Japanese organising expert Marie Kondo’s ‘Konmari method’ of decluttering and tidying is taking the world by storm. Where most decluttering methods focus on what you need to get rid of — ‘you need 33 items of clothing’ or ‘declutter 27 items a day’ — Kondo’s focus is on deciding what you want to keep.
Kondo’s theory is that we are happiest when we are surrounded by things we love. The Konmari method consists of gathering together everything you own and then keeping only those things which ‘spark joy’. In her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing*, Kondo cites examples of people whose lives were transformed once they removed all things that distracted them from becoming what they truly want to be.
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up espouses a specific order of decluttering by category. You begin with clothes, then books, then papers and finally Komono, or miscellaneous items such as CDs, skincare products and electrical items. You finish up with photos and other sentimental items because they are the most difficult to part with. A tactile approach is encouraged. You hold every item before you decide what you want do with it and you thank discarded items for their service.
The items that remain are valuable in some way so they need to be taken care of — and Kondo has specific guidelines on how to take care of things, including folding clothes so that sit upright in your drawers and allowing socks to rest by not rolling them up into balls. In our consumerist world where disposability is everything, Kondo’s focus on valuing possessions is both novel and refreshing.
As someone who has tried various decluttering methods for years with the hope of (eventually) having a beautifully organised and aesthetically pleasing home, the Konmari method is a breath of fresh air. Since downloading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up a few days ago and reading it from beginning to end, I have further decluttered my already fairly minimal wardrobe and started on my biggest weakness — books.
Using the Konmari method with a child
This weekend I decided to test the Konmari method by using it to help my 11 year old son Will organise and arrange his bedroom.
Like most youngest kids in a family, Will’s room was full of books and clothes that were handed down. Very little was actually chosen by him. His face lit up when I said he only needed to keep things he loves and values or needs (such as school uniforms).
Using the Konmari method, we put everything he owns in a big pile in the middle of the floor and worked through clothes, then books, then other things. Will held every item in his hands as he made his decision. Out went a box of old kids’ books, including my collection of Enid Blytons. He also discarded lots of toys and a garbage bag of hand-me-down and outgrown clothing. Afterwards, Will decided where to place all his possessions. His sense of achievement was palpable.
Here are some ‘after’ photos. Will has only had this room, formerly a sitting room, for a few months, since it became evident that sharing with an older brother wasn’t working out. We haven’t changed the wall colour and the furniture has come from other parts of the house, but the room finally feels like it truly belongs to Will.
Also read: How to Use the Konmari method with Teenagers