It seems like “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” is on everyone’s mind these days - or, at least in everyone’s Netflix queue. Personally, I was both excited and a bit wary when I first heard about the show; I’d read the book shortly after it came out, and loved it, but I wasn’t convinced it would translate well to television. A reality show about cleaning? As geeky as I get about organization, that didn’t sound very exciting, and now that I’ve seen a few episodes I can honestly say that, indeed, it’s not that exciting. However, if it takes reality TV to bring the KonMari method to more Americans, I’m all for it!
The true magic of Marie Kondo’s method lies not so much in its organizational aspects as the fundamental principle underlying the whole process -- that before tidying your items, first you have to whittle them down. At one point in her book, she likens the desire for more storage in the home to hoarding; the idea being, we already have enough storage - we just have too much stuff, and we need to get rid of it.
Believe it or not, this is the fun part! It might be easier to think of this process not so much as discarding, but rather, keeping what you really want. In other words, you’re not getting rid of all of your things, you’re *curating* them. Also, the method’s focus on “thanking” everything you discard can make it easier to let go. The special folding and the tiny boxes are merely icing on the (very tidy) cake.
Per Kondo’s suggestion, I started with my clothing. If you have a LOT of clothing, she recommends you purge by category: tops, pants, coats, etc. Conveniently for me, I have neither the budget nor the closet to have that problem, so piling it all on the living room couch was the first step in my tidying trip. The second lynchpin of her method is that you touch and hold each and every single item, to determine whether or not it “sparks joy” for you. In the show, she describes this sensation with jazz-hands and a little shoulder shake, which might be more in line with the literal translation of the Japanese word tokimeku, which means “throb” or “palpitate,” like a heart beating quickly in anticipation of something. I can see why the translator chose not to use those exact terms (!), but in case you were intimidated by the idea of “joy,” rest assured that it can be more subtle than that. Whatever the sensation, if you don’t feel it at first, it usually gets easier to notice as you move through the process. Or, you might not have a strong connection to a certain group of items. For you, a t-shirt might be nothing more than a torso-shaped body covering, but when you start handling your books… that could be a different story! Kondo’s method might seem ruthless, but she is very clear on the fact that if you love something, you should keep it.
I’m not going to get into her folding methods (AKA the “filing” method) here, but the idea is that when you’ve placed your neat rectangular packages in upright rows, you can see everything you have, instead of digging for mystery items buried at the bottoms of multiple stacks. It might seem fiddly, but it’s pretty easy to learn and does make your foldable clothing much easier to view and access.
Photo by productiveandpretty.com
Long story short, I tried it, I loved it, I’ve backslid a bit, and I’m ready to do it again. Go through your clothes, books, papers, sentimental items (leave these for the end so you’ve honed your tokimeku skills) and miscellaneous items (utensils, office supplies, etc.), and purge, purge, purge! Toss the trash, donate or sell the rest, or throw a give-away party! I hosted one after I finished whipping my house into KonMari shape a couple of years ago and it was awesome. Some snacks, a bunch of free stuff, and a boutique corner with more valuable items for sale makes for a fun get-together. Or, wait until summer and throw a yard sale afterward. Is this truly life changing? Maybe, for some people. Is it extremely satisfying? Most definitely. Even starting with one category of items can be a strong motivator, and the results are immediate.
Now go forth, and spark joy!
Vanessa Velez, Collection Development Librarian