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How to take a tech-break the Marie Kondo way: Put your phone in a box every night

The organising guru also reveals why an extra supply of things is not necessarily a bad thing.

, ET Online|
Updated: Mar 27, 2019, 10.01 AM IST
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Kondo says that it is important to 'continue to express gratitude for the items you decide to keep in your life after you complete the process of tidying'.
“Does it spark joy?”

The simple question is now a globally-recognised phrase, as is the person behind the motto. Japanese tidying guru Marie Kondo shot to international fame – she was already a best-settling author earlier – with her Netflix series that premiered on January 1 this year. Just in time to help viewers with their ‘New Year, New Me’ resolutions.

Within three months of her Netflix debut in ‘Tidying Up With Marie Kondo’, the 34-year-old mum of 2, clocked another milestone – an Oscar red-carpet gig alongside Hollywood’s biggest names. And for an event that warrants an entire brigade of stylists, Kondo picked a pink, lace Jenny Packham dress adorned with sequined flowers,that she said ‘sparked joy’ for her.

And now, she is reportedly in talks to raise up to $40 million in funding towards her business, KonMari.

The organisation guru became interested in tidying when she was just five years old, all thanks to her mother’s lifestyle magazines. By 15, she had researched enough, and soon began her tidying consultant business in university. Little did she know then, the impact her KonMari method was going to have not just in Japan but across oceans.From retaining only items (clothes, shoes, the controversial - books) that spark joy at home, to decluttering emotions and the all-consuming technology, the KonMari method has taken over our lives.

In an e-mail interview, Kondo tells us how putting your phone in a box at a certain time every night can be a great idea, what to do with things that ‘may’ spark joy in the future, and why despite everything an extra supply of things is not necessarily a bad thing (shopaholics can breathe a sigh of relief!).

Excerpts from the interview:


Q. In a world where there is surplus, (and excess, too) – thanks to the constant race for better living, technology, increased spending capabilities, financial gains – how and where does one draw the line?
Marie Kondo: Ask yourself: “Does the state of my home make me comfortable? What about the state of my life?” If you are struggling to answer yes to these questions, it’s time to re-evaluate how you are currently living.

To do this, first try tidying your home entirely. By reassessing all the belongings you have in your life, you clarify your values – a vital step in creating a boundary between your core and the world that is steeped in excess.

​Marie Kondo has been listed as one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people.
Marie Kondo has been listed as one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people.

Q. Is hoarding a state of mind, and does it have to do with our insecurities?
MK:
Having an extra supply of things is not necessarily a bad thing – if it gives you a sense of security and stability, there’s nothing wrong with that! However, when you’re hoarding too much and the quantity of things you have is weighing down on you, and obstructing you from living your life comfortably, that’s when it becomes a problem. You need to decide how much you need to feel comfortable. It’s all about maintaining harmony.

Q. What do you do when someone says they don’t need a particular item at the moment and it does not spark joy at the moment but could come in handy in the future? How does one make the choice then?
MK:
For items that might bring you joy in the future, I have had an uncanny experience with many of my clients! Sometimes, they will pick up an item and feel that strong spark of joy – but not really know why. Within a few weeks or months, they report back to me that the item ended up playing a significant role in their lives – that they never could have predicted!

I think it has to do with constantly honing your sensitivity to joy and developing an instinct for what items are going to be necessary for you in the future. However, the important thing to note here is that when these clients felt a spark of joy – their body was intuitively telling them that it would be useful for them in the future. If you do not feel the spark of joy right then, you should not keep the item.
​Kondo became a professional tidying consultant at the age of 19​.
Kondo became a professional tidying consultant at the age of 19.

Q. Technology has been an enabler for making life choices, but has also given rise to the trend of conspicuous consumption. We shop for things we don’t necessarily need. We stuff our wardrobes, and lives. Do you think technology, in some way, is one of the reasons for the increasing clutter?
MK:
I do think that technology is partially responsible for the increase in clutter. Because of technology, information is easily accessible, shopping happens with just a click of a button, and we’re aware of what other people are buying.

These factors make it more difficult to decipher if an item is something we truly desire from the bottom of our hearts, or if it’s simply an item we feel we “deserve” or “should” have based on these outside pressures and influences.

Q. In an age of over-sharing, over-consuming social media, the peer pressure to show or flaunt the right things is extremely intense. How can one stay afloat and take a break from the constant, addictive loop of information on the Internet?
MK:
Becoming conscious of the fact that this information loop is inevitably present in our life is the first step. Once you become aware of that, you need to set up a system to physically distance yourself from this information loop.

For example, you can put your phone in a box at a certain time every night, or you could delete social media apps, and limit the time spent on your laptop.

If you crave a distance, or need to pause this information loop, a strong sense of self is very important.
​In her bestselling book, 'The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up', Kondo took tidying to a whole new level, teaching that if you properly simplify and organise your home once, you’ll never have to do it again. ​
In her bestselling book, 'The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up', Kondo took tidying to a whole new level, teaching that if you properly simplify and organise your home once, you’ll never have to do it again.

Q. Having begun in Japan and now hosting a show in the USA – two far-off countries with extremely different cultures - do you feel there’s a (cultural) divide even when it comes to tidying up, or creating a mess to begin with? Is minimalism a way of life both in Asia and America, or do you spot a difference?
MK:
There is a difference between how we handle and treat things. The Japanese tend to be more careful with the way they treat their belongings overall. This concept of inanimate objects possessing a soul is not something we verbalise or associate with any religion; rather, it’s something we practice on a daily basis. When we set something down, we do so with care.

In Western cultures, the way people treat objects is a little rougher.

Another difference I’ve observed is what is considered a private space. Because it is common to invite people over or host parties in American homes, the public spaces – such as the living room – are typically kept neatly, while the clutter tends to accumulate in what is viewed as the private spaces – the bedrooms. However in Japan, the home as a whole is considered a private area, so clutter tends to accumulate throughout.
​Kondo says that tidying is a 'personal process', it is about assessing your home and your life.​
Kondo says that tidying is a 'personal process', it is about assessing your home and your life.

Q. What was the defining moment or that one trigger that set you off on this path?
MK:
Rather than one big event, it was a series of small events that led me down this path. I became interested in tidying when I was five years old after reading my mother’s lifestyle magazines, and when I turned 15, I decided to devote myself to researching the topic.

At the age of 19, I became a professional tidying consultant. Several years later, I went on to write my first book in response to people’s questions and requests.

Q. How would you suggest making the KonMari Method a way of life and not a one-time de-cluttering exercise? How do you grow and nurture a long-term relationship with your belongings?
MK:
It is important to continue to express gratitude for the items you decide to keep in your life after you complete the process of tidying. Always return your items to their designated homes at the end of each day, and when doing so, thank the items for serving a unique role. As you repeat this process of putting things away and expressing gratitude, it becomes a lifelong habit and deepens your relationship with your belongings.


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