Featured Image: KonMari
Article By: Kasey Edgerton
Like all living things, we are affected and influenced by our environment. Our surroundings can have a significant impact on our mood, seriously stress us out, and messes with our overall mental health. Reducing the clutter in our lives, whether physical or otherwise, actively improves our wellbeing, and that’s where the Marie Konmari method comes in.
Who is Marie Kondo?
Marie Kondo is a petite Japanese professional “tidier.” A de-cluttering prodigy, by her mid-twenties Kondo, had a thriving organizing consultancy in Tokyo, with an enormous waiting list. Due to the popular demand of her clients and would-be-clients, she sat down and penned what became her first book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.” It has instantly become a best seller and has been published in more than 30 countries. Kondo followed up her initial literary success with the release of three more organizing books, which collectively have sold millions of copies.
This “magical” success has catapulted her to international stardom, and the launch of her new Netflix original show, Tidying Up With Marie Kondo. If you haven’t seen it yet, I’m sure you’ve heard of it. The show has taken the internet by storm as everyone sets off on their Konmari journey. But what’s got everyone so hooked on tidying up and the Konmari method? Researchers say it has a lot to do with mental health.
The Konmari Method
The Konmari method focuses on the principle of joy, namely, “sparking joy,” as the means of making decisions about whether household items should stay or go. You move category by category instead of room by room, and essentially hold each object in your hand; if it brings you joy, you keep it. If it doesn’t, then it gets chucked.
Cleaning makes you feel lighter, more relaxed and produces the same positive endorphins that you get after a good work out. It might sound a little ridiculous, but tidying up helps you feel more in control over your world, both physically and emotionally. In fact, women who view their surroundings as cluttered are found to have higher amounts of the stress hormone cortisol, and they feel significantly more stressed as the day goes on. On the other hand, women who feel at peace with their surroundings experience a drop in cortisol levels.
How Can This Method Help My Mental Health?
Konmari promotes mindfulness, which, in and of itself, can be extremely beneficial for your mental health. Kondo emphasizes that a de-cluttered space equals a de-cluttered mind. By focusing on what gives us joy, we recall pleasant memories, raise our self-esteem, and shift our overall energy. It also allows us to open up to the possibility of change and renewal.
A quote by Marie Kondo that resonates with me is, “The question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life.” On average we all live in cluttered, stress-inducing environments that sabotage our best efforts at every turn. Just think of how much lighter you’d feel, and how much more you’d be able to easily accomplish if your surroundings supported and actively nurtured your growth.
The Benefits of Konmari
The benefits of Konmari speak for themselves: less stress, boosted self-esteem, a sense of achievement, and even the ability to let go. Objects we keep in our home can unknowingly evoke painful memories or negative emotions, draining our energy daily. Gifts from people we no longer speak to, the clothing we were wearing when we hear about the death of a loved one, a particularly bad old school photo; these are all objects that hold and promote negative emotions that we no longer need. Like Elsa famously sang, “Let it go!”
Of course, you and I will never be the fabulous Marie Kondo, and we don’t have to be. When embarking on your Konmari adventure remember, don’t try to be perfect, just do right by yourself. To set yourself up for optimum Konmari success, don’t be overly critical on yourself, and make sure not to surround yourself with anyone who will pressure or shame you for your de-cluttering decisions. If you need a little emotional support while you tidy, that’s okay, but no one should reprimand you for not keeping certain items or try to tell you what “sparks joy” for you; only you can do that.
The Importance of Down Sizing
It’s also important to prep for your endeavor. Make sure you start to Konmari in good bright lighting, have some healthy snacks and water handy, and maybe throw on some light happy music to set the mood.
Most importantly though, take your time! Marie Kondo stresses that there is no time limit for “konmari-ing” your home. Depending on your unique situation it could be a matter of weeks or even months. But you should never push yourself too hard, or keep pushing through if you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, overly emotional, or just plain drained. Just step away for a while, calm your mind, and come back to it when you feel ready. There is no shame in taking care of yourself.
It’s so beautiful to see that nowadays more and more people are taking stress and mental health seriously, and Konmari is an invaluable tool for positive mental health and overall wellbeing. Too much stuff indeed impairs our cognitive control. Numerous studies have shown that when we hold onto and hoard too much stuff, our abilities to plan, organize, problem-solve, and even learn new skills significantly diminish. Having less clutter also helps us focus better. This is especially crucial in our hyper-distracted, short attention span, digital world. Every object we allow around us competes for our attention. Along with our continually going iPhones, computers, televisions, etc. By taking a long hard look at all of the clutter around you and downsizing down to the essential, you’ll give yourself the best possible shot at being able to focus in on the tasks at hand.
So in closing, as Marie Kondo would say, “ The process of assessing how you feel about the things you own, identifying those that have fulfilled their purpose, expressing your gratitude, and bidding them farewell, is really about examining your inner self, a rite of passage to a new life.”