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Marie Kondo on Tidying Up When the World Has Got You Down

The Japanese decluttering expert shares her strategies for navigating kids, politics, and other unruly items.
IMAGE COURTESY KONMARI
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When a certain little turquoise book came out by Japanese tidying expert Marie Kondo, millions took to our closets, tossing out objects with abandon in the pursuit of “sparking joy.” The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up became more than a trend—to “KonMari it” is right up there with “Google it” (at least among certain brunch sets).

But seven years after her global debut, the serenely upbeat Kondo finds us in a different place. The world is darker, more uncertain; ordinary chores feel futile, let alone tackling an entire overhaul by yourself. (Truthfully, tidying is a solo endeavor, no matter how many copies of the book you slyly leave out on the kitchen counter.)

Can we KonMari in 2018? According to Kondo herself, of course we can. Just don’t over-think it and maybe try chatting up the remote control.


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Marie Kondo with one of her new Hikidashi Boxes, which will help you perfect your KonMari fold.

Let’s get right to the point: What do you do if nothing sparks joy?

The first rule is to knowing if an item sparks joy is by touching it. Pick the three pieces in the pile of items that give you the most joy. You have three minutes to decide.

This works because the best way to identify what does or doesn’t bring you joy is to compare. In the beginning, unless you’re extremely decisive, it can be difficult to decide if something brings joy when you look at it by itself. When you compare it with a bunch of other things, however, your feelings become clearer.

What about essential, but boring, objects like the remote control?

Feelings of fascination, excitement, or attraction are not the only indications of joy. A simple design that puts you at ease, a high degree of functionality that makes life easier, a sense of rightness, or the recognition that a possession is useful in our daily lives—these, too, indicate joy.

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I have a secret for raising our joy level for things we know we need but that fail to excite us: shower them with praise. Let the items know that while they may not inspire joy, you really need them. For example, to a remote control, you can say, “Thank you for supporting our family’s evening bonding time.” Or “I appreciate your sleek design. Thanks for always being there to help me relax when I need a break.”

While it may sound odd, the point is this: The things we need definitely make our lives happier. Therefore, we should treat them as things that bring joy, including remote controls!

What do you do when you have children or a partner who undo your tidying work?

Tidying with children is a challenge, and I’ve had trial and errors with my two daughters. One thing I strive to do is to show by example. For instance, I make sure to fold the laundry in front of my daughters, even if they’re still young, so that they can see how much I am enjoying tidying. I want them to learn that tidying is a comforting and enjoyable process.

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If you have messy roommates/family/partners, it’s very important to clearly demarcate whose belongings are stored where. For shared spaces, make sure to set up a designated spot for every item. Once that is set up, make it a rule to put things back in its designated place after use.

How do you make your home a haven when everything in the outside world feels troubled?

Tidying is a must. Choose only the items that spark joy, and make it a habit to treat them with care. When you are surrounded by items that make you happy, you can maintain an equilibrium at home

If we started the KonMari Method, but then stopped, what should we do?

You can restart from where you left off. I do recommend doing it all in one go in order to maintain your sense of joy, so if you resume from the middle and find that things don’t feel right, you can restart from the beginning as well. The Hikidashi Boxes are the perfect tool to help kick start your tidying if you need a little motivation.

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This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors.

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Olivia Martin
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