Decluttering with Astrid (20)

That “aha” moment

The new book by Marie Kondo is out. For those who haven’t been following my blogs from the start: Marie Kondo is the decluttering guru from Japan. Her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, has sold four million copies worldwide, and has made her a millionaire. Her KonMari decluttering method is a sort of phenomenon. And now, the second instalment has hit us: Spark Joy. I have no idea what it is about a book filled with decluttering tips that captivates me so, but it does. So much so, in fact, that I have read the entire thing. All-of-it. Voluntarily, and during my free Saturday. It is full of (quite ugly, actually) drawings on how to fold your clothes (according to the origami principle), how to best arrange your drawers (like a bento box), and what a perfect shoe cabinet looks like (my joy increases steadily, “rain boots and snow boots at the bottom, and party heels at the top”). Any other decluttering expert bores me, but when it comes to Marie Kondo’s light, poetic and funny Japanese philosophizing, I lap it up with glee.

The big joke is that she writes about your belongings as if they have feelings. So she claims that you can only fill your storage spaces to 90 percent of their capacity. There must always remain a little room, or your stuff will become cramped. Now I understand why I sometimes feel so agitated myself when I look at my bookshelf, which is completely crammed: my books need to breathe.

But do not underestimate Marie. There are also some quite confrontational phrases in her book. Like in the chapter: Do not force people to tidy if they don’t want to. Hmm. Truth be told, at home, I’m constantly forcing people to tidy up even though they don’t want to. She also writes that, now that she is no longer single and her possessions share space with her husband’s things, she wants to take as good care of his things as she does of her own. This chapter has been written just for me, as far as I’m concerned. Currently, it’s a great effort for me to perceive his 22 pairs of sneakers as being more important than my collection of English china. And there’s the rub. Our dear Japanese Marie says I should not be the north wind (i.e. eyeing the mountain of shoes with an icy stare every time I walk past it), as it’s far more effective to be like the sun. I need to love the sneakers, I have to pick them up and touch them, and think about how my other half felt when he bought these shoes, how happy he is when he goes out in them, and how satisfied he feels as he pulls them off after a nice long run. And if I can’t quite come to terms with “loving” them, then I simply need to accept them.

I briefly lost Marie when she started explaining how you should tidy or discard photos and letters from ex-lovers (place the photo in a paper bag or envelope with the picture facing inward, and throw in a pinch of purification salt). But she got me back in the chapter that addresses how you know when you are done with decluttering. When is enough enough? Well, according to Marie, you don’t need to worry, because you will know automatically. You’ll have that “aha” moment; that moment when you feel it’s right, when you have enough to be happy and content. I’ve no idea how that “aha” moment feels, but I do know that I haven’t had it yet.

Astrid is, together with Irene, the founder of Flow Magazine. She lives together with her partner and has two kids. Every Tuesday she writes about the sense and nonsense of decluttering.

“Week 20 – That “aha” moment”