Monday, January 14, 2019

Tidying Your Life

Netflix recently released a series called "Tidying Up with Marie Kondo." If you do not know who Marie Kondo is, she is Japanese author and organizational expert. Her 2014 book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up was a surprise hit and #1 NY Times bestseller. A 2016 NYTimes magazine feature piece exposed her to a broader audience, which is how I first heard about her. Reading the piece made me wonder: what's so special about cleaning up?

Kondo has blazed a new trail on a well-worn path not by any revolutionary new technique or device. Rather, what is novel about her approach is the framing. First, the book goes beyond merely cleaning up. Tidying up in Kondo's parlance is the process by which one creates their domicile such that it sparks joy within them. That's it. No geometric principles, no one-size-fits-all template. It is a concept simple enough for anyone to grasp.

Sadly, no Rosie the Robot included.
 The advice itself though, to borrow a Buffett-ism, is simple but not easy. However, she utilizes one key principle and five categories of items to break the insurmountable task of tidying up. The principle is this:

Every item you possess should spark joy within you.

This literally means that when you pick up the item, you should feel at least some stirring of a warm fuzzy feeling. Someone looking at you should see a smile come to your face.

Okay, great - pick things up and see if I feel happy. Where to start though? The house is a mess! Kondo recommends breaking it down into five categories and going through the house in this order:

  • Clothing
  • Books
  • Paper
  • Komono (kitchen, bathroom, garage and everything miscellaneous) 
  • “Sentimental items.”

The last category is in quotes because it will vary person to person. Someone into fashion might actually do clothing here because of all the memories and emotions attached to particular items of clothing. A literary sort might put books here.

Even within categories, it is important to get your bearings. For each category, find every relevant item in your house and pile them on a bed or other clear space. Pretty imposing, right? Where to even begin?

Kondo suggests starting with something you absolutely love to get a sense of what it should feel like. Think about that warm comfortable piece of clothing that you wear all the time and have had forever. Pick it up and see how it makes you feel. Using that as your "100", pick up other items and see if they make you feel at all like that. When in doubt, discard. Remember: these are objects that are generally replaceable if you go too far. If you feel an item of clothing is "irreplaceable" (perhaps a team uniform), save it for the Sentimental Items category.

Once you have sorted everything, Kondo has a wide range of tips for how to actually store the items so that they are both presentable and easily accessible. The details are beyond the scope of this post, but contained in her book, and its sequel Spark Joy. The second book goes through in great detail cleaning steps that you have probably been doing with muscle memory since childhood. For example, did you know there is a better way to store socks? I did not but now I do!

If you are generally happy with your life, why embark on this process? Simply put, tidying up your home helps you tidy up your mental space. By clearing physical clutter, you clear mental clutter. By making physical items more accessible, you make mental ideas more accessible as well. One cannot help but feel a creative spark after going through her method. Making a habit out of it is a way to sustain that sense of creativity and possibility going forward. See if the magic can be life changing for you.


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