6 months ago, I hadn’t even heard of her, and now she’s everywhere. So what’s the deal with Marie Kondo? If you’ve been living under a stone (like I must have been), Marie Kondo is the pint-sized Japanese tidying expert who seems to have taken the world by storm.
I first came across her book “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” at Christmas time last year, in the desperation of looking for presents. The title struck me because “tidying up” and “life changing magic” didn’t really seem to belong in the same sentence! And yet it spoke to something that I knew to be true…
We live with things being incomplete.
That lack of completion weighs heavy on our spirit, makes us feel like we’re failing, and fuels a life of procrastination. Most people wouldn’t consider tidying up to be magic in any way or could even anticipate how that could possibly impact their lives.
Now Marie Kondo has a Netflix original series in which she works with people and inspires them to tidy up their messy houses. What makes the show work is that it is heart-based, and almost spiritual in nature. Nobody is tidying up the house for the sake of tidying up the house, it’s not a show for neat freaks just for the hell of it – it’s really about how having a higher degree of workability in how we manage ourselves, our personal environment, and the things we want to create in the world really matters.
What’s remarkable about the whole thing is that there is no complicated science to it, it really is common sense. Where the magic lies is simply in an unequivocal commitment to keep only what “sparks joy”.
Typical approaches to decluttering, don’t demand much of you: throw out an item a day, do one drawer at a time, do what you can – but this is a one-time deal.
Now, I'm a fairly tidy person – not by design, but because I’ve lived in different countries and if you’re shipping your stuff across the sea from time to time, you want to make sure you have the least amount of stuff possible. Also, my business consultancy background means that I’m inherently committed to having things work smoothly. I worked out early on in my career that not being able to find your keys in the morning really impacts how you can perform!
Even so, since the renovation of our 1950s warehouse into our stunning home/venue Studio 38, I have felt the pull of something holding me back. I knew that building phase had not been totally wrapped up for me in some way. Boxes had been stuck in cupboards, with a dusty film on the top from living through the building phase.
So, with some trepidation (and 4 weekends of procrastination), I finally opened the huge drawers of an old-fashioned writing bureau that has been in my family for several generations. When I was a kid, those drawers were full of my mum’s old knitting needles and sewing fabric; it was a place of creativity. So I opened the drawers to heaps of memories and a lot of dust and wood chips.
As instructed by Marie Kondo, I took everything out and put it on the dining room table. That’s the confronting part – taking everything out, not doing it by halves. Overcoming a sense of “good enough” in favour of excellence.
Then the Pareto principle kicked in…
The Pareto principle, commonly known as the 80:20 rule, states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes - for example 80% of your work comes from 20% of your clients.
In this case, when tidying, you can get 80% of it done pretty quickly and then you’re down to the last thorny 20%. And meeting this last 20% head-on is the liberating part. The indecision of what to do with those things is what has been holding you back all this time.
When I speak at conferences about how to Wake up your WOW, I ask people to rate their energy, confidence, and motivation on a scale of 1 to 10. Most people, who think they’re operating pretty well, score themselves as around 7 or 8/10. Pretty good, right? Well, yes and no. If clearing out the last 20% in Marie-Kondo-style tidying causes such liberation – imagine what it would be like if you cleared out that last 20% everywhere in your life.
Marie Kondo’s message to keep only what “sparks joy” is the signature part of her message, but really, where the inspiration lies for me is in that unequivocal commitment. If you’re going to “Marie Kondo” your life or “Wake Up Your WOW”, you will have to make some demands of yourself:
Do things that spark joy AND be committed to it, and you will have a really great recipe for life.
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