The How-To Magic of Decluttering

I just finished NY Times Bestseller “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo. I work for a professional maid service company and support Debbie Sardone, the Maid Coach who teaches maid services around the world how to clean and I love my job, so it’s not surprising that I read about…well, cleaning. And a conversation about cleaning these days surely has to include some words about what we do with all of our…well, stuff! Kondo has written the modern bible on decluttering or “tidying up” as she calls it (which seems much too demure for the mess most of us live with) and she reveals that being overwhelmed with stuff isn’t a uniquely American problem. She’s Japanese with a three month waiting list of clients in Japan. With 6 million copies of her book sold around the world and sold out events wherever she’s speaking, the need for tidying up is apparently international.

My first reaction after finishing Kondo’s book was, “And I thought I was OCD!” But in the few days time of reading the book (it’s easily readable in a few days but you’ll need it for much longer to adopt her process) and now having finished it, I find myself channeling her words as I do the laundry, as I rummage through my crowded closet looking for what to wear, as our family prepares for back to school by new clothes and shoe shopping. “Does it bring me joy?” For this is the essence of Kondo’s tidying up strategy: get rid of it if it doesn’t bring you joy.

Determining if something brings joy is a very physical process for Kondo, not to be conducted off-offhandedly but with focused intent, and all at one time, category by category. Start with clothing, she advises. Gather it all, every piece of your clothing, in your drawers, your closet, guest room dresser, boxes in the attic and make a pile. (This may be where lots of us bail on Kondo’s process, overwhelmed and overloaded by our piles!) Pick up each piece of clothing from the pile. That faded red t-shirt from a now defunct 1990’s boy band, from the first concert you ever attended, with the man who is now your husband and father of your two children? Hold it your hands. Touch it. Feel it. Connect with it. If there’s no visceral joy sparked, the t-shirt bites the dust…off to textile recycling. No calculating when you last wore it or hanging on because you might need it for an in-the-future, yet to be announced retro 90s party. YOU JUST LET IT GO! But first you thank it for the work that it did while you had it, for the joy that it did give, for the memories that are attached to it. Yes, you do. YOU THANK IT! (And this may be where lots more of us disconnect from Kondo’s process, unable or unwilling to dig deep emotionally and say an aloud thank you to our cast off shirts and skirts. The time alone…)

But this is the heart of Kondo’s system, which she has named KonMari in a cute combination of her two names: If you can’t connect emotionally with what you have — from clothes to books to knick knacks — why do you have it? There are many studies that tout the need to live with less and the resulting joy that comes from it, and Kondo takes her own experiences (from the time she was in kindergarten!) and those of her many customers to the conclusion that tidying up isn’t just about making the most of your limited space. It’s also about creating emotional space for yourself, birthing a calm and motivated new you, inspired by your stuff, decluttered and well…happier.

Kondo doesn’t give us the usual three piles or room-by-room or “If you haven’t worn it in a year” approaches to decluttering. She has unique tips to offer. She is prescriptive in how to attack your clutter, using specific categories in order (start with clothes, then books, never photos!), and she speaks specifically, emphatically and confidently about many details of her system like how to arrange the hangers in your closet for the best visual appeal, the best storage/organization options and what papers to discard (all of them!). She backs it all up, with no arrogance, by letting us know that no client of hers has ever reverted back to their cluttered ways (and I guess they haven”t been audited!); the KonMari system works! If it’s time for a reset in your cluttered life, or you just haven’t seen your kitchen counters in awhile, “Tidying Up” should be in your Amazon cart. You might get the added gift of a belly laugh when you read Kondo’s chapter on how to store your socks or rather how NOT to. Kondo makes rolling them in a ball like I do equivalent to a thoughtless, irresponsible crime. So one more thing on my To Do list today: I need to go say “So Sorry!” out loud to my sock drawer.

At Buckets & Bows Maid Service, we love all of your customers, the tidy ones and those who aspire to being tidy!