‘The more things we own, the more we sacrifice to that ownership.’ So says Japanese professional organiser Marie Kondo in her best-seller, The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up.
Okay, you’ve probably just added me to some subconscious list entitled Boring People I Would Rather Die Than Talk To At A Party, but hear me out. (And trust that the rest of my bookshelf has more exciting titles.)
As a minimalist basically since birth, I didn’t think there was much I could learn by drinking the Kondo Kool-Aid, but apparently I was wrong. So wrong.
That one sentence leapt out at me and stuck. ‘The more things we own, the more we sacrifice to that ownership.’ Well, golly. Imagine how much time, money and energy we collectively spend cleaning, organising, storing, hunting through and maintaining not only necessary or beloved things, but also all that stuff we don’t even really need. And the more stuff you have, the more resources you spend on that stuff.
It’s 2016. Ain’t nobody got time or money to waste.
It all adds up
Look, we all need things. We need to wear clothes, cook our food and sleep on sheets, and we like to read books, collect records, treasured mementos and hang cool shit on our walls. But there’s a line, and when you cross it, clutter starts to cost.
Have you ever forked out for a new charger cable, because yours mysteriously disappeared somewhere in the living room? Or bought new long Johns for a camping trip because yours were stashed so far back in the closet behind other things, you forgot you had them? What about all those suitcases or boxes of childhood memories you’re paying for storage for, which could potentially fit into a less stuff-ocated home? How many outfits that you secretly hate are you holding on to, when all they do is take up precious space, top up your water bill in laundry loads, and make you feel like Hannah Horvath when you wear them? How much more productive could you be every day if you could just find the things you were looking for immediately?
Your junk isn’t paying you rent
Sometimes the situation is dire, and you don’t even realise it.
Take my friend Lily, for example. Lily has a flat in a pretty nice suburb in Cape Town. Lily’s flat has three bedrooms. Lily occupies one, and rents out another to help subsidise her bond. When push came to shove last year, she desperately needed a little extra monthly disposable income. Someone suggested she rent the third bedroom, or Airbnb it temporarily. Her response was that she couldn’t possibly because then where would she put her stuff.
Lily’s ‘stuff’, as it turned out, was a bunch of boxes and black bags filled with miscellany she hadn’t got around to sorting, storing, tossing or returning to its real owners over the past few years. But when pressed, she could barely name five items in there. So essentially she was sacrificing a portion of her precious square meterage rent-free to a hoard of useless junk she hadn’t thought about or needed in years. And not only that, but it was preventing her from potentially using that space to make more money.
How to KonMari
So you’ve decided to stop clutter in its tracks. Well done. But how exactly does the great Marie Kondo suggest you do it?
It’s a pretty simple philosophy, at its core. (Side note: hats off to Marie herself then, for turning it into two best-sellers, pots of cash and a spot on Time magazine’s Most Influential People of 2015 list, proving that it really does pay to be tidy.)
- Discard and donate.
- Pack away neatly.
- Enjoy your streamlined, happy life, accompanied by a svelter physique and more money in the bank.
Okay, no, but really, at nuts and bolts level, it is that simple. Or it can be. The problem most people have is with letting go of all that excess stuff…
The trick is not to focus on the things you’re getting rid of, but on what you want to keep. The KonMari method catchphrase is ‘Does it spark joy?’. If you focus on keeping only those items – from clothes to stationery – that bring you happiness, and get rid of all the rest, life becomes simpler, happier and far less cluttered.
You then assign all these joy-inducing items a home, to which they return every day, and you never have to concern yourself with clutter ever again, because you’ll never bring anything into your now sacred space that you don’t expressly want to be there. Then you can get on with the important things, like actually using that money-sucking gym membership or writing the next Harry Potter.
Forget about storage solutions
Neat freaks everywhere probably just cursed my name, but I’m going full Kondo on you here. I used to get really excited about storage solutions too. What’s not to love when the word ‘solution’ is in the name? But they’re a straight-up con, mostly. They’re generally quite expensive and all that happens is you squirrel your stuff away out of sight, forget it’s there, and three years later you decide you need to buy a bigger home because there’s ‘just no space’ in the current one.
Discard first, organise later. You’ll find you have more than enough storage already.
Charity can start with you
Ah the joy of giving. It’s supposed to be better than receiving, so give your old stuff away, by all means.
Then again, if you’re sitting on something that no longer sparks joy but you reckon someone else would part with their hard-earned cash for it, then go forth and commerce. This isn’t Florida and nobody really has yard sales, but nothing’s preventing you from flogging your stuff on Gumtree, OLX or Facebook groups like Second Hand.