True story: I found my unread copy of “The Life-Changing Magic of Cleaning Up: The Japanese art of decluttering and organizing” under a pile of accumulated clutter in my living room.

It then lived under crumbs in my kitchen for a few weeks more.

I finally decided to listen to the best-selling book through Audible, the ‘books-on-tape’ app, thinking it would supercharge my efforts during a marathon cleaning session.

It worked.

The claims that author and Japanese cleaning celebrity (this is a thing) Marie Kondo makes about the impact of tidying up in her book –a bestseller in Japan, Europe, and now the U.S.,–at first seem so over-the-top that you can hardly believe them. From client testimonials of her ‘KonMari’ method:

“I’ve finally succeeded in losing ten pounds.”

“My husband and I are getting along much better.” 

“I quit my job and launched my own business doing something I had dreamed of doing ever since I was a child.” 

All this from organizing your sock drawer?

But read into Kondo’s philosophy of cleaning and you’ll find that her strict methodology is much more than a few tricks for organizing. Instead, Kondo invites readers, particularly Western ones, to fundamentally re-think their relationships to the objects in their everyday lives. With a few simple, though radical, rules, Kondo’s approach promises to transform the way you relate to the things in your life, forever. The verdict’s still out for me on the ‘forever’ part, but her rules are refreshing. “When you put your house in order, you put your affairs and your past in order, too,” she writes. Finding inner peace by way of a more organized life? Why not?

[How Charles Darwin used rest to be more productive and how you can, too]

Want to clean house like Marie Kondo? Want to lose weight and organize your bookshelf? Here’s what Kondo says:

Tidy in the right order: Discard items first, then decide where to keep things.

Wondering what to keep? Kondo maintains a pretty high standard: Does touching the object ‘spark joy’? If not, get rid of it. Kondo’s approach sounds harsh, but consider her reasons: “Are you happy wearing clothes that don’t give you pleasure? Do you feel joy when surrounded by piles of unread books that don’t touch your heart? Do you think that owning accessories you know you’ll never use will bring you happiness?” she ponders. (Spoiler alert for hoarders: The correct answer is “no.”) Instead, Kondo says, “Keep only those things that speak to your heart. Then take the plunge and discard all the rest. By doing this, you can reset your life and embark on a new lifestyle.”

Tidy like objects at once, rather than cleaning room by room. This helps to thoroughly sort through entire categories of items, and helps you understand your total inventory.

[‘Everywhere I look is clutter.’ Can we help this woman get her life in order?]

Follow this order for organizing: “Start with clothes, then move on to books, papers, komono (miscellany) and finally things with sentimental value. . . . By starting with the easy things first and leaving the hardest for last, you can gradually hone your decision-making skills so that by the end [with the hard stuff], it seems simple.”

Don’t believe the mantra that you should do a little bit at a time. Do it all at once, in a mad fit of cleaning. (And don’t listen to music while purging, which Kondo says can alter your inner dialogue).

Do remember Kondo’s broader philosophy, influenced by Japanese culture, about the active relationship between people and objects, which is explained throughout her book. Remember, says Kondo: “Tidying ought to be the act of restoring balance among people, their possessions, and the house they live in.”

Happy cleaning!

 

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