the life-changing magic of tidying up: the japanese art of decluttering and organizing

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

A long title for a brilliant book!

So: the super excellent life-changing magic of tidying up… Here’s the gist, the writer, Marie Kondo, is a professional organizer, who goes around Japan to help people get rid of clutter and organize what’s left of it. If you think all Japanese are all minimal and zen, think again! They are just as messy as the rest of us. And they have even less space. That is, until Marie has visited. She doesn’t sell storage solutions, she wants you to have so little you don’t need storage solutions.

Marie is Shinto and so thanks all her stuff when using it, after using it and when throwing it out. I thought it was brilliant. I am not a Shinto animist, but I am ”barking mad”, and one reason I cannot get rid of stuff is that I feel sorry for the stuff that gets discarded. Marie has a different take, on storing and keeping stuff.
Two examples:

  • Gifts: their purpose is to be gifted, to be received and to bring pleasure. Once that has been accomplished they are ready to move on. Which immediately negates the guilt you would otherwise feel in getting rid of a gift.
  • Clothes: their purpose is to make you comfortable and look good, if they get old you thank them and let them move on. If they were a mistake and did not make you look good you thank them for teaching you what doesn’t suit you and you let them go

The key is: ”Does this give you joy”. And this works for all kinds of stuff, and papers, and books and mementos. You start from easy to difficult, I did do the easiest category: my clothes. I piled them in a large heap and looked aghast at the enormous amount I actually had, and then I took everything in my hand to see if it brought me ”joy”. If not you can let it move on.

Because; things, clothes, stuff which are stored in dark places are not happy.
They are not fulfilling their purpose. And the fact that they are there, slowly mouldering away in darkness will weigh on your mind. Out of sight is not out of mind.

For me this is perfect. This is exactly how I feel about stuff, about storing stuff, and now I can suddenly let them go and feel really good about it. So I did phase one, my clothes. I happily got rid of half of my clothes, shoes, etc. Most of which I took to a secondhand store and actually got a little money for. Tiny little bit, but still…

The clothes pile
Looking aghast at the pile of clothes!

One excellent tool the book gave me is ”how to fold clothes”. Yes, the mind boggles and luckily there is You-tube where the writer actually demonstrates what she means.
And gosh! Does it work!!!! I now not only can fold beautifully, I actually enjoy folding my clothes! It used to be one of my biggest nightmares! But, within half an hour of watching the videos, I was brilliant at it! And it is a joy to open my drawers! All the clothes are there, clearly seen and easily chosen. You also stand all the folded clothes on one end, so you don’t stack, so when you open a drawer you see the top of every shirt.
You see, clothes don’t like to be crumpled, or squashed at the bottom of the pile. So the extra benefit is that all my clothes are now very happy too!

Happiness brought to you by an organized closet
Happiness brought to you by an organized closet

A problem area I foresee is the stuff I need for my work and projects. However, all that stuff can at least get better organized.

The next phase, the second easiest, should be books, but for me books are very emotional, and sort of holy, so they will have to be one of the last projects I tackle. But the magic of tidying up is working already… I come across books which I didn’t want to get rid off, which I have been lugging around for decades, and suddenly I realize, ”This particular book brings me no joy…. It can go!”

I suppose I will have to update and write more posts as I move on to the next phases. The book says it takes half a year to get it all done, you are meant to do one project at a time, and per month I suppose. I will never be a minimalist, but I will be beautifully organized and my stuff will be happy and bring me joy.

Oh yes, I suppose it is clear that I really love this book and as long as it gives me joy it will remain on my bookshelves!

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