I recently went through every single thing that I own and parted ways with anything that no longer sparked joy. I’m neither crazy for completely bored. I blame it all on a Japanese decluttering guru who wrote a little book that I can’t stop talking about and recommend to anyone who will listen, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo.
Marie, who has spent her life studying the art of decluttering and organizing, has developed what she calls the Konmari Method: the first step is to discard anything that does not bring you joy, and the second is to find a home for whatever you keep. The purpose of such a monumental task is to surround yourself by only things that make you happy—that give you joy.
I was intrigued. And not just because I was fresh from two weeks spent in Japan where I marveled at the simplicity that pervades the culture, but I was about to embark on a new chapter of my life, one that I hoped would help me uncover my passion, my purpose. But I wanted to get my house (and my life?) in order first.
By house, I mean the 400-square-foot bungalow that I share with my husband and our one-year-old puppy. By most standards, we were already living lean. For example, we have just one medium-sized close for the three of us.
With the Konmari method, you go through your belongings by category, not by room. You start with clothes, then books, then papers, and down the list of komono, or miscellaneous categories.
So, come Saturday, Matt and I tackled the first category. We gathered all our clothes stored in various places in our house, and went through each piece one by one asking, “Does this spark joy?” You quickly begin to identify what clothes you love, that you feel good in, that make you happy. In my case, not many. (Perhaps this is why I have such a problem figuring out what to wear…)
The next day, Sunday, we tackled books—no small feat for me, a lover of books since forever. I often daydream of floor-to-ceiling bookshelves in a future home. But, armed with a strong cup of coffee and a night of restless sleep, I took each book in my hands and asked, “Does this spark joy?” If it did not, I thanked it for the purpose it had served (the knowledge, the story, the friend), and passed it on.
When I’d gone through all my books, I had just two shelves worth. Gone were the too-many cookbooks I had acquired over the years and that I felt guilty for not using. Gone were the novels that I enjoyed but wouldn’t be reading again. Left were my yoga books, the cookbooks that I actually use and enjoy (hello Cowgirl Cuisine), the novels and non-fiction that left such an impression on me that I would happily revisit them, Joan Didion.
It took us a week to make it through the rest of the categories. Then another week to get rid of what we were discarding (recycling, the dump, Goodwill). We’re still making it through our “sell” pile. But, even though it was, and is, a process, our house felt instantly different. The furniture, our clothes, books, dishes, everything had more room to be and breathe. It’s much easier to get dressed, because I only own clothes that I love (even if they are few). We each have just one binder of important papers. Our kitchen is more functional, so we cook more. And we enjoy every single object down to our MicroPlane grater.
The Konmari method is more than tidying up your home. It’s a lesson in things: those that bring you joy and those that don’t. It’s about becoming conscious of what makes you happy and discarding that which no longer serves you. It’s realizing just how easy and mindlessly we acquire things that don’t make us happy. Our house, and we, feel lighter, more spacious, more focused because we are no longer weighed down by stuff.