In the chill of January, we often examine how we are living. And right now, many of us are revisiting the tidying principles of Japanese lifestyle queen Marie Kondo.
In her latest book, “Marie Kondo’s Kurashi at Home: How to Organize Your Space and Achieve Your Ideal Life,” Kondo expands on the Japanese concept of kurashi, or “way of life.” She elaborates on simple ways to bring calmness and happiness to everyday things. Yes, that can mean cleaning out your purse every night, but it can also mean playing classical piano music during breakfast. Or making your mom’s recipe for black vinegar chicken wing stew. (The recipe’s included in the book.)
This book is a bit of a reality check. Kondo, 38, has caught up with the rest of us, trying to corral the doom piles on our kitchen counters while on hold with the plumber and trying not to burn dinner. The multitasker seems somewhat humbled by her growing family and her business success, maybe realizing that you can find peace in some matcha even if you drink it in a favorite cracked mug rather than a porcelain cup.
“Tidying up means dealing with all the ‘things’ in your life,” Kondo writes in the book. “So, what do you really want to put in order?”
Kondo says her life underwent a huge change after she had her third child, and external tidying has taken a back seat to the business of life. “My home is messy, but the way I am spending my time is the right way for me at this time at this stage of my life,” she said through an interpreter at a recent media webinar and virtual tea ceremony.
She encourages everyone to create their own rhythm, their own routines, based on what makes them happy, and she offers more than 125 serene photographic examples to inspire. (Most are not, however, from her own house.) Her assignment for readers: Come up with a doable joy routine and stick with it for 10 days, then see whether the daily habit changes are making you feel better.
Kondo says that, for many, the perfectly organized space is not realistic. “Up until now, I was a professional tidier, so I did my best to keep my home tidy at all times,” she said at the event. “I have kind of given up on that in a good way for me. Now I realize what is important to me is enjoying spending time with my children at home.”
Although her two Netflix series showed her helping people overwhelmed with emotion about their stuff, Kondo now drills down to a more tightly focused approach, helping people identify little activities to bring peace and joy on a deeper level.
Among Kondo’s personal joys: buying 100 percent silk or organic cotton pajamas, because they feel good and help her sleep; perusing her tea-leaf drawer and drinking tea three times a day to bring a sense of calm; and opening her childhood sewing box, which brings back warm memories.
Previously, the decluttering diva has seemed to be a bit of a tough cookie when it comes to sharing details of her inner thoughts or how she finds time to relax. But now Kondo writes in her book that, although she loves her work, “sometimes I pack my schedule so tightly I feel frazzled or am overcome with anxiety.” As a tidying professional, she says, she puts pressure on herself to always keep her house in order.
She and her husband, Takumi Kawahara, president of KonMari Media, the company she founded, carefully plan their days to spend time with their children while still getting other tasks done. (Kawahara, by the way, goes to bed at the same time as the kids and gets up at 4 a.m.) She gets through the day by flinging open her windows for some fresh morning air, lighting incense and wiping the soles of her shoes. And, yes, she does thank her shoes for supporting her when she is cleaning them after a day of service.
Another activity that sparks joy, she says, is scrapbooking. She fills her scrapbook with photos that she has ripped or cut out of books or magazines. The scrapbook is organized by color. (Of course it is.) When she wants to relax, she looks at the pages of green items. There is also a section with cakes and sweets. Kondo says that, when a particular photo no longer brings her joy, she rips it out. She suggests creating your own scrapbook and looking at it before bedtime to relax.
Kondo says people have been asking her about her own lifestyle and personal rituals since her book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” published in the United States in 2014. “Tidying our homes, tidying our environment is also a way of tidying our minds,” she says. By organizing our hearts and minds, it becomes clear what we really want, Kondo says, adding that these are the things she is struggling with right now.
Kondo says she realizes that, as her children grow up, her way of life will change again. “I will keep looking inward to make sure I am leading my own kurashi,” she says.
Good luck with that, Marie.
A previous version of this article incorrectly credited its photos to Katie Oross/Allison PR. The photos are courtesy of KonMari for Marie Kondo. The article has been corrected.