What if cleaning your house changed your life permanently and profoundly?
It sounds like hyperbole, but for devotees of the KonMari Method of housecleaning, pioneered by Marie Kondo (who named it after herself), it's reality.
Kondo, author of the book, "The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing," doesn't hand-hold, and doesn't hold back. She preaches dramatic reorganization. She asserts: "When you put your house in order, you put your affairs and your past in order too." So Kondo's advice gets to the psychological via the physical. By surrounding yourself with only the things that you love, your life is transformed.
Now you can understand why The New York Times called her "a kind of Zen nanny" and she has sold more than 2 million copies of her book.
This excerpt, from the introduction to her book sums up her simple, straightforward perspective:
"My approach is not simply a technique. The act of tidying is a series of simple actions in which objects are moved from one place to another. It involves putting things where they belong. This seems so simple that even a six-year-old should be able to do it. Yet most people can't. A short time after tidying, their space is a disorganized mess. The cause is not a lack of skills but rather a lack of awareness and the inability to make tidying a regular habit. In other words, the root of the habit lies in the mind."
Organize your mind, then your room
So Kondo's book isn't your usual set of rules about how to clean and organize each room. It's a guide to how to change your mind-set. "People cannot change their habits without first changing their way of thinking," she writes.
And that advice probably runs counter to much of what you've heard in the past about how to clean and organize a home. Kondo suggests holding "tidying marathons," because doing as much as you can in one chunk of time will help change your mind-set. She suggests aiming for perfection because, she says, doing a little at a time and aiming low leads to a lack of confidence about tidying. And she suggests discarding "all at once, intensely and completely" before you even begin to clean and organize, so you'll be starting with a less complicated slate.
Kondo also asks us to rethink how we get rid of "stuff." Unlike other rules you may have read about disposing of things you haven't used in a year or getting rid of items that are broken or low-value, we should be choosing what we want to keep, not what we want to toss, writes Kondo. Taking the emphasis off what will become garbage/recycling helps us remember to enjoy and cherish the things that we already have.
Her method: "Take each item in one's hand and ask: 'Does this spark joy?' If it does, keep it. If not, dispose of it."
Kondo suggests literally doing this for each item in your closet, which would surely be time-consuming, but it takes even more time to keep cleaning, hanging and dealing with stuff you don't use and love in the long term. And, importantly, going through this process once in a closet-cleaning session will, yep, change your mind-set.
Imagine a clutter-free space
Her aim is for all of us to live in clean, clutter-free spaces. If that is your goal, she says you have to think in concrete terms to "vividly picture what it would be like to live in a clutter-free space." Get specific. What would it look like — down to what colors and type of tablecloth or bedspread would you see? What would it smell like? What would it feel like when you are in the space? Do you want it to feel like a hotel or another place you have been? Then use that image as your guide for what should and shouldn't be on the table or nightstand. Think in specifics, not generalities.
Finally, Kondo suggests that maybe you've just been thinking about tidying the wrong way all these years. What if instead of being a despicable chore, housework was something that brought you joy? What if you literally changed your mind?
"In essence, tidying ought to be the act of restoring balance among people, their possessions, and the house they live in," Kondo writes. That sounds like an enjoyable endpoint. If that resonates with you, check out her book. (Yes, there's plenty of totally practical advice too, like how to store socks, why to never stack anything, how to sort books and how to fold clothes.)