TEDxAUCollege | New year, fresh start: decluttering my life with the KonMari method
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New year, fresh start: decluttering my life with the KonMari method


-Isabel Retterath

New year, new chances. With this in mind, many people around the world start off January 1st resolving to improve their lives. Getting fit, starting to meditate, or learning a new language are among the most popular new year’s resolutions. Although I am usually not one to partake in this tradition, this time I have decided to do things a little different. In light of new year’s resolutions, I am going to declutter my life.

Fact is, we live in a society that consumes more than ever, and it is causing serious problems. The planet is suffering and many people have become obsessed with possessing as much as possible. If everyone would live as the average American, we would need 4.6 times the earth to support us. Also, it has been found that people who attach great value to wealth, status, and material possessions are more likely to suffer from depression.

Considering the downsides of consumerism, for 2018, my resolution is to declutter and get rid of things I don’t need. As I have tried this before with little success, this time I used tips from the queen of decluttering-books: The life changing magic of tidying up by Marie Kondo. The book was published in Japan in 2011, and translated into English in 2014. Kondo designed a method to get rid of excess possessions that is so successful that it caused her to be on Time Magazine’s list of 100 most influential people of 2015, and it has helped people all over the world to clean up once and for all.

Kondo’s approach – which she calls the ‘KonMari method’ – is simple: keep everything that sparks joy, get rid of the rest. This means that you only keep your favorite clothes, books, cd’s, et cetera. With this method in mind, I began to discard anything that didn’t make me happy when picking it up, starting with clothing. At first, the process went fast, and the ‘donate or sell’ pile quickly outgrew the ‘keep’ pile. However, as I went on, I began to encounter some difficulties. Things like a garlic press or the old pair of jeans I use for my painting-outfit don’t exactly spark joy, but I do need them in daily life. So with things that I just need one way or another, I decided to cheat a little. However, in order to stay as close to Kondo’s tips as possible, I kept only one of each. So now I owe only one old pair of jeans, instead of the ten that I kept for years.

Although the KonMari method helped me to sort out and get rid of most of my possessions, there is one part of her book with which I do not entirely agree. Namely, when it comes to photos, Kondo writes that we should embrace who we are in the present and thus throw away pictures of earlier times. Although I get that this is all about the mindfulness approach of living in the present, I cannot simply throw away all pictures through which I can cherish moments from years ago. Simply put, looking at pictures makes me happy. So, at this point, considering Kondo’s ‘spark joy’ approach, I figured it would be more fitting to go against the book and keep my photo albums.

Overall, Kondo’s book helped me to get rid of a considerable part of my possessions, including faulty kitchen supplies, old towels, and at least a third of my clothes. Moreover, it created space not only in my house, but also in my head. It is surprisingly calming to be surrounded by things that make me happy instead of piles of stuff that I don’t actually use or need. Thanks to the KonMari method, I will be starting off 2018 with a fresh, clean living space. If you give it a try, you will too!