The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up!

This new year of 2015 is just kicking off and we have already had many enquiries from residential and commercial clients that seem to have made a new interior design of their house or office their New Year’s resolution. We therefore feel that The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo is an appropriate subject to start off the year and our newly created blog.

As an interior designer and feng shui consultant, I embrace nothing more than eliminating clutter. The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up has sparked a lot of interest lately so I picked it up to read what I thought to be yet another book on organizing and eliminating clutter. While there are many books on the subject out there, I found the author’s introduction of Shintoism into her method and the Japanese way of framing a relationship with our possessions very interesting. The ‘KonMari’ approach is graceful as it focuses on giving respect to everything we own and instructs us to not focus on what to discard but to focus on what we want to keep in order to be surrounded only by things we love. She highlights that what matters is the lesson an object taught you while you owned it and that you do not have to hang on to it forever ‘just because’. I like that a lot!

This is not a critical book review and I won’t point out any of its shortcomings. I much rather want to summarise some good points I took from it and pass on the positive vibe of this nicely written book.

For all those who do not have the time to read it, here is what the KonMari method is about:

  • Food, clothing and shelter are the most basic human needs so you would think that where we live would be considered just as important as what we eat and what we wear.

  • ‘A messy room equals a messy mind’. When a room becomes cluttered, the cause is more than just physical. Visible mess helps distract us from the true source of disorder, the act of cluttering is really an instinctive reflex that draws our attention away from the heart of the issue. When a room is clean and uncluttered, you have no choice but to examine your inner state, you can see any issues you have been avoiding and are forced to deal with them.

  • Being messy is not hereditary nor is it related to lack of time: it has far more to do with the accumulation of mistaken notions about tidying such as ‘tackle one room at a time’ or ‘it’s better to do a little bit each day’. Start by discarding, then organize your space: thoroughly, completely and in one go. If you tidy up in one shot, rather than little by little, you can dramatically change your mindset.

  • Our possessions very accurately relate to the history of decisions we have made in life. Tidying is a way of taking stock that shows us what we really like, one of the magical effects of tidying is confidence in your decision making capacity. The question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life.

  • As you put your house in order and decrease your possessions, you will see what your true values are and what is really important in your life – don’t focus on discarding or efficient storage methods, focus instead on choosing the things that inspire joy and on enjoying life according to your own standards.

  • Tidy by category not by location, only this way you will grasp the sheer volume of things of the same category that you have been accumulating.

  • Take each item in your hand and ask: ’Does this spark joy?’ If it does, keep it, if not, dispose of it! Too many people live surrounded by things they don’t need ‘just because’ – take stock of your belongings and save only what really sparks joy.

  • 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 of for future.

  • Every object has its purpose, by acknowledging its contribution and letting it go with gratitude, you will be able to put things you own and your life in order. When you come across something that is hard to discard, consider carefully why you have it in the first place, when you got it and what meaning it had for you then. Re-assess its role in your life: if you bought it because you thought it looked cool in the shop it has fulfilled its function of giving you a thrill when you bought it.

  • De-cluttering should be conducted in the following order: 1. Clothing as most people can make decisions more easily about it which will strengthen their decision making skills for the next categories, 2. Books, 3. Paperwork, 4. Miscellaneous, 5. Personal items and mementos including photos

  • Clothes: Break the habit of downgrading clothes that don’t thrill you to loungewear. What you wear in the house does impact your self-image and precisely because there is no one there to see you, it makes far more sense to reinforce a positive self-image by wearing clothes you love. When hanging them, arrange your clothes so that they rise to the right, lines that slope up to the right make people feel comfortable.

  • Books: To truly decide what books you want to keep, remove ALL books from your bookcase and handle each one of them individually. You cannot judge whether or not a book really grabs you when it is still on the shelf. The moment you first encounter a book is the right time to read it - to avoid missing that moment keep your collection small. Sometimes means never: you may have wanted to read a book when you bought it but if you have not read it by now, the books’ purpose was to teach you that you did not need it.

  • Paperwork: There are only three categories: currently in use, needed for a limited time period or must be kept indefinitely. The filing method is very simple: papers to be saved go in one folder and papers that need to be dealt with in another. Make sure you keep all papers in one spot only, never let them spread to other parts of the house.

  • Greeting cards: Each card has fulfilled its purpose the moment the receiver has finished reading it. Keep only a few that spark joy in your heart.

  • Presents: The true purpose of a gift is to be received! Rather than things they are a means for conveying someone’s feelings, you don’t need to feel guilty for parting with a gift you have no use for, just thank it for the joy it gave you when you first received it.

  • Empty boxes: If you consider the rent or mortgage you are paying, turning your space into a storage shed for empty boxes costs you more than what you could earn selling an appliance in its original box. Don’t keep them for moving either, you can worry about suitable boxes when the time comes.

  • Mysterious cords: They will always just remain that: a mystery! Keep only those cords you can clearly identify and get rid of the rest, your collection most likely contains quite a few that belong to defunct machines you have long since discarded.

  • Products from the latest health craze: Let them go – the exhilaration you felt when you bought them is what counts, express you appreciation and let them go.

  • Every item must have a designated place because the existence of an item without a home multiplies the chances that your space will become cluttered again. Dedicate a spot for every last thing you own, decide where your things belong and when you finish using them, put them there. When it comes to storage, vertical is best: things can be stacked forever and endlessly on top which makes it harder to notice the increasing volume.

  • Why do we have too much stuff – it is because we do not accurately grasp how much we actually own! Pursue ultimate simplicity in storage so that you can tell at a glance how much you have. Get rid of excess stock all at once – you may think it is a waste of money but reducing your stock and relieving yourself of the burden of excess is the quickest and most effective way to put your things in order.

Of course, these are just a few points the author is making. If you want to delve a little bit more into the relationship between you and your possessions pick up the book, it is a quick and fun read.

And for now, have a good start to the new year and stay posted!

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