I’ve just finished reading Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. I learned of the book in a Facebook group when someone shared two videos that were made about it. After watching the videos, I wanted to read the book.
Does it spark joy?
The basic premise is to only keep those things in your home that make your heart throb with joy. Kondo has a very specific order when it comes to helping her clients with their mission of tidying up. You go through discarding and then deciding where to keep things. You do the discarding in this order: clothes, books, papers, komono (miscellany) and mementos. You also do each category a very specific way which she outlines in the book (and which you can see in the videos if you choose to watch them).
Organizing comes naturally to me. But I do struggle with getting rid of some things and this is where the book especially helped me. First, the idea of only owning items that spark joy resonates with me. (I will keep things out of guilt or because they cost good money.) But this is the money section that describes how this approach is different from any other I’ve read in terms of how it addresses the struggle to get rid of things.
But when we really delve into he reasons for why we can’t let something go, there are only two: an attachment to the past or a fear for the future.
During the selection process, if you come across something that does not spark joy but that you just can’t bring yourself to throw away, stop a moment and ask yourself, “Am I having trouble getting rid of this because of an attachment to the past or because of a fear for the future?” Ask this for every one of these items. As you do so, you’ll begin to see a pattern in your ownership of things, a pattern that falls into one of three categories: attachment to the past, desire for stability in the future, or a combination of both. It’s important to understand your ownership pattern because it is an expression of the values that guide your life. The question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life. Attachment to the past and fears concerning the future not only govern the way you select the things you own, but also represent the criteria by which you make choices in every aspect of your life, including the relationships with people and your job.
I’m at the point of needing to let go of a lot of things from my past. Caroline will be a fourth grader in the fall. Everything from my teaching days was from early elementary. I’ve simply moved past that part of my life and don’t see myself ever teaching again. That means I’m about to close the door on a significant chapter of my life. Although I continue to create learning materials for early elementary, it is from a business perspective rather than that of a mom or teacher.
So all of the things I saved from my teaching days to use with my own children “someday” have served their purpose (or were never needed). It’s time to move them on. I’m not going to lie. It is hard to do this both from the standpoint of having an only child and as a former teacher. That’s some significant door closing going on. At the same time, I am ready to move on and see what new things God has in store for me. So letting go of all the early elementary items will free me from my past in many ways.
I also think anyone who has gone through significant financial hardship understands the perceived need to hang on to things for fear of the future. If you had parents or grandparents who lived through the Great Depression, you know that the instinct to save things just in case is strong. It became ingrained in their thinking. I believe the same can hold true today. Anytime you go through an extended period of financial downturn due to job loss, medical bills, or any other financial reversal, it can become easy to feel the need to hang on to whatever you have of value because you know that you might not have the money to buy it in the future.
But I do believe that Kondo is right in that what we keep in our homes impacts how we live life today. She suggests that when you are going to get rid of something, you thank it for serving a purpose and then you release it. I’m not going to talk to inanimate objects, but I do think there is value in looking at objects, realizing they have served a purpose, and moving them on if they do not spark joy and serve a current purpose in your life.
A Thought-provoking Book
There are a few of aspects of her approach that would not work for me. I also don’t agree with some of the spiritual aspects that she discusses in the book. But for a way to think about tidying up, it’s a thought-provoking book that spoke to me in a way that other organizing books haven’t. I definitely think it is worth reading and recommend it.
If you would like to watch the videos I mentioned, here is Part 1 and here is Part 2. They are a dramatized story of the principles behind The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. It starts off a bit weird, but stick with it at least through Part 1. The events at the start lay the groundwork in the main character’s life. It’s interesting to see the principles in the book put into action and watching the videos made the book even better for me. Kondo writes that tidying up changes your life, your job, etc. and you can see that in the video’s story.