I’ve never been cool enough to love anything before it was mainstream famous. Bands, films, fashion: my cultural spidey-sense just isn’t that finely tuned. I’m aware of the zeitgeist – I have a house plant with millennial pink stripes, a pair of white fashion trainers, and am increasingly partial to oat-milk lattes – but I’ve never successfully pre-empted it. (I have a friend who can sniff out a trend a good four months before the rest of us get wind. I shit you not, she started cardigan wearing at our secondary school. It was a serious style moment.)
But with the advent of Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, Netflix’s new hit show about decluttering, I can finally say the words: I loved that before it was famous! If you’ve been on the Internet at all in the last two weeks, you’ll have seen the onslaught of think pieces (honestly, book people – as Sali Hughes delightfully put it, get over yourselves) and endless Twitter memes. Of course, given Kondo is known for tidying, I don’t reckon think garners me many cool points. And, unlike the angsty man-child who resents women for liking ‘his’ band, I couldn’t be more thrilled at the idea of more people embracing my beloved Marie Kondo.
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up
I discovered Kondo during the peak (or, erm, lowest point?) of my depression. I couldn’t handle reading fiction, at the time, which was a problem for a woman doing a PhD in English Literature. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up had only just been published, and I certainly needed a life change, so it seemed like as good a shot as anyway.
Straight away, I was hooked on the idea, without even doing the KonMari method, in which you declutter by category (clothes, books, papers, miscellany, and mementos ) and then only keep which items ‘spark joy’. I’d not long moved into my first flat, and (in the midst of my depression) was struggling to keep it clean and tidy. I felt weighted down by stuff, a problem only exacerbated by the realisation I wasn’t going to stay in my flat long term. Even though every room, bookcase, and cupboard was filled with emotional clutter I had grabbed from our family home clearance, the summer before. I found it soothing even just to read.
But I wasn’t quite ready for it – I was still dealing with too many other things. Make no mistake: letting go of your stuff is hard. When we buy things, we’re often trying to uphold an idea about ourselves; if I buy these shoes, I’ll become the sort of woman who wears smart heeled shoes. And, of course, our clothes and other possessions hold memories, like the jacket I wore to my Dad’s funeral. Removing those things from our life isn’t easy, but for me at least, the benefits are significant.
Is decluttering good for your mental health?
I’m not a naturally tidy person, either (more of a cleaner: I deeply enjoy bleaching my toilet), but everything about tidiness makes me feel better and less anxious. I like empty, dust free surfaces. I like colour-coordinated bookshelves. But I’ve always wanted to be tidier. Decluttering has helped me to do that, which is a nice start.
Confession: I’ve never actually done the full KonMari method from top to bottom. But, news flash – you don’t have to! Instead of getting up-in-arms about the ins and outs of the KonMari method, I think it’s helpful just to draw on the ideas of decluttering. Because we can all benefit from having less physical and emotional junk. I’ve sorted and thrown out and donated bag after bag of clothes and junk, until my draws are pleasingly empty. I still have further to go, but I can safely say there’s not much left in my home that I don’t use or get pleasure from.
And, as I increasingly explore and embrace minimalism as a lifestyle, I’m ready to keep refining and decluttering even further. Trying to limit what I buy goes hand in hand with decluttering, after all.
So give it a go, if you’re feeling like the clutter in your life is holding you back. But before you get up in arms about being asked to get rid of your books, remember: doing the whole method can be incredibly beneficial, as Tidying Up makes clear. But you can get similar benefits even without being that extreme. Just clearing your wardrobe, your toiletries and shoes can make a big difference. With every bit of space you free up, your environment becomes that little bit more visually calm – and somebody else can benefit from the things you’ve given away (or you can make cold, hard cash from them).
Because the more I clear, the calmer I feel. And you may well find the same.