I first encountered Marie Kondo on YouTube at the beginning of 2018. I’d been listening to something, I can’t remember what, which was followed up by a video with Ms Kondo and, intrigued by what I heard while cleaning my hands enough to hit the stop button, I let it run, listened to the whole thing, and then felt inclined to by the book.
At the time I had a lot of model making to do and was wanting things to listen to while doing it. I’d previously heard of Audible but had a blinkered association between audio books and novels; it simply hadn’t occurred to me that there would be so much non-fiction available as audio books.
So that’s the first thing for which I have to thank Ms Kondo because knowing that another physical book would most likely be fated to the pile I want to read but haven’t yet found time for, I looked on Audible, found her book “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” and discovered a plethora of other things that I have since listened to and learned from.
This also came at a time when I was feeling overwhelmed by “things” both in terms of the physical stuff in my flat, and the huge list of unfinished and un-started projects, as well as the huge list of “would like to do”.
The Konmari method for decluttering is primarily to do with objects, although it may and indeed probably will lead into other areas because of the mindset.
At it’s core is the concept of deciding on whether or not to keep an item based on whether or not it “sparks joy”. If that sounds silly, consider that literal translations from one language to another are often a little strange, and that it’s a two word encapsulation of a concept that requires a little more explanation and understanding, but which is essentially about whether or not possessing the thing is useful and, to a greater extent, pleasurable.
Once of the key elements of the Konmari method is that there is a recommended order in which to tackle clutter. It starts with clothes and ends after several steps with keepsakes and mementoes. This clever strategy takes advantage of the fact that the decision to keep or discard an item of clothing is largely based on practicalities i.e. does it fit? does it suit me? is it worn out? All of which kind of adds up to: do I wear it and enjoy wearing it? i.e. does it spark joy?
The decisions about keepsakes and mementoes however are almost entirely based on emotions so it’s as well to have learned to understand those emotions, by working through, clothes, books, documents, etc, before getting to the really difficult stuff.
It’s important to note here that some clothes aren’t really clothes at all. That t-shirt from when you saw your idol in concert for example; that may well be a mementos and should be classified and dealt with as such.
One area in which I found Konmari to be lacking, is as regards tools and materials. As an artist / designer / maker I have a penchant for tools and materials, and as any similarly craft and hobby oriented person will know: you can go months or even years without using a tool but when the need arises, the right tool for the job can be worth its weight in gold. Similarly there will be times, perhaps rare times, but they will occur whether your thing is decorating cakes or restoring historic vehicles, that the job is going to stop until you can put your hands on a length of wire, an empty jam jar, or a piece of wood.
Of course just because a system doesn’t work particularly well in one area is no reason not to use it in another. Marie Kondo has revolutionised my sock draw, the way I fold my t-shirts, and more importantly: it has impacted on how I think about the things I do and intend to do. In the same way that I have considered: am I keeping this thing because I enjoy having it or would it be better to give it away or sell it to somebody who will actually appreciate and use it, I now ask myself: why am I doing or thinking of doing this thing? Is it because I feel I should or because I actually want to? How do I really feel about it i.e. does it… spark joy?