My wife and I recently attended a presentation given by Marie Kondo, author of The Life-changing Magic of Tidying up – The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing hosted by USF’s Center for Asia Pacific Studies. It was eye-opening to hear her methodical approach to cleaning up one’s life and I thin there are some valuable lessons for anyone – even collectors of antiques or vintage and novelty salt and pepper shakers (or anything else, for that matter).
Some of the key takeaways from Marie Kondo include:
1 Imagine your ideal life (in vidid detail) before you begin
Think about how your day-to-day life would be with less mess and unneeded items. Imaging this as concretely as possible – like a video of a day in your life. What are you doing? What are your surroundings like without the mess? Get inspired first, before you try to tackle anything.
2 Tidy up In one shot as quickly and completely as possible
Rather than try to incrementally tackle this, do it at one time (where possible). I imagine it might make sense to do categories all at one time if you can’t afford to tackle everything (on a long weekend, for example).
3 Rather than looking for reasons to discard things, think of reasons to keep things
Don’t walk around always trying to rationalize how to throw things away. These are negative feelings towards objects around the house. Instead, hold items and think about reasons to keep them. How they’ve helped you in the past. How useful they can be. In some cases, you’ll realize you’ve lost the need to keep that item, but in many other cases you’ll learn to really appreciate what you have. For things you have helped you live a better life – learn to praise them.
4 Sort by category, not location
This is a really important piece of advice. Marie recommends that you gather up all of the items of any particular category of items, and put them in one place. You’ll often be surprised by the quantity of things y0u have. Then, tackle each category (see the recommended order below).
Go through your items and hold each one to your heart. Does it “Spark joy”? If so, you should keep it. If it doesn’t inspire you anymore, put it in the discard pile (I recommend finding a local thrift store or charity to donate your discarded items to).
5 Start with clothes. Save mementos and gifts for last
Marie has a specific order that she recommends you tackle your items in:
- Miscellaneous items
- Mementos and gifts
She recommends mementos and gifts for later after your abilities get honed. It’s very hard to work on these types of items at the start.
6 How do we make other people clean up their stuff?
At the end, Marie addressed this topic. You can’t force other people to organize and declutter, so she recommends that you focus on yourself and set a good example, “organizing is contagious!”. If they’re willing, make sure that they work on their “ideal life” story first before diving in. Start from step 1! If they’re a hoarder, realize that everything makes them happy, but it may also be making them miserable. Help them visualize that ideal life.
Bonus: Some warning signs that you need to work on your organizing
Here are some warning signs that you may need to tackle start the Konmari process.
- Clothes not worn for over 3 years
- Cosmetics left untouched or used halfway
- Clothes on the chair or the bed
- Messy contents of drawers
- Messy contents of your bag
- Books or magazines on the floor
- Documents scattered on the floor
Marie has also come out with the Konmari app. Check it out if you’re serious!