I recently finished the animated comic book “The Life-Changing Manga of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo. The author wrote the book as an approach to combat clutter and the stress that usually follows. To summarize Marie Kondo’s KonMari Method: In order to live comfortably and achieve happiness for your family, only choose items that bring you joy, and cherish each item individually. The rest is excess. A cluttered house can extend out to having a cluttered mind, and cause unwanted stress.
As a freegan who owns about 10 shirts and 4 pants, I don’t have this problem of owning too much, but that’s because I’ve been actively on this journey for a few years now. For your average American careerist or family, accumulating single-use or rarely-used items, and not knowing where things are, is all too familiar. This is why I thought it important to share Marie’s process. I hope that one day I will have the opportunity, and people’s confidence, to guide them through the steps to a tidier life! Plus I will properly dispose of the discarded items (something that Marie doesn’t do).
Before commencing the tidying, it’s important to perform a ritual of thanking the house for always protecting you. During this moment of uninterrupted silence, many people realize how their home has truly provided for them in times of thick or thin, despite feeling frustrated with it at times. It’s a brief meditation that ends with a Japanese bow of gratitude. Next, it’s time to get your hands dirty.
Step 1: Clothing
Take all your clothes and pile them in middle of house, so you can see them all together. Only when you are confronted with what you have, do you realize what you need to do. Pick up one item at a time, and if it sparks joy then keep it. How do you know if it sparks joy or not? Imagine the feeling you feel when you hold a puppy or kitten. Folding is next, and is meant to conserve space, but also gives you the opportunity to quietly thank them for how they’ve served you. There is the Kondo technique to folding you can learn from reading the book.
Step 2: Books
Start by bringing all your books into the center of the room from every corner of the house. If you have a lot of books, it may be helpful to get a dolly or something with wheels to easily transport the books. Also, I’d recommend bringing a couple containers and placing them nearby to serve as your recycling bin, donation bin, and trash after you’ve decided that a certain book isn’t worth keeping. From here follow the clothing technique, pick-up each book, and contemplate whether or not the book sparks joy in you. (No way am I getting rid of the Harry Potter series books!)
Step 3: Papers
For me, the papers I posses are very sentimental and are mostly notebooks from college and high school. This makes this step my most tricky. What if one day I want to look back on my school work, and go back into 16-year-old Charlie’s mind? Maybe I’ll be embarrassed by how elementary of a writer I was, or, on the other hand, maybe I’ll be impressed. Once again, the key is to judge the paper’s content on whether it brings me joy from reading it or it’s only “meh.”
Step 4: Komono
This Japanese phrase represents the kitchen, bathroom, garage, and other miscellaneous stuff. Take a tour of the whole house looking for these things, and come prepared with small boxes for items that you can compartmentalize and fit into one large box or storage container. When tidying the garage, it’s best to take everything out, pile it in the middle, and sort them into categories. If you come across sentimental items, leave them for last. Approach the kitchen in a less-aggressive way. The kitchen is a room that’ll never be perfect, due to the high activity. Stand up items to demonstrate how much you really have when placing them on shelves or in drawers. Have a designated spot for everything to keep it consistent.
Step 5: Sentimental Items
Once you have a strong grasp of what really sparks joy, move into this step. Does it literally give you a feeling of warm fuzziness? Is it tied to a memory that is inhibiting you from moving forward in your life or growing? For example, I have a bunch of old Xmas and Birthday cards that are nice for memory-sake, but don’t really add any value to my day-to-day. I took photos of each, and organized them into a folder on my computer allowing me to recycle them all. Who knows, in a few years I may want to look back at the messages my friends and family wrote, but those messages can remain digital not physical.
There are a few general rules when tidying as well:
-It may seem like there is more clutter than ever, but do not worry. Follow this process step by step, and there will be an end in sight.
-Tips for storage: Keep things of the same sizes in the same place for consistency purposes and utilize boxes.
-In Marie’s words, “when tidying, don’t choose what to discard, choose what to keep.”
-Overall, it’s okay to keep your possessions, and you should never feel pressure to throw stuff away. The KonMari method is intended to make you think about how each possession contributes to your life, and weigh its importance. Is it worth keeping because it makes you joyous, or is it more of a burden?