12 February 2019
For the past few years, I have kept the tradition of doing a somewhat-ritualistic cleanse of all my material belongings. It is usually reserved for high points of the year – the start of school in the fall, after a slight mental breakdown or a new year. This tradition mainly arose from my relationship with minimalism, which has dictated the way I live certain aspects of my life.
Getting rid of clutter and redundant objects in your home not only makes for a more organized atmosphere and more elegant outlook, but it also makes you appreciate those things you do keep. That senior year of high school sweater that doesn’t fit; the blurry photo of you and your dad in Frankfurt; a DVD copy of Talladega Nights (I do not own a DVD player). While seemingly useless, the memories and emotions absorbed by some of these objects are as immortal as they are.
My most recent cleanse was the second one of the school year and it came as a result of the virally new Netflix Original, “Tidying Up With Marie Kondo.”
Kondo, now a celebrity entrepreneur, began a career as a tidying consultant in Tokyo. Her success quickly grew into a celebrated book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” which has spent almost 150 weeks on the New York Times best-seller list. Ironically, her fame did not peak during her time in Japan, but rather when the buzz of her book swam across the Atlantic Ocean and reached the shores of the U.S.
An article by Bloomberg Businessweek quotes Satoko Suzuki, from Hitotsubashi University in Tokyo, explaining that, “in the U.S., it’s become a how-to for self-realization. It’s not about cleaning up – cleaning up is just a tool to help yourself, understand yourself and develop yourself. Whereas, in Japan it’s really about cleaning up – the process.”
This made clear that the philosophy and lesson that Kondo gives to its U.S. audience have a deep cultural message. In fact, that same article pointed out that Goodwill and Salvation Army stores have reported higher donations than usual for January, which was weeks after the Netflix release.
The American public took Kondo’s advice to heart, and so did I. After a few episodes of the show, I decided to give the KonMari Method a try.
KonMari Method is the trademarked name that was appropriated for the following guideline to a tidy, pleasing home. The guidelines go as follow: commit yourself to tidying up, imagine your ideal lifestyle, finish discarding first, tidy by category, not by location, follow the right order and ask yourself if it sparks joy.
Ms. Kondo stresses the importance of tidying by category, starting first with clothes, followed by books, papers, komono (miscellaneous items) and sentimental items.
Two full trash bags and a trip to Goodwill later, tidying through the KonMari Method concluded with a strange feeling of calmness and success.
My room seemed not only cleaner but quieter. The desktop was inviting now. I could see the top of my nightstand again. Finding clothes finally became a quicker endeavor.
The process, however, was not as serene as its outcome.
Kondo’s suggestion was that my sentimental items were not as valuable as I thought, and that there was such a thing as too many books –although I did not pass her proposed 30 book limit. Perhaps this kind of memorabilia has a cultural past not shared with KonMari’s native home of Japan, the same way in the U.S.materialistic abundance has become an obsession and a hindrance that Kondo was not raised with. But I did not want to get rid of the sweater or the photo or the DVD, because I knew that in a few years they would hold irreplaceable value.
From this, I could only conclude that tidying up is as much a personal experience as the belongings and objects in question. It also became clear that material attachment can be ephemeral. When initially uncertain about a particular object, do not throw it back in the drawer but maybe reconsider its value over a night’s sleep. If asking yourself whether an object sparks joy in you works – great. With me, the question was about function and form.
Get inspired by Marie Kondo and maybe construct your own method, get rid of all your belongings. Find whatever works best for you, but be sure to periodically invest time in your home’s well-being.