objects that we do want and/or need.

Criticism

I sometimes did not like her attitude and she also boasted a lot. Granted, she has been extremely successful, but constantly being reminded about how great her method is was not enjoyable. Also, she seemed harsh on what she thinks should be thrown out. I know she’s trying to challenge her clients to really get to the meat of their items, but sometimes she came across as rude. Though I would not say she was ever judgmental. To the contrary, she was very respectful of all her example clients and their idiosyncrasies. Lastly, I believe she does not own an animal. If I am wrong, I will be surprised. She never addressed what to do about litter boxes or anything related to toys or other pet supplies. I would have liked to hear her thoughts on how to keep tidy with a pet.

Final note: This book is part of my 26 book 2017 reading challenge as my “non-fiction” book.

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