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Could Organizing Your Home Change Your Life?

Marie Kondo is the author of the best-selling book, "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up" (Photo Credit: Natsuno Ichigo)
Marie Kondo is the author of the best-selling book, "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up" (Photo Credit: Natsuno Ichigo)
Could Organizing Your Home Change Your Life?
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There is a new celebrity in the United States. This woman is not a popular singer or a young Hollywood actress. She is an expert on organizing and cleaning. Imagine that!

Her name is Marie Kondo. Some people say she ‘wrote the book’ on organizing. That means she is considered an expert on clearing away unused or unnecessary things, better known as clutter.

Actually, she did write a book on the issue – a best-selling book. It is called “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.” Her book is a best-seller around the world. It has sold more than 2 million copies.

Marie Kondo says people can improve their lives by changing the way they think about all their stuff -- everything from books, documents and photographs to clothing and personal mementoes.

“When you put your house in order, you put your affairs and your past in order, too,” Ms. Kondo writes.

Organizing book promise big life changes

This is not the first time an organizing expert has written a book on clutter. Other books suggest wonderful things will happen when you organize your home.

One book says that if you throw out 50 things from your home, you will actually find your life -- as if it is hidden under small mountains of books or clothing. (Throw Out Fifty Things: Clear the Clutter, Find Your Life).

Another book says that if you make clutter disappear, you will also lose weight. (Lose the Clutter, Lose the Weight: The Six-Week Total-Life Slim Down). And still others promise a better job, more money and a perfect family if you simply organize the things that fill your life.

Marie Kondo makes some of the same claims. She told the Business Insider website that some of her clients have lost weight.

"Your self-perception is improved by living in a clean and neat room," she said. "This can change lifestyles and, in turn, appearances."

So, what makes Marie Kondo different?

Marie Kondo teaches a method of organizing she calls KonMari. It is more of an event or ceremony. This is the part that followers say makes it more lasting.

Ms. Kondo says KonMari creates a different relationship between you and your possessions. If the object meant something to you or served you well, you thank it for its service before throwing or giving it away.

In her book, Ms. Kondo suggests that you touch the item and ask one simple question: "Does it bring me joy?" If it doesn’t, you give it away so that it may give joy to someone else.

One of Ms. Kondo’s clients was reported to have cut ties with her husband because he didn’t “spark joy.” So to all the men out there, you may want to start making the woman in your life happy. Or you just might be given away!

This video shows Marie Kondo in action. She helps a book lover sort through her books. Ms. Kondo teachers her client how to "awaken" the energy of the books. This will help her decide which ones to keep and which ones to give away.

Organizing should be an event not a life-long job

Ms. Kondo is different from other organizing experts in many ways. In her book, Ms. Kondo says many popular methods of organizing simply add to the problem. She claims that if you organize things right the first time, you’ll never have to do it again. Organizing your stuff, she said, should not be an on-going process. It should be a one-time event.

Organizing expert Marie Kondo keeps clutter out of a kitchen drawer. (Photo Credit: Natsuno Ichigo)
Organizing expert Marie Kondo keeps clutter out of a kitchen drawer. (Photo Credit: Natsuno Ichigo)

Marie Kondo says you should not clear clutter room-by-room, as other experts have suggested. Her approach is by category. She suggests organizing things in this order: clothes, books, documents, other items and mementos -- objects that have sentimental value. Those items that recall a personal memory are the last to go because they are the hardest to part with.

Another difference is she advises people not to store things by season. So there will be no more storing winter sweaters away in the spring. She also warns people not to spend money on costly organizing boxes. Ms. Kondo says simple dresser drawers and shoe boxes work just fine.

Born to clean

Marie Kondo is in her early 30s. She says she has been organizing and cleaning since she was 11. She says that as a little girl, her favorite things to do were reading books on keeping a home clean and organizing her family home.

But many people say her method of cleaning and organizing is too unrealistic. We all have things we think we need. Many may not create a feeling of joy. But they are necessary.

Other critics say the homes she cleans seem too impersonal. Having many pictures, books and mementoes in a house, they say, can create a homey, lived-in feel.

Marie Kondo is the author of the best-selling book, "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up" (Photo Credit: Natsuno Ichigo)
Marie Kondo is the author of the best-selling book, "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up" (Photo Credit: Natsuno Ichigo)

Also, Ms. Kondo does not have any children. This has made her the target of some criticism. People with children may laugh at the suggestion of keeping only the things that give you joy. A child may love a toy one day but move on to something else the next.

Yes, Ms. Kondo has her critics. But she has a larger following. One might even say she has a cult following.

Her followers call her a “fairy” and a “snowflake.” They talk of the healing power of simplifying their lives by throwing out stuff. They call themselves Konverts with a “k”, playing on the word “convert,” with a “c.” These Konverts share before-and-after pictures on social media. They share stories on how Marie Kondo, a small Japanese woman, has changed their lives.

It seems Ms. Kondo has put her finger on something. In other words, she has touched on an issue that really means something to many people. We also call this zeitgeist, a German word that means “the general beliefs, ideas, and spirit of a time and place.” Her way to clearing clutter to create the life you truly want has become the new zeitgeist of the moment.

It is probably the reason why Time magazine listed her as one of the “Top 100 Influential People” for 2015.

Do you Kondo?

How else do you know when you have arrived, or become famous?

When your name becomes a verb!

On many social media sites, you will hear people saying they need to “Kondo” a bedroom. Or they have Kondo-nized their closet. At a party if you say your life is too busy or your house too messy, someone might suggest that, “you need to Kondo.”

Besides the tips already mentioned in the article, she advises people not to put things in piles. She suggests instead storing things next to each other so that you can see things easily. Ms. Kondo also says there is nothing more troublesome than papers. If documents or other papers are absolutely necessary, keep them. If not, throw them all away.

I’m Mario Ritter.

And I’m Anna Matteo.

Is there a place in your life that you may need to "Kondo”? Think of your books, kitchen or music collection? Let us know in the comments section.

Anna Matteo wrote this report for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.


Words in This Story

clutter v. to fill or cover (something) with many things : to fill or cover (something) with clutter : n. a crowded or confused mass or collection

tidy adj. clean and organized : not messy : v. to make (something) clean and organized

write the book on somethingidiomatic expression to be an expert about something

sort v to separate and put things (or people) in a particular order

impersonaladj. having or showing no interest in individual people or their feelings : lacking emotional warmth

lived-in adj. having a comfortable and appealing appearance or quality that comes from being used for a long time

cult n. a situation in which people admire and care about something or someone very much or too much

put your finger on somethingidiomatic expression to identify and state the essence of something

zeitgeist – n. a German word that means “the general beliefs, ideas, and spirit of a time and place.”

to arrive/you have arrived/I have arrived idiomatic expression to have reached a position of power, authority, or prominence.

sentimental adj. appealing to the emotions especially in an excessive way