Last week, my life was taken over by a book. Actually, it’s still being taken over. I’m obsessed.
The book is The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, and I first remember reading about her late last year, in an article in the NY Times about kissing your socks goodbye (just read the article..or better yet, the book).
I finally downloaded Tiding Up last week, and devoured it all in one evening (and into the wee hours of the morning). Actually, I’ve read it twice so far – the first time I read it, I wanted to get to all the information so fast, I found myself skimming and skipping paragraphs. So I read it a second time this weekend, just to make sure I didn’t miss any gems.
Okay, I’m beginning to sound a bit loony, but this book has changed my entire view of organizing and not to exaggerate…but even my life. I’ve always liked really clean, neat spaces with minimal clutter. I grew up in a house like that. My mom is one of the only people in the world by I know by the way, who instinctively keeps her house the way that Marie Kondo recommends, and who I’d say doesn’t need to read her book.
Anyway, I’ve always had an “idea” of the kind of space I’d want to live in. And I know what I’m drawn to. But my own apartment…has never felt that way.
Enter Marie Kondo and Tidying Up. I don’t want to give away the book, and you’d honestly just have to read it for the full effect, but I distilled three important lessons for myself from it:
1. Tidy in categories, not spaces. This was a huge change in cleaning “procedures” for me. I’ve always just done spaces…like, “I’m going to clean up the bedroom today, and living room, tomorrow!” But for some reason, I was never entirely happy with the results.
This time, I started off with all my clothing items…which are stored all over the apartment, all dumped onto the bed, and went from there. It’s amazing what dragging out all of the coats that one owns in the world looks like. I regularly do closet clean outs and consider myself far from a “volume” shopper- I tend to buy only a few items each month or so. But by the time I was finished, I still had four humongous black trash bags filled to the brim with clothes, shoes, and bags. Wow!
2. All of your items deserve respect. I’ve actually always believed that some items may have “feelings” (it’s my occasional hippy-ish tendencies…blame it on Berkeley), so it wasn’t a far stretch for me to start thanking my items for doing such a great job for me and making my life easier.
Reading Kondo’s philosophies however, made me realize that by being messy and cramming my items, I wasn’t treating them with respect. Plus, I couldn’t find them a lot of the time, and then forgot about them. Now, I’ve made sure that everything is easily accessible and neatly put away. This was made possible due to the fact that I had lots more space after giving away tons of items…
…which was made possible by Kondo’s suggestion that you say, “thank you for your service” to items before discarding them/giving them away. I know this may sounding off “CRAZY!!!” bells for some of you, but it totally worked for me. By far the bulk of my donated items were things that I just couldn’t bring myself to get rid of before…I wasn’t using them, and they weren’t making me happy…but I just felt guilty parting with them. They were maybe expensive items..or a gift from a cherished friend..or I bought them thinking I’d one day use them. But by saying “thank you” to each item, I was able to let them go without guilt. Even if it earned me some serious side-eye from Mr. Feather in the next room.
3. It’s not about being minimalist…it’s about all your items bringing you joy and satisfaction. I like that Kondo doesn’t lecture about having lots of items, or extoll the virtues of some kind of ideal minimalist lifestyle, where all you use are Aesop toiletries and own only ten clothing items which you and mix and match from Celine and Everlane.
Instead, Kondo talks about making sure that every item you own brings you joy. Joy as in like, “Hey, I love my black Hermes Evelyne bag, I wear it all the time. It rocks.” But also joy like, “Oh there’s that Isabel Toledo dress I haven’t had the opportunity to wear for a few years…but I love seeing it.”
And then there’s the satisfaction of, “Well, there’s my canvas tote which I use for groceries every week. It doesn’t thrill me but it makes my life so much easier and I’m happier having it.”
When I was sorting through my items, I didn’t feel any pressure to get down to a certain number for my ideal “capsule wardrobe,” “minimalist kitchen,” or anything else. I just concentrated on making sure that each item brought me either joy or great usefulness, and the tidying up came naturally from there. I still have lots of items in my closet (and in fact, I just received a few more packages….) but there’s way less than before. And nothing beats the satisfaction of opening up a drawer or a door and seeing only items I adore….all tidily put away, of course!
I’ve realized that I consider this book to be “life changing” – heavy words – because all my life I’d wanted to be a neat and tidy person, but I’ve never found the system to allow me to be that way, easily and naturally. Even though I just read Tidying Up last week, I already consider it a success because I’ve actually tidied up and sorted my entire house..and I’m thrilled with the results. Believe it or not, that’s never really happened before (except at a superficial level, where it all looked okay on the outside and everything was shoved into drawers and closets).
If you have any interest in organizing your own personal space…try this book. In my opinion, it’s 100% worth it (and Kondo includes some of her own chatty narrative about her own tidying experiences as well, which adds some more dimension and interest to the content). And if you’ve already read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up…I’d absolutely love to hear your thoughts!