The KonMari method became popular early in the 2000s because it gave people a simple five step method to approach decluttering and/or organizing your life. Similarly to the manufacturing industry’s 5S method – sort (seiri), set in order (seiton), shine (seiso), standardize (seiketsu), and sustain (shitsuke) – Kondo’s method asks us to get rid of waste or anything that doesn’t bring us joy. All she asks is that we thank those items that no longer serve us repurposing those things than could be useful to others as they had been to our past selves.
As I watched the series, I had several realizations about the importance of keeping a tidy mind and a happy home. The top five were:
1. Decluttering requires self reflection
Many of us hold on to things because we can, not because we have to. It took me a few years to question my purchases. Why did I buy this? Do I use it? If not, why am I holding on to it? Sunk costs and sentimental value aside, we should only keep what we use; it’s common sense. Learning to let go of what doesn’t serve us requires us to understand why we didn’t need it in the first place. Once we still the mind, we can still the shopping or hoarding triggers that result in a home and mind full of stuff we can live without.
2. If you can replace it in 20 minutes while spending $20, don’t store it
Unless the item is used daily, it is easier to wait until you need something to procure it. Buying stuff on sale just in case you will need it not only wastes money but space and time. Even in a well organized home, items that are waiting for a turn may be stored for years before you have any need for them. Give away extras, or sell them, rather than sticking them in a drawer with the hopes that it will come in handy at a later date.
3. Not all collectibles hold their value
In one of the episodes a man goes through thousands of baseball cards to lean out his collection keeping less than 10%. Those cards that were from lesser known players or failures didn’t hold their value. Sometimes we collect Beanie Babies or comics, among other items, with the hope that someone with nostalgia, many years in the future, will pay boatloads of cash for the item we treasured. For an item to be valuable it must be in unused or pristine conditions, oftentimes vetted by professional appraisers to ensure all appropriate standards are met. If you don’t follow the rules, your efforts will be for naught.
4. Only one person is needed to make a tough decision
Consulting, collaborating and sharing burdens helps us humans prepare before making important decisions but in the end, the responsibility of the hard choice will fall on just one person – an as history indicates, most likely a figure head. When my mom became terminally ill, my sister was able to clean out the house at lightning speed because she had all the power to make the determination of what stayed and what didn’t. By removing myself from her path I gave her room to do what was necessary to accomplish the task. Sentimental value can hold a person hostage to items that are past their prime or have no utility.
5. It all comes down to habits
Decluttering a home can be an ardous task and maintaining the vibe requires lifestyle changes. New habits have to replace the old, and discipline and will power must be employed to ensure we don’t succumb to temptation. For example, you’ll need to stop buying in bulk when only an item is necessary even if it appears to be a better deal. The goal is to avoid hoarding items, which doesn’t mesh sometimes with saving cost. It’s simple economics; rate of return vs return on investment vs cost of opportunity. (See link for explanation of terms.) Saving space to keep a home in a zen state aesthetically requires a change of perspective and motivation around consumerism. If you don’t master step 1 on this list, step 5 will be nearly impossible to achieve.
Watch Marie Kondo work her magic on Netflix or check out her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing wherever books are sold.