(Anti-) Marie Kondo

For Christmas, my GF decided that the best thing to do was to offer me the coming about tidying up from Marie Kondo. You know, the inspirational TED speaker that converted from helping people to de-clutter their apartments to helping them with cluttering them with useless things, such as crystals.

Beyond the pure and brutal irony of selling magic crystals after having gained fame helping people to get rid of things they didn’t need, my main issue with her approach is that she sees tidying up as a single-off effort rather than a process.

The issue with that it has an insane activation barreer for people who actually want to clean up (aka “I will never start because I need a lot of time to do this and I don’t have it”) and given the amount of work, people are likely to run out of steam and loose motivation before it’s done.

Instead of that, I am more in favor of the “steel milling approach”. If you try to remove all the unwanted steel while cutting a piece, you will cut too deep and break the machining bit. Instead, you need to do a multitude of passes, each of which removes some unwanted steel, revealing the piece level by level.

I have been quite often told that I am tidy and that I keep my apartment in good order. So here is my take on the matter (as a bonus, without any attempts to start a sect or sell you that having a clean apartment will change your life and bring in the perfect partner into your life).

As many things that I’ve seen working out in the long run, this approach is not motivated by the final result but instead is about developing a process that will be ongoing. Instead of focusing on the goal, it should be a focus on the process, the daily and weekly actions to tidy up and to maintain the tidiness.

Clothing:

Realistically, for those of us leaving in insane climates or not having the money to buy clothing we like, the “does it bring joy” characterisics is more of a meme than anything else. Some clothes are not the best, but that’s the one we have right now and what point is there to spend more money to get something that is not guaranteed to be better or more satisfying in the long run?

I suggest instead the MMORPG approach. You have a set or two appropriate for environments that you encounter often. For instance winter, interseason, summer, running, skiing. You have slots onto which gear goes. Shoes, socks; pants, underwear; on-body layer, intermediate layer, second intermediate laye, top layer; gloves, scarf, headchief. Depending on how frequently you wash your stuff and how long you need to go without washing, you need a number of items to cover the slots between laundries. And that’s basically it. You don’t go above it, except for maybe 1 or two items for safety; you replace as soon as you don’t need them anymore.

For leather shoes, it’s a good idea to have 2-3 pairs and rotate to prevent usage. Simialrly, for shoes it makes sense to make a better investment for better quality and perform sole repairs to extend their lifespan. It’ll be cheaper in the long run and as a bonus you won’t have to break your shoes in over and over again.

Don’t fold your outer/intermediate layer cloths; hang them if you have space. It’ll allow the anti-moth products to better permeate them; for them to dry if they are still slightly dampened and will make it easier to see their state when you are looking at them. The only exception for me are running cloths because of how thin they are.

Put away off-season clothing (ski gear in summer; shorts in winter) as well as items that you use rarely (bedding for guests) away, preferably vaacuum-compacting them and adding some anti-mite paper (yeah, those are super annoying to get rid of and can fly in during the warm months). For fancy clothing, it also makes sense to have a hanging insulation, to avoid too much friction to them. Bonus – putting them away after laundry doesn’t take nearly as much time as in case folding was needed and hence will happen faster and with strain on your brain.

You can totally wash colors and whites together and dry them together, provided you throw in a color absorbent lingette.

Beware of what you buy, because you will be storing it.

Have a separate bin for dirty and lcean clothing.

Papers:

This one is easy. Those you need to keep, for instance for return policy, insurance, contracts or contestation with banks, put them in a plastic pocket and into a binder.

Better even – scan them so that you have index of things; keep just ones you need in the original.

Leave those you need to process out, on a table. Seeing them there will annoy you into processing them ASAP. DO NOT PUT THAT OFF. Beter – designate a day of week when you need to get them done.

Small stuff:

That one is hard. Decoration should go into the place they are supposed to go.

Those rather small items that you need some time should be stored in boxes or drawers. Otherwise they will accumulate dust.

Memorabilia from the past should be stored in folders and boxes and be put away as well.

General principle of storage is the same as in computers.

What determines what is stored where is the time you need to access/store it and frequency. The more often you need things, the more easily accessible they should be. For some things, it often doesn’t make sense to buy them – renting will be cheaper and the absence of clutter will feel great.

Besides, my biggest beef with Marie Kondo is ion the concept of joy. The life is not all about joy. Some of your items don’t bring joy, but they are important reminders to yourself or are highly functional. For instance, winter anti-slip boots you need twice a year, ugly AF, but you are happy that you have them when you need them.

Overall, there is a balance to be found between order and chaos. Too orderly and it looks like a prison cell or a hospital. Too chaotic and it looks like a dumpster. While in Japan, the super-clean aesthetic of Sama-Zama is considered as a reference, for most westerners, it is too clean and sterile. A balance between the order and the chaos is to found and struck, that is personal to everyone.

Energy and Co

Now that we have covered the basics, let’s go to the pseudo-guru stuff of energy. Marie Kondo actually seems to know nothing about the energy of the items or that it differs significantly between people and cultures.

This is due to the fact that the energy might not exist – our minds treat it as existing and use it to better interface with unconscious.

For instance, the resting cloths trick is something my grandfather taught me when I was five, so that I would put cloths into order when going to bed. And I can guarantee that if you imagine yourself in the place of your cloths, resting on a chair or hanging in a straight position is much better than being folded with several folds.

Similarly, covering the heads of the plushie toys or the photos in order to avoid the eyes is the stuff of nightmares – reminding of worst horrors of prisoners/civilians executions. You need to face your decisions. Besides, toys are better off donated to find a new life and photos are better shredded and taken by the river of time to the past they belong to.

More problematic to me is the concept of having to leave things behind to move forwards. As we advance in life, we accumulate memories. Some of them joyful, some bitter-sweet, some nostalgic, some brining on the reflections. Trying to clear them all just to move forwards will get us only to sterile rooms; without past or future; without a personality or wisdom to speak of.

Don’t discard things that forged you or that give you glimpse into your past self. They define you and make who you are. They’ll help you to make sense of your past and guide you forwards.

As you age, you will be walking into the valley of the memories of ther life well-lived; lessons learned and emotions lived – all that made you alive; and all that will allow you to face death, when the time comes, without fear or regret.

You’ve poured energy and life in order to craft the artifacts; sometimes on purpose, sometimes on accident. They are yours to give it back to you in times of need now – it makes but sense to keep them and keep them exposed to yourself.

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