Book of the month: February

February 4, 2019

 

“The question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life”

 

I have been a huge fan of Marie Kondo’s since I first read her book back in 2014 before we had a house, a child, and our own furniture. Living as an expat in Shanghai in a furnished apartment meant that we really only owned clothes and lots of kitchen utensils. But even back then I found the de-cluttering techniques of the KonMari Method so incredibly useful, and I can see now that leaving Shanghai with just a couple of suitcases and no sad feelings around leaving all of our belongings behind was so easy because of Marie Kondo’s method. 

 

At the beginning of this year, Netflix brought out a decluttering show with Marie Kondo, and of course I binge watched it within a couple of days (while locked into the bathroom at the hotel willing Baby Zand to finally fall asleep next to my bed … but that’s a story for another day :-)). The best part about this show is that it has revived the book and the decluttering wave, making millions of people throw out so much old junk. I truly believe that in order to live a happy and healthy life, our space we live in must reflect this. Often when I work with clients with emotional eating, they don’t only hold on to their emotions in the form of weight, but also in the form of other stuff they can’t let go of: the high school uniform they once fit in to during happier days, the collection of Christmas decorations they inherited from their grandmother to revive happy childhood memories, etc. 

 

Tidying up really is life changing, and so this book is definitely one of my favorites. Even though the show gives you a good insight into the order of tidying up (starting with your clothes, not old photos for example), the book addresses more of the emotional ties we have to our stuff, and how to re-think these patterns. That is why you may want to consider reading this book, too!

 

“Effective tidying involves only two essential actions: discarding and deciding where to store things. Of the two, discarding must come first.”

 

In the KonMari Method there is a very strict order of tidying up. Marie explains that as you progress through each category, your discarding muscles get stronger, and it will get easier to make decisions of what to keep. 

 

Order of tidying: 

  1. Clothes

  2. Books

  3. Papers

  4. Miscellany (CDs and DVDs, toiletries and make up, electrical equipment, household stuff, kitchen utensils and food, etc) 

  5. Mementos 

 

Marie stresses that we need to tidy up each category rather than a location. Maybe you are also the kind of person who has clothes in multiple locations like me? Most of my regular clothes are in the bedroom closet, I have jackets and coats I wear daily by the door closet, seasonal clothes in boxes in storage, and long dresses and evening gowns in a different, taller closet. If I just tidy up my main closet, then I will never truly see how many jackets I really have if I don’t also pull out all the other clothes from all the other locations. Let’s say there are two jackets in each. So I put them all back after the tidying up process, because two seems like a good number. However, when I add them all up, it’s eight. In that case I could probably get rid of half of them! Do you see how it is so much more important to go through each category? 

 

“Keep only those things that speak to your heart. Then take the plunge and discard all the rest.”

 

When trying to decide between what to keep and what to discard, the only question you need to ask yourself is “does this bring me joy?”. Sounds weird? Try it, it works! There are so many things I have kept because they were expensive, they were a gift, they reminded me of a happy memory, they weren’t used enough yet, … there are endless reasons I would talk myself into keeping stuff I didn’t really love. 

 

“People have trouble discarding things that they could still use (functional value), that contain helpful information (informational value), and that have sentimental ties (emotional value). When these things are hard to obtain or replace (rarity), they become even harder to part with.”

 

The reality is that once something has outlived its purpose, you don’t need to keep it out of guilt or for any other reason. If you bought a Christmas bowl to serve your special cookies in, and after Christmas that bowl’s purpose is done, it’s ok to get rid of it, rather than keeping it around and never using it again. Thank the piece, and let it go. 

 

“The true purpose of a gift is to be received. Presents are not “things” but a means for conveying someone’s feelings.” 

 

The biggest problem for me always used to be getting rid of gifts I had received. I always felt bad discarding something that someone had picked out for me with love and care and probably also spent considerable money on. The guilt would eat me up, but the zapping of joy was also always present any time I would look at this gift. Marie Kondo has truly changed my perspective of this, and this was my biggest lesson: the joy of the gift was in the moment the gift was received. If after that the gift sparks more joy, use it. If it doesn’t, discard it, because the gift giver will also be let off the hook for making you unhappy. My mind was blown. And I am happily passing on gifts now knowing that the joy has already been given! 

 

I hope you feel inspired to get tidying. One more little tip that Marie also talks about in the book: never tidy in front of family members. And I will add to that: especially your mother! A couple of years ago I was going through some old stuff I still had at my parent’s place. I wanted to get rid of everything. Every single thing I put in the garbage bag (mind you, these were trophies, ballet awards, some weird children’s jewelry, and mostly photos), my mom would tell me stories and cry about every single item. It was so annoying! Of course I would have done the same were I in her shoes. That’s why you never tidy in front of someone. They will guilt you into keeping things that don’t spark joy for you. 

 

So, grab the book, and get inspired to make your home the comfortable space you have always wanted to live in. 

 

 

For more information: 

Marie Kondo: www.konmari.com

 

 

 

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© 2019 Martina Zand