Seems everyone is talking about The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, and the author, Marie Kondo. You’ve probably heard someone extol the virtues of “KonMari’ing” their sock drawer or sweater collection. Recently, she came out with a sequel, entitled, Spark Joy, which provides more detailed information about her clothes-folding and other storage tips
Personally, I have been a big fan of the KonMari method since I first read about it in The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up last year.
In its essence, the KonMari method helps you to declutter your home with one simple method:
- You gather everything of one type together (starting with clothes, then books, and then papers, and on through the miscellanea we all have crammed into junk drawers.)
- You pick up every single item (every pair of socks or pants, every blouse, every hat, every tee shirt), one a time, and you ask yourself one simple question: “Does this spark joy in me?”
- If the answer is no, you discard it and if the answer is yes, you keep it.
Joy. Not a word most of us associate with the seemingly-endless task of keeping a home (of any size) free from clutter.
Those who swear by her method, as I do, know that this simple question, “Does this spark joy?” is incredibly powerful. It provides an immediate gut check that provides clarity. I held up an almost brand-new jacket my mother had given me and although I liked the color, I also remembered immediately that it’s itchy and too tight. Bam; into the donation pile it went. Later, when going through my books, I found tomes I had kept for years because they had been given to me by an ex. Holding them reminded me of the sadness of our breakup. Out they went. And so on.
What’s important to you today?
The life-changing magic claim is harder to discern immediately, but Kondo’s theory is that by decluttering – literally getting rid of the weight of the past and unlikely dreams for the future – we can truly focus on what is most important to us right now.
Naysayers like to disparage the KonMari method and poke fun at some of her zanier ideas (thank your socks for doing the hard work of keeping your feet comfortable; empty out your purse every night.) But the truth at the base of her method is that the more stuff we have to buy, store, maintain, organize, replace, and obsess over, the less time we have to figure out and do what is most essential.
How to get started
Getting started with her method can feel overwhelming, but I found it to be the exact opposite. I started with my clothes, as is her suggestion, but only by room. First I did my bedroom, then the front hall closet, then the basement storage area. Then I did my books, again by room (first the basement with most of the bookshelves, and then the bedroom, and finally the living room. Weeks later, I remembered the kitchen and the cookbooks! Eventually it all got done.
Next, I tackled “papers,” as she suggests. This took more than one shot, as I had papers in a variety of places, but it felt fantastic to shred pounds of unnecessary clutter! I still need to organize my photos (what to do with two dozen years of photo albums and 15 years of digital photos?!). And the junk drawer in the kitchen still has too much stuff, but the end is in sight. And just as Marie Kondo promises, there was some magic involved. I found a beloved and long-lost shirt, discovered stashes of money, AND, as she promised, others in my house have started following the method, inspired by me!
By Susan A. Messina
Susan is Iona’s Director of Development and Communications. She holds three master’s degrees, including two from Bryn Mawr’s Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research, and is a Certified Fund Raising Executive.