Television programs that focus on home organization are becoming huge hits across America. One example is Netflix’s “Sparking Joy,” featuring the world-renowned professional organizer and author Marie Kondo. The program encourages people to not only reduce and organize items within the home, but also to transform their entire lifestyles. At only 4-foot 7-inches tall, Kondo, and her CEO husband, who developed the KonMari Method of organizing, are a powerhouse duo, purportedly with a net worth of about $10 million. And their organizing approach is being widely embraced worldwide. But are they really onto something special?
Kondo’s shows, deep seated in her Japanese roots, focuses on tidying up for life changing results. She encourages clients to transform their homes into sacred spaces which align with Shinto beliefs. Shinto, the state religion of Japan until 1945, dates from the 8th century and incorporates the worship of ancestors and nature spirits, with a focus on sacred power in both animate and inanimate things. In Japan, many people practice Shintoism, which is rooted in the soul and traditions of the Japanese people. It is believed that humans are basically good, and that bad is caused by evil spirits. There are “Shinto gods” called Kami that take the form of things such as wind, rain, trees, river, fertility and more. It is among the goals of Shintoism to avoid impurities and live harmoniously with nature and the things around us. Materialism can interfere with this practice; thus, people are instructed to part with things that do not bring harmony or spark joy in their lives. The goal of Kondo’s organizing is not to get rid of things, but rather to encourage people to live only amongst the objects they love.
Many professional organizers encourage people to begin organizing room by room. However, Kondo believes it is best to start by imagining your ideal lifestyle. Because joy is personal, there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to organizing. Nor does she want her brand associated with minimalism, as the goal is to surround yourself with items you hold dear and truly cherish. However, minimalism comes into play when people realize how much stuff they own, and how much stuff they don’t need, and decide what they are willing to part with. As unwanted items are removed, the home generally becomes simplified. As a bonus, items that are kept become valued, rather than becoming lost in a pile of mess.
Kondo, now 36, became enchanted by organizing since her childhood. In fact, the tidying expert originally thought that discarding things was key. However, as she reflected upon this idea, she realized that it did not align with valuing things that are special. As a result, she began her concept of keeping things to ‘spark joy.’ After years of research, and experience with many clients, she came up with her own approach to tidying up, and the KonMari Method of organizing was truly born. And, it has become a huge success. It was so successful, in fact, that Kondo was nominated for Primetime Emmy Award in the category of Outstanding Host for a Reality or Competition Program, and for her Netflix original series entitled, “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.”
Though often described as a rigid method by others, Marie Kondo’s way of organizing has roots in decluttering by encouraging folks to rid themselves of what’s not important. Increasing storage without decluttering is not encouraged, as Kondo does not promote creating space for the sake of material accumulation. Kondo establishes a formula for ridding oneself of unwanted items. Unlike most organizers who go room by room, Kondo prefers to organize by categories (clothes, books, paper, etc.) and in a specific order that she created. Her clients gather and pile things up that belong to a specific category, such as clothing, and then they begin sorting and decluttering. In doing this, it enables the client to see how much they have accumulated. For some, this may cause stress. But she promises that it will get better. Another way in which Kondo’s method differs from typical organizers is that she prefers to organize items by size rather than by traditional standards of simply keeping like items together. To achieve success, in the beginning, clients must commit to organizing, and, by the end, they must keep only what sparks joy. Kondo also teaches unique folding and storing techniques to help save space and considers accessibility to frequently used items a component of organizing success. Clothes are compactly folded and stored vertically rather than stacked horizontally and in traditional form.
While professional organizers apply their own techniques during the organizing process, many of them share universal ideas, such as keeping frequently used items accessible and returning items to the same place for easy storage and retrieval. Marie Kondo’s unique way of getting people to see the large amounts of accumulated items they own is a great motivator to get rid of stuff. When a person organizes by categories and piles up what they own, it can be revealing. For example, when they see that they have 50 pairs of shoes and only two feet to wear them, it often hits them that they simply have too much. Kondo also wants people to take some time to thank their home, a spiritual element unique to her method. She wants people to appreciate the protection one’s home offers. She also wants clients to thank the items they used for their service prior to donating them. The goal is to get people to be more aware and appreciative of the material things that they have worn or used.
Most people agree that Kondo is onto something special. We live in a material world where accumulation is easy. In having so much, we may fail to appreciate the things that we have around us. Often our material things cost us time and energy to maintain. And too much clutter brings confusion and chaos to our lives. Thus, her unique way of organizing, combining specific steps with mindfulness, is an inspiring way to get one’s home in order and makes people grateful for all they have.
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