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[Books] How is the KonMari method related to purposeful living?

Key Takeaway: Kondo Marie, creator of the KonMari method of¬†decluttering and organizing, has created not a cleaning method but a philosophy to live out. Her revolutionary discard-then-sort system is infused with the values of mindfulness, optimism, and simplicity, which then naturally overflow into one’s everyday living.


Books have always been a¬†popular and influential medium to convey universal and timeless wisdom, and for organizing it’s no different. There are countless books on organizing out there, and they all share their own theories, philosophies, and methods on organizing. I, for instance, am subscribing to the wisdom of Marilyn Bohn, creator of the Lights On Organizing System, a three-step process that emphasizes¬†what works for¬†you.

To each their own.

Today, we’ll talk about an organizer whose book is¬†flying off the shelves and whose method is supposedly so effective that none of her clients have relapsed. Kondo Marie¬†(pronounced “ma-ri-eh”, ŤŅĎŤó§ťļĽÁźÜśĀĶ) hails from Japan, and her method, branded as KonMari, is characteristic of her culture in two ways.

One, it’s efficient.

Two, it promotes simplicity, allowing us to focus on the things that really matter.¬†Sounds familiar? That’s the spirit of¬†The Daily You.

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Kondo Marie on the back of her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Ten Speed Press/Amazon

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing¬†promises that faithful adherents will live a joyful and peaceful life with its “revolutionary” system. It consists of only two steps, and promotes a one-time,¬†big-time approach to organizing and tidying. This is in contrast to other common methods, which advocate a little-by-little approach that¬†often ends up being overpowered by even more clutter.

Specifically, to¬†“kondo”, or tidy up, you need to devote a single period (perhaps a day) to heap together¬†everything you own, and separate those that “spark joy” from those that no longer do so. The latter should be¬†completely discarded (whether tossed, sold, or donated I would say), but not before being acknowledged and thanked for their “service” for you. Then, and only then,¬†those that remain are sorted properly by category, following principles of mindfulness and dignity, going as much to thanking your things at the end of each day for all they have done for you.

It’s not so much the cleaning method more than the¬†philosophies behind it that draw me to the KonMari method, despite initial misgivings about having so much to throw away after a first lesson. (But then, if one didn’t consume so much in the first place, there wouldn’t be this problem. Responsible consumerism.) Kondo emphasizes keeping things (literally and figuratively) simple and functional, freeing oneself from what is essentially “emotional baggage” – but in clutter form – and thereby allowing oneself to enjoy a positive atmosphere all the time, which as¬†a domino effect influence you to focus on the things that truly matter, such as devoting yourself more to the advocacies that truly “spark joy” in you.

If this sounds Jesuit, it¬†is: the Jesuit school of thought emphasizes¬†living simply and detachment from worldly pleasures and anxieties among others, allowing one to focus more on things such as prayer (or conversing with one’s God) and relationships with others. KonMari encourages us to face our so-called inner demons, in domestic form, and to shut them down for good, that we may live a truly happy life once more. It is not simply a cleaning method, but a mindset, a purpose to be lived out. It is about living¬†with purpose,¬†for purpose.

(Read more: My take on The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything)

The other day, I wrote about the benefits of staying organized, and if I could sum it up in a phrase, it would be that it promotes an interconnected chain of development in your life. Staying organized and tidy saves you money and stress, allowing you to be more productive, thereby letting you focus more on truly substantial things (such as relationships) that mutually benefit you and others, and in the end granting you a serene, joyful life. That is KonMari’s ultimate aim, of which organizing and tidying is simply the main means – and this is why I feel it is so effective and why none of her clients have relapsed.

Sure, it may be difficult for some to even begin with, perhaps because of a lack of time, or a lack of energy, or a lack of commitment. But it’s okay: it will come when it comes, when you are ready to be a practitioner of the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing. I myself am still making the time to¬†kondo my own room (I do still live with my mother¬†and brother), but when I am truly ready to change my life through tidying, I know I will expect and get very magical results indeed.


Featured Photo depicts the front cover of the American edition of¬†Kondo Marie’s¬†The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,¬†from Ten Speed Press and taken from Amazon.

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