Decluttering: the magic of tidying up

Happy New Year. Have you managed to make it to the first week of January with your resolutions intact?

The start of every year focuses us on what we would like to change about our lives. And as we watch the world outside our front doors get more and more complicated, it’s understandable that people want their own lives to be as straight forward as possible.

Our longing for a simple life has led to a huge interest in ‘decluttering’ over the last couple of years, and at the centre of the global tidying up revolution is a Japanese author called Marie Kondo.

She topped international bestseller lists with her 2014 book ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organising’ and last year released ‘Spark Joy: An Illustrated Guide to the Japanese Art of Tidying’.

Recently she appeared on BBC Woman’s Hour to explain her tidying philosophy, which can be boiled down to keep and organise the things that make you happy and discard everything else.

Marie Kondo

It’s easy to dismiss the decluttering fad as a flash in the pan, but there are some important ideas underlying the drive for a well organised life.

Reducing the number of possessions you keep around can be seen as a positive antidote to our society’s consumption of disposable consumer goods. Kondo believes we should only keep items that ‘spark joy’ and, if you are surrounded only by things that you really love, you should feel happier.

Getting organised

On a more practical level, it’s not difficult to accept the idea that, if you’re surroundings are well organised, it’s easier to organise your life.

But seeing the value of decluttering and actually doing it are two very different things. Whilst the idea of clearing out those drawers can be frightening; decluttering an entire household can seem like a daunting challenge to say the least.

One of the most common pieces of advice given to anyone starting to think about de-cluttering is to try not to see it as one huge job, but to break it down into manageable pieces. Kondo recommends a specific order for tidying: Clothes, books, papers, miscellaneous items and, finally, mementoes.

The order may not seem important, but how many times have you started tidying only to be been derailed by some old photos you found at the back of a drawer.

On the hit list are shoes and clothes you never wear, kitchen equipment you never use, half used cleaning supplies, toiletries and cooking ingredients, books and magazines, and papers – from ancient bank statements and utility bills to lapsed guarantees and instruction manuals for appliances long gone.

Once the house is wonderfully tidy, you can start clearing up other areas of your life, reducing your commitments and ditching anything that is not essential. Then you will have more time to say yes to the things that spark joy, such as spending time with your friends and family.