I just finished reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo (Amazon). I had heard about it last year so I added it to my library hold list (I was #258, so I finally gave up and purchased it). I was totally skeptical of the title and hype behind this book, but I’ve got to say… it lives up to its name. This book has inspired me to look at my home & possessions in a whole new light.
I am neat by nature and have read dozens of articles on organizing & decluttering, but this book hits it from a much more radical perspective. Prepare to get rid of tons of stuff. The basic premise is to break down all of the items in your home by category, handle each object, and decide whether or not it sparks joy in you. If it does, you create a specific place for it and always put it away when finished. If it doesn’t, you thank it for its service and send it packing.
So while her method is to start with discarding, the focus is on what you want to keep. What brings you joy? Discard the rest and show more intentional care for what’s left. It’s a more emotional, thoughtful approach to decluttering. Less of a system, more of a new way of living.
Spark joy? That can be hard. I started with clothes, which is what Kondo recommends. Do these sweatpants that are 2 sizes too big bring me joy? Well, I don’t know. They sure make me happy when I pull them on and crash on the couch after a long day. (Obviously, I kept them.) But those t-shirts I collected, jeans I never liked, dresses I never wore, shoes I had forgotten. Gone, gone, gone.
In some areas, I am going less with joy and more with use. However, it is surprising how this has focused areas of my home that I used to think were purely functional. For instance, my kitchen. It might be hard to nail down joy when talking slow cookers and pot holders, but I went through each category. I got super specific, handling each utensil and bowl. Sounds crazy but it works. My kitchen now feels like a focused space, filled with just the things that I want. This process took me several months, but it was totally worth it. (Kondo recommends doing this process as quickly as possible for your entire home, around 6 months, start to finish.)
For me, the greatest hurdles in decluttering are things that are still useful (even if unused) and things that are sentimental. I used to use the William Morris quote, “Have nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful” when cleaning and decluttering. I still love his sentiment, but I realized that I was constantly decluttering and my house still felt full of useful, beautiful things that were just taking up space. I actually feel ready to tackle those items now, with a roll of garbage bags in my hand.
Granted, parts of this book felt silly to me (lost in translation?), as I am not one to consider my socks have feelings and my home has preferences, but I liked reading something different and slightly uncomfortable on this topic. I also had to figure in our lifestyle and adjust the advice accordingly. Kondo doesn’t look favorably on stockpiling items (I can’t imagine a Costco in Japan), but I don’t plan to give up my stash of laundry detergent or toilet paper. She also doesn’t factor in kids, but I think the same principle can apply to kids’ clothes and collections. I plan to walk my kids through this process in their bedroom. Stuffed Animals, we’re coming for you.
Also, if you are a Northwest native, you will cringe, in true Portlandia fashion, every time she writes about throwing away bags and bags of unused items. I just had to mentally replace it with sell, donate, recycle, etc. After all, why dump my junk in the landfilll when someone else might want to fill their home with it instead?
We all want our homes to be places of joy and rest and peace. Read this book if you need an extra boost in getting your possessions to match your goal!
Update: If you have read the book and struggled with some of the concepts or felt like they were just a bit too woo-woo for you (like thanking your
crap unwanted items for their service to your home, consider watching Tidying Up on Netflix. It features Marie Kondo doing her Marie Kondo-type stuff, but with regular people in real-life situations and homes, which makes it feel much more manageable and approachable.
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