I’m sure everyone and their dog has read, or at least heard about Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by now. I read it about a month ago and I can assure you that the title is no exaggeration. Kondo, known by her fans as KonMari, is a Japanese organisation expert and claims to have never had a repeat client, her advice is THAT good, and you know what? I totally believe her.
I read the book while I was in Florence, and was rearing to get back to my bedroom in England and have a massive clearout. The day after my arrival, that’s exactly what I did. I followed the steps in the book, starting with clothing, then books, then miscellaneous items, etc. Although I did get rid of A LOT of clothes (three huge black bags) and a load of other things, I’m going to focus on the bookshelves because those are what have had the most obvious visual impact before and after the clearout.
I started by pulling everything from the shelves, so I could see exactly what I had. KonMari recommends this so we ‘activate’ the energy of each item, then we can decide if it ‘sparks joy’. If yes, we keep it, if not, we get rid of it. Having already gone through this process with my clothes, I was already in cleanout mode and it was much easier to start throwing books away, even if they held dear memories. For this, Kondo recommends that we thank each item for the role it played in our life, but accept that it has served its useful purpose with us. This way we can more easily part with things.
I found that even though I had kept a lot of books because of the memories they held, they actually sparked no joy at all, and in fact created a sense of anxiety when I picked them up. Many things I was keeping not because of the memories, but the fear of losing touch with those parts of my life. I don’t believe in inanimate objects having energies or anything, but it can’t be healthy to be hoarding so much stuff that make me uncomfortable to even pick up.
This was most evident in my magazine piles; I went through a massive magazine obsession in my teenage years, and never threw them out. Rather, I kept them like some kind of archive as if I was responsible for keeping them as records. This was bad for me and it’s insane that I actually had room for them all. There were so many that I didn’t want to go through them all, so kept a handful that had some great photoshoots in, and recycled the rest.
One of the things Kondo advises is to not let family members start ‘helping’, and she’s totally right. My mother was quite upset at me giving away books that I’d never read, that good money had been spent on. While it’s a shame that these books didn’t get used as intended, I simply accepted the value they’d held to me at some point, even though it was only brief, and let them go. Surely it’s better for them to find an owner who will value them, than have them oppress me in my own bedroom? Having my mother guilt me into keeping things that I didn’t want really wasn’t helping me reach my goal, and I did end up shouting at her to back off from rooting through the rubbish bags. I did rescue one thing for her, but I’m not entirely sure what she’s planning to do with a light-up, quacking, duck-shaped keyring, and I’ve since found other things that she’s ‘saved’, too. Why she needs an out-of-date face cream, I’ll never know.
After I’d sorted out what to keep, I began putting it all back on the shelves. I now have much more space for things to spread out, rather than cramming them on top of each other, and have made use of this to make space for the ornaments I wanted to display. Although Kondo advises not keeping more than around thirty books, I’m happy having more than that, and would even allow myself a few more, given that I now have free space on my shelf. I even spread out my Penguin Clothbound Classics, which creates visual interest with their patterns, as they’re dotted around, rather than in one block. Now when I look at my bookcases, I’m happy to see them, and have definitely noticed that there was a certain subconscious anxiety in the past compared to now.
KonMari has definitely changed the way I view ‘stuff’. Now I’m far faster to throw things away that serve me no purpose, and stop clinging to things for no reason.
I’ll finish this post with a little bit of wisdom from William Morris:
“Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”
Has anyone else tried the KonMari Method? How did it go?