Kissing Your Socks Goodbye: The Japanese Art of Decluttering

Home Organization Advice from Marie Kondo

By PENELOPE GREENOCT. 22, 2014, New York Times Article

By her own account, Marie Kondo was an unusual child, poring over lifestyle magazines to glean organizing techniques and then stealthily practicing them at home and school, confounding her family and bemusing her teachers.

As she writes in “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing,” which comes out this month in the United States and is already a best seller in her native Japan and in Europe, she habitually sneaked into her siblings’ rooms to throw away their unused toys and clothes and ducked out of recess to organize her classroom’s bookshelves and mop closet, grumbling about poor storage methodologies and pining for an S-hook.

Now 30, Ms. Kondo is a celebrity of sorts at home, the subject of a TV movie, with a three-month waiting list for her decluttering services — until recently, that is, because she has stopped taking clients to focus on training others in her methods. Last Friday, I brought her book home to practice them.

What better moment to drill down and ponder the fretful contents of one’s sock drawer? Global and national news was careering from the merely hysterical to the nonsensical (the Ebola cruise ship incident was just peaking). Closer to home, other anxieties beckoned. But in my apartment on Second Avenue, the world was no larger than my closet, and I was talking to my T-shirts.

Let me explain. Ms. Kondo’s decluttering theories are unique, and can be reduced to two basic tenets: Discard everything that does not “spark joy,” after thanking the objects that are getting the heave-ho for their service; and do not buy organizing equipment — your home already has all the storage you need.

Obsessive, gently self-mocking and tender toward the life cycle of, say, a pair of socks, Ms. Kondo delivers her tidy manifesto like a kind of Zen nanny, both hortatory and animistic.

“Don’t just open up your closet and decide after a cursory glance that everything in it gives you a thrill,” she writes. “You must take each outfit in your hand.”

“Does it spark joy?” would seem to set the bar awfully high for a T-shirt or a pair of jeans, but it turns out to be a more efficacious sorting mechanism than the old saws: Is it out of style? Have you worn it in the last year? Does it still fit?

Alone in my bedroom, with the contents of both closets strewn over every surface, I fondled stretch velvet pants (don’t judge me) and enough fringed scarves to outfit an army of Stevie Nicks fans, and shed a tear or two for my younger self. (Where did the time go?)

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