I heard an interview of Kondo a few days before Christmas, and a day later saw this little book in my favorite bookstore. As I leafed through it, a headline popped out at me: “Storage experts are hoarders.” I liked this book immediately.
Kondo describes her obsession as a child to clean up at home. (I was not this type of child) She was always trying to throw things away, including her family’s belongings which did not go over well. She found herself always beginning again at square one. Then one day she had an epiphany: the only things you should keep are those things that give you joy, everything else should leave. (She does make an exception for a few things like legal documents).
Kondo prescribes a very specific method for determining the joy factor. Sort by type, not by room. For example, get all the clothes you own, from all parts of your home, and dump them on the floor in one room. Then touch each one and ask: does this shirt give me joy? If not, discard it or give it away. Keeping stuff just because you haven’t worn it down to the last threads, or because it may fit some day, or because it was the first gift your spouse ever gave you does not pass her test. It must give you joy.
She takes you through clothes, books, papers and then photos and other mementos, recommending you do the easy stuff first. She even suggests breaking it down to subcategories, so clothes might be broken down into shoes, tops, jackets and trousers. She also suggests folding your clothes vertically, which made sense with socks, but I’m having a difficult time envisioning sweaters on a shelf standing up end to end. , I sorted through all my socks and was surprised that some do give me joy, and others which were a bit worn, or uncomfortable did not pass the joy test. I haven’t done more yet because she really does recommend that you make each sorting a special event, getting it done in one go, literally thanking your clothes for their service and bidding them adieu.
A few topics struck home. Like this one: “The most common reason for not discarding a book is ‘I might read it again.’ Take a moment to count the number of favorite books that you have actually read more than once. . . . Let’s face it. In the end, you are going to read very few of your books again.” Another great observation was: “mysterious cords will always remain just that–a mystery.” Get rid of them.
I’m not sure how well Kondo’s method will work for everyone, but this book is the first one that has inspired me to give it a try. After all, what’s more appropriate for the new year than a resolution to tidy up?