In 2011, a seemingly inconspicuous book entered the scene, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo. This unique Japanese perspective on organization quickly become a best-seller, and I stumbled upon it a few years later. The basic idea around the book is how clutter and disorganization not only leads to a messy home but an out of focus and out of control life with unneeded stress compounded day by day. The effect of getting your home in order having a corresponding effect on your overall life is the magic of tidying up.
Although never specifically mentioned by name, there is a definite minimalist approach to living contained within the pages, and I highly recommend this book to just about everyone. The majority of us have way more stuff than we need and continuously keep adding to it. However, I do have one minor complaint about the book, and that is the fact that you can tell it was primarily written geared toward women. This article will serve as a complement to the book and to add a male perspective to the lessons it teaches.
Defining the KonMari Method
The crux of the entire book and what separates it from other organization books is what the author calls the KonMari method whose name derives from a combination of her first and last name. If you are a messy person by nature, it can be very difficult to break old habits and organize your space. Also, most people tend to be satisfied when they throw out or give away one of two things they had lying around the house, but this doesn’t lead to any kind of lasting change.
The KonMari method core philosophy is centered around the belief that you can’t change habits until you change your way of thinking. I believe this is a quite profound statement and rings true outside the realm of our organization habits to all habits we develop throughout life.
In response to this belief, the KonMari method involves organizing your entire house in one shot, instead of a little section here and there at a time. This doesn’t mean all in one day but in a very short period of time, the span of a few days or week. By producing a dramatic change in your environment, your life will correspondingly change dramatically as a result. The willpower you mustered to enact a change will ensure that the results last, and you and your home will never be the same again.
The Art of Discarding
Before you can begin organizing and making your home a more clean and efficient place, you actually need to effectively discard of all the unnecessary items in your home. Kondo brings up a rather brilliant and unique mindset to this task. Instead of focusing on what to discard instead focus on what to keep.
Don’t discard randomly but instead pick one category and stick with it. The sequential order that Kondo suggests works best based on the difficulty of storage is: clothes first, then books, paper, miscellaneous items (electronics, tools, etc.), and finally mementos. Mementos may hold significant emotional value which makes them some of the hardest to get rid of.
After you have picked a category and gathered everything from all over the house in one pile then you should pick up each item and think about the emotion that it gives you. Kondo refers to this feeling as, “sparks joy.” If the item does not give you that feeling then it should be discarded. I think for guys that this process should be tweaked slightly.
Some items may indeed have certain feelings attached to them, but I think you should take a cold and rational look at each item and assess their utility. What purpose does this serve, or is it just taking up space? Am I actually going to use this or am I just saving it for that future day that will never come? The fact that Kondo lists clothes as the first thing to discard gives away the fact that her method caters to a more feminine approach. The concept is still sound though, and it just needs to be tweaked to suit your needs.
Organizing the Right Way
After discarding then comes the task of how to organize your remaining items in the most efficient way possible. Kondo calls it pursuing ultimate simplicity which I fully support. I think this concept can be applied by men a little more easily than women. I believe in general we don’t care to come up with some clever way or fanciful way of storing things, we like it easy and simple.
The key to successful storage and which is why Kondo suggests sorting and discarding everything at once is to get a total count of all the things you actually possess. A lot of times we really have no idea what junk we have stuck in a closet, drawer, or shoe box we had forgotten all about. If you make your storage too complicated you will surely lose track of things which can eventually spiral out of control.
To maximize and simplify storage, Kondo has two rules: store all items by type in the same place and don’t scatter storage space. For example, don’t keep books in separate places all over the house, have one designated place for them and if you set you mind on that you will always return them back to that place when you are done. What is key though is that you must make it easy to put away. If we make it difficult to put something back we are very likely to just put it anywhere instead of going through the trouble of putting it back.
Kondo goes through great detail based on category on the best way to store things and besides some musing about socks feeling happy if folded the right way, it is some pretty solid advice. I will not go into detail here, but it is worth a read. I think if you put your mind to it though and realize that things should be put together all in one place instead of scattered, you can come up with a better organizational flow in your place.
The Importance of Digital Organization
There is one glaring omission in Kondo’s book that I feel I should point out. She doesn’t mention anything at all about digital organization such as your laptop or smartphone. The same principles applied to physical clutter can be applied digitally as well.
Have you ever seen a desktop screen literally completely filled up with files without any rhyme or reason. Everytime you turn on your computer you are faced with chaos. The same applies to your smartphone. I like to keep everything on one screen with a few folders for extras, limit your apps and keep it simple. You would be amazed what an effect it can have on you.
There is Magic After All
Though it is written with a feminine slant, don’t write off The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. This book sold millions for a reason. Kondo has the heart of a minimalist even if she never states it. If you look past the happy socks and tidying up, you will find a real solid method to improve your life by improving the space around you. I implore everyone to read the book and try it for yourself. Self-care is more than just what’s inside but what’s outside as well. What we get out of life is determined by what we are willing to tolerate. Change your environment, change yourself.