This short book — The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo — is a New York Times best seller and has taken the world by storm. I sat on the library waiting list for two months. Naturally, when it arrived, I counted down the minutes until the evening when I could curl up to read, ready to experience some life-changing magic.
This magical system — the KonMarie Method — boils down to two rules: (1) Discard or (2) Keep.
At first glance, there is nothing life-changing about it. It’s quite obvious, actually. You either keep things or get rid of them. But what makes her method distinctive is two-fold: (1) organize by category (2) the absolute requirement to physically touch every single item.
1. Organize by Category
Most people say “I’m going to clean-out my bedroom, or the closet, or the kitchen.” The problem is you never fully tidy because each room consists of items that are easy to get rid of (e.g. clothes that no longer fit) and hard to get rid of (your grandmother’s dish). Trying to do all of those at once means you will get overwhelmed and quit. This method goes from easiest to hardest: Clothes — Books — Papers — Miscellaneous — Sentimental. Then, you are supposed to take all the items from that category from your entire house and move to requirement number 2 which is:
2. Physically Touch Every Single Item
At this point, all of your clothes are in a pile in the center of the floor. (It helps to sort again by tops, bottoms, jackets, etc.). Then, you pick up each item individually. If it doesn’t bring you joy, then you discard it. It’s that simple. You continue this process through each category. The goal is to surround yourself with things that are life-giving and bring you happiness.
But what about utilitarian items? A spatula doesn’t bring me joy — until it’s time to flip a pancake. Then I am quite happy I have it because it serves its purpose well. Same with a trash can. You get the idea.
And this is when it gets a little woo woo for me.
When an item is ready to be discarded, you are to say thank you to the item for doing its job and then happily send it along.
Oh it gets better.
When you come home from work and take your shoes off, you are to say thank you for keeping my feet dry and bringing me home safely.
If we treat our house and its contents better, they will treat us better. Eastern Philosophy meets the Golden Rule.
The new tactic I learned and cannot wait to try is the KonMarie Method for Folding Clothes. She says we are not supposed to stack clothes because the clothes on the bottom of the pile have to bear all the weight and we should be kinder to our clothes (more woo woo). Instead, she recommends tightly folding clothes vertically, like books on a bookshelf. Your drawers will hold more and at a glance you will see all that you have. And clothes should be kept in a gradient (I do that already! Gold star!). She also says you should fold everything except those items that do not want to be folded. (Ask your silk shirt. It will tell you).
While I can’t testify to the life-changing magic of this book, I can wholeheartedly agree that her brand of tidying up is life-changing. I realized that I have been doing this instinctively most of my life. Many of you know that I am a minimalist by nature. A firm believer that outer order leads to inner calm, I have made it a habit to go to bed each evening with the house in order. I don’t keep paper. A few years ago I did a massive purge and sold or gave away five bookshelves of books (my friends!). I’ve even gotten rid of shoeboxes full of photos (which I am told is the cardinal sin) — not because they are from a time in my life I want to forget, but because some moments in life I really only need to keep a snapshot of, no matter how wonderful it was.
When I clear out the clutter and only keep what I love, I have a better sense of who I am, what I like, and who I want to become.
And then there’s my couch.
I hate my couch.
My couch came with the condo I purchased and then followed me to my new home simply because everyone who sits on my couch, LOVES MY COUCH because it is the MOST COMFORTABLE COUCH IN THE WORLD. And to their point, a comfortable couch is a good couch. Meanwhile it mocks me daily with its fat arms. I like slender arms and furniture with shapely legs. The back should have a hint of curve for interest. Am I asking a lot of furniture? Perhaps. I blame my mother.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on what organizing methods work for you, things that spark joy, and if you have read the book. Leave a comment!