A lot of people have started talking about Konmari, but as a slightly obsessive-compulsive neat freak, who’s also the Type A and overcommitment type, I discovered her years ago, while trying to rein in the terror of the clutter I amass because I run from one project to the next with no time to put things away. The founder of Konmari is Marie Kondo (the term “Konmari” is a combination of her first and last names), and she’s a Japanese organizing guru. In her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, she says her method will change the way you organize and clean, but it will also teach you to arrange the space around you in a way that will accommodate your lifestyle - and she isn’t overselling.
Kondo comes from a Shinto background; I’m not an expert on that culture but she says it has been integral to her organizational outlook. She tells people to identify what brings them joy - and only keep things that spark that feeling. Belongings should be acknowledged for their service and thanked before being let go of, but if they no longer spark joy, they shouldn’t take up space in your life. She says to hold the item, and if you don’t feel joy, you thank it for the role it played in your life, and you pass it on.
I was drawn to this first because I found it effective - I was rarely home and my house was full of clutter from collecting things I never used or appreciated. While I still don’t spend as much time in my house as I’d like to - who does? - I found that I was avoiding the space because it wasn’t comfortable to me. As a minimalist kind of person anyway, her method spoke to me. It places a lot of emphasis on mindfulness, introspection, and optimism, things I need to ground me already.
When joy is your standard, you confront each possession with earnestness, and reflection will tell you whether they make you happy now. You also start to realize as you go through the process what items you want to surround yourself with and will give you an idea of what your happiness really is, what it feels like, if you didn’t already know. - You might surprise yourself and find that it is much different than what you previously believed.
You tidy in categories, one day you go through one group of items, and another something else. It’s less overwhelming that way. She also has great advice on what to do with the things we think we might one day need, but never reach for. Here’s how KonMari has changed my life:
I stopped buying paper books. They have to be a favorite or a great resource I’m ready to read right now for me to give up the shelf space. Since selling or donating about 80% of the collection, my house has much less clutter and more room to breathe. No one said I don’t have an epically long to-read list, and an almost as long to-buy list. My e-book collection is massive too, but that doesn’t take up any shelf space, and it stays well-organized on a small tablet. But the only books taking up space on my shelves are well-cherished works that bring me joy and I refer to often, or new books I plan to read and give up quickly.
My clothes are in order. I fold them and store them differently now. It takes a little longer, but it’s a meditative process and I get rid of the pieces that don’t make me happy anymore, or when they’re damaged. I love how neat and tidy it looks, and I save time searching for things.
Those aren’t just personal life improvements - they improve my professional day too. I know where all my things are, so I’m not rushing to work because I fell behind getting dressed, grabbing the latest research book I purchased, making my breakfast, or what have you. The same methods apply to my workspace - I don’t have 1,000 apps clogging my phone, making it move slow when I need information quickly. My desk isn’t cluttered with toys and piles of junk. My briefcase carries the essentials I can reach for quickly.
I went from being rushed, chaotic, and behind on everything, to operating with the reliability of a machine even though I’m now surrounded by joy. It has increased my productivity in every way. Every so often a life management system comes along that doesn’t need any improvement. Not every part will work for everyone, but the guidelines Kondo provides make perfect sense for people on the go or who want to feel comfortable in their offices and homes.