Sparking Joy Without Burning Your House Down: Discovering Marie Kondo And The Magic of Tidying Up

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As parents we often struggle with day to day chaos, busier than busy schedules, immense piles of never-ending shit (the literal and the emotional load) - so it's no surprise that we are looking for a leader who can sweep in and declutter our lives. Both mentally and physically. Because we want more time. We want more joy. We want more.... nothingness. 

If you've uttered the words, new-year-new-you, if you want to be a minimalist but think your kids are weighing you down with their consumerist thirsts, or if you've just simply had enough of the everyday clutter, you need Marie Kondo.

Who Is Marie Kondo?

No, Marie Kondo isn't a fancy gated community in Florida. Marie is the undisputed queen of tidying up from Japan. Her hit book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up was released in 2014 and has given her a cult following across the globe. But the reason you're probably hearing about her now is because she has a Netflix documentary, Tidying Up, that sees her visit people’s homes and help them declutter.

Funnily enough I have been hearing about the "KonMari method" for years now, thanks to my ultra-tidy colleague Susan. She has been banging on about "sparking joy" for so long that I actually thought the mother-of-two was self-medicating. Turns out she's just been tidying up and it's changed her life. 

Susan's daughters enjoying the space after a KonMari clean-up

Susan first heard about Marie Kondo over three years ago through a Facebook group when someone was looking for tips on decluttering. She was drawn to the The KonMari Method Australia Facebook page and hasn't looked back yet. 

"What I love is that the "magic" is in the lifestyle change," says Susan. "And having a calm space to call home. I used to do big clean out every year but I'd just accumulate more things to clear out the following year as my buying habits didn't change. With two kids I still go through things a few times a year - mostly their clothes they have outgrown but nothing on the same scale as the first KonMari declutter."

How To Spark Joy 101

Marie Kondo recommends visualising your destination before you start. Then ask yourself “Why I want to do it?” It’s always good to start with a good, clear mission in mind. As Susan says, "Questioning why you have every item in your home and asking if each item sparks joy in your life. The process is about keeping what you love, what's useful and practical and giving it a place in your home."

"Going through everything you own is like a trip down memory lane and it makes you take stock of your life."

Into The Crazy Fold

If you have only watched one episode of the show (like me) and your takeway message was that you just have to fold everything into neat rectangle to change your life, you'd be wrong.

As Susan says, you can pick and choose things that will work for your family. "Marie Kondo suggests folding the majority of your clothes, but we use more of our hanging space and have partially filled draws of folded garments."

(I also heard some crazy shit about never folding or balling socks because it exhausts them and that they deserve time in the drawer to relax after the hard work they do all day. Hmmm okay, Marie. As I said, take what you can.)

On Off-Shoot Of Decluttering

Susan believes that it's changed her family's finances too. "It's made us mindful on how we spend and buy. Seeing all the money we spent on things that still have tags on them or are unused was so wasteful. All purchases are carefully considered and without all the spontaneous purchases that has saved us a lot of money."

Susan's daughters' bedroom after the KonMari method...

Declutter Your Schedule

It's not just cupboard space you gain, you also gain time. As Susan says, "Through KonMari we've learnt to say no! Our time is valuable and we don't want to spend it doing things we won't get any joy out of."

Of course time comes from less housework too and the KonMari method certainly helps here. "It's made keeping the house in order much easier," explains Susan. "We can have people over at anytime without hiding all the mess in the laundry! We find we have more time on the weekends as we aren't spending it sorting and cleaning the house."

Kids Going KonMari 

Okay, but you have young kids, surely this can't work with their mounds of toys and beloved toast encrusted teddy bears they can't bear to part with. Wrong.  Susan says it's taught her 4 year old daughter some invaluable life lessons. "She has learnt to give. She has two toy draws and if its full, something needs to be donated. For Christmas she was happy to donate toys to make room for new toys."

Get the whole family involved. Susan's daughter is learning to fold her own clothes KonMari style and her husband is on board has followed suit too. "it's important to go through your own belongings as what sparks joy for you may not be the same as for the other person."

Are You Keen To Start?

As Susan says, the KonMari process isn't for the faint hearted. "You need to be committed to decluttering and making a change in how the house runs otherwise you're more likely "rebound" to your old ways. We set some new house rules that we all live by and also had to break some bad habits. The first step is to set intentions as to why we wanted to declutter and how we wanted our home to feel and look which we did together."

Read the book, watch the show, join a Facebook group, it doesn't matter, so long as you are committed!

Where To Send Unwanted Items

  • To sell high end pieces try
  • For women's workwear donate to Dress for Success
  • Donate men's workwear to Dress for Work 
  • Clothing Clean Up will pick up unwanted clothes
  • Towels and bedding: most dog shelters and vets will take, same with soft toys as most charities won't accept them.
  • H&M and Zara for clothing and fabric recycling.
  • Give to local charities but always ask them first, don't just dump it on their doorstep
  • Give it away on Pay It Forward Facebook pages or Facebook Marketplace and eBay. 

An Important Step Marie Has Missed

Unfortunately with the frenzy of people sparking joy in their lives, there's been a massive increase in items being dumped on the street or thrown in the bin to end up in landfill. That's right, all that clutter doesn’t just magically disappear into thin sustainable air. There's also the alarming reports that Aussie charities are paying $13 million a year to send unusable donations to landfill. Eek. 

Sustainability Victoria Acting CEO, Stephanie Ziersch suggests households consider adding an extra step when applying the KonMari method to their tidying up.

“Our simple request for Kondo-inspired declutterers is that instead of saying ‘thank you, next’ they instead find the joy in re-homing the items or recycling them thoughtfully and through the correct channels.

“In fact, there’s a Japanese approach known as mottainai that I suspect Marie Kondo would happily support. Quite simply, it encourages reflection on waste and action when it comes to reducing, reusing, recycling and respecting.”

Find out more about Marie Kondo and the KonMari method here.

More Tidy Matters

A Simple Guide For Kids Chores
How To Make Cleaning Fun For Kids
Where To Donate Unwanted Christmas Presents

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