In January this year we holidayed in New Zealand. And as we travelled the country roads of the North Island, I read a book called ‘The life-changing magic of tidying up’ by Marie Kondo. Her book describes what has become known as the Kon-Mari method of de-cluttering and organising.
On arrival back home I was enthused for de-cluttering my house and my daughter was my cheerleader to make sure it happened.
I haven’t followed exactly what Mari Kondo says in her book but I have made significant progress on my wardrobe, the games cupboard, the sewing room, the spare bedroom and, most recently, the books. 15 garbage bags of clothes. A large box of games. And the discarded books filled 12 boxes.
I was amazed that we could so easily discard so many books in April 2016 that were far too precious to part with 18 months ago when we did the last clean out.
What made the difference? Attitude made the difference … a new way of thinking. So, let me share with you my take on some of the ‘life-changing’ principles we discovered on the country roads of New Zealand.
Principles for Getting Started
1. Visualise your destination
Think about what you want your home environment to be. What will it look like? How will it help you live the way you would like to live? Aim for that.
2. Recognise the causes of clutter
⦁ too much effort to put things away
⦁ lack of clarity about where things belong
⦁ too much stuff and not enough places to put it
⦁ clutter that is time-constrained; waiting for something to happen before it can be put away/thrown out – eg bills to pay, unfinished craft projects etc.
The problem might be too much stuff or too little organisation, or both!
3. Sort by category (and in order)
Clothes first. They are the easiest because we already have experience throwing out clothes that have worn out or we have outgrown. Next, sort books. Then papers and miscellany. Mementos come last because they will generally be harder to discard because of sentimental attachment. So don’t try reducing your collection of mementos until you have gained experience and confidence in the method.
Principles for throwing out
1. Don’t decide what to throw out – decide what to keep
Get everything of the same type out of their various storage places. Hold each item in turn, think about each individually and decide one by one.
2. Keep only what sparks joy
I found it hard to follow this principle in every case, but it is a very good criterion as a general rule and can actually change your mindset about your possessions.
If you keep only what sparks joy, then you have to use the things that spark joy ALL. THE. TIME. and not just on special occasions. Imagine everything in your house sparking joy!
My lovely special green cups are no longer at the back on the top shelf to keep them safe; I use them every day and I’m loving it. This is a side benefit of de-cluttering I wasn’t expecting.
3. Identify what makes you hesitant about throwing out some things
Marie Kondo says it is usually one of two reasons: attachment to the past or fear of the future. (I interpret ‘fear of the future’ to be the equivalent of keeping things ‘in case they come in handy one day’). Your house will be less cluttered if you live for the present.
4. Consider the purpose of the item – is it fulfilled?
Don’t keep things once they have served their purpose. This includes gifts. Presents are not ‘things’ essentially – but the means of conveying someone’s feelings. When that purpose has been served, be grateful, then – if it has not further purpose for you – feel free to give it away.
Principles for Organising
1. Be able to see everything
Keep your things visible and accessible by storing them upright. Don’t store things on top of each other in a drawer where you can’t see what’s underneath. Use shoeboxes in drawers to keep similar items together.
2. Putting away is more important than retrieving
When deciding where to store things, chose a place where it is easy to put them away, and not so much where it is easy to get them out to use. Clutter is caused by not putting things where they should go.
When choosing what to keep ask your heart. Fill your life with things that spark joy.
When choosing where to store – ask your house. Return to your vision for your house, and give priority to storing in a way that makes your house functional for its purpose.