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An Intro to Minimalist Living: Why Tidying Up Really is Life-changing

An Intro to Minimalist Living: Why Tidying Up Really is Life-changing

Have You Experienced the Lifechanging Magic of Minimalist Living?

In the last few years, I’ve become somewhat fixated by getting rid of things. Even items that would be characteristically unlike me to get rid of, like cards, handmade gifts and other personally crafted memorabilia. But mostly, it’s the unused or barely touched clothes, shoes, bags, cosmetics and makeup that have caused me anguish.

All of a sudden the mere existence of many of these items, lurking in various storage arrangements, felt unnecessary and heavy. I felt weighed down somehow, regardless of the fact that most of this stuff was neatly stored and had little obvious effect on my day-to-day. As if the physical space these items occupied somehow disturbed my headspace just by being there. 

It’s this “heaviness” and dis-ease that Minimalist Living aims to eliminate.

Most of us are unaware of the mental toll keeping unloved items has on us. Certainly, their physical presence will impact a room’s ambience and “energy” (to use a vague, but fashionable and fitting term), but how does this impact its inhabitants? It’s something organising consultant, Marie Kondo, explores in her book The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up, which has changed the conversation around what it means to tidy.

It’s something organising consultant, Marie Kondo, explores in her book The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up, which has changed the conversation around minimalist living and what it means to tidy.

The Japanese sensation has left us questioning whether the fleeting pain of throwing out goods we’ve spent our hard-earned dollars on is a worthy trade-off for overcoming the First World agony of a cluttered and disorderly home (and potentially changing your life).

“When you put your house in order, you put your affairs and your past in order, too. As a result, you can see quite clearly what you need in life and what you don’t.”

I can attest, it was in the period that I started tidying up that something miraculous did evidently unfold. Getting rid of the things I no longer needed or used was affecting my behaviour in an interesting way. No longer burdened by the clutter of bottles, objects and options, inspired me to start using the things I actually liked a whole lot more.

For instance, I’ve always had an assortment of candles adorn my room, but for some reason, these were never lit. Yet, once I cleared the clutter that surrounded them, all of a sudden it’s like the energy shifted and I got into the groove of lighting them in the evenings.

Similarly, the bottles of beauty items and toiletries that crowded my dresser went largely untouched. Why? I think the act of having to pick something like a body lotion, simple as it may be, caused a subtle barrier in mind that led me to me ignoring them all.Minimalist Living How to Declutter

Once I paired back my collection to the few body lotions and oils I actually loved and felt good about putting on my skin (made of natural ingredients) slathering myself in these every night suddenly became a routine practice. Perhaps this is what Marie meant when she said, “to truly cherish the things that are important to you, you must first discard those that have outlived their purpose.”

Despite the popularity of the book, Marie has drawn criticism and (raised eyebrows) for some of her unique approaches to tidying, which certainly border the woo woo spectrum of organisational advice (e.g. thanking your socks as you roll and put them away).

Then there’s impractical advice like emptying your bag of every item at the end of the day (I would personally find this exercise futile and prone to items being forgotten) or the proclamation that you’ll only ever need to tidy once to live a clutter-free life.

For me, this last point isn’t true, because our tastes, style and preferences change as we evolve. I certainly don’t dress the same now working in a professional office as I did in my uni days. For me, the process of evaluating what it is I like and works in my life is both a daily practice and routine event I plan each season.

Having said that, there are some real gems to be taken away from the book that are immediately actionable. I’d be truly surprised if you don’t finish the book without feeling a hint of inspiration to do a clean out or rethink how you buy.

Minimalist Living

So, if you’re ready to taste the freedom and experience the high of letting stuff go, here are some principles from the book to get you started with minimalist living:

#1 Discard first, then sort.

This is commonsense advice, but many fail to abide this fundamental tidying rule of the KonMari Method. Beginning the process of sorting and organising your belongings before going through the process of purging anything you don’t use, want or adore is like trying to paint a masterpiece on a stained canvas. You need to start with a clean slate. Only then can you assess your storage options for the items you decide to keep and how these are best allocated.

#2 Everything must have a home.

“Everything has a place & should go back there”. Essentially this means all your belongings have a designated place in your home, and once removed, should always be returned. It’s our failure to give items a home that Marie believes causes the most rebound. There was one specific passage in the book that really emphasised this point and appealed to me most. In it Marie relays her evening routine, including all the environmental touchpoints and objects involved, to demonstrate how beautiful and elegant a life surrounded only by things you truly need or love can be.

#3 Question everything you own.

It’s common to do a seasonal clean out of your wardrobe and maybe even an annual rummage through your cosmetics and makeup to identify anything that’s expired. But, how often do you look at every item in your possession and question its legitimacy in your life? If it’s something functional that you use on the regular or intermittently, such as a mug, veggie peeler, or tweezers, then there’s no compelling reason to go that deep.

But once you bypass all the stuff you use as part of your practical existence, you’re left with the things that perhaps serves a purpose (a vase to hold flowers, a container for your jewellery, an ornament to decorate a dresser, etc) but are by no means essential. This is when you’re left to ask the question: does this item spark joy? This is Marie’s signature technique for assessing whether to keep something.

Minimalist Living

#4 Get rid of the things that don’t “Spark Joy” (make you happy).

Beyond the physical, functional and informational value items have, is the emotional attachment we assign them. Let’s be real, not all objects are designed to elicit feelings of profound delight (no one’s getting inspired by a sink plug). But, if we adopt this philosophy the way it was intended, the takeaway is to surround yourself with possessions that inspire you, as an alternative to being stressed and burdened by them.

It seems the essence of the book’s message comes down to the age-old wisdom that less really is more, in that fewer things tends to free us up to more life.

Minimalist Living

When we have a clutter-free and organised home filled with things that are either functional or bring us joy, we spend less time on wasteful activities like:

  1. Searching for lost items
  2. Cleaning things and cleaning around things
  3. Deliberating what to wear (imagine a closet that only contains items that really suit you and bring you joy when you wear them!)
  4. Tidying and sorting in general

In fact, it’s really more about getting very clear about what you like and what works for your life. The more I purge of the things that I no longer want, value, or feel reflect my beliefs, the more I question every future purchase ($$ saved).

“When you put your house in order, you put your affairs and your past in order, too. As a result, you can see quite clearly what you need in life and what you don’t.”

Whether you buy into the idea that inanimate objects and rooms have an “energetic” quality or not, there’s no doubt your environment impacts your time, behaviour and lifestyle, and that clearing out the crap will have some life-changing consequences.

Or, as Marie puts it, your real life begins after putting your house in order.”