It was a few months ago that I found myself browsing the book section on Amazon (I must confess, I always find book stores – whether online or offline – much like pharmacies or, as the Americans will call them, drug stores. There’s something about spending time in them, wandering around aimlessly, that makes you realise all the things you never knew you really needed). Maybe that’s just me (although I know my sister feels the same about pharmacies: we could spend hours in there.)
So, as I was reading the review of some or other health-related book, Amazon kindly recommended a book to me, titled “The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing” by Marie Kondo. Now, I must confess, subsequent to my having found out that the launch of this book had almost broken the internet and it had reached the number one spot on the the New York Times Bestsellers list, I did have a good chuckle at its title. I mean, really, even for someone as annoyingly OCD as myself (who REALLY prefers if when things are clean and in order), I couldn’t help but think “what are they going to write books about next?”
But, curiosity got the better of me (and I think somewhere beneath that, my neat-freak tendencies were intrigued) so I bought the book. What followed was, quite literally, a life-changing experience. Although I was sceptical about how a whole book could be written about the art of decluttering (as they call it), I found myself absolutely mesmerised by the profound Japanese philosophies underlying the Konmari method (the particular method of decluttering that the book advocates). Yes, there is a particular method.
Although, with all due respect, the author of this book (who is now super rich and famous, so she probably won’t mind my saying so) probably is not the most mentally stable of all people (when you read the book, you’ll see what I mean), her approach to decluttering your life, by decluttering your home, is fascinating and – I can vouch for this – certainly effective.
Marie begins her book by citing examples of how her method has freed her clients to make radical life decisions, whether that be getting a divorce after years of being stuck in unhappy marriages, quitting their jobs, pursuing their life-long dreams or finally taking that holiday. It was almost as if the negative energy attached to all the things in their home that no longer sparked joy, was keeping them in some kind of existential gridlock and blocking them from moving forward or blocking the influx of new energy into their lives. If you think about this concept, it’s very similar to a thought I most certainly often have, namely: “I can’t work properly if my desk is a mess”.
So, sold and motivated, I roped in my trusty best friend, Lara (who, in my opinion, could easily become South Africa’s version of Marie Kondo – without the mental health issues, of course:) and we began the process. We did it exactly as Marie prescribed – no skipping steps and no bending the rules.
Eventually, we started discarding (this is the term Marie uses) anything and everything that no longer sparked joy for me (this included unused kitchen utensils, broken or chipped crockery, books I had read and will never re-read, objects I no longer found to have visual or useful value, expired supplements, electronic cords from 1985 that no person alive today would be able to identify, old DVDs I would never watch again, clothing I no longer wore, gunky makeup, shoes with scuffed heels and, of course, photographs in which I didn’t exactly look my best). We donated most of the discarded items and sent the books to old-age homes and hospitals, which added another layer of welcome satisfaction to the whole process.
As the days went by, and we worked our way through the categories, it was as if a weight was slowly being lifted from my shoulders. My wardrobe (although significantly smaller) now only contained items that fit me well and still looked good. I could see everything I owned hanging neatly in my cupboard, as opposed to having to sift through 10 blouses to find the 1 or 2 blouses I wore over and over again. My makeup drawer now contained only those items that I wore almost daily and couldn’t live without.
It was really as if my home had been transformed from a house full of collected stuff – some used and some unused – to a carefully edited home, where I was surrounded by only those things that truly brought me happiness, conjured up good memories and were being used and enjoyed daily. On this note, I want to point out that the measure of what sparks joy is a completely subjective test. For one person, a good kitchen knife, a favourite pair of worn-out socks or a trusty tupperware set might spark just as much joy as a timeless painting or a Louis Vuitton handbag might for the next. This test has nothing to do with an item’s monetary value, but everything to do with how it makes you feel.
The fabulous interiors magazine, House & Garden, in January 2017 published a small and beautiful feature on my home, where I spoke about the magical effects that the Marie Kondo process had had on my living space. They, rather aptly, titled the piece “Bare Necessities”.
Before I finish, and whilst you will have gleaned that I have decided not to go into the finer details of the actual Konmari method (that’s what the book is there for and I’d be ruining all the fun), I will give you these key tips before “trying this at home”:
- Finish reading the whole book, before you start the process;
- Get a best friend (or hire someone) to help you, if you feel the task is too overwhelming;
- Be as ruthless as you can be: the more ruthless you are, the more liberated you will feel;
- Last but not least, refrain from Konmari-ing any of your husband or family’s things – it’s extremely tempting once you get into the groove but, trust me, this does not go down well.
Ultimately, I believe – in the pursuit of living our best lives – we should make our home our sanctuaries: a place where we feel safe, unburdened, free to think of new adventures, quieten our minds and rest our spirits. It certainly is much easier to get this right, in my humble opinion, in a truly uncluttered environment. So my suggestion is: get the book, get cracking and…you can thank me later. May your inner joy be sparked!
You can follow me @clarewiesewentzel on Instagram to keep up to date with my latest posts.