De­clut­ter­ing guru Marie Kondo has a tidy re­turn

The Denver Post - - LIFE & CULTURE - By Anna Fi­field

tokyo » Just in time to make good on your New Year’s vow to get or­ga­nized, Marie Kondo, the self- de­scribed “crazy tidy­ing fa­natic” who has sparked the world with her joy for de­clut­ter­ing, has a new book to help you clean up your act.

This week, Kondo’s “Spark Joy: An Il­lus­trated Mas­ter Class on the Art of Or­ga­niz­ing and Tidy­ing Up,” is be­ing pub­lished in the United States. A se­quel to her in­ter­na­tional best­seller, “The Life- Chang­ing Magic of Tidy­ing Up,” it of­fers a more de­tailed and in- depth course in her me­thod­i­cal pro­gram to get rid of things that don’t “spark joy.”

The new book in­cludes il­lus­tra­tions of how to fold ev­ery­thing, in­clud­ing parkas, un­der­wear and socks, as well as pic­tures of per­fectly or­ga­nized draw­ers. Kondo also an­swers some of the ques­tions raised af­ter her first book, such as what to do about items that don’t spark joy but are still needed. In Kondo’s case, it’s screw­drivers; she thanks them ev­ery day for not ru­in­ing her nails.

Kondo is a celebrity in Ja­pan — she reg­u­larly ap­pears on tele­vi­sion here, and her four books in Ja­panese have sold a to­tal of 2.2 mil­lion copies. Her sur­name has be­come a verb—“I just kon­doed my closet”— and when Time mag­a­zine named Kondo one of the 100 most in­flu­en­tial peo­ple of 2015, ac­tress Jamie Lee Cur­tis called her a “mod­ern- day ‘ Marie Pop­pins.’ “

Kondo’s ap­proach of keep­ing only what you need and or­ga­niz­ing it in the most space- sav­ing way seems per­fectly tailored to tiny Ja­panese apart­ments. More sur­pris­ing, even to Kondo, is her pop­u­lar­ity in places such as Amer­ica, where peo­ple typ­i­cally have more space to spread out their be­long­ings. (“The LifeChang­ing Magic” has sold more than 1.6 mil­lion copies in North Amer­ica.)

“In Amer­ica, peo­ple live in big

houses, but they tend to have toomany things and that doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily mean that they are happy,” Kondo said dur­ing an in­ter­view at her of­fice in cen­tral Tokyo. “So that’s an­other rea­son I think my book trans­lates.”

Also, the fo­cus on clear­ing your head aswell as your house has tapped into a global trend: mind­ful­ness.

“I think one of the rea­sons it’s been so pop­u­lar is be­cause I talk not only about phys­i­cal de­clut­ter­ing but also about de­clut­ter­ing your mind, too,” Kondo said, sit­ting ram­rod- straight next to bunch of pink flow­ers that matched her skirt. “My method of de­clut­ter­ing re­veals what’s most im­por­tant in your life. So it doesn’t mat­ter whether you’re in Ja­pan or over­seas, this method shows clearly what’s im­por­tant to you.”

Th­ese are the ba­sic prin­ci­ples of the KonMari method: First, dump ev­ery­thing you own of a cer­tain cat­e­gory— start with clothes, then move to books, etc.— onto the floor to force a de­clut­ter­ing “shock.” Then go through them, de­cid­ing whether each item “sparks joy.”

“When de­cid­ing, it’s im­por­tant to touch it, and by that, I mean hold­ing it firmly in both hands as if com­muning with it. Pay close at­ten­tion to how your body re­sponds when you do this,” she writes in the new book. “When some­thing sparks joy, you should feel a lit­tle thrill, as if the cells in your body are slowly ris­ing. When you hold some­thing that doesn’t bring you joy, how­ever, you will no­tice that your body feels heav­ier.”

Any­thing that doesn’t meet this bar gets chucked.

Then, de­cide where to store each item you are keep­ing and al­ways put it back in its place. Kondo has a way to fold ev­ery­thing— down to plas­tic shop­ping bags— so that each item can stand upright, sav­ing space and mak­ing ev­ery­thing vis­i­ble.

This method means you will have to de­clut­ter only once and then just main­tain it, Kondo says, claim­ing a zero “re­bound” rate.

But, Kondo says, such ef­forts are worth it. De­clut­ter­ing once will save busy peo­ple time over the long run. Kondo es­ti­mates that she spends 20 min­utes a day fold­ing clothes— she doesn’t watch tele­vi­sion while fold­ing, but con­cen­trates on the fold­ing and talk­ing to the clothes— and says this is when she has some quiet time to her­self.

Kondo, 31, has al­ways been a neat freak. As a child, she would pore over her mother’s mag­a­zines, read­ing ar­ti­cles on tidy­ing and or­ga­ni­za­tion, and, as a teenager, she read ev­ery book avail­able in Ja­panese on the sub­ject. She be­came so ob­sessed with de­clut­ter­ing, she says, that she had a ner­vous break­down in high school.

That got her think­ing about how to make tidy­ing a happy process. By de­cid­ing what to keep rather than what to dis­card, Kondo says she can help peo­ple cre­ate a “bright and joy­ful fu­ture.”

Al­though she says she does not prac­tice Shin­to­ism, Kondo had a part- time job at a shrine while she was in high school, and her method in­cor­po­rates Shinto ideas of or­der and per­son­i­fy­ing ob­jects.

“For many peo­ple in Ja­pan, it’s nat­u­ral to think that things have souls and that you should show grat­i­tude when you use them,” she said.

In Ja­pan, Kondo’s de­clut­ter­ing method has be­come a boom­ing busi­ness. She used to visit clients and or­ga­nize their houses, but the pop­u­lar­ity of her method— plus the ar­rival last year of her first child, now5 months old— has meant she has had to out­source much of her prac­ti­cal work.

Her busi­ness— run by her hus­band— has trained 122women as cer­ti­fied KonMari con­sul­tants. They com­plete a train­ing course that in­volves four day- long ses­sions fol­lowed by 10 su­per­vised de­clut­ter­ings, a process that takes an av­er­age of six months.

The con­sul­tants are based across Ja­pan, and all are women who work only for fe­male clients for safety rea­sons. A five- hour les­son at home with a toprated con­sul­tant costs about $ 330. Kondo says she has been asked about ex­tend­ing this ser­vice to the United States and is con­sid­er­ing the pos­si­bil­ity.

Some of her trainees also run a group called the Ja­pan Spark Joy De­clut­ter­ing As­so­ci­a­tion, teach­ing classes to those who want to learn the KonMari method or start a ca­reer as a de­clut­ter­ing con­sul­tant.

There’s an on­line Konmari Club where mem­bers can read es­says about de­clut­ter­ing and look at pho­tos of Kondo’s life, aswell as ap­ply for vis­its from Kondo. This month, Kondo will launch a smart­phone app in English for KonMari devo­tees, a place­where they can post be­fore- and- af­ter pho­tos and share ex­pe­ri­ences of their de­clut­ter­ing.

Kondo has also just re­leased in the United States a “Spark joy ev­ery day” jour­nal sprin­kled with quotes—“Pur­sue ul­ti­mate sim­plic­ity,” “Things that are cher­ished shine”— so devo­tees can be in­spired as they chron­i­cle their tidy­ing and or­ga­niz­ing. Of course, if jour­nal­ing proves as chal­leng­ing as fold­ing your un­der­wear into lit­tle origami tri­an­gles ev­ery day, you can add it to the joy­less clut­ter pile.

The client’s de­clut­tered room by Marie Kondo, au­thor of the book “The Life- Chang­ing Magic of Tidy­ing Up.”

A client’s room be­fore it was de­clut­tered by Marie Kondo in Ja­pan. Pro­vided by Ten Speed Press

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