Take a moment, and look around you. The furniture, the clothes, all the colorful “accents” you thought you needed to spruce up your space. The stacks of books, papers, toys, miscellaneous nostalgic remnants of a past you. How much of it brings you joy? I’m not talking about the spark you feel the first week you get a new iPhone. I’m talking about the way you might look at that old photo of your family that you keep besides your bed. The thing that you could never part with because it’s become such an intrinsic part of you. How many of those things do you have? And what’s the rest? Why is it there?
Let’s start asking questions about the things that take up space in our lives. Being mindful and organizing your belongings has a way of affecting your mind, body and soul. First, put your hands on everything you own, ask yourself if it sparks joy, and if it doesn’t, thank it for its service and get rid of it. Second, once only your most joy-giving belongings remain, put every item in a place where it’s visible, accessible, and easy to grab and then put back. Only then will you have reached the nirvana of housekeeping, and never have to clean again.
Lesson #1: Simplify and repeat
Tackle Categories, Not Rooms. I’d always tackled clutter by room—take on the office first, the bedroom next. Instead, Kondo’s first rule is to tidy by category—deal with every single one of your books at once, for example, otherwise they’ll continue to creep from room to room, and you’ll never rein in the clutter. She advises beginning with clothing, since it’s the least emotionally loaded of one’s things (books come next, old photographs are much later), so as soon as I found a free afternoon, that’s exactly what I did.
Lesson #2: Respect your belongings
With my eyes now open, I realized my closets had hit rock bottom. Everything had succumbed to a mixed-up messiness. Kondo asks that you consider your clothing’s feelings: Are they happy being squashed in a corner shelf or crowded onto hangers? Are your hardworking socks really thrilled to be balled up? It had sounded out there when I read it, but suddenly my clothes looked totally miserable.
Lesson #3: Nostalgia is not your friend
As I started emptying the closets, I opened boxes filled with letters and old photographs. Serious mistake. Kondo knows what she’s talking about when she insists you put blinders on and focus only on the category of stuff at hand. Read one old letter, and suddenly you’re down a rabbit hole of nostalgia.
To be honest, I was probably procrastinating. In theory, I was sold on the idea of living exclusively with clothing that gives me joy, but I still had hang-ups: What will I be left with? Will I have anything to wear to work? Will I have to sacrifice beloved things, all for the sake of decluttering?
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