Friday, 13 May 2016

Decluttering and the KonMari Method

I was reading a post on Facebook recently from a friend of mine who owns a haberdashery shop. She posted a link to an article with an interesting list of 200 items that the reader could use as a checklist to consider throwing out stuff that is no longer needed. People in her network had posted many comments in what was a long thread about the relatively new craze of decluttering, and there were many opinions and resources discussed.

I went and checked out the article that my friend had posted, to find several links leading to "The life changing Magic of tidying up: the Japanese art of decluttering and organising", by Marie Kondo, the Japanese organising guru.

I heard about the book online last year, and bought a second-hand copy from Abebooks for $10. 

Once I got the book, I read it reasonably quickly, but was not that impressed with it. The book essentially tells you to only to keep things that "spark joy".

What that means is: no joy, no keep.

You take the entirety of a particular category of possessions, from all over the house, and put them in a big pile in a place that is not where you keep those items. You then go through each item one by one, and decide if they 'spark joy'. If not, you thank the item for its service, and put it aside. If it does, you keep it.

For example, if you have 14 jackets, you keep the ones you love (that spark joy) and put the chosen ones away. The rest, by not taking pleasure in the possession, you have already decided to let go. You then decide whether to recycle, give away, or sell. You may be left with only one, but it is one that makes your heart leap. I am sure you get the idea.

This is called the KonMari method, named after the author. A lot of people become evangelists for this method and rave on about how this approach has transformed their lives. 

Me? I'm a cynic.

When I read the book, I wondered about the kind of affluence this woman thinks we have. Does the writer think we have endless cash to buy a few new things that make a heart leap, rather than the serviceable, cheap things we already own?

If you are Japanese, and have cultural ethos of aestheticism, along with one of the top levels of living on the planet, you may be able to afford to only have positions that you 'love' to own. Then the KonMari method works. But I think that the KonMari method is rather over the top for Kiwis.

I need to keep my relationship with my toothbrush, whether I love it or not. And I need my Agee Preserver for harvest season, to bottle my excess veges. But I don't love that either. Both these things are ugly but necessary. They are useful

Later in the book Marie Kondo talks about having 'subconscious joy' with things that are  useful. This felt like artifice to me, in order to force-fit her theory. 

She also has a peculiar folding method to fit clothes into drawers so that the edge of the clothes can be seen. T-shirts for example are folded until very small and then stacked on their edges inside the drawer. I think this just shows that the person still has far too many T-shirts.

The KonMari method says you should sort items category by category, not room by room, nor cupboard by cupboard. 

I can't work that way. I usually work room by room when clearing out, and not doing either a king hit on the whole house, or doing a category at a time. This is totally against the KonMari method, but then, I don't tend to keep the same things in different rooms (the exception is rarely used kitchen equipment is stored in our laundry/linen cupboard).

Some things in the book are useful. For example, the psychological advantage of emptying a space first and then choosing what to keep, is a good one (as opposed to sorting in the space then deciding what to take out). By starting with an empty storage area, we begin with a blank slate which allows the 'possibility' of deliberation and choice.

Overall, while it is definitely a great idea to have a good dung out from time to time, I don't think the KonMari method is what most of us need. 

Additionally, over the past year I am noticing a growing trend in ordering possessions. There are so many decluttering books and resources and videos in circulation. 

I wonder if it is because, in the first world, we live in a time of plenty; so in order to differentiate ourselves, being an aesthete is starting to become fashionable.

The new black.



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