Marie Kondo, bestselling author, lifestyle maven, and star of the new show Tidying Up, is a little shocked. She’s shocked that the feeling of sparked joy that she urges her acolytes to uncover among all their junk can be so universal. She’s shocked by how much stuff Americans have. And she’s shocked by how many people have latched onto her KonMari method of tidying up and throwing away since bingeing her new eight-part series on Netflix.
Tidying Up has a simple premise. In each episode, Kondo enters the home of an American family, armed with unrelenting optimism and some cute boxes in various shapes and sizes. She patiently teaches the KonMari method to her new clients, whether they be a married couple with two young kids and a habit of squabbling over household chores, or a gay couple trying to elevate their apartment to “adult” status. The clients are happy to learn; tears are shed. Then Kondo says her goodbyes, leaving us to speculate about all the unhappiness bubbling under the surface in these now-tidy homes. Hey, at least the closets are clean.
In the days since its premiere, we have pledged, in the spirit of KonMari, to throw our work, our significant others, our children, our president, and ourselves into the trashcan. The jokes we tell are darker now than they were when Kondo’s bestselling book blew up after being published in English in 2014. We are, it seems, to be facing a joy deficit.
“I think back in 2015, people were already pretty tired or exhausted from having this influx of information all the time, and all the things around us, but I think that feeling only intensified over the last four years,” Kondo says.
This is an understatement. But the information overload is nothing we can’t handle, as long as we want to handle it, she believes. It’s all part of the journey of self-reflection and self-discovery. Unplugging isn’t the only way to self-help in these dark times. Through her translator, Marie Iida, Kondo told Esquire.com how to apply the KonMari method to our exhausting, tech-filled lives. She gave us a good pep talk about 2019, too. Here’s hoping that optimism rubs off.
Can the KonMari method be applied to digital spaces like our desktop computers and cell phones?
A lot of my clients who are finished tidying their homes often say that they want to apply the same method to their digital spaces as well, so I think it can be applied. Some of the same questions you explore when you’re physically tidying your home apply to the digital space. Is the information you have at hand truly making you happy? I think that’s a very important question to ask. And actually, I am publishing a book on this very particular subject, and it will be published next year [in spring 2020], and it’s called Joy at Work.
What’s one thing we can do to tidy our digital spaces?
Even something as simple as photos. We tend to take photos as if we have limitless space, right? And sometimes we have very similar photos saved in our phones. At the end of the day each day, I like to reflect on my photos and see which one is the best one. Only keep the best ones and delete the rest.
What if nothing on our laptops sparks joy?
“Spark joy” is the word I fundamentally like to use, but if those particular words are not clicking with you, there are other ways to think about it. For instance, a laptop that you use for work, you can consider all the information inside that laptop: How does it contribute to your work life, and does it contribute to you doing your work more smoothly?
How can we cut down on cords and electronic devices?
I would suggest starting out by gathering all the cords you have at home in one spot, and taking them one by one in your hand and seeing if it brings you joy. But when doing that, first you have to eliminate all the mystery cords, so you should be pairing the cords to its appropriate products. I assume because you have so many cords you like electronic products, and in that case I would also prioritize the products in order of the ones you like best to least.
It’s quite uncanny, but when you go through your things and organize them in order of preference, this process itself strangely will allow you to see that some products have already served its purpose and you’re ready to let go. That’s not to say you should feel guilty if you find yourself at the end of the process with as many gadgets and electronic products left over. But the awareness that you are passionate about those products is what’s important.
This past year was rough for a lot of people. How can we tackle 2019?
If you find yourself struggling right now or feeling a lot of anxiety while starting out the new year in 2019, my suggestion is to start by tidying the home. And the reason why this is important is because our home and our belongings inside the home is something that are very close to us. It’s a space. It’s a room that we can control. We have full control over that space. And it’s an environment that we can make as happy as possible and allow us to feel as safe as possible. This feeling can actually have a huge impact and reflection on your relationships and how you treat other people.
What about maintaining our good habits?
It’s quite simple. It’s all about putting things back where it belongs after you use them. And in order to do that, you need to have very easy system of storage. It should be easy to see what’s inside. You should be always filing things vertically, standing them upright. All those little tricks are so that you have a very easy, manageable system of storage so it’s easy to maintain that habit.
Is it ever too late to get started?
No, never. I had clients in their 70s and 80s before.
But if we put it off, will it get harder?
I would say that’s very true. You should do it as early and as quickly as possible in one shot, because it will lighten the load of your life going forward.