WE DON’T want the dystopian vision of Wall-E to be right. If we keep going on the path of continuous, wanton acquisition of objects, in a matter of years we will all be buried under a pile of stuff. Like all things, the process begins at home.
Marie Kondo, an organizing consultant from Japan has become some sort of modern-day prophet. While the prophets of yore have preached about what was coming, Ms. Kondo preaches about what is already there, and what we should do with it. Specifically, our stuff. Ms. Kondo has written a bible of sorts with her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. Like any effective prophet, Ms. Kondo has disciples all over the world, teaching people the KonMari method, a process of cleaning one’s personal space. It could be interpreted as a facet of Buddhist teaching that reminds one to remove desire from oneself as well as the attachment to the temporal, beginning with the things in our closets.
One of her converts was blogger Christine Dychiao. The mother of three just so happens to have a desk that was always full of clutter, and after learning that one of her messier friends found a snake in her own clutter, well, Ms. Dychiao went on to study the KonMari method via Ms. Kondo’s book. After being urged by her friends to do so, she went on to be certified as a KonMari consultant in New York.
Ms. Dychiao held a tidying seminar in Estancia’s Pottery Barn branch last week, to an audience eager to clean up their spaces, and in a way, their own lives.
The advice is deceptively simple: pile all your stuff on the floor, choose the items you love, and throw out the rest. But like any spiritual exercise or ritual, achieving this state of well-being takes many steps. Ms. Dychiao, spouting the teachings of Ms. Kondo, begins by saying that one should visualize the destination: not heaven, but what you want to do with your space. After that, go all in: devote a significant amount of time for cleaning up, even encouraging a meditative experience without music or background noise, or even people.
Focus on your mess; clear your space, and by extension, clear your head.
One of the catchphrases of Ms. Kondo’s movement is, “Does it spark joy?” This is a question to ask yourself when deciding whether to throw a thing out or not. If unsure, according to Ms. Dychiao, touch it.
As well, designate a place for each object to stay in, for, according to her, clutter comes from not having a place to store things in.
Of course, other spiritual and psychological reasons for clutter are a fear of the future (hoarding); an attachment to perceived value, whether financial, sentimental or otherwise (hoarding); and an attachment to the past (still hoarding!). Ms. Dychiao also advised the use of baskets and drawers for this task.
Finally, Ms. Dychiao also advised not to dump your stuff on others: friends or family. Instead, donate your discarded things to organizations such as the Tzu Chi Foundation or the Ortigas Foundation Library.
On matters of practicality, Ms. Dychiao, using the rituals devised by cleaning and clearing High Priestess Ms. Kondo, taught the audience how to fold clothes to save space: for socks, fold twice, then roll. For underwear, fold the legs up, then fold to the back to create a square. For shirts, fold the sleeves inwards, as if it’s hugging itself, then fold twice from the bottom to make another square. For pants, fold the crotch inward to create a straight line, after which, one folds it to create yet another square. To demonstrate this miracle, Ms. Dychiao put each folded item side by side, and showed them standing upright by themselves, like books on a shelf.
“You have to let go of the stuff that you don’t want, that you don’t love, so you can recognize what gives you joy. In the end, what stays are the things you love — the things that will make you happy,” she said during the seminar. “Holding on to something is always keeping you from what you want, the life that you want to live.”
Like some mysterious Zen Koan, in response to a question about what things should stay, she said: “At the end of the day, you ask yourself. It’s really [about] communing with yourself.” — Joseph L. Garcia