Have you heard of the little lady who’s the expert on home organisation? If you haven’t, let me introduce to the lovely Marie Kondo, author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and Spark Joy.
I say “lovely”, even though I haven’t personally met the lady, only because her charm simply exudes off the pages of her books and from her many YouTube videos. Far from being just another run-of-the-mill home improvement host, Marie is one who has clearly thought this through diligently and in great depth over several years and shares much of her successes and failures in her books. Her perspectives are truly thought-provoking – and for some like me, life-changing as well.
I won’t elaborate too much on the methodology, or even the psychology behind the method, because Ms Kondo really does it best herself, in her own words. But as one who has since successfully tackled the task of organising my own home using the Marie Kondo method, allow me to share 10 tips from my experience with you.
1. Read before doing
It’s tempting to jump right in on the spur of the moment, but impulse and adrenalin will only get you so far. Do take the time to read Marie Kondo’s book cover to cover before starting your home makeover – more than gaining the step-by-step instructions on how to proceed, it’s vital that you rethink several commonly-held perspectives and understand her philosophy before beginning the “work” in earnest.
For instance, rather than thinking in terms of what items you can do without, Marie’s number #1 principle is to choose to keep only items that spark joy.
2. It can be done
First, believe that it CAN be done. Too many people I have spoken to have told me “Maybe you can do it, but I don’t think I can. You haven’t seen the state of my house!” Others say that it’s a nice idea, but not practical or feasible with young kids in the house. Well, I am a mum to a 4 and 6-year-old, so let me tell you that yes, it is definitely doable even if your kids are very young.
3. Keep the big picture in mind
I wanted to give up at a few points during the weeks that it took us to tidy our home. But I gritted my teeth and pressed on, with the support and help of my family, and I’m so glad I did! The Marie Kondo method truly is something special because it changes the way you think about your possessions and about keeping things in order.
As Marie herself puts it in her book:
“If you use the right method and concentrate your efforts on eliminating the clutter thoroughly and completely within a short span of time, you’ll see instant results that will empower you to keep your space in order ever after. Anyone who experiences this process, no matter who they are, will vow never to revert to clutter again.”
This is why Marie Kondo has never had a repeat client over the years. And this is why all that hard work is worth it. Keep that in mind when you feel like throwing in the towel along the way.
4. Tell everyone you know
Since I know my own weakness in following through on hard projects, I decided to let others know we were doing this, right from the start. I announced it on my blog; I told my parents (who were none too optimistic about how it would turn out); I shared it with my close friends on WhatsApp. Knowing that others were cheering me on in this project and being inspired by my progress updates kept me going and helped me stay accountable to the task I had set out to do.
5. Baby steps
Instead of bulldozing through the process as per my normal style, I intentionally kept my daily goals small and manageable, breaking down what needed to be done into daily tasks. For example, I spent one day sorting through my clothes, another day sorting through my husband’s wardrobe, and the third day decluttering the boys’ drawers. This allowed “regular programming” of my day-to-day life to go on as almost usual, but gave me enough satisfaction for the day to push me on for the next day’s work.
6. Involve the kids
Our children were key in our big home clean up! Whenever possible, I engaged them in helping to select items that sparked joy for them, so that I didn’t make more decisions than I needed to make. For example, they chose to keep their favourite toys and books, while I made the call on their art materials. I also explained things clearly to them along the way and made sure they knew where to keep their things from now on.
7. Have a removal plan
Decide ahead of time what you are going with your clutter. Are you going to trash it all? Donate it? Sell it online? Give it to friends? Have a rough idea of what categories you are going to group the clutter into for easy removal. Beware of little hands that are quick to retain things from the clutter pile when you are not looking…
⇒ Related Read: What to throw out of your kids’ rooms
For our family, we realised that it’s helpful to have a quick turnover rate so that the clutter does not end up piling up in the house.
We grouped our items into Throw, Sell, Give, Donate.
Anything to be thrown was thrown within the day. Larger items were brought downstairs to the waste disposal centre. Items to be given away were offered online on Facebook and Instagram – we would wait three days for a response, and if no one was interested in said items, they went to the Donate pile.
Every 2-3 days, we made a short drive down to the nearest Salvation Army collection point. (You may also wish to donate to a particular welfare centre or to another organisation) Lastly, a few select items were put up for sale, on Facebook, Instagram and Carousell.
⇒ Related Read: Where to donate your kids’ preloved toys, books and furniture
8. Look for videos online
Not everything is covered adequately in the books. For instance, it would be quite difficult to explain how to fold a fitted sheet properly using just words on a page. The good news is that there are a large number of Marie Kondo videos available online that will cover everything you want to know about getting your home organised.
9. Give yourself a break – once in a while
All work and no play makes you… plain exhausted! Don’t force yourself to do too much at a time. Besides breaking the process down into baby steps, do take a 1-2 day break every 7 – 10 days, because there’s so much more to life than a clean home, yes? I found that such regular breaks allowed me to feel sufficiently refreshed and motivated to press on towards the end.
Find a way for your family to celebrate the successful completion of tidying up the home! For us, we celebrated by putting up our Chinese New Year décor, which looked especially lovely in our now-immaculate home.
Images and text by Dorothea Chow.
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