Did you ever think that tidying up could magically affect your life?
Personally, when it comes to organizing, I don't consider myself a perfectionist, a minimalist, a hoarder, or anything else. Actually, I haven't really thought about defining my organizing style before at all. I believe I'm in the middle — not too much stuff but not too little either. I shop occasionally, donate often, and make sure my home is presentable enough when guests come over.
Still, I was drawn to the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by the renowned Japanese organizing consultant and author, Marie Kondo. Although I thought I'd just learn some simple tips and tricks on how to better organize my things, I was surprised to learn there's so much more to this system.
The KonMari Method, as her system is called, digs deep into the psychology of how our home and belongings really fit in the overall picture of our lives. Her philosophy revolves around being intentional with what we keep and what we surround ourselves with, and how to curate a space that makes us relaxed, grateful, and happy.
Here are my 3 takeaways.
01. Does it spark joy?
Marie Kondo is an interesting person. Her whole life has been devoted to helping people be more organized and she's developed her signature system through years of research and experimentation, starting when she was just a kid.
She suggests organizing vertically (not by stacking), by category (not by room), in the correct order (yes, there's an actual list), by discarding first (before sorting or storing), and doing it all in one go (instead of little by little).
But the most insightful part of the KonMari Method for me is when we're struggling to decide whether to keep or to discard an item, the selection criterion we must consider is this:
Does it spark joy?
It doesn't matter if it's an expensive gift or a trendy appliance, a memento from college or a week-old purchase. Marie suggests holding each and every item in our hands one by one and see which ones speak to us. If it doesn't, it's best to just send the item on its way.
02. Finish discarding first
In terms of tidying, Marie boils the process down to two steps: discarding and deciding where to store the remaining things. Of the two, she insists that discarding must come first.
If we don't first eliminate everything that's unnecessary, or in this case, anything that doesn't spark joy, we'll end up relapsing from the process. In fact, this critical first step is what prevents all of Marie's clients from rebounding. Think about it: putting things away merely creates the illusion that our clutter problem has been solved.
Not only are we storing the item in a place that could be used for something more important, but it would also be infinitely easier and more enjoyable for us to organize and sort our belongings once we're left with only the things that inspire happiness in our lives. As stated in the book,
"To truly cherish the things that are important to you, first discard of the things that have outlived their purpose."
03. Tidying is not the purpose in life
The last chapter is where Marie hones in on how tidying affects our lives in a magical way —
As we put our homes in order, we gain clarity. Our belongings reflect who we really are, who we are not, and how we want to live.
Through discarding, we become grateful. We don't need to live with excess and we become more intentional with each item in our home.
Through the process of determining what to keep, we gain confidence as we develop our decision-making skills.
Lastly, when our space is organized and we're surrounded by things that make us happy, it's easier and more natural for us to devote our time, energy, attention to activities that bring us the most joy and help fulfill our life's mission.
As we tidy, Marie says we will reach a point in which everything will "click." We'll realize how much stuff we really need and how much we can live with. Similarly, the most effective productivity system isn't the one with the latest tools or the most expensive features — it's the one that aligns best with our goals, our priorities, and our lifestyle.
Looking at my notes, I realize the similarities between this organizing system and my thoughts on productivity. I’ve mentioned before that my goal in being productive isn’t simply to do more work. Rather, to be more intentional and purpose-driven with my daily activities so that ultimately, I can be free to pursue the things I love.
Now, I'm glad to add tidying to this philosophy.
Share in the comments below: Have you tried organizing your space with the same kind of intention before? What's your organizing style? If you've read this book, what are your three takeaways?
Want to put these takeaways into action?
Prefer the video format?
Since one of the best ways to improve ourselves is to commit to continuous learning, this post is part of the blog mini-series called 3 Takeaways where I discuss three insights from thought-provoking leaders, books, and podcasts.
My purpose initially was to simply read more books, but the learnings were too valuable to keep to myself. My goal has since been to share the vital lessons that will help you be productive and free.