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Things I learned from the Japanese Cleaning Warrior, Marie Kondo

February 12, 2018

 Coming from a family of cleanliness fanatics (there’s towel on the bed one moment, my father waltzes in, and it’s gone), I’m often pulled to pieces for not being on par with what’s expected from me. But I don’t take those comments to heart because I immediately try to call this picture of my brother snoring like a pig amidst a pile of clothes, and books, and smelly socks on the bed, to my head and I instantly feel good about myself, like really good. Any ways.

 

So I came across this video on Facebook a few months ago which began with a petite Japanese woman seated composedly in Vajrasana, which the interviewer said is a greeting ritual practised by her before she gets down to organizing the homes of her clients. It became clear to me that there was a spiritual angle to Marie’s MO and that really intrigued me. The next natural step was to Google her; I devoured everything that I could find about her work, watched a few more videos about her KonMari Method and wasted no time to order her Bestseller book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

 

Like its author, the book is petite and pretty (the cover is splashed in turquoise) and manages to articulate her decluttering method in just 204 pages. So while I can’t stop eulogizing and evangelizing and enthusing about this wonder woman, I think I’ll put down a few pointers for you that I took away from the book so that we all can talk excitedly about her -

 

Thing #1: There is nothing wrong in aiming for perfection

 

 

Like really? But isn’t perfection the road to self-destruction paved with unrealistic expectations? Yes, but the perfection that Marie refers in the book, is a physical act, which like a craft can be perfected through years of practice and patience and perseverance. But this craft of tidying up does not take you years but just a few days (it however does depend on the mess you own) and a firm determination.

 

She asks us to steer clear of people who dispense vacuous advice like take things slowly and start off by tossing away one item a day - as they are honeyed words meant to sweeten the hearts of those who are either afraid of hard work or are unconfident about their ability to tidy. Also, Marie says that we’re most likely to lose interest and motivation to declutter if we indulge in piecemeal approach as we can’t really assess our success or witness the gratifying results.  

 

Thing #2: Picture your ‘perfect’ place in your mind’s canvas

 

 Just like she has it all pictured

 

This is easy and yet so effective. There’s always some idea, thought, dream, or picture that propels us to work towards something. You have to visualise it, feel it, and live it. You may take a certain pride in wearing the crown of the untidiest sheep of the flock or may have invented unique excuses to dodge your momma’s efforts to get your arse to clean your room but deep down you have always imagined a clutter-free and malodor-free space of your own where you could daydream about chasing rainbows and dancing with the unicorns. Marie wants us to ask ourselves, “why do I want to tidy?” and imagine every little detail and think of every logical reason that makes you want to embark on this mission.

 

Thing #3: Keep your family out of your tidying mission

 

 

Well, if they want to help, it’s a different story but more often than not, that isn’t the case. I remember last weekend, inspired from the KonMari Method, I set out with nothing but decluttering as my singular life goal and had my bed buried deep in heaps of my clothes (as per the KonMari method you have empty each of your wardrobe/drawer and bring all your clothes at one spot). I was already having this massive psychodrama inside my head because of the sheer volume of my stuff and the bitter realization that I was going to have to say bye bye to many of them AND MY MOTHER WALKED IN! You see, your life is sure to turn turtle or undergo some kind of turbulent change as your parents walk into your room.

 

As I took every item of clothing in my hand and asked myself if it really sparked joy, my mother waded through the knee-high pile of my clothes and got out my jewellery boxes (I have them in varying sizes, another story). Now as per the method, you have to deal with one category at a time; so here I am dealing with my first category and my mother decides to cramp my style by upending my jewellery boxes onto the floor. It doesn’t end there. We have this mini meltdown situation as she realizes that the owl curios and trinkets she had gifted me many moons ago are gone. She also notices that an excessively kitschy top she presented me was the first piece of clothing to grace the garbage bag. AAAHHHH. We both bandy some heated words and accusations; I say sorry, make her some coffee, and my mission gets prematurely stalled. So yes, your parents don’t need to know or see what you are discarding.

 

Thing #4: Do not keep it up with all that komono (miscellaneous items)

 

 

You know that fancy-looking box in which came your mobile or the tangle of cords that you refuse to discard because you think they’ll be of some use to you in the future, have no real reason to exist in your home/room? And what about those gifts? Okay, let’s be honest here; some not-up-my-alley gifts that are just whiling away their time as they aren't worthwhile to you? But those are gifts, somebody took their time and spent their money to buy it for me! Marie makes two very strong points here - first, a gift isn’t so much about giving as it is about receiving! Secondly, a person who gifted you obviously doesn’t want you to use it out of obligation, how true! So just take a good one last look at such gifts, and without any guilt or drama, discard or donate them.

 

Thing #5: Things of sentimental value are the hardest to get rid of, keep them for last

 

 

I'm sure you have experienced this at some point in your life. You are all primed and excited to get the house in order, so you launch into the cleaning process with all the fanfare but you find yourself lost in a merry maze of a time gone-by - your childhood photos, your Tinkle comics, Harry Potter books, Pokemon cards, love letters and ... you get the picture! They were the most important part of your growing up years! How can you just turn your back on them? Things of emotional and sentimental value are hard to dispose of. Which is why it’s best to start with things that are relatively easier to deal with, then in incremental ways, as your decision-making and intuition improve, you will be able to part ways with things that you don't need in your life anymore or rather don't spark joy.

 

Don't just throw what you don't need anymore - take the item in your hand, express your heartfelt gratitude to it, and like a good ol' friend bid it adieu. Isn't this the most thoughtful way of discarding? It sure is. 

 

I recommend this book to all those who think tidying/decluttering/cleaning is a dull and drab process and can’t be fun or even spiritual. You need Marie’s practical wisdoms to elevate you from this mortal morass!

 

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