Ichigo Natsuno, Courtesy of Penguin Random House
What’s the secret to dressing better, falling in love and overall feeling happier? It might be as simple as cleaning your house.
That’s according to professional organizer Marie Kondo, who developed a decluttering technique now known as KonMari. Her first book, “ The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing ,” was originally published in Japan in 2011 and in North America in 2014. It became a New York Times bestseller, and more than 1.5 million copies have been purchased in the U.S.
She has since published several more books, totaling 5 million copies sold worldwide .
In her books, Kondo, who is 32, suggests the biggest challenge to decluttering isn’t deciding what to throw out as much as what to keep. Organizing according to the KonMari Method means putting household items into categories, such as “books” and “T-shirts,” holding each item, and deciding whether it makes the owner happy, a feeling Kondo calls “sparking joy.” If the owner feels joyful holding it, or at least decides the item is useful, it is worth keeping. Everything else can be donated or thrown away.
On June 27, Kondo published “ The Life-Changing Manga of Tidying Up: A Magical Story . ” It has the same advice as her first book, but it’s more like a graphic novel; “manga” is a Japanese style of comic.
Courtesy of Penguin Random House
It features Chiaki, a woman who lives in a cluttered apartment in Tokyo, feeling stuck in a rut in her career and love life. That is, until she meets a fairy-like version of Marie Kondo, who helps her organize her apartment, and subsequently, her personal life.
MarketWatch asked Kondo about love, lounge wear and what has changed since “Life-Changing Magic” was originally published. We spoke through email, with the help of a translator. This is a lightly edited version of the exchange.
MarketWatch: Your original book was incredibly popular. Why did you decide to publish the book in a manga version?
Marie Kondo: This project began when Yuko Uramoto, a manga artist, mentioned over Twitter that she had read my book and wanted to create a manga version. In Japan, it is not unusual to publish a manga version of a best-selling book. Through manga, children often learn about subjects such as history and math, and adults use manga to learn about topics such as marketing and business management.
This book is useful for people who have not read “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” as well as people who have tried the KonMari Method but have not yet finished tidying.
‘An unwillingness to let go of an item from a former lover may indicate that one is still emotionally attached to an aspect of the past.’
MarketWatch: What do many people still not understand about tidying up?
Kondo: Some individuals who have not yet finished tidying their own belongings and spaces get frustrated about other people’s tidying habits. They should understand that the source of their frustration is not with others, but with themselves.
There have been significant changes in the ways that consumers view tidying. For instance, more people now use the criterion of whether a belonging “sparks joy” in deciding which belongings to keep. Additionally, I feel that people have begun removing their belongings from where they were stored and tidying all at once.
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Through tidying, people have been able to reflect and focus on self-development; their values have become clear and their lives have changed as a result. By encouraging individuals to consider joy, tidying — which was once considered to be a boring chore — has transformed into a fun, dynamic process that changes people’s lives.
MarketWatch: The manga version of the book has a love story in it. How are tidying up and love related?
Kondo: I had an actual client whose relationship with her partner improved significantly after tidying, and another client who was able to separate with her partner after deciding that he was not meant for her. I believe that sharing these positive, life-changing stories will help motivate many people to tidy.
An unwillingness to let go of an item from a former lover, for example, may indicate that one is still emotionally attached to an aspect of the past. Through tidying, individuals can confront themselves and sort through their feelings as they make active decisions about what to discard. Over time, their attachment to a past lover can begin to fade away. Then, a change will occur and you will be able to become more proactive about pursuing new relationships.
‘By wearing something that sparks joy even when there is no one around, your self-regard will improve, and you will become confident.’
MarketWatch: The main character in the manga version, Chiaki, often says her circumstances are good enough “for the time being,” and KonMari says we should not be living for “the time being.” What is bad about “living for the time being,” and what should we be doing instead?
Kondo: The term “for the time being” is useful but should only describe the temporary. Most times, our temporary selves are different from the true selves that we want to be. When you ask yourself what you truly want or how you truly want to live, is “for the time being” really acceptable?
To live your life without compromising, there are two things that you need to do: The first is to confront your desires with your intuition. The second is to have the lightness to move quickly when you clearly know what you want to do.
I truly believe that tidying is the most certain, powerful tool to accomplish both.
MarketWatch: The book also mentions that time at home should be special, and we shouldn’t designate clothing to “loungewear” that really wouldn’t be worn otherwise. What should we wear at home? Why is it important to make time at home special?
Kondo: Just a point of correction: the book actually says that “we shouldn’t designate clothing that doesn’t spark joy to loungewear.” (If it sparks joy, it’s absolutely okay to designate clothing to loungewear).
The way you treat yourself when you spend time at home relates strongly to your self-image. By wearing something that sparks joy even when there is no one around, your self-regard will improve, and you will become confident in your daily actions and words — you will feel relaxed.
You should wear something with a design you love, which is comfortable, ideally made from natural material, and raises your self-image just by wearing it.
MarketWatch: Chiaki’s life changes in many ways after she tidies up. How can our lives change after tidying? Can tidying make us happier?
Kondo: The effect of tidying on our lives is tremendous.
First, living in a tidied home instills a sense of relaxation. Your self-esteem will improve, and you will save time that you used to spend looking for things.
Additionally, by repeatedly going through the process of confirming whether each item sparks joy for you – in other words, whether an item is making you happy in the present — the values that are truly important to you will become clear. Eventually, you will be able to make decisions about what makes you happy with certainty in various scenarios of your life, such as work and relationship. As a result, your entire life will transform into one that sparks joy.