Recently, I attended the CheltenhamMaman Christmas Party with the Scummy Mummies. There was a joke in there along the lines of, “and then there’s your friend who has discovered Marie Kondo and doesn’t want ANYTHING.” I am that friend, and I have been for a few years now. My apologies. But also, have you really given Marie Kondo a chance?
As a child, I enjoyed organizing and cleaning my room. I also had friends, I swear! My room, flats, homes, have always been tidy and clean because that’s just the way I am. I don’t know how to be any different. Because I have moved a lot, across the country of Canada a few times, and now overseas to the UK, I have learned that being neat and tidy, isn’t really all that helpful if you are drowning in STUFF. To me, excess stuff equals stress. I spent years in a constant state of decluttering and getting rid of what I didn’t need. It felt never ending. It was when I discovered Marie Kondo and her method of only keeping items that “spark joy,” that I was truly able to tackle the clutter for good, and I have never looked back.
I didn’t discover “the life-changing magic of tidying up” until my twins were nearly one. So I had three small children, and the thought did cross my mind as I was reading, that I would be perfect at this if I were single, but how would I apply this with a family of five? Honestly, it was one of the most exciting books I have ever read, I apologize to everyone I spoke to about it whilst in my manic phase. My partner had to hear a lot about such things as, “storing socks: treat your socks and stockings with respect (p. 80).” I also decided to not buy myself any new clothing or footwear in 2014, and that drastic choice really jump started everything. We need much less than we think we do.
The first thing you must do is visualize how you want to live. For me this also included recognizing my privilege. If you are living a life of excess, recognize that. Realize that there are people who are struggling to provide their families with the necessities. Be grateful. When you have and acquire less, you can share more with others. You will have actual material possessions and money to donate and share, and eventually, when implemented properly, you will have more time and energy to share with others. I wanted a simpler life, less time spent tidying, more time spent being fully present with those I love.
The Konmari method is dramatic. You have to be ready for a complete overhaul of your life. Once you have visualized how you want to live, you get rid of everything in your possession that does not “spark joy.” I started with hugging each of my boys and my partner, and since they all sparked an immense amount of joy for me, they could stay. Kondo recommends that you go through one category at a time, starting with clothing, then books, then paper, then miscellaneous items, the last category is sentimental items. Starting with clothes, put all the clothes that you own in a pile on the floor, this is great for seeing HOW MUCH you own. It can be astounding. Pick up each item one at a time, if it sparks joy for you, keep it, if not discard. Then put all your joy items back in one place, using Kondo’s perfected methods as outlined in her book. Continue through each category. Marie Kondo recommends doing this for a few days until it is done, or if you must, book the next 3 weekends or so, to devote to the process.
The most difficult category for me is books. They spark A LOT of joy in my life. Marie Kondo recommends that you keep your books all in one place. This is the one Kondo rule that I break, as I have books in every room of the house (placed neatly of course), but I like everyone in my family to have a book that sparks joy always at an arm’s length. I did get rid of books that I had kept to “read someday,” as Kondo states, “someday [often] means never.” I also started giving away books to friends that I enjoyed, but knew I would not read again. So even in my most difficult category, I reduced the books I own by at least 50%.
But what about toys? There is no Marie Kondo chapter on toys, and you can’t just get rid of all your children’s playthings, as tempting as that may be! My children are currently 7 years old and 4 years old (twins). They are all boys. They do pick up their toys when asked, okay prodded, okay sometimes bribed. I have tried to go through toys with them, and as you would guess, they wanted to keep everything. So, about once a month, I gather the toys that they have not been playing with, put them in a bag, and hide them in the garage. If after a month, if they have not asked for those toys back, or not even noticed that they were gone, I donate them to charity.
This method works very well for us. A few toys have made it back into the house by request of a child, but most of those toys are gone forever. I do talk to my boys about how not all children have nice toys to play with and we should share some toys that we don’t play with anymore with those children, my dream is that someday they can make this decision on their own. My seven year old is autistic and a natural minimalist and really only wants a few books and his iPad. I should be learning from him!
I do think that the heart of the Marie Kondo method is gratitude. If you are grateful for every item in your home, you will have more peace. Many people like to send me such jokes as, “I tried the Marie Kondo method and so far, I’ve got rid of my bra, my treadmill, and my husband.” Listen, if those things really don’t bring you joy, get rid of them! Life is short! However, I would argue that after reading Marie Kondo’s book, you would realize that having respect for the things in your life, as well as gratitude, should be taken into account. Your bra, treadmill, and husband all do valuable work, maybe try to be grateful for how they help you and you might find more joy!
The Konmari method is not about minimalism, not really. Some people will have more physical possessions that spark joy, and will therefore have more stuff. Some people are happy with much less. Both are fine. The idea is that you only have what makes you happy, brings you joy, and contributes to a peaceful life. Your possessions should not bring you stress. I find it a very positive way to live. I don’t let anything into my house that doesn’t spark joy. Marie Kondo preaches that once you overhaul your life, one category at a time, that is all you have to do. It’s about changing your mindset.
May 2018 be a year that brings you great joy. Maybe it will be the year that you Konmari your life. Maybe it won’t. If you feel that you are ready to take the plunge, make sure that you read *“The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing,” so that you know exactly what you are in for. Follow Kondo’s steps, you won’t regret it! I promise! I recently bought myself a Lionel Richie mug, on a whim, just for the fact that it sparked joy for me. It makes me smile as I sip my tea. Life is really about the little things. Personally, I just like having less of them.
*Marie Kondo also has a new publication, “Spark Joy,” which is the same premise as “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” but with more specific examples and some illustration.
A Guest Blog from Danielle Deschenes
Danielle is a Canadian living the dream in the Cotswolds with her handsome husband and three adorable sons. She is a writer, painter, singer, musician, decorator, child herder, adventure seeker, autism mom, twin mom, and cheese connoisseur. In her free time she is a classical music teacher specializing in voice, piano, and theory.
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