Book #1 – Marie Kondo

So, I stupidly injured my foot last weekend (out with the Stan Smiths, no matter how fashionable!). Was prescribed painkillers and 5 days of rest. But I’m ready to kick off the 1000 day challenge.

I decided to read Marie Kondo’s Life Changing Magic of Tidying: A simple, effective way to banish clutter forever. Very easy read, taking up all but 3 hours of my week. There is a lot of waffle in the book, as you would expect of 240-pages devoted to just one household chore. Although the steps and advice could have been summarized in a 3-pager, they do make a lot of sense and are very actionable. So actionable in fact, that I have gotten rid of 360 kilos worth of stuff in the space of 3 days. And all that with a 3-year old running around the house. I guess you could say I did lose weight despite not exercising ;-).

The exercise required a lot of mental focus. I feel absolutely exhausted, but also surprisingly light and energized. Some Zen seems to have returned to our household and my mind. So let me briefly recap what the key messages of the book are:

  • Tidying = Discarding + Sorting
    First focus only on discarding. Don’t try to sort and tidy away things at the same time. This will only distract you from the job of discarding. Only once you’ve held all your belongings and decided whether or not to discard them, can you proceed with the step of sorting and tidying everything away.
  • Work by Category, One at a Time
    Don’t work room by room, or closet by closet. Work by category (e.g. books, clothes, toys, admin files, music, tableware). When you start a category, go search your house for every item that belongs to the category. Go find all your clothes (even from the laundry basket) and lay them all out on the floor. Pick up each item of clothing by hand to decide whether to keep it or not. You can subdivide categories whilst going through them if it makes sense, for instance, tops, shirts, trousers…
  • Start with Non-Emotional Categories
    Start with categories that are not emotionally charged. For instance: Books, Clothes, Admin Files. Work your way up to categories that may be harder or more emotional such as Photos and Memorabilia. This will allow you to gain some traction fast, gain confidence and get into the zone by the time you reach the hard stuff.
  • Ask Yourself “Does it Spark Joy?”
    Hold each item in your hand, and ask yourself “Does this spark joy in me?”. If not, discard. If it does, keep. Joy is what brings a twinkle to your eye, what makes you happy. Don’t bother with “how often have I used it in the last few months?” or questions of that kind. These types of questions are very easy to navigate around, with excuses such as “but I may need it soon” or “once a year is enough to warrant keeping it.” People hold on to things for 4 reasons: they think it may be of use some day (functional value), that it contains helpful information (informational value), or that it has sentimental ties (emotional value), or that it is hard to obtain (rarity). She gives advice on each of those reasons, but in essence: if you ever do happen to need it, buy it (again). We have to many excuses built up around each of those values. So just answer the question: does it spark joy.
  • Do It All At Once
    Don’t spread this task out over time. Pull off the band-aid and fast. The key is to make the change so sudden that you experience a change of heart. You will quickly transform the space around you, which helps to foster the right mindset.
  • Don’t Let Your Family See
    Do this task on your own without any family interfering. Don’t ever throw anything away that isn’t yours to throw away. Start with your own stuff, working up to the communal stuff. But family in the room will weaken your resolve or make them anxious. Spare them the socks.
  • Store for Ease of Putting-it-Away
    Many people keep things where they need to use them. But we rarely lack motivation to go get something we need. We need a lot more motivation to go and tidy things away. So store things where it is easy to put away.
  • Ultimate Simplicity in Storage
    No need to buy storage solutions. Keep it simple and zen. So you can always tell at a glance what and how much you have. Use simple things like cardboard boxes to make dividers or containers. Kondo has many youtube videos on how best to fold and store things, depending on your own space availability. Apparently, folding socks into balls is a big nono. We’ve been commiting serious assaults on sock energy in the Pew household, clearly. Store things by category. All toys together, all books together. Every person in the household gets assigned storage space.
  • Learn to Love What You Own
    Learn to truly appreciate the stuff you do own, for all its uses. If it no longer sparks joy, discard.

So, after 3 days, I took 3 carloads to the tip for recycling, 2 carloads to the charity shop and I’m currently trying to sell another carload’s worth of stuff on second hand platforms such as craigslist and ebay, to try and beef up our Goal 2 – Save 50,000 euros. Even here we’re ruthless: whatever doesn’t sell over the next 3 weeks, will go to charity. Pics of ultimate zen:

Kondo Zen
Kondo Zen