Want to transform your life? Clean your house

A house in order sparks joy and is the start of a better life, says Marie Kondo, celebrity tidying consultant. But can a spring cleaning transform your life? Oriella Onni finds out.

We’re only halfway into January and already the world is abuzz with Marie Kondo. Kondo is a Japanese Mary Poppins of organising, an internationally acclaimed author of four bestsellers, and now the star of Netflix series, “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo”, that aired  New Year’s Day. The eight-part series sees Kondo teaching her trademarked KonMari method to various frazzled and despondent American families, to help them declutter, clean up the home and work out the tension and misery caused by a messy house. At the end of each episode, the featured home looks neater and ching, tensions are resolved, everyone’s happy and life is sweet again. Her simple premise: A life you desire begins with a clean home. And her Konverts – Marie Kondo fans – are mercilessly throwing out stuff, folding and filing laundry and compartmentalising their joyful belongings, because la dolce vita is a strong pull. But can a spring cleaning transform your life?

Well Marie Kondo’s belief that an orderly home makes life easier to manage, is as old as the Bible, which incidentally has many scriptures about keeping your house in order too. Only Marie Kondo is better at marketing it ­– less preachy doomsday, and even when she preaches, there’s the promise of a sanctuary that sparks joy. As she says in one of the episodes: “Tidying not only changes your home or life, but it also allows you to create a space that suits your ideal life.”

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Her formulaic approach is simple to follow. It needs to be because no one except for Kondo, actually gets a kick from tidying up. We breakdown of the famous KonMari method (the process), the quirky rituals and the rules that guide the process:   

House greeting
It seems batty, but Marie Kondo introduces herself to the house before she begins meticulously stripping it down. It’s a practice she encourages, to remind you to be respectful to your abode and shelter. At the same time, visualise what your sanctuary will look like and the life you see yourself living. That’s the goal you need to work towards.

KonMari Method
The decluttering process or what Kondo says is the “means to realise your ideal life.” She approaches it by categories instead of rooms. There are five categories: Clothing, books, paper, komono (kitchen, bathroom, garage, the miscellaneous items) and sentimental items. Keep to the specific order, as this will hone your “spark joy” intuition that guides what you keep or bin. With each category, get everything out into a pile, because when you’re confronted with how much you have, you will get on it, pronto.

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Only keep things that spark joy
The guide to decluttering, it’s become the buzz phase overnight, inspiring many funny memes on the Internet. Hold every item one by one, to see if it sparks joy for you. Or what Kondo describes as the warm fuzzies and a natural positive body response. If not, it’s time to say goodbye (bin it or donate it). But not before thanking the item you’re parting with. The rationale: We sometimes hold on to items because of guilt; this allows us to make peace with letting go.

Store things vertically, and in ways you can see them
Fold and file your laundry, rather than stack your clothes; similarly hang only what is necessary. This has a two-prong advantage. You see everything you have and access them easily, no fuss, no muss. (Kondo has a specific folding method: Aim for a rectangle shape with any item of clothing. Fold the item into half, and then thirds. If you do it right, it should stand vertically without toppling.)
Secondly, when it’s easy to see what you have, you make full use of what you have, instead of stockpiling. Money saved, can be put to meaningful experiences for the family. This applies to all your items. What you see, you will use, and that’s a good habit to cultivate in the grand scheme of things.  

Get organised
Use storage boxes to keep items of the same size together. These will allow you to see your items clearly. Keep similar things together, rather than scatter them over different rooms, so things are easy to locate. It’s a good discipline to have, and being organised is never an overrated life skill.  

Sentimental Items
Kondo stresses that these should only be tackled at the end because by then, your sensitivity to what sparks joy or not, has been honed. Do it prematurely and it might trip up the declutter process. By going through the motions also, you will appreciate that good memories will forever stay with you, and are not attached to things. This allows you to let go of objects and (eventually people) in your life that no longer have tangible purpose and bring joy. 

The verdict:
Just like how Marie Kondo’s books have been easy and enjoyable reads, the new Netflix series makes watching her tidy up American homes feel like a guilty pleasure. With her effusive charm and genteel manners, it’s easy to understand why Kondo is America’s and possibly the world’s latest sweetheart. More importantly, there are relevant takeaways from the programme. It does teach you that mindfulness and cleaning with purpose can make a dreaded chore more manageable, especially if you break it down. Even better is how tidying up can be turned into a bonding family project, teaching kids to be responsible and accountable for their things. Now that is always a sweet bonus for Mums to tune in.

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