Do you think you are tidy? Answer that question after you read Japanese declutter expert Marie Kondo’s cult cleaning book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying, and you may have a different answer.
If you don’t know who Kondo is, here’s a quick resumé. An organising consultant who gained fame in her native Japan — before becoming known internationally for her KonMari Method of tidying — Kondo speaks of decluttering as a religion. She believes the key to permanent tidiness is not merely throwing things away, it’s about deciding what to keep. She has sold millions of books and regularly hosts conferences for her ‘Konverts’. In 2013, a dramatised version of her non fiction book was broadcast on Japanese TV. Marie Kondo didn’t just write the book on tidying up; she reinvented it as a status symbol.
When I heard about Kondo and her extreme methods, I was instantly curious. Could my house be more tidy? Could I be more organised? Yes and yes.
1. Does it ‘spark joy’?
Kondo asks you to look at every object you own (yes, literally every object) and ask if it “sparks joy”. I had been using the far-less-accurate yardstick, “Have I used/worn/read this in the past year?” Rookie mistake; because even if I have used/worn/read it, if it still doesn’t spark joy, it’s out.
There are some exceptions to this, of course. Some items — cutlery, power tools, nailfiles — we need, although they don’t necessarily spark joy. But, says Kondo, if the function these things perform sparks joy, then keep them. So, if it gives you pleasure to hang a painting on a wall, keep that drill. If doing your nails makes you happy, keep the file. And if you enjoy eating, don’t ditch your forks.
2. Tidy once and properly
I tidied regularly. Great, right? No. According to Kondo, tidying, like a first wedding, is a once-in-a-lifetime deal. “Tidy a little a day,” she warns, “and you’ll be tidying forever.” Decluttering should be done all at once, and thoroughly. By following her book to the letter, your house should be tidy within six months, and you’ll never have to declutter again.
3. Aim for perfection
Kondo has a storage system for her vegetables. She empties her handbag each day (meanwhile, I keep finding sultanas in mine, even though I haven’t bought them for my daughter in months). She empties her cleaning products and toiletries into label-less bottles to save herself from “the ‘noise’ of written information”. She tidies perfectly, and so should we, she says.
“You will never get your house in order if you only clean up halfheartedly.” But, she says, there’s a catch: you only have to be perfect once. Then you just have to maintain that perfection.
4. Visualise your destination
Before you discard unnecessary things, she says, you’ve got to figure out why. And no, it can’t be as simple as, “I want to live clutter-free.” Um, but I do!
I want to live clutter-free. For good. Kondo cites the client who wanted to live “a more feminine lifestyle”, which is all well and good, but for me, the pursuit of perfection is enough of a drive. I just want a house that could be on Tiaralestari.com.au. Is that too much to ask, Marie?
5. The bottom line
Is my house tidier now? Yes. Is it perfect? Well… no. It’s not. There is still a stack of pots that teeters perilously in my kitchen. I have kept books I haven’t read that — memo to Marie — I fully intend to read. But I do feel better for having read Kondo’s book, for a reason that surprises even me. Before I thought I was obsessive about order. Now I know I have a long way to go. And actually, I’m perfectly okay with that.