Is There Magic in Tidying?

Is There Magic in Tidying? January 1, 2015

Is one of your New Year’s resolutions to finally get on top of your clutter once and for all? Chances are, if you’re a woman, it might be. Studies have found that clutter in the home causes a spike in women’s cortisol levels (but not men’s). To men, it just looks like stuff. To women, it looks like a never-ending to-do list of things that will never be done.

life-changing magic of tidying upI’ve been reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Japanese sensation Marie Kondo. Her fame in her homeland is spreading and her book is topping bestseller lists in Europe and the United States. It’s easy to see why.

Maybe you’ve tried the perpetual decluttering methods. Just do 15 minutes a day, or just follow this monthly schedule, or just have this rotating list of chores that you undertake forever and ever. This is a treadmill of constantly bringing new things into your life, constantly shoveling others out, never getting a handle on what you’re doing or why and never achieving the clarity that would put an end to this cycle. I starting using FlyLady‘s methods in 2003, and, while my home is certainly cleaner when I’m “on the flywagon,” I — like millions of women — can’t seem to stay with it long-term. That’s because those sessions of “only 15 minutes” actually add up to hours and hour each week.

What Marie Kondo is offering is a different solution. You declutter your home once and for all, in a short amount of time, and you never have to do it again. She says:

If you think tidying is an endless chore that must be done every day, you are gravely mistaken…By successfully concluding this once-in-a-lifetime task, you will gain the lifestyle you aspire to and enjoy a clean and orderly space of your choosing.

She also makes the amazing promise that:

Unbelievable as it may sound, you only have to experience a state of perfect order once to be able to maintain it.

That’s right: she promises you won’t revert to your old habits after you’ve tried her method. That’s because her book is not a Martha Stewart guide to having and doing it all, but a spiritual guide to looking over your life, making peace with your past, facing your future unafraid, and trusting the universe.

I didn’t know until I read her book that I was longing for a non-JudeoChristian approach to tackling clutter. While Kondo is not Hindu, she is Shinto and in fact was once a temple maiden. Shinto spirituality permeates the book, and aligns with Hinduism so much more harmonically than Western culture does. See the correlation between karma and how she speaks of our belongings:

The things we own are real. They exist here and now as a result of choices made in the past by no one other than ourselves. It is dangerous to ignore them or to discard them indiscriminately as if denying the choices we made.

This January, I’m going to use The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up as a workbook to putting my life in order — once and for all. I’ll keep you informed on how it’s going and I’ll also delve into the spiritual insights this book has given me. I’m excited. After years of using the perpetual methods of decluttering a bit every day forever, I am inspired by Kondo’s assurance:

Your goal is clearly in sight. The moment you have put everything in its place, you have crossed the finish line.

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