An Expert Says Clutter Is Linked To Anxiety And Depression—Learn The 6 Principles Of The KonMari Method Here
Our homes host not only the most memorable of gatherings and family events. As much as the rooms in them serve as silent witnesses to these moments, they also become repositories for the things we gather. Before we know it, our rooms are overgrown with our collections of books, travel souvenirs, clothes, trophies, Christmas décor, and various personal belongings.
In the book, Life at Home in the 21st Century: 32 Families Open their Doors, the UCLA (University of California Los Angeles) took an intimate account of double income, middle class American families with school-aged children. It explores their relationship with the material world, the stuff they buy and choose to keep in their homes, revealing that the stress people feel at work compel them to compensate by consuming material goods. In turn, these goods create the clutter that eventually become the catalyst for the stress that is derived from the inability to manage the stuff at home, causing feelings of failure. This phenomenon occurs globally, hence, the relevance of the KonMari method, created by Japanese organizing guru, Marie Kondo, and popularized by the Neflix series, Tidying up with Marie Kondo.
Certified KonMari expert Christine Dychiao says, “KonMari is really a method that ensures we never revert to clutter again. It comes from a deep understanding of human psychology, Shintoism, and a lot of practical trial and error… It understands that clutter is linked to anxiety and depression. KonMari also points out that clutter has a cost—be it time, money or the effort of looking for lost objects. It gives us the opportunity to address our own issues through the medium of our belongings. It is tidying from the outside in. So there are no cookie cutter ways to fixing spaces. Items are kept and stored on a deeply personal level, in a way that makes sense for the individual and not as dictated by someone else. After all, it is our space and it is our life. We need to own our stuff, instead of our stuff owning us.”
The KonMari method has been popularly misinterpreted as the method that prods one to choose items that “spark joy,” but there is actually more to it. Christine shares the six principles of the KonMari method:
1) Commit yourself to tidying up.
This means we should decide to do it, and make time for it. Going into it half-heartedly will not produce that much talked-about magic of tidying up. We have to want to do it and be mentally and emotionally ready to welcome the change.
2) Imagine your ideal life.
This is the end goal, and will keep you motivated to keep on tidying even when it seems like the clutter is never ending. Visualizing the destination makes it real, and as we clear the space of clutter, we make room for our ideal life to happen. It can be anywhere from coming home to a tidy space after work, having more time with the family, pursuing a new career, or having space for a new baby.
3) Finish letting go first.
Before being consumed with worry about where to buy storage bins and baskets, or buying them ahead before finishing tidying, focus on letting go of the things that no longer serve you. It is only when you have completely finished tidying that we find permanent homes for the items we choose to keep.
4) Tidy by category, not by location.
We've always been taught to tidy by rooms, not realizing this doesn't really solve the problem of clutter. Tidying by category, and gathering everything in the category from whichever room they may be at allows us to take a look at everything we have. This is where we realize we have multiples of the same thing, or have compulsions to buy certain items—be it Q-Tips, picture frames, reusable tote bags, etc. Seeing everything by category piled up together in one place also triggers something in us, forcing us come face to face with the enormity of how much we spend, and how much space we use up on items that we don't really use, and we learn never to get into the same situation again.
5) Follow the right order.
That's clothes, books, papers, or miscellaneous and sentimental items. The practical reason really is that if we start with sentimental items, we will never be able to get any tidying done because we will spend the entire time reminiscing. Putting it aside for last allows us to hone our joy checking skills with other categories, and by the time we reach the hardest category which are sentimental items, we are mentally and emotionally ready to make the tough decisions.
6) Choose what sparks joy.
More than letting go and discarding, KonMari is about choosing what we want to keep and bring into our lives. Our things should represent the person we are becoming, not who we were in the past.
Christine shares that there is a palpable change in the rooms that go through de-cluttering. The energy shifts, and they become brighter. Consequently, the lives of those who have de-cluttered also experience a change.
Christine shares inspiring stories of clients who have experienced better lives after tidying up: “A mom who I helped tidy had a then 8-year-old son who used to do his homework on their couch and on the bed because their table was always full of clutter. She did not realize how much her son was affected by clutter until her son's teacher messaged her to ask if she did anything different at home. The teacher was so happy to share how her son's performance in school improved, he was focusing better and was more productive in class, and wanted to know what helped. Her answer? ‘I just tidied!’”
A client who was undergoing certification as a clinical aromatherapist was having trouble with focusing on her aromatherapy education and felt that her clutter kept her from being able to organize herself, and to focus on the task at hand. We tidied her room, made a dedicated work desk for her to study at and mix her oils, found storage space for her oiling supplies and two months later, she got certified.”
For those who simply cannot commit to a method, taking stock of their stuff is a first step in initiating a positive change. It becomes a method that subliminally allows one the accountability for their choices. Choosing what to keep and what to toss is a very deliberate and empowering decision which can spur positive changes. Continuing the journey to inspiring an evolution for the better, Christine further shares these tips:
1. Reduce the amount of items we bring into the home.
2. Assign storage areas for every family member. Everyone needs a sanctuary and having one's own space that truly belongs to them will make them responsible for keeping it tidy, because they will want to keep it pretty, or at least neat.
3. Store vertically since doing so takes up less space and makes it easier to find things.
4. Store similar items in the same place or in close proximity. This makes you realize how much you have of the items, be it toiletries, stationery supplies, or dish towels, and you will be more mindful about what you bring in next time.
5. Make use of trays, boxes, or bowls to gather similar items together such as condiments, spices, pens, perfume, makeup, and toiletries to pull everything together and make you space look neat.
Photos from @mariekondo