Clutter is a problem for almost everyone and there is no shortage of advice on how to address it. Marie Kondo, an organizing expert in Japan, describes her unique approach in The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. As a professional organizer I am always looking for new techniques to share with my clients, so I was excited to read this international bestseller. The fact that this short book on “tidying” actually became an international bestseller speaks to the widespread problem of clutter as well as the author’s simple, clear advice.
Kondo’s approach, called the KonMari Method, differs from conventional organizing wisdom. Instead of tackling your stuff a little at a time to avoid getting overwhelmed, she advises a comprehensive overhaul of your entire home at once. Overwhelm is sort of the point – to see your entire wardrobe in a giant heap on the floor shows you just how much clothing you actually own. She advises sorting by category starting with clothing, then books, then papers, and so on working up to your most sentimental items. For each category gather every qualifying item in your home in one place, and pick up each thing in the pile one by one. Consider if that item “sparks joy”. If it does, it’s a keeper. If not, it needs to go. That’s her only criteria.
This seems overly simplistic – what about functionality or how often a thing is being used? In her system a shirt that was just worn yesterday might end up in the trash. But think of being surrounded only by things that make you happy, of opening the closet to get dressed and finding only clothes you love. This is where her “life-changing magic” comes in. The things we surround ourselves with reflect us but also shape us. Choosing our belongings carefully and intentionally can help us become what we want to be.
Kondo comes across like an organizing Mary Poppins: stern but charming. Her habit of ascribing feelings to inanimate objects might seem too precious to some readers. But her advice to pare down to the essentials that serve you here and now is sound. I definitely recommend this book for anyone looking to simplify.