I picked up The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo when I was in Chicago in the fall, and finally finished it over the holidays, and I’m just now getting to writing about it because it has continued to have a lasting impact on me. You should know that I haven’t KonMari-ed my whole apartment, and instead I’ve taken the bits and pieces from the book that resonated most with me. While I do eventually want to apply this method to everything, I know that now may not be the time.
That’s actually the first caveat I discovered to the book: while her method is great, you need to recognize what will work for the season of life you’re in. It’s important to adapt her advice for your situation and keep in mind the permanence of your decisions. For example, I had to buy a 6-foot ladder when I lived in Evanston because I could not reach my chirpy smoke detectors without it. It was a great investment, and while I don’t use it everyday and it doesn’t spark joy for me to have it shoved in one of my tiny closets right now, I’m holding onto it because I know it will be useful in the future. I also think it would be wasteful of both materials and money for me to discard the ladder, only to have to buy a new one a short period of time later. Sometimes (but very rarely) practicality needs to win out over joy.
With that in mind, there’s something to be said for getting rid of things that don’t spark joy – or more specifically, that spark negative feelings. I had a pile of things that I had schlepped all the way to Nashville and every time I saw them in my drawer, I pushed them to the back because I had such bad memories associated with them. When I read the part of the book about only keeping belongings that spark joy, I immediately jumped up and threw all of those items away. Seriously, I put the book down and put all that stuff in a garbage bag because I realized why I kept pushing it around in the drawer: it made me feel bad whenever I looked at it. And I can’t say that I magically felt like a new person, but it really did feel so much better not to recoil every time I opened the drawer. I have no shame in getting rid of stuff that makes me angry, upset, sad, or is just plain unnecessary now.
I’ve also applied this to new purchases, and I’ve bought way fewer personal items in the months since I read this book because I’m much more picky about what is going to be a positive presence in my life. Except for some regular new purchases for the pup, I really don’t shop anymore because it’s not something I feel makes me happy right now. I have habits of what I need to buy weekly, monthly, and on a longer-term basis, and it’s very comforting to have a routine.
Marie is right that decision-making is a muscle that needs to be flexed and worked, and her method of tidying by category is great for helping to strengthen this muscle. I also believe in the power of habit to help with future decisions. The more habit you have in your life, the more brainpower you have for important decisions. For a few years now I’ve maintained a routine of eating the same thing for breakfast and lunch every day, shifting slightly with the seasons and my whims, and it helps me so much because I don’t need to think about those things. With Marie’s help I’ve narrowed down my wardrobe quite a bit to clothes I know and love, and when I was on the road in the fall I packed the same 5 outfits every single week. Such are the hidden perks of a job where you don’t see the same people every day! I use the same 4 makeup products on my face every day, and I rotate between 7 different facial care products depending on the time of day. I’ve used the same lotion for a few years. You could say I’m a creature of habit because it helps to free up brain space for when I need to make big decisions – I don’t need to think too hard about the small things, so I have more energy to make important decisions each day.
While I keep putting off fully executing the KonMari Method, these principles have seeped into my life and take no thought for me to maintain. In my mind, that’s the best impact a book can have on you: when you’re able to fully assimilate its methods and teachings into your own life, and adapt them to your own life so they work for you.