If you haven’t communed with your socks lately, thanked your shoes for their hard work or bowed (at least mentally) to your home in appreciation, maybe it’s time to consider doing so.
“It is very natural for me to say thank you to the goods that support us,” says Marie Kondo, whose method of lovingly connecting with belongings that “spark joy” and bidding a fond but firm farewell to the rest is popular in Japan and is now catching on elsewhere.
Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organising, is an international bestseller. She has been the subject of a movie in Japan and the waiting list for her services, once three months long, is now so extensive she has temporarily stopped accepting more clients.
Her “KonMarie method”, as she calls it in the diminutive and illustration-free volume, encourages a rapid, dramatic and transformative one-time organising event completed methodically and lovingly in no more than six months. It is not an ongoing battle against clutter.
Kondo sees tidying as a cheerful conversation in which anything that doesn’t “spark joy” is to be touched, thanked and ceremonially sent on its way towards a better life elsewhere, where it can discover a more appreciative owner.
The results can be life changing, she says. Clients suddenly find themselves surrounded entirely by things that provide clarity, unencumbered by belongings that carry baggage (unwanted gifts, clothes that no longer fit) or anxieties about the future. Even her book, she says, should be quickly discarded when it’s no longer needed.
Part of what makes her method unusually speedy is that instead of decluttering room by room, she tackles belongings by subject, starting with what is easiest to part with. So, all the clothes, then all the books, then documents, then miscellany and, last and most difficult, photos and mementos.
Instead of deciding what to get rid of, she says, the focus should be on what to keep: which few things spark sufficient joy or are truly necessary.
But how to contend with family members unready to join in the celebratory purge? If possible, carry the bags out of the house yourself.
“There’s no need to let your family know the details of what you throw out or donate,” she writes, although she advises against secretly disposing of other people’s things. “You can leave communal spaces to the end. The first step is to confront your own stuff.”
After joyfully relegating mountains of unneeded or unloved belongings to charity or the bin, she turns to organising what is left. The key, she says, is storing things mostly in drawers, arranged so everything can be seen at a glance and nothing is stacked, a practice decidedly unkind to items at the bottom.
So T-shirts and socks (the ones you’ve kept because they make you happy) are rolled and arranged beautifully, like sushi in a bento box. Cupboards are meticulously reorganised to fit everything from electric fans (at the bottom) to spare blankets (on top).
Papers and documents – there won’t be many since few are truly necessary and they generally hold so little joy – are likewise filed rather than stacked.
Kondo says she has been obsessed with tidying since she was five, opting to arrange shoes and pencils while other kids played outside. She began communing with her belongings in high school and, after years of work at a Shinto shrine, realised her calling as a professional consultant on attaining the joy of minimalism.
“The inside of a house or apartment after decluttering has much in common with a Shinto shrine … a place where there are no unnecessary things, and our thoughts become clear,” she says.
“It is the place where we appreciate all the things that support us. It is where we review and rethink about ourselves.”