Last week, my friends came over to my place to hang out. Janice returned The Life Changing Magic Of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo and commented on my minimalist home. I haven’t realised how much I had reduced my possessions and how simple and happier things had since become.
I’ve been talking about the book to almost everyone around me. But what is so fascinating about a book on decluttering? The fact that it sold more than 2 million copies speaks volumes. I think Marie Kondo has sparked off a worldwide minimalist sensation because many of us have an uncontrollable impulse on getting and keeping huge quantities of material things.
Too many people live surrounded by things they don’t need “just because”. I urge you to take stock of your komono (miscellaneous items) and save only…those things that bring you joy – Marie Kondo
It had been nine months since I started clearing my home following the KonMari method. As recommended, I started clearing my clothes and books (coincidentally these are two possessions I have most and am most prone to overbuying).
The Japanese tidying consultant did say that we should tidy as quickly as possibly to feel the dramatic change. I think I did quite a good job (within 3 months) except I’m stuck with one category: papers (I’m still finding a system for my bank statements, receipt and contracts). Despite not completing the process 100%, it is still life-changing.
Reflecting upon my quest on organising my material things and only keeping things that spark joy made me realise how KonMari’s philosophy on things (amongst few other things) made me much happier. Here’s some positive effect on me:
1. More organised home, mind and life
Nowadays, I often get comments on how neat I am. It’s not a compliment that I’m used to receiving; I’ve never been naturally neat. When I moved into my bachelorette pad five years ago, my house was in a mess.
What’s amazing is that I realise an uncluttered home has great effects on my mind. After decluttering my things, my mind became much clearer too and my life gradually smoother. Perhaps removing clutter at home spurred me to start tidying everything up.
I developed a love of orderly things because I know how valuable it is not to have a cluttered space. Then I developed a strategy and system to be neat and apply it in every area of my life. From decluttering my home, I gradually yearn to declutter my mind and my life.
When you put your house in order, you put your affairs and past in order too – Marie Kondo
2. Less time to clean/tidy up (more fun too!)
I have no qualms to having a lot of materials things that makes me happy. I love things. I really do. What I do not like is spending time to clean and tidy up my things. I realise that with less things in my house, I spend less time taking care of them.
What’s surprising is that I enjoy cleaning and tidying my house a lot more now than before. When I had a bunch of clothes I bought on sale or just for fun, I don’t think much of them; they are treated like disposables.
Now that I buy quality things that spark joy, such as a well-fitting knitted dress and a Thai-designed shift dress, I realise caring for them is extremely joyful; they are no longer disposable items but things I treasure. Besides, I want to keep something that I believe looks good on me in pristine condition.
3. Able to find what I need easily leads to increase productivity
I know what I have and where to get them. It’s almost like I have an inventory of things I own in my head. I could find anything I need almost immediately…even obscure things. When a friend mentioned he wants to dine at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, I could find the menu I saved from years ago.
I also have my at-home dresses displayed in a basket so it’s easy to see all my clothes and pick what I want to wear (Marie Kondo recommends drawers but I didn’t have many, so I have to make do with this less-than perfect solutions).
All these means that I rarely waste time thinking where I put my things or finding things that I need to use. Doing things at home is a swift and mindless process.
4. More mental capacity and time to do things I love
Point 1, 2 and 3 ultimately leads to more mental capacity and time to do things I love. When nothing is bothering me – my space is neat, my mind still and my life in order – I am more likely to be able to focus on things that matter. When I save time on tidying and searching for things, I have extra time to invest in my hobbies.
After clearing my house, I find that I have more time drawing comics. I even started a mini apartment garden – something I once believed I wouldn’t have the time to do.
5. More control of my possessions
When you go shopping carrying the Kondo mentality of “Keep (and buy) things that spark joy” you will accumulate a lot less than before. Now, when I want to buy something, I ask myself “Does it spark joy and will it continue to spark joy for a long time?” If it’s a no, I would put it back. Previously, I couldn’t stop myself from a purchase.
I can’t say that I don’t like shopping. I still enjoy it a lot. However, I feel it is now a lot more controlled than before. I recently returned from a trip to Bangkok, a city known to have affordable and beautiful things. Though I came back with quite a lot of new possessions, they are things I bought because I really like them, not because they are cheap.
Shopping nowadays is more mindful. Hence, I realise I save money on unnecessary things (though I can’t say I save more money since I decided to spend on higher quality, usually more expensive items). The point is that I feel happier that I’m in charge over my things rather than having my stuff control me.
6. Joy from being surrounded by things you love
Now I understand why hotel rooms with a view fetch a higher price. Humans are influenced by things that they see, and beautiful sights makes you feel good. After clearing my home using the KonMari method, I also told myself that I want to only buy and keep quality things that spark joy (Read: How to have a quality life).
The result is that everything at my home serves a purpose or sparks joy. I keep things that I need hidden neatly in a box (e.g tools) and place things that I love in the open, allowing myself to see and reach to them easily (e.g ukulele by my bedside or on the sofa).
It’s hard to explain the peace and joy I feel from being surrounded by things that spark joy. My heart flutters seeing them and sometimes I find myself looking at them momentarily in admiration.
7. Discover what you really like to do/reignite forgotten passion
When you cut out the clutter and keep only things you love – you start to realise what you truly like to do. You may think you already know, but sometimes you discover forgotten interests until you tidy up and make space for things that ‘spark joy’.
While cleaning, I saw all the artwork that I used to do. Scrap paper with drafts of my comics are things that I find hard to throw away. I remembered that I used to love to draw and make art as a child. So I decided to draw again – with paper and pen.
8. Realise that it doesn’t take a lot to be happy
I’m not one of those people who are naturally happy with very little. I have high standards, I enjoy quality goods and I like working hard to get them. I believe it’s very easy for me to fall into the trap of materialism. Cleaning my house and asking myself “Does this spark joy?” over and over again gradually made me realise that I really don’t need that much to be happy.
As you reduce your belonging through the process of tidying, you will come to a point where you suddenly know how much is just right for you. You will feel it as clearly as if something has clicked inside your head and said “Ah! This is just the amount I need to live comfortably. This is all I need to be happy. I don’t need anything more – Marie Kondo
9. Have friends and family over more often
I love to have people over at my place but previously had been unable to do it as often because my house is ‘not ready for guests’. I don’t know about you, but when I have people over I want to make sure that they are comfortable. I expect the floor to be clean, the house to be neat, the space to be cosy and there are snacks to serve my guests.
While deciding what to keep and what sparked joy, I kept (and bought) pretty cushions, serving trays and a basket of snacks for guests. Now that my house is neat all the time and I tidied it in a way that is welcoming to people – I realise I invite people over a lot more than before.
10. Ability to enjoy the lifestyle that I want
According to Marie Kondo, the purpose of tidying your house is to achieve the lifestyle that you enjoy. She advised “Think in concrete terms so that you can vividly picture what it would be like to live in a clutter-free space”.
My house is tidied in such a way that allows me to work on writing, relax with a book and healthy snacks, cook delicious meals easily, and have people over occasionally. I want to relax, create and be with people.
I have a new working table which enables me to write. Next to it a small bookshelf filled with books that I love. I also created a ‘tea corner’ so that I can drink tea and read on my sofa often (Read: How to create a tea corner). Sketch books, pen and iPad are kept in a box underneath my coffee table so that I’m encouraged to draw. I make more space in the living room so people can put their things and feel more comfortable.
Wrapping it up…
I love things. I’m not talking about minimalism in a sense that you deprive yourself of stuff. In life, we will accumulate things. It’s okay to have a lot of things that you love. What I believe is that material things is a mean to – and not the source of – happiness. This is what I’ve realised after plenty of soul-searching. Marie Kondo’s minimalism merely taught me how to do it.