Monday, June 29, 2020

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up – Personal Experience




I consider myself lucky because I started reading this book only few days before the Covid-19 confinement. To be honest, the reason that motivated me to read the book wasn’t to look for a new method to tidy my home as it wasn’t at all one of my plans at that moment. Not that my home was already tidy, but just because it wasn’t among my priorities. Actually, the main reason behind my interest to this book was my curiosity to know closely Marie Kondo, this mysterious person for me, and to discover the secret behind her method that impressed many people around me.

At the beginning of my reading, I was shocked by some of the author’s ideas that I found a little bit exaggerated and unrealistic. But day after day, her philosophy progressively influenced my mind and my way of thinking and I became excited with the idea of having my home tidy and organized again. I don’t say here that I was convinced by every word she says in the book. On the contrary, I had many doubts and reservations, and there were many ideas I couldn’t agree with, but I decided to follow, let’s say her techniques instead of her method, to see if they are applicable in my context, to identify their positive and negative aspects at least for me, and to criticize them constructively and based on real experience. After all, I was just at the beginning of a confinement that would last for weeks, and it would be a good preoccupation for me. So, I fixed as an objective to finish the tidying process by the end of the confinement.

In this article, I will describe my personal experience with each step of the KonMari method. I will present the achievements I have realized by the end of the tidying process and some of the problems I have faced.


My KonMari Experience

Discarding - Step 1. Set Objectives

The main problems that incited me to tidy my home are the following:

1) When I open my closets, I find them cluttered with stuff and I don’t have visibility of what is there.

2) When I lose something, I usually search it everywhere in the house and sometime, I don’t find it, which is a waste of energy and time.

3) Even if I keep tidying my home, it gets rapidly untidy and I feel myself locked into a vicious cycle of tidying.


Thus, I fixed three objectives I would like to achieve by the end of the tidying process:

1) When I look into my closets, I want to have visibility of everything inside, I want everything to be organized and well folded and I want to find still some empty spaces, which gives the impression that the closet is not cluttered.

2) When I need something (off-season clothes, occasional clothes, important papers, toys, electronic devices, etc.), I want to go directly where it is stored without being obliged to look everywhere in the house.

3) I don’t want to spend a lot of time in tidying, because I have to focus on other priorities. So I want to tidy once and for all and do only maintenance sometimes. 

Of course, I could go further and dream to have a home where everything is in its place and nothing is thrown here and there, exactly like the photos we see in the Internet. But this wouldn’t be an attainable objective because I don’t live alone and it’s difficult to make others let things organized. So at least, by following this method, I hoped that maintenance would be easier and that I could control the situation before the house becomes a chaos again.


Discarding - Step 2. Identify Categories

I identified the same categories/sub-categories as Marie Kondo (clothes, books, papers, komono and mementos), but I didn’t respect the order she proposed for many reasons. Here is the order I followed and why:

1) Socks/Underwear/Scarves/Accessories: I started with these sub-categories because they already had a dedicated drawer, they are small and easy to fold/organize and also the decision of what to keep and what to discard is not that difficult. So, seeing these drawers tidy and practical to use was like small wins that boosted my motivation and encouraged me to continue the process.

2) Books: In general, I read the electronic version of books using my Kindle, my mobile phone or my PC. That’s why I have only a small bookcase with a limited number of books. I decided to move to this category because it would be easy for me to choose what to keep and would let me feel that I’m making progress in my objective.

3) Papers: This may seem strange to start with papers instead of clothes. However, clothes even if they are not organized; they were at least stored in one spot (the bedroom closets), while papers were scattered all around the house; in the closets, in drawers, on the desk, under the desk, in the bookcase. There were even papers in the kitchen. So when I needed a paper, I had to search everywhere and I struggled to find it. It was for me then an emergency to tidy this category because it would finally help me get rid of this heavy burden. Even if I knew I had a big quantity of papers and tidying them would be boring, but at the same time it would be quick because it’s easy to decide to keep a paper or not.

4) Electronic Devices: This category was stressing for me because I didn’t have an idea of what and how many I had. Many times, I came across cables or devices that I didn’t even know what they are used for. I needed to make the inventory of the electronic devices I own to avoid buying others just because I think I don’t have them already.

5) Toys: Toys are not mentioned in the book even if it is an important category, especially for mothers. So I thought it might be considered as a sub-category of komono. My children’s toys were not stored in a one specific place. They existed everywhere; in their room, in my room, in the living room, and also in the kitchen. To come close to my objective of reducing the time of tidying, I had to handle this category as quickly as possible.

6) Children’s clothes: Fortunately, I had a specific closet for my children. That’s why I let this category to this point. I chose to start with children’s clothes and not mine because the decision to discard extra items would be easier using the size criteria. Naturally, all the clothes that don’t fit the children’s size anymore could be discarded.

7) Me and my husband’s clothes: For Marie Kondo, clothes are easy to tidy, that’s why she preferred to start with them. I don’t agree with that, at least for my case. First, a great percentage of my clothes are either gifts from people I love or clothes that are linked to some beautiful memories. So, to discard them would be a difficult decision. Second, Kondo says in her book that you should discard something if you don’t love it even if you still need it since you can buy something else later. It’s not that simple. For me, shopping is a tedious task that I try to avoid as much as I can. As a veiled woman, I usually don’t find what I am looking for in the market and I need a long time to find something that satisfies me and responds to my criteria. So if I have to decide to discard something because I don’t really love but I still need, I will start thinking about all the time and effort I would spend to buy something else. And honestly, I don’t think I will discard it in the end. That’s why I pushed this category that far, because I knew that the decision-making task would be difficult and time-consuming. If we add to this the fact that I have two closets full of clothes, this makes it more complicated and discouraging. 

8) Bags/Shoes: There is no real reason to handle this category at this stage. It was just a sub-category of clothes, so it sounded logical to deal with it at that moment.

9) Pantry/Kitchen goods: I let this category to the end because it doesn’t really bother me since all the pantry/kitchen goods were stored in the kitchen cupboard. I had just to discard the items I don’t need any more and reorganize the cupboard to dedicate a place for each sub-category (pantry, glass wares, plastic wares, household appliances, etc.).

10) Mementos: This category is linked to all previous categories. Mementos can be clothes, papers, books, utensils, toys or anything else. So, I dealt with them whenever I encountered them. As travel souvenirs already had a specific shelf, the only thing left to deal with was photos.

In brief, I think that the order in which categories should be handled should vary from one person to another depending on his need, his objectives and his constraints.
           

Discarding - Step 3. Put Everything On the floor

As I understood from the book, what’s important about this step is not the part “On the floor” but rather the part “Put everything”. Indeed, the objective of this step is to put all the items of a category in one single point to be aware of the overall volume of it. So, the place where I put the items depended on their volume, their material and on whether they are clean or dusty. Thus, I put the clothes on the bed, the papers on the sofa, the electronic devices on the floor, etc.


Discarding - Step 4. To Keep or Not to Keep, this is the question!

During this step, I had many questions and reservations that I will detail in what follows:

1) From the first beginning, I found the selection criterion proposed by Marie Kondo to decide what to keep very vague. I have nothing against it; I just found it personally hard to apply with the time and the constraints I had. Here are some of my concerns regarding this criterion:
- To know if you love something only by a simple touch is just too romantic for me. I tried to apply it on some items but it was still difficult for me to decide. Every time, I find myself thinking why I love, which is according to Kondo not correct because we should rather feel this love with our heart without using our mind.
- I think that Marie Kondo bet on this criterion because she is quasi sure that only few things can spark one’s joy. So, for her this criterion will surely help people discard more. But what if the things that spark me joy aren’t sufficient for my daily life? I will be obliged to buy other things that maybe won’t spark me joy either. Plus, as I am not at all a fan of shopping, it doesn’t spark me joy to go search for the things that I still need but had to discard any way! And what if everything sparks me joy? Does it mean that I have to keep everything? I know that she has applied her method on many people and it worked well, but it is still not accurate and can fail for other people.
- The nuance between love and need can be quite insignificant. Sometimes, we need something so much that we think we love it. The decision-making process will be time-consuming while people don’t have always time to decide for all the stuff in their houses.
- This criterion supposes that either an item sparks you joy or not. Isn’t possible that something sparks me joy at a certain percentage? It is not just black or white; there are many shades of grey.
2) Marie Kondo invites people to treat their belongings like human beings, to greet them, thank them for their work, be affectionate with them, tell them goodbye before discarding them. First, I can’t imagine myself doing this. Second, I think by doing this, Marie Kondo makes us more attached to material things and it would be more difficult to discard them. However, this practice inspired me to find my own way to discard things. Generally, I can’t discard an item, not because I love it but because I love the person who gave it to me. So instead of thanking the object itself, I thanked that person in my mind and apologized for him to be obliged to discard his gift. It is still insane but I needed something that expresses my own feelings.

3) The author recommends keeping no more than 30 books. I had more than that but not really a lot. Moreover, I don’t buy books only to read them, but to give them to people who are looking for something interesting to read, and also to build a library for my children. So why to give a book one time while I can give it many times; for me it’s something that sparks me joy!

4) Like all categories, Kondo asks people to keep only the photos that spark them joy. Personally, I can’t discard photos. Maybe it could be possible for people whom photos remind them bad memories or people they don’t love anymore. But thanks Allah it’s not my case. I like all my photos because they remind me beautiful memories. I cherish what I am now, but when I see a photo and remember an event or a person I have forgotten, it makes me happy too.

5) The “spark joy criterion” makes you happy because you are surrounded with things you love. That is good, but I would be happier if I use the things I love to make other people happy. So sometimes, when I can’t decide to keep something or not, I say to myself : Probably I love this item and I still need it, but if I give it to someone who needs it more than I do, he will be happier than me, and consequently I will be happy too.

In Quran, there are two verses in this subject:
"Never will you attain the good [reward] until you spend [in the way of Allah] from that which you love. And whatever you spend – indeed, Allah is Knowing of it."
Surah Ali ‘Imran 92
"O you who have believed, spend from the good things which you have earned and from that which We have produced for you from the earth. And do not aim toward the defective therefrom, spending [from that] while you would not take it [yourself] except with closed eyes. And know that Allah is Free of need and Praiseworthy."
Surah Al Baqarah 267

So if you want to reach the highest level of generosity, you must give the things you really love not the things you wouldn’t accept if someone gives them to you.


Storing - Step 5. A place for everyone

In my house, it was already the case at a certain percentage. My clothes were mainly in the closet, children’s clothes that are in use were in their closet, and the common things (books, papers, komono) were in common places. However, accessories of all family members were put together in drawers and children toys existed in all rooms. So I just dedicated a drawer for every one’s accessories and I put all the toys in the children’s room.


Storing - Step 6. A spot for each item

I tried to dedicate a specific place to each category or sub category:

1) I put my clothes in the bedroom closets and dedicated every shelf or every box to a sub-category. I did the same thing with children’s clothes.

2) I stored bags in a box that I put in the bottom shelf of my closet while shoes stayed in the shoe cabinet as usual.

3) Books stayed naturally in the bookcase, but I still had to store some books used less frequently in a box under the desk.

4) I organized papers in labeled folders and put them all in a specific box. Each folder contains a sub-category (warranties, bills, administrative papers, medical papers, etc.).

5) As for electronic devices, I used a labeled box for every sub-category (cables, chargers, earpieces, etc.) and I stored them all in the television table.

6) Pantry and other kitchen items were stored in the kitchen cupboard but I designated a shelf for every sub-category (pantry, items used occasionally, items used in daily basis, plastic wares, glass wares, electronic appliances, etc.).

7) Toys were put in an under bed drawer or on the top of the children’s closet.

8) I put the photo albums in a box on the top of my closet, and children's albums in a box on the top of their closet.


Storing - Step 7. Prepare Storage Items

As we were confined because of COVID-19, it wasn’t possible for me to buy new boxes or drawers to store my stuff. The solution I found is to recycle every single box in my house to make storage items. So, I used empty toy boxes, shoe boxes, electronic device boxes and even boxes of paper tissues. If a box is big, I just divided it into two or more boxes. Organizing my things in these handmade boxes gave me an idea about the shape and the size of storage items I need to buy later, when the confinement is finished.


Storing - Step 8. Store in Vertical

I tried to apply this technique on everything (clothes, papers, books, electronic devices, etc.), exactly like Kondo proposed, and the results were amazing. It really helped me gain in space and visibility.


Achievements

After all the work I have done so far, here are the results I could achieve: 

1) When I search something now I can find it quickly and easily because I know exactly where it should be. 

2) I don’t have to tidy again and again because everything is folded or organized in its dedicated place. Now, when I finish using something or when clothes are dry after been washed, I bring them back home as quickly as possible. And even when I don’t find time to return something to its place, I put it temporarily in a specific spot until I have time to bring it home. 

3) I can see empty spaces in my closet now, which is something I had never dreamed of before. 

4) I don’t have to store and unpack off-season clothes again, which was a painful task for me. Now, I have a visibility of all the clothes I have and I can use them whenever I need.
Today, I can say I am satisfied with the level of tidying I’ve reached, but not one hundred percent. I can still do better and I will apply the KonMari techniques iteratively until I am fully satisfied.


Problems

1) The KonMari process is not at all easy. It needs a lot of time, energy and patience. If you have a work, studies and a family, it becomes more complicated as you have already many responsibilities, so you will be obliged to dedicate only little time to the tidying process every day. In my case, I've been tidying for 3 months and I haven't finished yet. In her book, Kondo says the process can take 6 months or even more. So don't be too optimistic or you will be disappointed. Prepare a realistic planning and be patient.
 

2) If you don’t live alone, you will likely be discouraged by others’ attitude. You can tidy a place and after a while you discover it’s not tidy anymore because your family doesn’t have necessarily the same objective as you. It happened to me. But as Marie Kondo said in the book, this situation is very normal and I had to live with it. I just tried to focus on the places I manage alone (my clothes, children’s clothes, kitchen goods, etc.) and whenever I find that something that belongs to my family is not in its dedicated place or not well folded, I return it where it should be or I fold it the right way. The most important thing is to stay positive and focused. Day after day, when my family saw the positive impacts of tidying, they somehow changed. I don’t say they became responsible and tidy overnight, but at least they became aware of the effort I did and they started expressing their satisfaction with the new lifestyle, which is already a plus.


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In the next post, I will discuss some of the author’s ideas and give an overall evaluation of the book. Then, I will present the differences between KonMari and the minimalism, and between tidying and cleaning.


Amal


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