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Like many people, somewhere around the new year I saw a new show in my Netflix suggestions: Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. To be honest, I was a bit confused. I had read her book – The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up – a year or to back, so I was familiar with her teachings. However, I wasn’t sure how they were going to turn that into a TV show.
It took me a few days but, one night, out of curiosity, I decided to push play. I was surprised by how much of an emotional reaction I had to the journeys these people were going through just by cleaning their houses. Especially since, if I’m perfectly honest, when I read her book it didn’t really “spark joy.”
So I watched another episode. And I started listening to the chatter on the Internet. I was surprised both by the amount of people who thought her ideas were perfection (and the number of my friends who were posting pictures of their tidying up process) and by the amount of people who thought they were simply awful. And I thought that for her ideas to strike that deep of a chord in people, there had to be something there worth investigating.
As I watched another episode, something clicked. Now, I’m not at a point in my life where I’m ready to put the full KonMari method into practice. I personally have neither the time nor the inclination. However, there have been a few underlying principles that, as I have put them into practice, I have been surprised at the major difference they have created in my home and life. Things that, no matter what you think of her overall method, I think are worth thinking about. Here are the 5 lessons I learned from Marie Kondo.
1. Identify (and Tackle) Your Stress Points
Marie Kondo talks a lot about creating a peaceful feeling in your home. Of crafting a refuge from the world. This is an idea that I love. One of the biggest ways to create that peaceful feeling is to identify the stress points in your house and then find a solution that eliminates it.
One of my stress points is when I can’t find something. In particular, I hate it when I can’t find my keys when I’m trying to leave my house. Whether they have fallen into the wrong pocket in my purse, stashed away in the diaper bag, or lost under a pile of paper on the counter, running around trying to find my keys so that I’m not late creates a feeling of stress to my mornings that I really could live without. I’ve thought several times that there had to be a better way, but I hadn’t been able to figure it out.
Part of what Marie Kondo teaches is that you can eliminate these stress points by having a designated, thoughtful place for everything. So I decided to sit down for a moment and really think about the problem. I knew that it was difficult to keep my keys in one spot because I was constantly transferring them between my work bag and my diaper bag. And with the layout of our house, there also isn’t a good spot for a key “bowl” or something of that nature.
This is where I usually got stuck and gave up hope of a solution. But I was inspired by Marie Kondo’s optimism (it really is kind of catching) and knew that there had to be a way. So I sat on my couch, staring at the kitchen and the doorway to the mudroom (i.e. where I usually exit). Where would be a good place that I could designate as the “key” spot?
Suddenly, I saw it. The side of the fridge. If I could put a row of hooks on the side of the fridge, I could easily hang my keys as I was coming in the door and pick them up on my way out. The only question was whether or not there was a magnetic or self-adhesive key hook strip. One quick look online revealed the happy truth: there is.
Just a short time later, the key hook strip was adhered to the side of the fridge. And every morning since then has been more peaceful for it.
This is a small, perhaps silly, example. But I’m telling you, as I’ve focused on solving my stress points, it’s amazing the difference it has created.
Part of Marie Kondo’s tidying up process involves going through all the items in your home and deciding which ones “spark joy” and which ones you are ready to let go. For any item that is to leave your possession (either because you are discarding it or donating it), Marie Kondo has her clients say “thank you” to the item before sending it on to its new home.
Now it may seem a little silly to say thank you to a piece of paper before your throw it into the trash. However, I love the attitude of gratitude that this instills for the items that have been a part of your journey. I’ve found that as I declutter areas of the house, saying thank you makes me much more aware of the blessings I have (and have had) in my life. While I can’t say I do it every time, it has created shift in my overall outlook from lamenting what I don’t have to being grateful for what I do.
3. More Does Not Equal Joy
Going along with gratitude, part of the reason Marie Kondo is focused on decluttering is so that you can actually enjoy the things that you have. No more are precious mementos stashed away in a box “somewhere in the garage.” Instead, you carefully select the things you want to, as she says, “bring forward with you” on your journey in life. Those things are given a designated place in your home and are taken care of (hence her special folding techniques). Not only do you show pride in the things that you own, but you can enjoy them fully.
In an age where we are continuously bombarded with the message that we need more “new” things in order to be happy, I love the idea that it is perfectly possible to have true joy with the things that we already own. We don’t need more things to be happy. We need to simply clear the clutter and surround ourselves with only the things that bring us joy. Which is much less than what most of us think.
4. It’s Everyone’s Job
All of the episodes (at least that I have seen) have focused on the tidying up process as a family/couple. One of the episodes in particular showcased a family of 4 (parents plus two kids) where everyone depended on the mom to do EVERYTHING. She cleaned everything, she knew where everything was, and everyone else could not function without her. Which, as you can imagine, caused her no end of stress.
Through the process, Marie Kondo kindly helped the family realize that the home is everyone’s responsibility. It is everyone’s job to follow the chosen cleaning system. It is everyone’s job to be responsible for their own items. It is everyone’s job to keep out the clutter. And it is everyone’s job to bring a peaceful atmosphere to the home.
Sometimes it can feel so much easier to do it all yourself (I know – I’ve been there). However, in the end, it creates an incredibly heavy load that is too much for one person to bear. When everyone in the family commits to creating a home environment that is a peaceful refuge, the better life is for everyone.
5. Follow Your Passion
This has less to do with the KonMari method as it has to do with Marie Kondo as a person. Her book gets into it in much more detail, but Marie Kondo is a woman who LOVES taking a mess and tidying it up. She seriously has stories of her childhood where she would agonize over the perfect system to organize her room. Cleaning, decluttering, tidying – this is her passion. It is what sparks joy for her. And she has turned it into an empire.
Now I can’t say that I find my life’s passion in tidying up. However, her dedication to the thing that she loves is inspiring. It’s a wonderful reminder that no matter what you find joy in doing, there is a way to dedicate your life to it. And it is possible to make a living out of it. Marie Kondo’s passion for her subject is contagious. It has allowed her to spend her life doing what she loves – helping others find joy through tidying up. And if that is possible, then anything is.
Have you watched or read anything with Marie Kondo? What lessons have you learned?