Jessie Raymond: Giving minimalism a go – for now

A few days ago, I joined the ranks of over 2 million eternal optimists who have embraced The New York Times bestseller “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.”
The author is a Japanese professional organizer named Marie Kondo, whose “KonMari” method espouses a simple philosophy: Free up space in your home by keeping only those possessions that “spark joy.”
The woman is a genius. Oh, and also: She is crazy.
She and I have nothing in common. For instance:
• In videos I’ve seen, she is impeccably tailored, meticulous, gentle and soft spoken. I break things and set off smoke alarms.
• She likes to wake up and drink herbal tea while looking around at her peaceful surroundings. I like to wake up and drink strong coffee while inhaling a day’s worth of Internet in 20 minutes.
• She started compulsively tidying her family’s home when she was five. When I was five, I didn’t even put the caps back on magic markers.
• She believes that inner calm can come from caring for our belongings and properly storing them. I believe that, too, but in practice I just throw stuff anywhere so I can move on to something more fun.
Kondo is crazy, but not because she’s got this Japanese minimalist thing going on. Our American approach is what’s crazy: Buy random crap for the sake of having it, and then buy plastic totes to store it in. Until Kondo, I didn’t realize there was another option.
I got started on Sunday with, as Kondo suggests, my clothes. All of them. I dumped everything on the bed and considered each item. Nothing I own actually “sparked joy,” but decency required that I keep at least a few items. (My office has a strict dress code, in that “dress” is required.) So I took the best items, all 11 of them, and put them away, KonMari-style.
Kondo’s obsession with folding clothes into tiny packets the size of notecards might seem crazy, but it’s not. She’s from Japan, where some apartments are smaller than the storage units Americans rent to hold their surplus stuff. Maximizing square footage makes sense. And well-folded clothing looks adorable.
I confess I spent an hour on Sunday watching YouTube videos of KonMari converts demonstrating how to fold shirts into little rectangles and store them vertically like file folders. (Don’t judge; in any given week I spend far more time on YouTube watching far dumber stuff.)
I also wouldn’t say Kondo is crazy for believing that inanimate objects have feelings. I have often cursed sweaty jog bras while struggling to extricate myself from them, knocking furniture over in the process; could they have taken offense at my salty language?
Kondo didn’t go that far. But she did explain, for instance, that balling my socks together was stressing them out. Socks, she said, need to relax at night, gently folded. I get it. And Kondo is right: I sleep better now, knowing that my socks aren’t all tense.
Kondo is teaching me to look differently at my surroundings. She insists that it’s OK to let go of those things that I no longer want or need or enjoy — regardless of how they came into my life — so that all I’m left with are those things that make me happy. I’ve started unloading so much stuff that my neighbors think we’re moving out.
And it’s working: I’m finding that the less busy my surroundings are, the more at ease I feel.
So what’s next?
From this point on, Kondo says, I will never have clutter or disorder again. I will buy nothing unless it makes me positively sob with joy — even if it’s on sale. I will learn to appreciate stillness. I will make sure my socks get plenty of down time. And I’ll religiously store my precision-folded clothes in their proper place, rather than stuffing them blindly into any old drawer.
It all sounds beautiful. But let’s face it: I am an easily distracted woman who flits from fad to fad like a moth with short-term memory loss.
For her part, Kondo insists it’s no fad; her tidying methods are so effective that I’ll never go back to my old scattered ways.
What a sweet woman. But like I said, she’s crazy.

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