The Life-Changing Magic of What?

Is this tidy kitchen the result of Marie Kondo's book on organization techniquesMarie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up has been at the top of best seller lists and the talk of the Facebook town for long enough that I feel as though I must address it. The book even made a prominent showing at the 2015 Institute for Challenging Disorganization conference. My question is, “Why?” Why this fascination with an organizing book? I cannot think of, in recent history, an organizing book that more people have talked about.

In my humble opinion, there is nothing new under the ‘organizing’ sun. Organizing is not rocket science. There are lots of tips and tricks once you declutter (you can find a bunch of them on Pinterest.com) to give yourself access to those things you want to use. And, the organizing basics are pretty simple:

  • Get rid of the excess
  • Stop the flow into your space
  • Identify a ‘home’ for your stuff so you know where it lives (and so does everyone else in your household)
  • Put it away after you use it

That being said, the process is not EASY, each step can take months or years and if you are not diligent in the getting rid of, stopping the flow or ‘putting away’ stages; your space will quickly return to chaos.

So what about Ms. Kondo’s book is resonating with the general public and why the fascination?

  1. People like magic. It’s in the name! I can’t tell you how many people wish professional organizers carried magic wands around to wave away the clutter and mess. The un-magical reality is that life is messy and so is the process of letting go of the stuff we hold on to.
  2.  The method. There are two ways to go about a decluttering and organizing project.

Method 1: Rip the band aid off. This is the method that The Magic Art of Tidying Up espouses. In one fell, systematic swoop, you get rid of the excess and put the remainder away. This method truly can have major benefits:

  • If you have the time and energy, doing then clearing out the excess and organizing the rest in one go leaves you with only the task of maintaining your newly organized space. Like moving into an empty apartment, the possibilities are endless.
  • You get into the habit of making quick decisions based on a very specific set of pre-established criteria. “Does this item spark joy?” If it does not, then out it goes. You can let go of the guilt that comes with perseverating over decisions.
  • You are able to enjoy the results of your labor very, very quickly. You will not be bogged down with a process that goes on indefinitely but you will have to set aside time and focus on the project intensely.
  • Because you see the results of your labor so quickly, it is easy to correlate the items that are coming into your space with the maintenance of that same space.
  • Downside: You need a big chunk of time to implement this and the ability to move out the accumulation of stuff you decide to discard. You may not have established any habits for ‘maintaining’ your space.

Method 2 – Incremental Change Over Time.   You could call this the Grand Canyon method. Think of very small changes that are made systematically and consistently over a long period of time like a dripping water carving out rock over millions of years. This method ALSO has benefits including:

  • You do not need a large block of time to complete it. You can work on your project in the amount of time you have available 5, 10, 30, 60, 90 minutes. Whatever works for you.
  • If you are overwhelmed easily, you are breaking the project down into very small bite sized pieces and working on just that one small piece at a time.
  • You can celebrate the small successes and need not feel that in order for you to feel good about the project, it has to be complete. It never will be, getting and staying organized is an ongoing process.
  • You will make system and habit changes that are sustainable because you are ‘re-writing’ your brain.
  • You can schedule this around pick ups from local charitable organizations.
  • Downside: It is a slow going process but can be great for maintenance especially after an overhaul.
  1. The guarantee. This is where I must diverge from the author. Marie Kondo claims 100% success rate, which sounds awesome! I also have a 100% success rate of my children keeping their rooms tidy when they follow my method. However, the children do not follow my method so their rooms are never tidy. Does that make sense? I want a method for you that even if you don’t implement it 100% you will see success. Anything you do with 100% of your energy, you are going to be awesome. But sometimes it is not possible to give 100% and that is OK.

I absolutely love that The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up has sparked a renewed interest in organizing, de-cluttering and minimalist living; these topics are certainly near and dear to my heart. For those reasons alone, I am happy to hear the chatter surrounding the book. What has your experience been?

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