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The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

by Don Meyer, Ph.D. | Jul 23, 2016

“Life truly begins after you put your house in order.”
Marie Kondo

A few days ago it was time for me to get to one of the important items on my ‘to do’ list completed: clean out the garage. Over the years it has become just too easy to keep this or that because I may need it one day, even if that day never came. 

Since I was raised on a farm where left over things really can be of value someday, I have always had a tendency to keep things. You just never know. Years ago Evie’s father gave me container after container of mixed bolts and screws and nails that he had picked up at a sale years before. I actually brought them with us from Minnesota nearly 20 years ago. Once in a while I have used an item or two but their value was always marginal at best.  

Evie and I first walked and talked our way through what we wanted to keep and what we wanted to throw away. I didn’t want to make an impulsive decision on my own and discard what later we might want, nor did I want to keep what we both concluded we would probably never use. We both decided it was time for those old containers from her father to go.

I wish you could see how different our garage looks now that we got rid all of those containers and the rest of our accumulated junk. Even though it is an old farmhouse garage, we smile all over when we just walk inside and look around.

You can imagine how my interest was immediately piqued a few days later when my friend Jessica Capistrant mentioned, in a round table exchange with local business friends, the book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo. I loved the title but Jessica’s positive comments let me know I had to get the book, which I did. 

Kondo has been called by The London Times “Japan’s preeminent guru of tidiness, a warrior princess in the war on clutter.” Her book has sold over three million copies. “The KonMari Method” (taken from the letters transposed from her name) has had revolutionary and lasting results in people’s lives. 

The primary reason we have this problem is, Kondo says, “When it comes to tidying we are all self-taught.” As we grow up we learn about “food, clothing, and shelter” for our basic needs but rarely has anyone been taught how to tidy up. “People can’t change their habits without first changing their thinking.” 

For me, the most valuable part of Kondo’s book is the chapter titled “Finish by Discarding First.” Yes, we do need to store things in an organized way but before we think about storage we must think about what we keep and what we discard. According to Kondo, “Keep only those things that speak to your heart. Then take the plunge and discard all the rest.” Some things have just “outlived their purpose.”

She even suggests holding that thing in your hand and if at that moment it does not “spark joy,” you probably should not keep it. Kondo says that when you start this process, save your special mementos for last. 

Her final chapter is titled “The Magic of Tidying Dramatically Transforms Your Life.” I especially liked Kondo’s three approaches we take toward our possessions, “Face them now, face them sometime, or avoid them until the day we die. The choice is ours.” 

Tidying up, for Kondo is “just a tool, not a final destination. In essence, tidying ought to be the act of restoring balance among people, their possessions and the house they live in.”

With our garage now tidied up, it is time to take on the basement. And after the basement, the attic. And after the attic … well, you get the idea. 

Think about it.

Dr. Don Meyer is President Emeritus of the
University of Valley Forge, Phoenixville, Pa.
www.DrDonMeyer.com
Connect via dgmeyer@valleyforge.edu 
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