When asked to trial the miraculous Kon-Mari method of tidying (created by Marie Kondo, the famous Japanese declutterer who says ‘I never tidy my room because it is already tidy’), I felt the invisible hand of destiny.
Unlike Kondo, I never tidy my room because it is always untidy, and seemingly determined to remain so, much like the rest of my house.
My chest of drawers is crammed so full the drawers don’t close, and underwear dribbles out like in some tart’s boudoir. My cupboards are a mysterious dark Narnia of moth-eaten winter coats and depressing black dresses I never wear. But, but – I am a chucker not a hoarder.
Rachel Johnson at home, trying to follow the rules for Marie Kondo’s newest book, Spark Joy, which advises on the Japanese Art of Tidying
Marie Kondo, author of The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art Of Decluttering and Organising, which has sold more than two million copies worldwide since its release last year
I already have Kondo’s bible, The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up, which had been sent to me by a friend who thought it would help me ‘put my house in order’ and free me up so that my life would, in Kondo’s words, ‘change dramatically’.
After I’d achieved the Eastern grail of a tidy house – including having a spotless ‘detox area’ (ie toilet) and having a fixed place for the remote controls – my ‘whole world would brighten’ and I could even establish ‘the lifestyle I wanted’.
Some hope, I know, but I was prepared to suck up any amount of this on the off-chance it might work.
The first challenge was finding the book, but after I did I was inspired. For what Kondo asks you to do is essentially so simple.
You don’t tidy by place. You don’t say: ‘I’ll do the kitchen and next week the children’s bedrooms.’ Instead you do it by category, and in this order: clothes, books, papers and komono – miscellaneous and sentimental items.
First, Rachel emptied the contents of her chest of drawers into the middle of her bedroom floor. In Kondo’s new book, Spark Joy, if something ‘sparks joy’ keep it, if it doesn’t, chuck it
You take an item and you keep it if it ‘sparks joy’ (Spark Joy is the title of Kondo’s new book, published last week, which you need when it comes to the putting-away stage). If something doesn’t spark joy, chuck it.
First, I emptied the contents of my chest of drawers into the middle of the room. There was stuff I’d bought at sample sales and charity shops, as well as more expensive items, and I stared at the hillock of broken dreams in despair.
The labour ahead appeared Augean, and I hadn’t even peeked in the cupboards.
Kondo says that if you handle each thing you will know its fate, so I got down on to the bedroom floor, and began.
I picked up a knackered sports bra from Sweaty Betty. ‘Treat your bras like royalty. Compared to other clothes they have exceptional pride and emit a distinctive aura,’ says Kondo. So I did what the mistress says. ‘Old sports bra,’ I asked it quietly, ‘do you spark joy?’
Answer came there none, but once I got going I found myself wanting to throw things rather than keep them. I made keep and discard piles within 30 minutes. Then it was time for the putting-away stage.
She began folding clothes and made keep and discard piles within 30 minutes. Kondo says that if you handle each thing you will know its fate
I had to consult the many diagrams in the Spark Joy volume to learn how to fold socks, bras, shirts, hoodies and so on, but the rule of thumb is don’t scrunch or ball (Kondo describes this as a ‘cruel practice’).
Folding – ‘a form of dialogue with your wardrobe’ – is easy and quick, and while it’s not the most fun you can have with your clothes on, it is extremely satisfying. ‘I could work in Benetton,’ I boasted, as I folded my three remaining white tennis skirts (having consigned the 21 others to the discard pile).
After an hour, all my clothes were stowed, although nothing was stacked as this is ‘unfair on the objects on the bottom’. Instead, you put them in the drawer ‘standing’ rather than flat – and the miracle is they seem to shrink.
She used the diagrams in the Spark Joy book to learn how to fold socks, bras, shirts and hoodies and after an hour all of her clothes were stowed
Not only had I restored order to my chest of drawers, I was now itching to do the closets… and the rest of the house.
I want all of it – not just my sock drawer – to be a ‘source of beauty, peace and inspiration’.
But if I’m going to Kondo my whole house, then a lot of stuff will have to disappear. And I must not worry my little head about other people’s stuff, or the fact that I have to throw out ‘all my unnecessary paperwork’.
For Kondo says my family will thank me for chucking away their collections of scented erasers, and the complete works of Patrick O’Brian, and all the family photos… won’t they?
After tackling Kondo’s tidying method, Rachel hopes her next book will be about decluttering ‘our emotional and personal lives’
To be honest, I’m not sure. There is a key existential issue Kondo sensibly ducks. Yes, our homes do overflow with unnecessary items, but this is because on the whole we do not live in Shinto shrines. Not everything we have sparks joy, but this is a high bar when it comes to saucepans, or even a relative.
Isn’t living with inanimate stuff we don’t love to death just another unavoidable fact of life?
Perhaps Kondo’s next bestseller – so far she has sold 4.8 million books around the world – will be about how we declutter our emotional and personal lives, and I look forward to that.
In the meantime, I remain extremely proud of my relationship with my sock drawer. I’m a convert.