For most of us that fleeting moment of satisfaction after tidying a room when everything is ordered and its place is just that a temporary fix before day to day clutter gradually takes over again. With western societies drowning in oceans of material possessions, the inevitable by-product of our industrialised societies the home has become the front line for the battle to declutter. Of all the guides and self help books on the market regarding this topic perhaps the most influential is Marie Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Kondo is an organising consultant who after publishing several books and presenting a recent Netflix series on the subject has come to world wide fame beyond her native Japan. She was even named among Time Magazine’s most influential people of 2015. But what exactly is the KonMari method?
Tidying Up with Marie Kondo
The Marie Kondo method at its most basic is about recognising that tidying up and creating order is like any learned skill and so must be approached as such. Just like learning to speak a foreign language, or to cook there should be an over arching methodology at play. Kondo advises approaching the subject by creating broad series of categories and subcategories. Working within these categories you decide what can be dispensed with and what should be retained.
How to declutter your home
At its most simple the KonMari principle asks whether the object in question sparks joy, if it doesn’t then it should be consigned to clutter. After years of helping people clean out their homes Kondo has recognised the psychological benefits of order and the universal appeal of decluttering the home. She approaches the challenge of tidying up the home as a series of areas each of which has its own associated logic. So for instance the entrance hall should be approached from the point of view of making a good first impression, establishing a sense of Zen on arrival. Organising the kitchen pantry on the other hand is primarily about food safety and grouping different food related products together. The bathroom should equally be emptied of all those cosmetic items and cleaning products that are out of date or simply have not been used in the recent past.
Marie Kondo Tips
Kondo describes her light bulb moment when she discovered she has been approaching the whole subject of organising from the wrong point of view.
“I was only looking for things to throw out. What I should be doing is finding the things I want to keep. Identifying the things that make you happy: that is the work of tidying.”
For neophytes the wardrobe is a great place to start. Clothes, shoes and accessories do tend to mount up over the years and if we are all honest with ourselves there are probably many items in our wardrobes that don’t make us happy anymore. Starting with what no longer fits, what isn’t in great condition etc. it should be possible to greatly cut down on our collections of clothes and accessories.
Marie Kondo folding
The simple act of folding clothes can be revolutionary in terms of saving space, for anything that cannot be stored vertically the KonMari method advises folding in such a way that the piece should be capable of standing unsupported on its side. This is achieved with an almost reverential act of touch to experience the material. A tee-shirt for example should be folded over in three, that is to say laying it flat, folding over the sleeves onto the body of the garment and then folding the rectangular shape over itself in three equal parts so the end product can sit on its side. This can be stored in a drawer with the added advantage of being more visible and occupying less space. Socks should be approached likewise and never balled together, which actually damages the elastic top.
Marie Kondo: Yes or Not?
With the new Netflix series “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” the Kondo methodology is also under greater scrutiny however. What is considered tidy or ordered is as much a cultural phenomenon as it is an empirical one. Western homes tend to be somewhat larger than Japanese homes, and therefore can accommodate more things without necessarily being considered cluttered. The principle of using ‘sparking joy’ as an arbiter of what is retained and what is disposed of may not necessarily be appropriate for every situation or category. Functionality should also be taken into account, if a certain object fulfils a certain function, is working and may be required at some point or other in the future then why get rid of it.
Equally although in theory every individual within a household being responsible for their own clutter sounds convincing, as espoused by KonMari, in reality there is usually one person that makes most of the decisions regarding clutter when it comes to down to it. And keeping everything tidy in the specific KonMari way can be a time consuming activity, from folding clothes to an ongoing interrogation regarding joy. Sometimes there is a manic joy in a sort of controlled chaos itself.