I wrote a post with my general thoughts after reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, the wildly popular book by Marie Kondo, and you can find it here. In that post I got into the more philosophical aspects of the book and how I saw it intersecting with my Christian worldview.
However in this post, I just want to quickly lay out the four pieces of practical advice from the book that I found most helpful. If you haven’t read the book, I should say that the base advice is purge purge purge, so read these tips in light of that foundational principle.
- Organizing solutions are just a band-aid.
A lot of us think that cleaning means buying a bunch of nifty storage solutions and neatly placing all our stuff inside. But the book opened my eyes to the reality that you’ve accomplished nothing by doing that because the same junk is just now in a pretty box instead of a pile. Plus, you will continue filling those boxes as you buy more stuff, and soon you have yet another junk box to deal with. So don’t put your hope, effort, or money into storage solutions to declutter. You have plenty of storage already, you just need to get rid of the excess and use it effectively.
2. Declutter/purge by category.
I think this is probably one of the most popular pieces of advice, and for good reason. Ms. Kondo argues that most of us have similar items spread throughout the house in various rooms. So if we were to just clean room by room, we miss the unnecessary duplication of our stuff all across the house. Her advice is to gather up EVERYTHING in a particular category and lay it out on the floor in front of you. This way, you not only see where you have multiples that you don’t need, but you also get a sense of just how much stuff you really have. (Wow, I have enough pens to last five lifetimes and half of them don’t even work!) The other benefit is that once you’ve weeded through everything in that category, paring it down to things you actually need and use and love, you can see where your true purchasing needs are. We often buy stuff without checking if we already have it, and this helps us to save money and create less waste since we have a better handle on what we own.
3. Ask hard questions of your stuff.
Part of the reason we can’t get rid of stuff is because there’s some vague sense of need or nostalgia connected to it. But when we sit down with each of our possessions and start asking hard questions, it quickly becomes apparent that we only truly like or need a fraction of what we have. Take clothes, for example. Us women tend to have, shall we say, an insane collection of clothes. But if we were to hold each shirt, each pair of pants, etc. and ask: Do I really love wearing this? Do I actually look good in this? Does it actually fit me correctly? Do I really need five blue 3/4 sleeve sweaters? We would find that most of the time, the answer is no. So why are we keeping it??
4. Nostalgia and good intentions are your enemies in your decluttering quest.
Other reasons we can’t part with our stuff are because the things hold some sense of nostalgia, or we keep it because we “might need/want/use it later.” With nostalgia, we will hold on to an ill-fitting shirt just because we bought it on that special vacation. Or you have that novelty cup that’s hideous but you bought it on your honeymoon. While Ms. Kondo doesn’t say you have to get rid of EVERYTHING, you can see how nostalgia impedes our ability to discard things we aren’t using that are just sitting there taking up space. She advises that to get past it, we have to ask those hard questions, accept that it’s not something we really need to have in our homes, be thankful for the memories, and let go. I mean, would we really forget the memories of our honeymoon just because we got rid of the cup? No, the memories are already in our minds. So let it go and get rid of it. It’s just more junk in your house.
With the other fear that we might need or want or use it later, Ms. Kondo forces us to face the hard reality that 99% of the time, the answer is a resounding YOU WON’T. I have a significant stack of coursebooks from college that I never read, but I’ve been dragging them around from move to move (we’ve moved five times in the past eight years!) because I’m just convinced that someday I’ll read them. WRONG. If I haven’t read them yet, I’m not ever going to. And besides, it’s not like there aren’t these things called “the Internet” and “the library” if I do ever want to read up on those topics. I’m finally getting rid of those bricks!
So those are just a few things I’ve gleaned. I’d highly recommend reading the book to get more detail and insight and other good tips.
And in closing, I’ll just pose a few questions Ms. Kondo alludes to in the book:
Would you rather declutter now and actually enjoy your possessions, or wait until you’re old and tired and forced to do it? And would you rather have a few precious things that are actually meaningful to pass on to your kids and grandkids, or boxes and boxes of junk that they don’t want or need that will most likely be going in the trash anyway?
Declutter. Be a good steward. Be grateful to God for what He’s given. Stop drowning in your wasted stuff.