Use It or Lose It

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iStock_000057768674_MediumIn the past two months, I’ve had more than 25 people ask if I’ve heard of Japanese organizer Marie Kondo and her bestseller The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. The main premise of this book is that the items in your home should “spark joy” or be tossed. And she has people around the world tidying like mad! When asked what I think about Marie’s book, I say, “It’s simple and brilliant!” (While secretly thinking, “Why the hell didn’t I just write that book … I could be retired and living on a beach right now.”)

If you’re curious about all of the hype, I’ll summarize a few of Marie’s key ideas here:

First, you should surround yourself with things that bring you joy. Why hang on to dusty piles of old things that don’t make you happy? She recommends holding each item as you consider keeping it or pitching it, and asking “does this spark joy?” If the answer is yes, then keep it. If not, toss it in the circular file (aka the trash can). I’ve always said you should only keep and do those things that bring you joy, cause you to laugh, create a feeling of warmth and make you feel like a rock star. Everything else should move along to a new home. Don’t keep things for “one day” — either use them or lose them.

Second, Marie recommends organizing by category, not by space. She suggests gathering all of your clothes (not just in your closet, but those in your drawers, your attic, your guest room, etc.) and going through each and every item, deciding what to keep and what to pitch. Faithful followers share stories of giving away 50%-75% of their wardrobe while “Kondo-ing” their lives. Once you’ve gone through clothes, you can then move on to books, household items, paper and finally end with memorabilia and sentimental stuff. This saves the hardest items for last, but it’s possible that by then, you’re in a good purging groove and you can tackle those tricky items, too.

Finally, Marie suggests thanking your items before giving them away. She does this with everything from socks to books to pieces of furniture. Before letting an item go, she bows to it and says, “Thank you for serving me,” and then the item is tossed to the curb. I must admit I haven’t tried this (or suggested it to my clients) … but if it helps you let go of something you might consider keeping “just in case,” then by all means, bow away and show your gratitude.

The most interesting response to this book is how freeing it appears to be for those who follow her methodology. Professional organizers have been saying this for years — being surrounded by things that make us happy illustrates how miserable we likely are when surrounded by things that don’t. If your home is packed with things that you hang on to out of guilt, because of sad memories or because you’re afraid you might gain back that 10 pounds, I imagine that stuff is, indeed, making you sad!

I haven’t figured out a way for my files filled with past tax returns to spark joy just yet, but I am looking at my other belongings a little more suspiciously. There is much in the book that may fit a Japanese lifestyle a bit more than our super-sized American one — but if you’re looking for inspiration to clear the decks this summer and bring a little more joy into your house, Marie may give you the kick in the pants you need.

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Perri

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Perri Kersh

Perri Kersh is the neatest, and sometimes freakiest, at Chapel Hill-based Neat Freak Professional Organizing, LLC. She works with individuals, families, small business owners and students to help them get and stay organized. When she’s not organizing for others, she frequently shovels up after her husband and children. In 2019, she was elected president of the North Carolina chapter of the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals. You can read more about Perri on her website, neat-freak.com, or reach her at 919-824-8196.

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