I’m a big fan of Marie Kondo.
For those of you who don’t know, Marie Kondo is the ultra-petite, impeccably dressed, world-renown tidying expert from Japan. She’s the author of the #1 New York Times bestselling book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and star of the popular Netflix series, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.
Kondo teaches people how to tidy their homes and keep them that way using the KonMari method of decluttering. The KonMari method, created by Kondo herself, gets people to reduce their possessions by touching each item to see if it “sparks joy.” If yes, the item is kept. If no, the item is thanked for its service and discarded or donated.
Critics poke fun at the notion that everyday objects can “spark joy,” or that thanking the butter dish you got for your wedding will make you feel less guilty about donating it to Goodwill.
What many don’t understand is that Kondo’s methods are, in part, influenced by Shintoism. Expressing gratitude is a way of treasuring and honoring the object for its intrinsic value before letting it go.
Despite the critics, Kondo has legions of fans, myself included, and the KonMari credo, “Tidy Your Space, Transform Your Life,” has inspired decluttering movements across Japan, Europe, Australia, and the United States, leaving a surge of thrift store donations in their wake. The net worth of the KonMari empire, which Kondo’s husband helps run, is estimated at $8 million.
It’s easy to look at Kondo and wonder how she keeps it all together. At 4 foot 7 inches, Kondo has the gentle grace and demeanor of a delicate flower. Make no mistake, though, her skyrocketing notoriety stems from her ability to firmly and confidently guide overwhelmed homeowners through one of the toughest transformations of their lives.
So how does Kondo, now also a mother of two young toddlers, keep all the balls in the air?
I was fascinated to learn that she also applies KonMari principles to managing and decluttering her mind. Here’s how:
Dump all the feelings onto paper
If Marie Kondo stopped by to help you declutter your home, she’d have you start with your clothes. She’d instruct you to gather every stitch of clothing you own and place them into one big pile so you can see what you have. Most people are amazed at the mountain of clothes they’ve acquired over the years.
Kondo goes through a similar process when decluttering her mind. She pours all her negative feelings onto a large sheet of paper. Similar to the pile of accumulated clothes, the process of getting all her feelings out of her head and onto paper helps her to clearly see what she needs to address.
Address each feeling individually
Once you’ve gathered your clothes, Kondo instructs you to go through the pile, one article at at time. As you hold each item in your hand, you must decide whether it “sparks joy.” If it does, you keep it. If it doesn’t, you toss or donate it without guilt. You repeat the process one by one until the pile is clear.
This can be overwhelming and time-consuming if you have a ton of clothes, but it’s actually quite liberating. When you take the time to make a decision on every article of clothing, you’ll be surprised to discover 1) how much you’ve been holding onto that you don’t even want or need; and 2) how happier and lighter you feel after letting the excess go.
Kondo does the same with her negative feelings. After unloading all her feelings on paper, she studies them one by one. Understanding the reason behind her feelings allows Kondo to quickly identify problems or underlying issues and set clear goals to resolve them so she can move forward.
“Going through this process helps me realize very clearly what I need to do to cope with my negative feelings,” writes Kondo in this essay for TIME magazine.
Discard what doesn’t “spark joy”
Sometimes our negative feelings stem from events or circumstances beyond our control. So many of us live bound to our past, and yet the past is immutable — all that exists now is our thoughts about the past. The rational part of our brain knows this, but the irrational part likes to keep us beholden to certain moments — usually the ones we wish we could change.
When our past no longer has a stranglehold on our happiness, we’re free to discard any negative thoughts and feelings we choose.
This was an important realization for Kondo. As she explains in her essay in TIME, “I come to realize what I can forget: Negative thoughts, especially those that are related to situations or events from the past. By focusing on positive solutions, I can forget or at least minimize these pessimistic emotions.”
Transform Your Life
Marie Kondo’s tips for decluttering her mind are not unique per se. Many have shared similar strategies for managing their minds to cope with the demands of life.
The beauty of Kondo’s process lies in how seamlessly it fits with the KonMari way of keeping a tidy home.
As Kondo writes in TIME, “I promise that once you do, you’ll have much more clarity and will be in a calmer place — similar to how people say they feel after they use my organizing methods on their homes.”
Both take time to learn and implement, and upkeep requires daily practice, but the reward of having both a tidy house and tidy mind…well, that’s priceless.
Have a great week,
Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash