You may have heard of Marie Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. It came out a few years ago and caused a stir. It’s been parodied in the media, and I know an equal number of people who either benefited from or hated the book. The primary take-away from Marie Kondo (her nickname is KonMari): Decide what items to keep and discard based on their answer to one question: “Does it spark joy?” If it doesn’t, you thank the item for serving its purpose and you get rid of it.

Emily Gilmore practices the KonMari method too!

Learn to love your belongings.

A primary part of her philosophy is thinking of your items first. How would your sweaters like to be stored – shoved in a drawer under a bunch of others, or carefully folded with just the right amount of room to breathe? Do your items want to sit on the top of the closet unused? Would they rather be thanked for serving their purpose and given to someone who would better appreciate them?

I bought the book when I was first published in English, and it didn’t do much for me, although I liked the idea of keeping a tidy home. Then I read it again a few weeks ago, and suddenly everything clicked. It’s not all about anthropomorphizing your belongings. The process sounds silly until you realize it’s not for the benefit of the items – it’s for you! It’s a means to evaluate your belongings and feel good about letting them go. It’s a means to think of your items instead of your own emotions. It’s a way to fully appreciate what you own. As Marie says, “To get rid of what you no longer need is neither wasteful nor shameful. Can you truthfully say that you treasure something buried so deeply in a closet or a drawer that you have forgotten its existence?”

I’m of the belief that the things we own should be carefully chosen, and they should be well cared for. It seems common sense, but it’s easy to forget to respect your belongings when you can buy nearly everything you need at your nearest Target. What happens a few months after you purchase an item you’ve long and saved for? Do you treat it the same was as the first time you used it? It’s just as precious now, even if the novelty has worn off. Instead of treating one special item carefully for a few months, I want to treat everything I own that way. I want to savor it all.

Illustration in the New Yorker, September 2017. I cut this out and taped it to my wall for a while. Why? Because it sparked joy!

Find joy where you can.

I’ve been using the “Does it spark joy?” rational for a couple years, often facetiously. “Do I want cake? Does it bring me joy? Yes, I do!” and “Joseph, I have to buy these shoes. They spark joy.” But honestly, it’s a good strategy. If nothing else, it makes you think about the fact that what you’re doing is making you happy. Something in acknowledging that fact gives it a stronger impact.

Of course, not everything we do can spark joy. I still have to do the dishes, still have to make my boring drive to work every day. There’s not much joy to be found there. But I started to evaluate the things I was doing and surrounding myself with on the “Does it spark joy?” meter, and it made me realize there were a lot of things that weren’t bringing me joy that I could control. It also made me take note of the things that make me happy – the field of cows I pass on my drive to work, my favorite pair of socks. etc. – and I try to savor that feeling.

I’ve always felt that it’s selfish to think about ourselves so often. But you know what? It’s not. There’s no fault in thinking of your feelings and taking steps to make yourself happier. I started removing from my home the things that didn’t bring me joy, and it’s made a huge impact.

Your home should be a museum to display the things you love.

There’s a sense of serenity in my house now. I look around, and I’m surrounded by things I love. I feel calm, which is shocking because my natural state is stressed and neurotic! I still may not like the furniture in my living room, but I like everything around it, and that makes up for it. I’ve gotten rid of or put away the small things that made me unhappy for various reasons, such as the embroidery I did 9 years ago that has sentimental value but is no longer a product I’m proud of because I wasn’t very skilled at the time. It’s in a closet now. I may hang it up somewhere eventually, but I realized that every time I looked at it in the living room it made me sad and frustrated. I have a feeling if I find the right place for it, it will spark joy again. In the right space, it can remind me of my love for picking up new crafts.

I KonMari’d my living room. That mantle used to be full of things that took up space and didn’t make me happy. Removing that stuff lets me really appreciate the things I do like. It also made me notice the architecture of my room that I’d long forgotten about and had stopped appreciating! Note: The cat  is a living, breathing being and does not stay in place. Also, I later removed the wicker base to the left, against Joseph’s protestations. It brought me absolutely no joy. Not sure how it made him feel, but he didn’t notice when I moved it!

I tidy my home frequently now. I’ve realized that the few minutes I spend putting things away far outweighs the feeling I get when I look around and see a neat, clean room full of items I love.

A place for everything and everything in its place.

When I read Marie Kondo’s book a few weeks ago, I quickly started sorting through my belongings with that in mind. I meticulously cleaned out rooms, making sure to touch every single item and think about how I use it. If it was something I needed to keep, I assigned it a place where it belongs. 8 hours cleaning the master bathroom, 3 hours cleaning the laundry room, 7 hours cleaning the coat closet. I developed systems for every shelf, every drawer, every cabinet. I’ve always liked organizing, and many of my rooms have gone through miniature reorganizations. But committing to reorganize a full room at once made a big difference. And spending 8 hours cleaning your master bathroom is good incentive to keep it clean!

I carefully considered every item in this room and how and where it should go. I threw away, recycled, and donated more things than I could have imagined.  I used a lot of baskets to sort and store things. I stored like with like, and I arranged things by frequency of use.

I made small changes. I realized that for 7 years Joseph and I have been storing our contact cases on the bathroom counter. Why? We only need them twice a day – there’s no need for them to be out at all times! So they each now have a space in our drawers, and we haven’t been inconvenienced one bit! We get to appreciate our white marble countertops without being distracted by $1 plastic green and white contact cases.

The KonMari method has made me reevaluate everything in my home, but I don’t feel like I’m following a set of rules or guidelines (that wouldn’t work for me at all!). By looking at my surroundings and thinking of the way they impact my feelings, I’ve become very in touch with my emotions and have found easily solutions to quickly improve my mood. Plus, it’s helped me find a new appreciation in the things I own. And this has a surprisingly far-reaching effect! Joseph and I are undertaking some small redecorating projects in our home because of this. I’ll be sharing some of that soon!

Have you read Marie Kondo’s book? Have you adopted any of her philosophies?


    • Alyssa Reply

      Thank you for reading! I found so many different reviews on the KonMari method, I thought I might as well throw in my own!

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