Controversial

The life-changing magic of…tidying!?

‘Tidying’ and ‘magic’ are two words that don’t seem to be closely related. Tidying is a chore. It has to be done, but it’s certainly not fun (let alone magic).

Now the magical, sparkly, illuminating bits and pieces that add spice to my life, or change it in any meaningful or exciting way – how would I make them appear in my life? Certainly not by sorting my socks drawer or my kitchen cupboard.

Well, here’s another approach:

After reading every book available on tidying, sorting and going minimalist, I felt like I had given all methods and systems a good try. Most of what I’d tried was based on figures. Tidying is a number’s game, these books tell us. Keep 5, throw out 15. Keep 1/3. Only keep what you’ve worn/used over the last 12 months. Pack things in a box – if you can’t remember what’s in there after 6 months, throw out the box without opening. Only keep things that you have used over the last 3 months, or that you will certainly be using within the coming 3 months.

These instructions are crystal clear. But they’re also brutal. They don’t take into account how I feel about something. These approaches are meant to work for anyone, anywhere.

Just that they don’t.

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Marie Kondo’s kitchen in Tokyo

The other approach is outlined in Marie Kondo’s book “The life-changing magic of tidying”. I know what you think. I thought the same. I mean, really? Life-changing? Sorting my cutlery will change my life?

I started reading. I kept reading. Page after page, I was looking for something, anything, where I could wholeheartedly say: “See, Marie, your method is flawed! It won’t work.” The thing is, I couldn’t find anything. Her method is so simple, and yet so powerful.

The book has a lot more detail but it all boils down to this:

  • You remove every single item of a certain type (e.g. all tops, all pots, all books) from where they are stored. This includes other places in the house where similar items might be found.
  • You place all of it on the floor, on a huge pile. Nothing remains packed away.
  • You touch every single item. Pick them up, one by one.
  • Now you’ve got a few seconds to consider this one, important question: “Does this item spark joy?”
  • If the answer is YES, you’ll keep it. If it’s NO, you’ll throw it out (recycle, donate etc.)
  • There is no second-guessing. Your intuition at that very moment is unbeatable. Your reasoning will never be more accurate than your first thought, your first intuition.
  • You start with easier items (start with clothes, then do household items, books, finish up with letters, photos etc.)

I thought our household was streamlined. But it wasn’t. I tried her method, and realised that there were so many things that I didn’t want to keep. My brain was telling me that I should, but my heart felt that they needed to go.

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I love hear approach, and I’ve never moved through so much stuff so swiftly. It’s so simple, yet so personalised. There are no figures you’re supposed to target. No instructions, nothing. Just listen to how you feel about things. Your first, intuitive response is what matters. She calls the result life-changing, and maybe, just maybe, she isn’t that far from the truth.

A few Marie Kondo quotes that got me thinking:

  • Storage ‘solutions’ are really just a means within which to bury possessions that spark no joy.
  • We should be choosing what to keep, not what to get rid of.
  • When we really delve into the reasons for why we can’t let something go, there are only two: an attachment to the past or a fear for the future. 
  • The space in which we live should be for the person we are becoming now, not for the person we were in the past.

Imagine you are surrounded only by things that spark joy. Only those things that you really value and cherish. No matter where you look, you’ll find things that you love. They are there because of just that (not because they are practical, were gifts, or cost a lot of money). Love and joy. And for no other reason.

That really feels good.

What do you think?

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All images: Marie Kondo’s home in Tokyo.

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8 replies »

    • I agree, I was reluctant (yet another tidying and decluttering book?) but it works. Granted, it’s on the long side and I’m not interested in how she got into tidying (things she tried as a kid etc.) which pretty much fills the first third of the book – but when it comes to hands-on advice, it’s brilliant. Definitely worth a try, even if you only read the last few chapters about how to tackle “stuff”. Would love to hear if you end up reading it and how you like it! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Andrea, I too read the book recently and implemented her recommendations. I do strongly believe it has been life changing for me. I now look for joy in everything I surround myself with – incl people, relationships, work etc. It becomes an a philosophy to live your life by – choose to keep Joy. Gently let go of the rest.

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