I am a tidy person. I have that reputation in my family, probably from being the youngest of a large brood. And my work colleagues used to call me Monica, a Friends reference for those not in that particular fan club.
So you may wonder what led me to read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by tidiness expert Marie Kondo. Basically, I had heard a lot about the book – and Marie herself – and wanted to know what all the fuss was about.
My sister can’t understand why I’m reading it. She thinks my house is minimalist. It’s not. But that’s because she has – how can I put this politely – a somewhat maximalist style. That said, there’s being tidy and then there’s the KonMari level of tidying.
Everything has its place
The reason this book has become a bestseller with everyone from Gwyneth to Oprah is that we all have far more than we need or indeed want. I felt ready for a major de-clutter so decided I was up for the challenge. Then I read this…
I put my empty handbag in a bag and put it on the top shelf of the wardrobe, saying “You did well. Have a good rest”.
While that is so extreme it makes me want to lie down in a darkened room, I begin to understand her thinking once I get further into the book (although I doubt I will ever have a ‘dialogue’ with my wardrobe). The theory is that everything has a designated spot. That in itself is nothing new. My granny Dolly used to say, “If everything in your house has a home, it will always be tidy”. That’s clearly where I inherited the urge to be orderly.
My husband thinks this is all my ‘handbags’ – can’t bare to break it to him that this is just my clutches (not including purses), they are in another drawer! And yes Marie, they all spark joy!
Discard and store
Marie’s approach revolves around two fundamental actions: discarding what you don’t need or want, and then deciding where to store what’s left.
Discarding comes first and it’s really hard not to get distracted, as you immediately want to start putting things away. The endgame isn’t necessarily to throw away as much as possible or to trot your life’s story down the charity shop. It’s to make sure that the things you hold onto make you happy.
The KonMari Top 5
* Does it spark joy? That’s the question you must ask of every possession. To be honest, that can be tough. It’s easy with some things, like a favourite book I would re-read or my yellow pigeon cushion. Not so much with the garlic crusher, which I still need to keep. But you do learn to look at things in a different way.
* Here’s the game changer. Sort by category – not by room – because none of us really know how much we own. Similar items are likely scattered throughout the house, not confined to one room. For example, your clothes are in your wardrobe, but also under the bed, the hallway, the loft, the car boot… or is that just me?
* De-clutter in order: clothes, books, papers, miscellaneous and keepsakes. Leave photos to last. Her top tip: don’t let your family see what you’re discarding as they will try to rescue things. It’s important to note here that you should Kondo your own belongings, not anyone else’s. I didn’t exactly stick to that but my husband might read this so we’ll say no more.
* One of the most talked about aspects is her revolutionary method of storing clothes vertically. Hands down the best part of the book for me – everything takes up so much less space. My husband thinks I like this as it means I can fit more clothes in. But that’s not true as it would defeat the object… and Marie would definitely not approve!
[A KonMari tip: don’t be fooled into buying lots of storage. You’re just concealing stuff you don’t need under a lid. She may have a good point here.]
* Designate a spot for every last thing you decide to keep.
(Coco checking out one of the newly-organised drawers)
A real life-changer?
The result? My house is tidier and more clutter-free, and I know exactly what possessions I have. I’m still not finished but it’s made a huge difference already. For me, this is not a life-changing book but I can see how it could be for any committed hoarders out there.
I won’t be taking up Marie Kondo’s suggestion of greeting my house every time I come home. But then again I do have a very excitable cockapoo to welcome me home, even if I’ve only popped out for five minutes. And she’s a keeper – she definitely sparks joy.