I’ve decided: I’m going to work through Marie Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. This is a long time in coming. I read the book first more than a year ago and have since returned to it over and over. Of all the books on decluttering and organising I’ve read (which are many), it speaks to me most profoundly. Most such books offer just useful tips, or else an authoritative voice to provide structure for sorting your possessions and keep you on track, to tell you what to do. Whereas Kondo’s book aims to enable you to master the skill of tidying for yourself. As I see it, her approach is all about training and honing your own intuition, developing it like a muscle.
The main reason I’ve never undertaken her method is that it stipulates going through everything you own together, as a seamless process. But completeness hasn’t yet been possible for me because of how much stuff I had at my mom’s house. However, after some recent sorting, almost everything is finally residing under my own roof. (With the exception of a few items, but I know what they are and can get them here before the end of my tidying process.) This means that I can apply the KonMari method properly.
To describe this method briefly, it begins with deciding what to keep. You go through everything by category, in a certain order, and consider whether each thing sparks joy. If it does, you keep it; if not, it goes, with gratitude. After that, you organise, in a similarly intuitive fashion.
The first exercise Kondo recommends is asking yourself why you want to sort through your possessions, and pursuing the question ‘Why?’ through to the deeper layers of motivation. Here are a few of my reasons.
I want to pare down my belongings because I want the freedom of being able to live comfortably in a small home. We’re in an apartment right now, and although it’s somewhat by necessity, it’s not under duress; it’s a decision we freely made as the best for us. Therefore, I’d like to take responsibility for adjusting to the space we have now, instead of living only with a future, bigger house in mind.
I’m also feeling a need to overhaul where I spend my time and energy. I want my energy to be free to care for my family, and to invest in prayer and service. I don’t think I spend an inordinate amount of time on housekeeping, but I’ve become increasingly aware that possessions, even those stored neatly out of sight, sap energy. (Like the way appliances on standby draw a small amount of electricity even when not in use.) And because I (but really people in general) externalise so much thought and emotion in the form of material things, sorting through my stuff is tantamount to reevaluating myself and my life.
Lately I feel the need to hone and mature the way I relate to my belongings. I’ve always invested my possessions with my emotions and imagined them to have feelings of their own, and this has meant that I struggle to part with them. I’d like to become more apt at recognising what I need and enjoy, and conversely more able to be content without the things I don’t. This isn’t purely hedonistic, however. I mean, it would be nice to feel happier as a result of this, but I’ve also been thinking deeply about how my Christian faith should affect my material life. This is a topic of its own (and the book Freedom of Simplicity by Richard Foster gives some thought-provoking guidelines), but in essence I feel like Christians in the West are often preoccupied with reminding each other that ‘money isn’t bad’ and ‘it’s not bad to own things’, concerned that some passages in Scripture suggest getting rid of belongings or that money is a hindrance to following Jesus. Sometimes I wonder if we are so worried about discouraging self-righteous asceticism that we forget that the simple meaning of these passages often is that we are too attached to our stuff, and that in some way it will be a pitfall to us. Getting rid of things, and living without some things, won’t save us, but all the Biblical examples I can remember imply that if we are motivated by love for God and a desire to help others, giving up our belongings is always a positive thing.
There’s nothing really Christian about the KonMari method, but for me personally I have found it a beneficial framework of thinking about Stuff, and so in this sense I think it will be a useful tool.
How and when?
I’m going to blog about this, so here’s what you can expect.
Kondo’s book gives four main categories to go through:
- Books and papers
- Miscellaneous and household stuff
- Sentimental items
I’m going to break these down into subcategories as much as necessary to make them achievable in the time I have, which will be mostly evenings or perhaps an occasional weekend stint. But I will be following her proposed order.
Kondo recommends tidying ‘all at once’, i.e. continuously until you reach the end. She says six months is probably an appropriate amount of time, and I think that seems realistic for me, although I also suspect it may take less time once I get going. However, my pacing will be somewhat organic, according to my time and energy and how long each category takes.
For organising my efforts, I have a notebook where I’ve made notes from the book, listed the categories to tick off, and will be recording my thoughts.