Yes, I am a little late jumping on this bandwagon, I know. I don’t usually pay much attention to the popular or bestseller lists, preferring instead to follow my nose, especially when it comes to books. They usually jump off the shop-shelf into my hand and shout “buy me, buy me”. But in the end my good intentions to be ‘an organised person’ compelled me to read this book, so I reserved it from my local library.
A much sought after book, this has been on international bestseller lists for yonks; its popularity has yet to wane as I had to wait several weeks for it in a reservation queue. I was curious as to why a book about tidying-up could be so popular? The Life-changing Magic of Tidying-up, The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organising has obviously touched a sensitive nerve in the heart of our consumerist culture.
Maria’s method is very simple. Tidy once properly and you’ll never have to do it again.
Take one category at a time such as books, clothing, paperwork, komono (miscellaneous items), and place all of it in the middle of a room. Then take each possession individually and ask yourself “does this spark joy?”. If it does, find a place for it to go, if not, discard or donate it. Her no-nonsense quirky tone will leave you motivated to act immediately. Luckily it is a fast and easy read, and I read it in just a few hours.
Now, you don’t have to agree with everything Maria says to find value in her method. I think some of her advice is extreme. I don’t think it’s possible to keep only those things that ‘spark joy’ – some things are merely necessary. For example, I do not like most of my poor quality furniture, but until I am able to replace it with better, it will have to do. And emptying my handbag every day is never going to happen.
The ideal for me is finding balance; your own version of balance, whatever that is. I was once a bit of a hoarder and about ten years ago got rid of an entire lorry load of junk from my loft space. And over the years since have cleared out even more. Sadly, I discarded a few things that I now regret, so it is important that you consider each item carefully and find what works for you.
As a result of all this clearing out, I no longer buy stuff I don’t need. When I do buy something it is because I love it or really need it. Having less things, means less to tidy, less to clean, less to fuss about. Hurrah! Uncluttered surroundings help to produce uncluttered minds. It’s definitely had a calming effect on my life. And an interesting side effect is that my children have become more tidy just from living in a tidier home.
However, I think there is more to this decluttering lark than just having a tidy, organised house. For me it is a spiritual exercise. Material culture is a growing research field in the arts and humanities. Our museums are full of trinkets, art, books, sacred icons, fashions and other artifacts of days gone by – the remains of things that were held in esteem by our forebears and which tell us so much about those people and their times.
It is, then, very interesting to note the things we keep in our homes. What do they tell us about ourselves and our values? That’s what makes it potentially ‘life-changing’. Through sorting through our things and carefully deciding what to keep and what to discard, we come to know and understand ourselves more clearly. And in turn this helps us to see our place in the world and the action we may need to take next.
Following an intuitional approach sparks a closer, deeper relationship with your possessions; learning to identify what is truly precious to you.
Some of my favourite possessions include my books (of which I have several hundred), a few pieces of jewellery that are meaningful to me, notebooks and journals, photographs, a few favourite pictures and crafts made by my children, handmade knits, a wooden sewing box given to my mum on her wedding day, a concert t-shirt, my computer, and some christmas ornaments. What stood out for me among these things are the values I hold dear – the natural world, creativity, home, family, handmade – all those things that nourish the soul.
This book is a useful read, especially if you feel you need a kick up the backside to get you going in life, there’s nothing like a sort and a sift to discover a little more about who you really are.