There are so many books and articles these days about organizing your life or simplifying your existence. REAL Simple magazine is devoted to the idea that simplification leads to happiness – or the act of creating more physical space in your home (or office) can actually give you more emotional space for happiness and contentment. Whether you buy into the Zen of organization or not, there is something very satisfying about clearing things out and organizing what’s left. Marie Kondo’s book is a guidebook – with specific steps – for getting through the process of tidying up your life.
Certainly at midlife we are faced with ample opportunity to unclutter – when the nest empties, when we downsize, and as we help elderly relatives get rid of years of accumulation. If you are considering a house share, tidying up can make space for a housemate and the additional income for things you want to do. Fall is the perfect time to get the home and office in shape for the holidays.
Marie Kondo’s Japanese method of tidying up has become an adjective and verb – KonMari method or to be KonMari’d – and it is not about giving things up, but rather deciding what is valuable enough to you to keep. She is famous for saying, “Keep only those things that speak to your heart. Then take the plunge and discard all the rest.”
Her “Konverts” say that the opposite of happiness isn’t sadness—it’s chaos.
The end goal is that the stuff in your home are only things that make you happy. The only clothing you have are things you love wearing. The only paper in your life is what you actually need. Anything you keep has to have a place that makes sense for it to be stored. The books are guides to purging and then respecting and folding away what you keep.
There is an order to this. You start with clothing, then books, followed by paper, what she calls Komono (miscellaneous stuff), and finally mementos. One category at a time, you put everything in that category in the middle of the room. This is important because you need to see how much you own. As you go through the process, you hold each item in your hand and ask, “Does this spark joy?” If it doesn’t, it goes out. According to Kondo, it can be helpful to “say goodbye” and thank your things for the role they played; it brings closure.
“Once you learn to choose your belongings properly, you will be left only with the amount that fits perfectly in the space you currently own.”
There is a guide for folding that makes Martha Stewart look cowardly. You don’t stack things. You fold clothing and stand it vertically in drawers. The description is much harder to understand than the YouTube video! Her guides are very helpful for storing things smartly. Not surprisingly, once you’ve purged you find you do have room for the things you love.
“Your real life begins after putting your house in order.”
If you are literally one camera crew away from a hoarder’s episode, this method may seem daunting. Because the process is condensed, you rediscover the interests and passions you’ve buried in your stuff. Kondo’s belief is that by questioning everything you own, you have to answer the question of how you want to live your life. She has also observed that clients who are “Detoxing” the home see an effect on their body, as well. And the process leads people to better decision making in other aspects of their life.