KonMari primer for the uninitiated

A quick introduction to the KonMari method, and why we keep talking about it so much.

Photo by: frankfarm

With RVANews Live #004 fast approaching and all of us continually talking about “KonMari this” and “KonMari that,” you may be wondering what in blazes we’re babbling about.

It’s rare that we at RVANews all agree on one particular thing. But, hoo boy, when we do, you’ll know about it because we CANNOT KEEP IT TO OURSELVES.

It’s all based on a philosophy by Japanese tidying guru Marie Kondo, who has written a very small book about a very small and very obvious-seeming idea. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up came out last year from Ten Speed Press. On July 30th of this year, its millionth copy was born!



OK, basically, Marie Kondo realized that for many of us, our emotions–both good and bad–are all tangled up with our physical possessions. Because we feel the need to keep these possessions around us, even when they make us actively upset, we have a hard time finding peace.

Through much trial and error (she began becoming obsessed with how an ordered house keeps your mind orderly at an extremely young age), Kondo figured out a tidy-by-category system that forces you to face all your stuff. This is more daunting than it sounds, and the results are more freeing than you can imagine. She urges us to lay hands on each item and come to terms with how it makes us feel. If it doesn’t make you feel actual joy or lightness inside, toss it.

This joy could be the thrill of how much easier this particular thing makes your daily chores. Or, it could be that the object serves no practical purpose whatsoever but it reminds you of your Aunt Melinda, the memory of whom makes you smile. That, in itself, is total and complete justification for keeping something.

Say, however, that you’re hanging onto a kitchen gadget because it was a wedding gift. Every time you look at that kitchen gadget, which is collecting dust, you feel a pang of guilt because your best friend, whom you love dearly, got you this gadget and you never use it. Get rid of it. Someone else might need it. Donate it to a thrift store. Put it on Craigslist. There is simply no reason to keep something in your house that drags your mood down.

But what about that couch that you spent a fortune on but never really liked? Depends. When you touch it does it give you the thrill of having a more expensive couch than your neighbor? Well, that’s weird and you need to get your priorities straight, but keep it.

On the other hand, does touching the couch (or walking past it every day) make you annoyed at yourself for not doing more couch research? Sell it.

What if I don’t have things in my house that bring me down?

Hooray! You’re doing great and you do not need to read the book.

Wait, what if I do?

Keep reading.

I’ve heard that Kondo thinks my socks will get sad if they aren’t folded properly. What in the?

You’ve heard correctly! She is a little bit eccentric, although charming as all get-out. Beneath all of that “I feel sorry for the things in your attic! They want to get out and have a great life being loved in someone else’s home” stuff is a solid philosophy that does not feel like it’s straight out of the Velveteen Rabbit.

What good does it do to hoard things? It’s creating more waste in the world and, take it from those of us who’ve had to clean out a relative’s home after they’ve passed away, it just puts the problem on somebody else, sooner or later.

Keeping things we don’t need also contributes to the false idea that we need bigger and bigger houses as we acquire more products. It also diminishes the meaning of each separate thing we own. The less we have, the more we value it. If you have a young child who’s used to getting a new toy car every week, you can see this in action on a very basic level. There are also people who desperately need a lot of the things we have squirreled away (or even on prominent display), and there are people who might just feel their own joy at that expensive couch you never really liked!

Why is this such a big deal?

Once you get into it, you realize that KonMari really applies to your whole life. I’m not convinced Marie Kondo had thought of this, but giving yourself permission to dislike something and therefore get rid of it is freeing on so many more levels than just with your possessions. Your brain will start to lose patience with the things that are dragging it into the mud, because now you’ve experienced the lightness that comes with removing something from your daily existence. Acquaintances, obligations, jobs…you’ll wonder why you spent so much time doing optional things that you hated doing. And, more importantly, you’ll give yourself permission to seek out the ones that do your psyche good.

It’s not a new idea. But the sequence she proposes and the quiet logic which she lays down without trying to be funny–something about it works so easily and makes it all stick.

May I read an excerpt from the book?

Slate has a great one.

KonMari, Sarah Fought, and RVANews Live #004

Sarah Fought’s experience

We met Sarah Fought–a local artist and educator–through social media. She had also read the Slate article, realized it was speaking to her personally, and went in way deep. Instantly, we were hooked on her online journaling and recognized a heartfelt writer-who-didn’t-yet-know-they-were-a-writer when we saw one.

A few month’s later, Sarah penned A true account of the life-changing magic of tidying up, which is one of our most popular pieces to date (and it didn’t even include anything about grocery stores, doughnuts, or a ballpark!).

Her follow-up, The greater KonMari way: Life beyond the method tells us how she’s applied her new relationship with her possessions to other areas of her life.

Both were not only fascinating reads, but give you a great sense of what it’s like to be around Sarah. She’s a wonderful, warm, open book, and we admire anyone who can take a hard look at themselves and recognize that it’s time for a change.

RVANews Live #004–Out with the New

Every few months, we turn what’s been popular on our site into a real-live face-to-face event! Through the magic of physical presence, we bring you human beings who are involved or related to those same topics in a panel discussion. Sometimes it’s light, sometimes it’s heavy, and every time, we learn a ton.

This time, we really wanted Sarah to come talk to you in person, answer questions, and otherwise discuss Marie Kondo’s method and how it can/is currently/did/didn’t affect you. Instead of a panel, we’ll be doing a moderated discussion–half Sarah speaking with a moderator (TBD), half answering Q&A from the audience.

The second half of the event will feature Ana Edwards of the Defenders of Freedom, Justice and Equality. More on Sarah, Ana, and the event itself.

And here’s a roundup of interesting background reading for both topics covered in RVANews Live #004.

Event details

RVANews Live is not only fun and informative, it also gives us a chance to meet a lot of our readers face to face. We get so many ideas from talking to human beings who enjoy (or despise) our content, and we’d love to see you there. It is the highlight of our quarter!

  • Thursday, September 10th • 5:30 PM
  • Visual Arts Center, 1812 W. Main Street
  • $15, includes one drink ticket! Beer and wine will be sold for $5 each, and we will have snacks for your complementary enjoyment! Tickets can be purchased online!
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Susan Howson

Susan Howson is managing editor for this very website. She writes THE BEST bios.

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