It was just another day walking my son home from school. We had taken the same path hundreds of times, along a street where people often leave their discarded books on the stoop for passers-by to take. I have never bothered to check them out, until the day one little book caught my eye. The watercolor design on the cover stood out in contrast to the red door of the home it sat outside of. The book was titled The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. And like one of those flashback moments in movies, I recalled all the recent instances my friends have recommended the book to me. I eagerly picked it up — I honestly felt as if the book had found me. I was filled with joy, having no idea that this was only the beginning.
If that book title isn’t familiar to you, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up is a #1 New York Times best-selling book written by Japanese organization expert Marie Kondo. Kondo has been named one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in 2015, and listed as one of Forbes ‘Top 40 under 40’ for 2016. This book has been published in more than 30 countries, and has sold over 5 million copies worldwide. While I often seek out articles and books on organizing, this was the first book that offered a fresh perspective. I soon found out why people responded so strongly to this book.
The “KonMari” technique and philosophy is simple: by keeping only items that bring you joy, you learn what you truly value. The result is not only are you surrounded by all the things you love, but you also start to shop more thoughtfully, take better care of your belongings and take much more joy in your immediate surroundings. Once mastered, this principle can be applied to all aspects of your life.
Much like the author, I spent most of my childhood cleaning and organizing instead of playing with toys. I loved finding homes for things and putting them away neatly like fitting together puzzle pieces. I also enjoyed setting up items that made me happy as if they were on display in a store. Over the years I came to find closet systems and special containers to be wasteful and lacking in personality. So being a practical and creative problem solver, I would cover cardboard with wrapping paper to use as drawer dividers, and painted boxes and jars to repurpose them. I also came to the realization that what others saw as an overwhelming and intimidating amount of work to declutter was exciting and joyous for me: the bigger the mess, the more fun the challenge.
I read the entire book in one setting and relished in the wisdom of Marie Kondo – I was overjoyed to have discovered a kindred spirit. She resonated because her methodology was not just about the physical moving of items — but she articulated the emotional relationship we have to our personal belongings. When using her method to organize my own home, I unexpectedly had to confront my attachment to items due to pain and guilt. Other times, I was elated when reunited with a forgotten article that once made my heart sing. And most importantly, she has allowed me to let go of items that have fulfilled their purpose, no matter how briefly our interactions were. She taught me to respect each and everything I owned, and say thank you to them before I say goodbye.
When I completed tidying up, I had a noticeable feeling of lightness. The home I used put in long hours to keep nice and neat became a house that not only made me feel happier, it took a lot less time and effort to maintain. And it was much easier to find what I needed. Even my 8-year-old son learned to fold his clothes the KonMari way. And my 3-year-old puts his own shoes and toys away.
People have long told me I should become a professional organizer, but I hesitated because I didn’t want to just organize people’s belongings for them. I didn’t want to sell them on storage systems that look better in a magazine than they actually function. The KonMari method was the missing piece that not only fulfilled my passion to organize, but also my devotion to have a positive influence on other people’s lives. After browsing through the book’s website, I learned that Marie Kondo offers a consultant certificate program. Needless to say I am signing up as soon as they become available in my area. I know now that little unassuming book left on the stoop was meant for me. Like the title says, it was a life changing magic.