I’m not one for New Year’s Resolutions but one thing I am definitely, without a shadow of a doubt, just-you-try-and-stop-me, doing this year is decluttering my home. And I know I’m going to succeed because I have self-described “crazy tidying fanatic” Marie Kondo to help me.
Not personally — how awesome would that be?! — but via the power of the Internet and Kondo’s new book, Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up.
Yes, there is an art to tidying up. No, it’s not just chucking things in random boxes and drawers. Which I confess to being guilty of. Anyone visiting my house wouldn’t think I’m particularly untidy but here’s the thing: I’m rather devious about it.
It’s not quite on the scale of Monica from Friends but there are definitely drawers in my kitchen that might provoke a similar reaction to this.
If you haven’t heard of Marie Kondo she’s the world’s “decluttering guru” and Japanese celebrity who topped The New York Times Bestseller list with her first book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, was named one of the 100 most influential people of 2015 by Time magazine and whose surname has become a verb. As in “This year, I shall be kondoing my wardrobe” or “Kids, you haven’t kondoed your bedrooms for weeks!”
Kondo’s Facebook page is full of photos from people with messy wardrobes all over the world, like this:
Which, following Kondo’s golden rules of home organisation, will magically end up looking like this:
Kondo, 31, has been obsessed with organising since she was a child, when she used to pore over articles on tidying in her mother’s magazines. Her interest developed during her teens and she read every book available in Japanese on the subject. She even had a nervous breakdown in high school so preoccupied was she with getting rid of clutter.
This experience is what made her decide to find a way to make tidying a happy, positive process, she says. Which means Kondo’s advice goes way beyond folding methods (she has a way of folding everything, right down to plastic carrier bags). In fact it places just as much importance on clearing your mind as well as your house, which has to be something we could all do with a little of.
The basic principles of the KonMari method are pretty straightforward. First of all, you dump all items you own that belong in a certain category on the floor (begin with clothes, says Kondo, then go on to books, papers, komono (miscellany) and, finally, sentimental items), then go through them item-by-item, deciding if each one “sparks joy.”
“When deciding, it’s important to touch it, and by that, I mean holding it firmly in both hands as if communing with it,” Kondo writes in the new book. “Pay close attention to how your body responds when you do this. When something sparks joy, you should feel a little thrill, as if the cells in your body are slowly rising. When you hold something that doesn’t bring you joy, however, you will notice that your body feels heavier.”
Anything that doesn’t “spark joy” gets binned.
And those items that don’t trigger this joyful reaction but are necessary for modern life (such as washing up liquid, picture hooks and the aforementioned carrier bags)? Shower these items with praise and acknowledge the way they make your life simpler. Or make them more aesthetically beautiful: in her own home, Kondo removes the label from her laundry detergent and wraps ribbon around it.
Spark Joy: An Illustrated Guide to the Japanese Art of Tidying (Vermilion, £13) by Marie Kondo is out on Jan. 7.