Monday, August 17

KonMarie Method

Marie Kondo’s book on organizing has been all over the blogger realm in the last few month and getting lots of positive reviews, so I finally decided to check it out myself. It’s a pretty slim little volume, and a quick read, but for its modest size it certainly contained plenty to think about.

Having been forewarned by other reviewers, I approached the book with a grain of (sea) salt. (Other readers have told stories of being so caught up in the process that they tossed all of their ratty old pajamas in one fell swoop… only to get to bedtime and realize they literally had nothing to wear! Many also expressed horror towards the author’s approach to books.)  

Not surprisingly, I found some things that made a lot of sense and others that didn’t seem practical to me. Although I will never be on board with Kondo’s suggestion to completely empty one’s purse every night, I did come away with three key ideas that totally made the book worth reading for me:

1     Organizing by Category (Not Place)
I loved the suggestion to organize by category rather than place (i.e. clothes, toiletries, tools vs. closet, bathroom, garage). Kondo’s insightful point that we often end up with clutter and too many of things simply because we don’t realize what we have (because we store similar things is a wide variety of places) made a ton of sense to me. (For example, people end up with two dozen toothbrushes because they keep a couple in each bathroom, a few more in a toiletry cabinet somewhere, etc., and forget about most of them.) I haven’t seen this idea in other organizing books or resources, but it is definitely something I will be keeping in mind as I continue to refine the organization systems around here (for both home and work materials).

2    Selecting Representative Photos
I have never been good at organizing photos. I’m not much on taking pictures (or having my picture taken), and can’t remember the last time I intentionally sat down to go through a photo album that I wasn’t looking for something for a specific purpose. Thus, I’ve always been terrible about making time to sort and label photos, and prefer to keep them in a shoebox roughly by date rather than in an album. Kondo made some great remarks about this kind of behavior that really got me thinking. She made the point that we rarely need very many photos to remember an event, and that more is not better. A few, good representative photos can evoke the rich memories of a special day or event just as well – and often better than – a slew of less important ones. Moreover, if we let photos sit and linger unlabeled and unseen, what good are they? By the time anyone gets around to them, the names, dates and reasons why the photos mattered will largely be lost. And if that’s the case, why did we bother keeping them? That made a tremendous amount of sense to me, and inspired me to set aside time this winter (when we’re focused on inside projects) to go through our photos, selecting and properly notating the ones that are genuinely worthwhile and discarding the rest.

3     Thanking Things Before Discarding Them
The most useful take-away I got from Kondo’s book was the idea of thanking things that have served you well before you toss/donate them – even if the only way they “served you” was to show you what doesn’t work for you. (Examples include a top that never fit right or wasn’t a good color for you, an item you purchased on impulse that made you happy in the moment but then never got used, or a décor item that fit a previous period in your life but isn’t a good fit any longer.) 
I love this approach reinforces your current priorities and positive vision for the future instead of prompting guilt for past choices. It’s so easy to look at things we want to get rid of and feel bad about the money spent, or the purchase made in frustration or impatience even though we knew it wasn’t really what we wanted. Often it feels irresponsible, or like we’ve failed somehow, even when it is really just something that fit a previous phase of our lives but isn’t relevant any longer. But thanking things for their role forces us to focus instead on recognizing good aspects of ourselves – what we’ve learned, how we’ve grown, the goals we’re working toward. That kind of positive reinforcement not only builds positive momentum in the cleaning process, but strengthens the brain pathways that will help us make good decisions in the future.  

Have you read Kondo’s book? What did you think?

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