There comes a day in every adult’s life when they realize that having a messy house is actually a very big deal.
Of course this isn’t everyone. There are people who are born organizers and have always abided by the rules of tidiness because that’s what made them happy. But this article is for the ones who, like me, experienced that moment of brooding at the clothes on the floor, the scattered papers on the desk and the floor, and the dishes, two days old sitting in the sink, and thought, “wow, you got to get yourself together”.
It’s because we finally understand that having an organized room can significantly improve our lives both practically and emotionally. It’s because we realize that the mess we keep up with only makes us later, less prepared and stressed. But after the decision is made the hardest part comes, and that is the action of organizing your space.
In 2019, just around the year I was beginning my organizing journey, Netflix had released Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, a series that follows Maria, a renowned tidying expert as she visits families to help organize their homes. The show became extremely popular and her methods crept into many homes and subsequently praised. It’s because her methods are quite logical and hone in on the emotional connections we have with items in our space. This is a very important connection, because it means that organizing our physical spaces can influence our emotions and thoughts.
Tidy by Category, Not by Location
The most mind-blowing aspect of Maria’s KonMari Method is her rule of Tidy by Category, Not by Location. I had never thought of this. Every time I attempted to organize my home I always tackled it by room and yet, I was never satisfied because the clutter still continued. Maria explains that we repeat the same work with each room, and when we come across items, like books, supplies, and clothes we approach them as items per room. This makes us lose sight of the actual volume we have of each item. When we clean by category we take all its items from each room and only then we can reevaluate how many of that item we really need.
Does it Spark Joy?
There are several ways to rate the value of an item’s worth of ‘keep or move on. It’s common to go by a year-mark rule; anything that you haven’t used in 2 years goes to the move on pile. We trust our feelings when it comes to our social lives and Maria suggests we can use our feelings in the same way towards the items that we possess. She asks her clients if an item ‘sparks joy’. It sounded too unconventional to me at first, but I began mumbling that phrase under my breath a few times at random just to see my reaction and it worked. Answering the question made me think more about the sense of each item I owned and if they were helping me towards my goals or just adding to the clutter. Which led me to get rid of pages and pages of notes from my first biology lecture in university. I kept my notebooks for a very long time because I couldn’t imagine throwing away hours of hard work but I did because I simply didn’t need them. I have space now on my bookshelf for the books I am reading now and the sense of passing that organizational milestone led me to relate it to sentimental thoughts that could be replaced with more productive thoughts to achieve happiness now.
Putting it all away
After you’ve sorted your items based on your feelings towards each one, you can now put all the kept ones back in their place. Maria’s methods of reorganizing involve many practical steps to do this and it’s easy to find the details online but her main focus is to make your items visible. In this way, you are never digging under piles of clothes or books because you can see your items and comfortably access them. Each item also has its place so when weeks get busy and clutter starts to escalate, cleaning up is no big deal because if you can easily access an item you can easily put it away.
The goal is to not just clean your home and have it last a couple of months but to maintain that tidiness forever and the KonMari method works towards that eternity. When you achieve this level of tidiness in your own way it will seep into other aspects of your life as well and that’s the real goal - to focus on actions we can take to lead more productive physical and emotional lives.