I picked this up after seeing it reviewed in The Australian. It makes for very interesting reading. Marie Kondo is a tidying expert, her life and career is devoted to it. In essence, she trains people how to tidy once very well, in order to get their lives in order and their homes the way they want them to be. This is a bestseller which is constantly on hold at the library. It has obviously hit a nerve with people. It has even kicked off some imitations and mockery books, probably a key sign of success.
I am sure some of you will be thinking, “why on earth did Wendy read that?” I am reasonably tidy with a pretty organised house. Yet, I have always been challenged by how much stuff we have and I know that if we ever moved overseas I could happily get rid of most of it without many qualms.
The basic core of her reasoning is to only keep things that make you happy, or things that spark joy. So, as you go through your wardrobes, only keep the clothes that when you touch and hold them you feel joy. Only keep books that as you hold them and look at the covers, you feel pleasure. Only keep the items of sentiment that bring joy; not regret, trapped old memories or the feeling of hanging on to the past or hoping for a different future. Once you have discarded a large amount of your stuff (often over half), you are then free to store things well, in places that make sense and having enough space now to keep everything you have.
At one level, I liked some of the things she had to say.
- Whether something sparks joy is not a bad category for determining whether to keep some things. How many of us hold onto things in our wardrobes that we might fit into again one day, might come into fashion again, or we bought but have never really liked? How about books that we keep although we know we will never read them (once or again)? How about presents you have been given that you don’t like but feel guilty getting rid of? Her idea of handling each item, thanking it for the joy it once brought you (or I prefer being thankful that you were able to enjoy it once, and thankful for the person who gave it to you) and them getting rid of it seems like a helpful way to resolve some of these things.
- I like the way you are drawn to think about how much stuff you really need, which is often much less than we think.
- It made me get rid of a lot of papers (eg. old notes, conference booklets, cut out newspaper articles, etc) I had been hanging on to for years, in case I needed them again. I really never will.
- My guess is that if you are someone who really needs to tidy / clear out your house, this would give you a starting point. She claims one really good, complete tidy could take up to 6 months, you could tackle it well and get it done right. [The more I have pondered this and the things that enter our home, I find it very hard to believe anyone could do this once and have it done for life!]
However, there were lots of things that it left me pondering.
- Yet, again the key measure for life here is happiness. I raised my concern about this in a different context earlier this year regarding a Parenting DVD. Again I realise, without Christ as the centre of your life, this is a good a goal as any, but it in this context it seemed even more selfish.
- She is a single woman in Japan and that colours everything she says. She lives in a culture with inherently less space and less people per household. I cannot apply some of these principles to my house and family without drastically altering their lives and I don’t think it would be for the better. Do I really want to devote this much of my time to clearing out our house, reducing what we have and organising it all well? How could I possibly justify such a use of time and explain it well to my family with: ‘it’s going to make me happy?’. I don’t think so.
- There is a huge amount of stuff in our house that does not spark joy but still has use. Such as: bed linen for visitors, gardening tools, kitchen implements that are used only occasionally, old toys that are useful for visiting children, things that may be of use as the children get older.
- There is never any suggestion that as you get rid of your stuff that others should benefit from it. No idea of donating to those with less, giving to others. Just chuck it all out – out of sight, out of mind.
- Her idea of only keeping a few books – the ones you really treasure will never work for us. Books are our job, our research and … I might read that book one day! Some I certainly won’t – yes. But there is a lot there I will eventually get to and a lot more I will go back to.
In the end, I didn’t do a lot of tidying beyond some wardrobe stuff and some very old ‘memory’ things that it was better to get rid of than keep. I have also kept some of her principles in mind when I come across things in the house, and that has been helpful.
But I did completely reorganise the way I store my clothes. All my drawers now have rows of folded or rolled items, from shirts to jumpers to underwear. And I am loving that! I can see everything that is in there in one quick glance and never have to search for anything.
So, for that reason alone – for me it was worth reading!