On having things

978-1-60774-730-7.jpgYou’ve probably heard the hype about Marie Kondo’s “The life-changing magic of tidying up: the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing.” (Example A, Example B, Example C, Example D )


First of all, let’s call this book what it is: this is a self-help book for the masses. It’s a self-help book for people who are surrounded by objects, some of which they love/need and most of which are entropy encapsulated in objects.

So yes, this is a self-help book. I know. Bear with me.

I read this entire book and despite the many eye rolls, it was honestly life-changing in a small but important way. It is not about ascending Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and self actualizing. It’s more simply about changing your relationship with objects (and maybe that makes you happy, maybe it helps with anxiety, or maybe you find it doesn’t really do anything for you).

The short explanation of Kondo’s approach is to approach your ownership of objects with intention, retaining only things that “bring you joy” and ensuring you appreciate those things and treat them with care. It sounds SO simple, yet Kondo has raked in millions of dollars for putting this into a book.

Yes, some of her tidying mentality is exhausting. She encourages the readers to have a dialogue with their objects, which I found silly. (*Enters house, kneels in entrance* “Hello house. I am here. Please accept me.” *Takes off jacket* “Thank you jacket for keeping me warm. Now I will ceremoniously, carefully place you where you belong so you can rest after keeping me warm all day….*Takes off shoes* Thank you shoes for helping my feet walk!…and so on.)

But, this book forces the reader to think about about the objects that surround us. We love to buy things, to collect things, to fill our spaces with things. That’s not a bad habit. But, Kondo has a point. When we are surrounded by objects for the sake of having objects, we don’t appreciate what we have, and our space becomes cluttered (i.e., diminishing value).

I drank the Kool Aid, and I applied her method to my space. I held every item I owned in my hands, and if it “sparked joy” as I held it, I kept it. If it did not have that special spark, I gave it away. Slowly I found myself in possession of honestly, 1/2 of my original stock. But what remained were things that I needed and enjoyed. It’s been four months and I found that I take better care of the fewer pieces of clothing I have. I seldom lose things in my apartment, and I have almost no clutter. I used to compulsively make multiple tiny random piles of things in my apartment. The more stressed I was, the faster these little piles of things would crop up. Now, clutter doesn’t surround me, my space is simple, and it doesn’t distract me.

I am fully aware I sound like an infomercial. And whatever, I don’t care. This book is ridiculous, but its central message is great and it’s clearly connecting with people. We are fortunate enough that we have the means to fill our space with things, but we take that fortune for granted. So why not pare our object repository down and re-learn what it feels like to appreciate and value our things?

Well. It’s now time to power off my computer, thank it for helping me write things about things on the internet, and then ceremoniously place it in its special place on my desk.


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