Living in a house full of clutter? Here in the U.S., having “stuff,” is often considered somewhat of a symbol of price, but in reality, all of those things are probably taking joy out of your life, even if you aren’t aware of it.
One of the reasons is that when happiness comes from purchasing things, it’s never lasting, meaning you’ll never truly feel satisfied. You’ll just want more, more and more. The brain gets a nice quick boost of joyfulness from that new item you bought, but then it fades quickly, often leading to a life of buying, and more buying just to get another jolt, like an addiction to a drug.
While it may not seem like it’s harming anyone, it can negatively impact your health as it increases stress levels. In fact, a study by UCLA’s Center of Everyday Lives and Families, discovered a connection between a high level of cortisol, a stress hormone, and those who own homes full of lots of household objects. That added stress can actually make you eat more, as cortisol triggers the appetite, so you might gain weight. You’re also likely to feel fatigued and drained more often, simply as a result of spending mental energy on the stress that results from a messy environment.
The KonMari Method
That’s where the KonMari method comes in. KonMari, also known as the “art of decluttering,” is a methodology pioneered by Japanese organizing guru Marie Kondo in her book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.
Kondo says that in her native country, tidiness is a way of everyday living. She applies feng shui principles to the tenets of her tidying and throws out long-held organizational beliefs, like cleaning little by little every day, storing items according to the seasons and discarding one item for every new object brought into the home. She says that these principles, while they’re meant to help, are the very reasons why we often seem to never be able to maintain our mess.
She advocates instead for one epic cleaning sweep, advising to keep only what “sparks joy,” and getting rid of everything else. Everything that is left is assigned a specific spot in the home. She claims that this can be done, but that it can take anywhere between a few hours to six months.
This life changing, no-excuses method of elimination is becoming increasing popular with legions of fans known as “Konverts,” who devote significant amounts of time to re-organizing their lives from top to bottom. While the initial purging session can be tough, the euphoria that comes with tossing out unneeded clutter makes it easier and easier as you move along.
Before we get into the ins and outs of how it’s done, consider the benefits that come with transforming your life through the KonMari method.
8 Reasons You Should Give The KonMari Method A Try
1. Ditching the stuff lowers stress
As mentioned, studies have shown that those who have clutter have a higher level of stress, and more cortisol, the stress hormone, in their bodies. There’s a simple reason for this – when you have a lot of clutter, you often can’t find exactly what you need, but when you know where everything is, you eliminate the time and stress it takes to find it. You don’t have mountains of clutter to sort through!
One of the biggest stressors in life is visual clutter. When things look nice, clean and organized, you’ll naturally feel calmer, but when your home looks crowded with clutter, the stress of unfinished things that need to be done sneaks in your subconscious mind and can cause added stress. The neater and more organized your view is, the more calm and happy you will become. Plus, when clutter gets so out of hand that it causes embarrassment when someone comes to your home, that adds to the emotional stress.
No clutter? Less stress, better health – physically and emotionally.
2. Improving your financial situation
Obviously, not buying more “stuff,” is going to save you money. Once you declutter, you’ll likely enjoy your space too much to clutter it again by bringing more stuff in. But you can also make money too and many of the items that are cluttering your house may be valuable to someone else. You probably have more than a few items that have been sitting in the closet, attic or garage for years, taking room and cluttering both your mind and home, that could be sold at a yard sale, on eBay or Craigslist, and depending on what you have, a good sum of money can be made.
3. You’ll find stuff you can actually use
When you declutter with intention, all of a sudden your home becomes more spacious. Not only can you can truly appreciate the things you have, but you’re likely to rediscover the usefulness of forgotten items. In fact, you may have things buried or hidden away that you totally forgot about and planned to buy, even though they were right there all along.
4. The ability to focus is improved
You might have noticed that when there’s a bunch of junk on your desk, it’s hard to get things done – but then, when you take just a second to get rid of piles of paper and organize a bit, you can get going almost immediately. There’s a reason for that, as Mikael Cho writes on Lifehacker.com, “Whether it be your closet or office desk, excess things in your surroundings can have a negative impact on your ability to focus and process information. That’s exactly what neuroscientists at Princeton University found when they looked at people’s task performance in an organized versus disorganized environment. The results of the study showed that physical clutter in your surroundings competes for your attention, resulting in decreased performance and increased stress.”
Clutter essentially causes your brain to multitask, so eliminating it will instantly up your ability to focus and concentrate.
5. You’ll sleep better
When your closet is a mess and you have no idea what you’re going to wear because of it, or you’ve got piles of laundry on the floor, it can contribute to a lack of sleep. This brings a whole host of negative effects from a poor mood and the inability to concentrate to a greater risk of accidents and a higher risk of health problems like heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, sexual dysfunction, weight gain and more. Research in 2015 from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine showed that those who go to bed in cluttered rooms and are at a high risk for developing hoarding issues are more likely to have sleep disturbances like falling asleep and staying asleep.
6. You’ll have more time
Besides the positive impact on your stress levels and health, one of the best perks of decluttering your home is that you’ll have more time. That’s because you’ll have less to clean, less to worry about, less shopping to do at the store. Time is our most valuable possession!
7. You’ll have more space
Maybe you’ve been thinking you need to move to a bigger house because you’ve been feeling way too crowded where you’re at now – but, could it be that you just have too much “stuff?” The simpler and much cheaper solution is to have less stuff. Get rid of what you don’t need and you’ll quickly see how much more space you have.
8. More energy
In Chinese Feng Shui, the flow of the energy is considered crucial – the belief is that the more space energy has to flow, the healthier the home environment will be. Also in our lives, when we have less stuff, we don’t have to spend our energy taking care of it – we have more energy for doing what we really need and want to do. Does anyone really love taking care of “stuff?”
Those are just a few of the benefits this genius decluttering method can bring into your life.
How To Make The KonMari Method Work For You
Before taking any action, visualize the new life you wish to have in a clutter-free space. Just having one free closet or a more organized desk doesn’t go deep enough. Think about what a life without clutter really means to you. Discarding things frees up space for the things you really love, so perhaps it means you’ll be able to get more creative, such as writing or painting more, baking more and so on. Or, perhaps you’ll finally be able to host dinner parties for your friend, or even be able to adopt a pet.
Identify why you want to live the way you envision. For example, if you want to live clutter-free so that you can sleep better, “Why do I want to sleep better?” When you find the answers to why you want to be tidier, you’re ready to move on.
Tidy up by type of item, not location
In most homes, items that fall into the same category are stored in several different spots, like your clothes. They may be in drawers, closets, trunks, and so on. Instead of doing one closet at a time, gather all of your clothing at once. Get all of your clothes out of each and every closet, drawer, etc., in every room in the house. Kondo recommends the following order: clothes, books, papers, and miscellaneous.
Determine whether each item “sparks joy”
Instead of focusing solely on tossing things out, which is likely to bring unhappiness, focus on cherishing what you love. Do this by taking each item in your hand and asking yourself if it sparks joy. If the answer is yes, Kondo says you’ll feel your body “go up,” and it can stay. If it’s no, throw it out. It’s important to touch each item to give your body the chance to actually physically react, sort of a physical type of intuition. When deciding what to discard, keep in mind that the endgame isn’t to throw away or donate as much as you can, but to make sure the things you keep truly make you happy. This is especially helpful when organizing clothes that we often develop superficial attachments too. Instead, consider whether or not that dress or pair of shoes is really serving a purpose in your life. Don’t’ “downgrade” clothing to loungewear. If you aren’t going to wear that t-shirt, don’t keep it. Calling it loungewear is a crutch that allows us to keep clothes that we really should be getting rid of, Kondo says.
If you’re having trouble getting rid of something, think about why: Are you attached to it? Did you buy that dress but never wear it? Thank the item for its service in your life and move on.
Don’t move on until everything is discarded
Do not put anything away until you’ve removed everything that needs to be discarded. Remember, neat does not equal decluttered.
Follow this method for other item categories, one at a time
After clothing, use it for books, papers, miscellaneous items, and then mementos, or anything nostalgic. By the time you reach the mementos and nostalgic items, you’ll have honed in on the KonMari method.
Once you’ve discarded everything, designate a specific home for every single item you’re keeping
This step is essential for avoiding a clutter relapse. Kondo says that those “fancy stackable storage solutions actually encourage hoarding, so think simple, easy-to-use options instead. It should be just as effortless to put something away as it is to find it later. When everything has its place, it’s virtually impossible to let clutter take over again.
Think the KonMari Method is for you? Then you might want to read the book: The Life Changing Magic Of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art Of Decluttering & Organizing