Now that everyone with a Netflix account (or not), or with a copy of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo (or not) has considered the possibility of tidying up their spaces and lives, if not followed up on it, I thought I’d come on here and give you the lazy girl’s (and guy’s) short guide to Kondo’s method of giving yourself a functional yet warm space to explore your future in. My list below is by no means an exhaustive (or even necessarily useful) yet concise treatment of Kondo’s method, but I believe there’s some useful wisdom in what she does, a great deal of heart in all the methodical organizing.
1) Pass on the things in your life you don’t see yourself using. Her mantra of “Spark Joy” can have some of the English-speaking world confused. Her process is to take each item from each category in your life and ask whether it sparks joy in you. If it does, keep it. If it doesn’t, pass it on. It may inherently be useful or not, brand new or not, but the point is whether it makes you happy. Now, if you’re anything like me, the words “spark” and “joy” when placed next to each other remind you of multiple scoops of ice-cream resting in a cone that can barely contain them on a hot, summer day when you were ten. In other words, a very infrequent occurrence, at any age. I can hardly summon such an emotion even for a perfectly usable spectacle case.
But, without massively generalising, (and without knowing or being Japanese), I guess the idea of “joy” in East Asian culture is a few degrees lower than Western commercials for potato chips. I have a perfectly functional and perfectly ordinary watch that I will NEVER get rid of, simply because I’ve been through so much with it, and so much of who I was growing up is reflected in it. Others may not see it, but I do feel a sense of joy remembering who I was when I used to wear it all the time, and measure my actions now against who I was then.
I’ve struggled with the sentimentals, but Kondo suggests allotting a special box to them. I used to have a much more brutal, practical approach to this. I always thought of what I would take with me if I were moving, and this did help me keep some of the clutter down. Having a special box just for sentimental items means decisions around moving get so much easier, and it’s usually just your essentials and your box full of keepsakes that go with you. Now, if you’re sentimental about a broken four-poster bed…well, you’d have to have a greater think on that one. I won’t be the one to tell you to throw it away, or find a vehicle and a room big enough to move it.
I’m still in the midst of the long-term process of tidying up myself, and what I’ve found most exhilarating is to use the things I wasn’t using before. I have about eighty unread physical books. Marie says to get rid of unread books because they have served their purpose – even if that purpose was to not be read by you. It makes sense, but then last year I read a book that I’ve had for over twelve years, and thoroughly enjoyed it. I’ve tweaked my approach to reading those eighty books: not buying too many books until I have read them, and passing on the ones I don’t see myself reading again.
2) Have a designated space for everything. Kondo relates a delightful coming-home-from-work routine in her book where she has a specific place for everything: her shoes, her handbag, her work clothes etc. It might seem mystical and a lot of hard-work to some, but I’ve pretty much done the same my whole life. Kondo also says that the excuse, “I don’t have the space” doesn’t work, because you can always make space for what matters to you. I always applied this to activities in my life, such as making time for learning a skill daily, or doing certain chores, but I also understand how it can apply to our living spaces. When I’m struggling with my mood or my health I get messier, but I usually have my bag organised, my clothes ironed the night before. When I get home, I immediately place my shoes in the shoe rack, my bag in its designated space, and my clothes on hangers or in the laundry bag. I always struggle with finding loose change before I go out. Kondo talks about how she finds coins in the most unlikely places when she’s helps her clients in tidying, but never when they need them. If you just designate a place, like a bowl, to keep loose change in as and when you find them, you wouldn’t be scurrying around when you are pressed for time in the morning. The idea is so simple, and with lifelong experience, I can assure you that it is the easiest way to keep your space tidy.
And that’s it, really. Only have things around you that you use, and have a designated space for each of them. I am not a generally messy person, but I struggle all the time with keeping my space clean. Kondo dismisses the notion of being inherently messy or organised, or the idea that tidying up on a regular basis takes a lot of time. Unlike my brutal “What if I were moving…” approach to tidying, Kondo suggests the more gentler approach of visualising your future, and asking which items go into it. Do you really need that CD you hated and still don’t see yourself loving anytime soon? There are, when you think about it, very few things you actually need to have a warm and comfortable life. Some people like it messy, as long as it is a reflection of who they are as people. What I like best about Kondo’s method is that she has no intention of making your home look like an interior design catalogue. Not unless that is what you want.
Have you tried tidying up through Kondo’s method?