Marie Kondo

From wardrobe to your mind: Lessons from the decluttering expert Marie Kondo

As Marie Kondo wrote The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying, “messy room equals a messy mind.” She lives by this mantra and so should we.
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What is common between a big house and a mind filled with ideas? Both can make your life stressful if you are not organised. Happiness resides where there is order and clarity, whether it’s your home or your mind.

Big or small, a house becomes a home when you look after it, the same way you look after your wellbeing. You keep things organised, tidy, and clutter-free, so every day feels anew. Life becomes beautiful when you have a place that shines in daylight and glows in twilight. Even visitors feel elated when they step inside your abode because it’s clean and organised. Home, as they say, is not a place but a feeling.

The same goes for your mind as well. To feel relaxed and calm, you need to put your worries to rest. That means, decluttering your mind and keeping your thoughts organised. When you do so, your radiating face will tell a story of a person who is happy and stress-free.

Now imagine living in an organised house with a decluttered mind. This is what Marie Kondo has been helping people with since her bestselling book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing was released in the fall of 2010. Today, thousands of people follow her advice on the art and importance of decluttering. Her show on Netflix, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, also talks about decluttering your house and life, which has become the need of the hour for countless working citizens.

As Kondo wrote in The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying, “messy room equals a messy mind.” She lives by this mantra and so should we. Let’s take a closer look into the connection between your home and your mind, and the various life lessons Marie Kondo can teach us.

Find beauty in broken things

Not everything broken is ugly, especially if it’s a part of who you are. If something is broken, you don’t have to throw it away just because it looks unusable. You can repair it if it holds an emotional value. The Japanese follow the philosophy of Kintsugi, a 400-year-old concept of mending broken things with gold dust or silver. It’s a way of preserving what you value or finding beauty in not so perfect things.

Often, we focus on achieving perfection, which is nothing but a figment of our imagination. In reality, no one is perfect. Everyone has flaws, some are just more visible than others. This is what makes us humans after all. If you can accept this, you can have long-lasting relationships and a life filled with contentment.

Ask yourself what brings you joy

The KonMari Method is the philosophy Kondo uses to declutter a house. It’s not about tidying things up—as many people think—but discarding items that no longer serve any purpose. In her book, she writes, “We should be choosing what we want to keep, not what we want to get rid of.” And to know the former, the question you need to ask yourself is, does this bring me joy? An old sweater, a vacuum cleaner that doesn’t work, overused utensils—do they hold any value months or years after you bought them? Depending on the answer, get rid of them to decrease the clutter in your house.

Life works the same way. Make a list of all the experiences and memories that you often think about. Now, ask yourself which ones make you happy. Get rid of everything that doesn’t fit the bill and keep you from being happy.

Don’t confuse nostalgia with hoarding

As humans, we tend to get attached to things, animate or inanimate objects alike. That’s why many of us have tin boxes filled with old photographs or letters. When we want to preserve a memory, we latch on to it through an object. These emotional sentiments are valuable as long as they are not masking something sinister like the habit of hoarding. According to a study, “Between five million and 14 million people in the US are compulsive hoarders—at least twice the number of people diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).” Imagine the total number around the world.

“No matter how wonderful things used to be, we cannot live in the past. The joy and excitement we feel here and now are more important,” says Kondo. With tens of millions of people suffering from this compulsive disorder, it becomes even more vital to deal with it. One way to do so is to separate nostalgia from hoarding. One gives you joy, the other generates negative feelings. If you can draw the line between the two, not only your home will look tidy but your mind will be at ease too.

Surround yourself with love

Surround yourself with things you love even though they are less in number. This is much better than surrounding yourself with all the shiny things, which you don’t even like. So many people are guilty of ruining the beauty of their houses with the clutter they think is important, or will come in handy later. Kondo says, “When we really delve into the reasons for why we can’t let something go, there are only two: an attachment to the past or a fear for the future.” Get rid of this attachment and fear and make room for things that are invaluable. At the end of the day, what matters is how you feel on the inside.

The idea is to surround yourself with people or things you love. Doing this can help you weigh what’s important and what’s not. This is how you remove clutter from your house and life too.

Don’t forget your mind is your home

Kondo says, “People cannot change their habits without first changing their way of thinking.” So, before you worry about your cluttered house, clean the mess in your mind first. Try to avoid your intrusive thoughts and make practising mindfulness meditation a habit. It’s one of the best ways to start your day as it allows you to escape from the trap of overthinking and discover inner peace. When you are happy and calm from the inside, you are bound to attract the same in your environment too.

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