Tidy space, tidy mind: decluttering with Marie Kondo
You know what they say - a tidy space means a tidy mind <ahem, guilty face> and when it comes to clearing up and clearing out, Japanese organising consultant Marie Kondo has it down to a fine art.
With a waiting list for her services so long that she's now had to stop taking new clients, the decluttering expert offers help on clearing out the things that may be harder to let go of, including items with sentimental value, or the belongings of a loved one who has passed away. Here are her key decluttering rules to live by.
Read the original Q&A on this thread.
Set an example
"The most important point in decluttering is to finish going through your own things before starting on anything else. Can you honestly say that you've completely finished doing that?
"Usually it's when we haven't taken care of our own stuff that other people's things and actions bother us. (I know because, believe it or not, that's the way I was!) So I recommend that you stop focusing on your husband’s clutter and instead concentrate on your own.
"The trick is to do this on your own, quietly, without saying or even implying, 'Look at me! Look at all the decluttering I'm doing!' When you have completely decluttered your own space, you'll be feeling much better, and you'll be surprised to see that your family begins to declutter, too. It's strange, but decluttering appears to be contagious. Try it and see!"
Hold on to memories, let go of things
- "The trick to letting go is to clean everything in the same category all in one go. For example, when tidying photos, gather them all in one spot and then go through them one by one, picking them up and holding them in your hand. The criteria for choosing is whether they spark joy in you when you touch them.
- "You are bound to find some photos that are almost identical, some that are out of focus, or some of scenery you can't even remember taking. The process of taking out and picking up each photo makes us acutely aware of the existence of our possessions and helps us to naturally acquire the ability to judge what we really need.
- "If you come across things that are hard to throw away even though they don't bring you joy, let them know how much you appreciate them. Remember the happiness they brought you, thank them for all they've done, and give them a hug before you put them in the bin. This will free you from any feelings of guilt you might have about parting with them.
- "If you have something that you really love, then keep it with confidence and take good care of it. In order to take care of the things we love, however, we have to let go of the things that we no longer need. If the things that are really important to us stay buried under other stuff or lie forgotten for years and years, then there's no point in having them."
Remember why you started
- "Why bother? After all, clutter won't kill us. But I still recommend decluttering because I know that it invariably changes our lives for the better.
- "Some of my clients, for example, decided to change careers for something that they found more satisfying. Others found that the decluttering process helped them to succeed at dieting or economising because their core values became much clearer.
- "And of course, everyone who goes through this process will gain a tidy home. If you use the right method to declutter, you will never suffer from clutter again because the process itself will transform your awareness and your habits."
How to decide what to keep - and what to get rid of
- "I personally don't recommend decluttering methods that choose what to throw out on the basis of time - for example, 'if you haven’t used it for XX months, throw it out.' Why? Because six months is someone else’s criterion, not your own.
- "Use your own mind and heart to choose what to discard. Hold it in your hands – if you come across something that you just can’t bring yourself to throw away, put it away with the things you have decided to keep. Think of the things you keep as members of your family and be committed to taking care of them. With this attitude, you will come to see whether each item is something that you wish to cherish."
Dealing with loss
"Things that belonged to loved ones who have passed away are the hardest to sort. This category is far too huge for anyone to tackle at the start. There is a correct order in which to tidy. Start with clothes and then move on to books, papers, miscellaneous items, and sentimental items.
"As you tidy your belongings in the above order, you will find that this process helps hone your judgement, and you will be able to tidy much more quickly.
"Finish sorting and decluttering your own things first as a way of healing yourself. Once you have your life in order, you will be able to face the task of sorting through other things, harder things, such as the items a late family member left behind."
Tidy in one go
"The important thing with decluttering is commitment. The key to having commitment is to tidy all in one go. If you only do a little when you have spare time, then you are not truly committed and it will seem like too much bother to take things to the tip. Decluttering doesn’t mean simply sorting out what to throw in the bin. It is a major project that will transform your life for the better! That’s the true purpose of decluttering. Keep this in mind and make a detailed, concrete plan that will get the job done quickly.
Acknowledge that it will be hard
- "You’re not by any means the only one who finds it hard to declutter. The reason you find it hard to throw things away is that you haven’t clearly identified the things that really make you happy. Start by changing your perspective. When we focus on what to throw away, decluttering becomes a painful process of searching for obstacles, for things that bring us down. The more we try to declutter, the more we seem to be chiselling away at our hearts.
- "The key to success is to focus on what we want to keep. The criteria for choosing is to touch each item and see if it brings us joy. Remember that you have to touch it. Just looking at it or thinking about it won't work. Only when we pick something up and feel it can we really tell if it makes our lives richer."