Marie Kondo, Tidying, and Behavioral Economics
May 13, 2015 12:44 PM   Subscribe

 
I especially loved the concept of freeing your socks to rest, by folding them, rather than using their elastic properties to make a tight tube, applied compassion that lets socks last longer.
posted by Oyéah at 12:54 PM on May 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


I especially loved the concept of freeing your socks to rest, by folding them,rather than using their elastic properties to make a tight tube, applied compassion that lets socks last longer.

Yes! I do this now and I actually believe that my socks seem 'happier'. I've always been an incorrigible crouton petter though.
posted by dialetheia at 12:57 PM on May 13, 2015 [5 favorites]


I still can't believe people needed to be told how and why to do this, but that's why she's probably a millionaire and I'm just some guy with a neat house.
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:58 PM on May 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


I think she's identified and addresses a psychological glitch that people have with tidying - guilt surrounding getting rid of things - in the same way Allen Carr did by deconstructing the psychology of smoking. Carr's book didn't in itself make me quit smoking once and for all, I did eventually quit for good (for twenty-two years now, anyway) because of his insight. Similarly, although I didn't (yet) effect the Full KonMari, I was able to address the strange, unconscious patterns of guilt and responsibility that caused me to hang on to things long after they were no longer of any value to me.

One should surround oneself with things that, as far as possible, make one happy, because why not? It's amazing how old I got before I got a chance to see that.
posted by Grangousier at 1:11 PM on May 13, 2015 [6 favorites]


Similarly, even though I wouldn't suggest that inanimate objects have feelings, endeavouring to behave towards them as one would if they did does create a profound, and I think positive, change in one's relationships to possessions.
posted by Grangousier at 1:14 PM on May 13, 2015 [8 favorites]


Way back when KonMari was just a trend in Japan, I posted in AskMe, I read in a Japanese housecleaning manual that you should own nothing that does not make your life sparkle.

I am hideously bad at actually tidying things, I have not been touched by that particular life-changing magic, but I still have a weird pride in being ahead of the KonMari trend!
posted by Jeanne at 1:24 PM on May 13, 2015 [5 favorites]


I ordered Marie Kondo's book a few days ago. I feel kind of conflicted about it, because odds are good I won't successfully implement her advice, and the book itself will be another piece of clutter that fails to spark joy in my life.
posted by Metroid Baby at 1:27 PM on May 13, 2015 [5 favorites]


I especially loved the concept of freeing your socks to rest, by folding them, rather than using their elastic properties to make a tight tube, applied compassion that lets socks last longer.
Oyéah

I don't know, is this woo really necessary? I fold my socks because the elastic doesn't wear out as fast that way. I fold my t-shirts because if I hang them they stretch, not because it brings them joy.

This just seems like the beginning of a new phase of New Age BS like healing crystals or directed thinking.
posted by Sangermaine at 1:29 PM on May 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


the book itself will be another piece of clutter

That's why I just bought it on Kindle! I'm an inveterate hoarder. I have full confidence this will change my life. (Much like the collection of exercise equipment I have put to use gathering dust.)
posted by billiebee at 1:32 PM on May 13, 2015


I don't know, is this woo really necessary?

We care for things we care about. Doesn't seem like an illogical way to change behaviour.
posted by billiebee at 1:33 PM on May 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


For example, we’re wrong that pair of jeans will ever fit again.

I'm pretty good at getting rid of stuff, but I kept a really well-made pair of levis that I got in the 90s even though I didn't fit into them, but now I do, and I wish I had kept the other 4 pairs :-(
posted by Huck500 at 1:36 PM on May 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


Yeah, but since these things don't feel, we're just projecting what we want onto them anyway. We imagine what we think the thing wants and then act accordingly, but since it's not actually a separate entity with its own thoughts we're just acting according to our own wishes in the end.

Why not cut out the middle and just think about what you want in the first place, rather than making up this imaginary layer?
posted by Sangermaine at 1:37 PM on May 13, 2015


This just seems like the beginning of a new phase of New Age BS like healing crystals or directed thinking.

Nah, just a reminder to be mindful even in the small moments of your life and to be grateful that you have such wonderful, useful things. If it doesn't work for you, then *shrug*.
posted by dialetheia at 1:38 PM on May 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


This just seems like the beginning of a new phase of New Age BS like healing crystals or directed thinking.

I was thinking this, too, and laughing a bit when I read about her valediction to her old cell phone that "died" as soon as she bid it farewell and thank you, because it had then fulfilled its purpose (not because her carrier switched off the service). But it is a useful framework for understanding belongings and how/when/if they are necessary and helpful in our lives. It gives things a dignity that I don't usually ascribe to them, and it helps in cleaning and caring for a house.

Additionally, her advice to ask your house what it wants has been surprisingly helpful in tidying. I know my house doesn't have desires and hopes and dreams, but to view it with the idea of what it might want if it did has been successful for me so far.
posted by witchen at 1:44 PM on May 13, 2015 [5 favorites]


Keep only things that bring you joy: I would be naked, with no way to eat. (I would, however, still have at least one rusty piece from the TV I found thrown over the bridge when I was six.)

I think I would need to recalibrate her method slightly before trying it out for myself.
posted by clawsoon at 1:48 PM on May 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Everyone always seems to bring a lot of baggage around the word 'joy' when this comes up. It doesn't mean you should only have perfect things! It's really just another way of restating the old 'beautiful, useful, or both' truism. I have lots of things that aren't beautiful or remarkable, but they bring me 'joy' because I can do useful things with them. My vacuum cleaner, for example - the object itself doesn't fill me with joy, but a freshly-vacuumed living space might.

I think part of what's so successful about her method is that it's precisely targeted at the psychology of people who have the hardest time getting rid of stuff: crouton petters like me. I hate getting rid of stuff because it feels wasteful, I feel every cent of the sunk costs, and somehow I actually feel bad for the object itself that I'm throwing it away - and I hear these attitudes a lot when I watch stuff like Hoarders. So many of them say things like "throwing it away means it's worthless, and I have a lot of sympathy for things other people dismiss as worthless," clearly seeing something of themselves in these objects that people have thrown away and used up.

For a lot of people who have trouble with this stuff, soft anthropomorphizing of their possessions is a big part of why they hang onto stuff they don't need - so anthropomorphizing your way back out of it makes a certain emotional sense. She also advocates you thank each item as you get rid of it or put it away, which again helps people who maybe have some excess emotions bound up in their stuff.

Honestly though, the heuristic that's helped me the most is "would I buy this again if I saw it in its current condition at a garage sale?" I've been shocked at how much crap I somehow own that I wouldn't even take a second look at under other circumstances.
posted by dialetheia at 2:02 PM on May 13, 2015 [38 favorites]


it's precisely targeted at the psychology

Yikes, I think you're exactly correct! This whole thing makes so much more sense now!
posted by aramaic at 2:08 PM on May 13, 2015


and somehow I actually feel bad for the object itself that I'm throwing it away

Once again, "that is because you crazy" (but we all are). [Crouton-Petter Weep Warning.]
posted by The Bellman at 2:11 PM on May 13, 2015 [6 favorites]


Similarly, even though I wouldn't suggest that inanimate objects have feelings, endeavouring to behave towards them as one would if they did does create a profound, and I think positive, change in one's relationships to possessions.
This is my problem with debates over when and whether AIs will ever count as people. If you can act in a way indistinguishable from a human, it's better for everyone if I politely treat you as if you were human.
posted by dialMforMara at 2:12 PM on May 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


*sigh* Time for me to get rid of that old leisure suit, I guess. *sigh*
posted by SPrintF at 2:15 PM on May 13, 2015


[Crouton-Petter Weep Warning.]

Oh wow, you weren't kidding! For extra emotional oomph, that lamp reminded me of the lamp from The Brave Little Toaster, which is almost certainly the source of all of my bizarre emotional attachments to inanimate objects.
posted by dialetheia at 2:17 PM on May 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


[Crouton-Petter Weep Warning.]

I've never seen that ad before. I love it and I wish I could show it to the crouton petters in my life but they would think me even more cruel and heartless than they already do.
posted by sparklemotion at 2:29 PM on May 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


I answered an ad for free stones last week, and ended up at an elderly lady's house dismantling a large rock garden; she didn't have the strength or desire to keep caring for fancy gardens that her now-dead husband had put in. Somewhere around the second trailer load, I asked what the old man's name had been - the daughter looked at me a bit funny, but I explained that "Well, I'm going to be thinking of him every time I enjoy these rocks, I might as well have a name to attach to my gratitude." Which she thought was rather touching at first, until I started giving more examples like the lady whose loom I now have, and the other lady's spinning wheel, and the old man's anvil and garden tools... at which point I stopped, because I was starting to sound creepy even to me. I'd rather own quality used things than cheap-ass new things, so my house is pretty much full of dead people's stuff. It adds a whole other layer of attachment to things when you feel a responsibility to dead people who cared deeply about those objects.

I don't want to get rid of that 48" floor loom because I've convinced myself that Helen's ghost appreciates me having it, so I no longer have a second bedroom as such. On the other hand, not having a spare room prevented the younger son from moving back home, so I guess that was a win.
posted by Mary Ellen Carter at 2:33 PM on May 13, 2015 [26 favorites]


Why not cut out the middle and just think about what you want in the first place, rather than making up this imaginary layer?

Because whimsy?

It's just taking a mundane, utilitarian chore and adding a bit of goofy fun.

Are you anti-fun?
posted by Sys Rq at 2:42 PM on May 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Well this is weird, I literally bought this book 3 hours ago, and it's giving me the final nudge I needed to do a MAJOR purge of my bookshelves & other stuff. And I'm doing just as she says -- literally picking up each book and asking myself if it gives me any joy to hold on to it.

I've filled 4 boxes to get rid of in the past hour (and made a stack of books valuable enough to sell on ebay that I'll be several hundred dollars richer by the time I'm done)

would I buy this again if I saw it in its current condition at a garage sale?

I am stealing this.

Why not cut out the middle and just think about what you want in the first place, rather than making up this imaginary layer?

I find the book quite charming, and it really doesn't take the "woo" aspect of considering your sock's feelings seriously AT ALL. Lumping it in with new age chicanery is a bit like watching Adventure Time and saying "pffft, this is dumb, ice cream can't talk!"
posted by the bricabrac man at 3:00 PM on May 13, 2015 [9 favorites]


I did a purge of my bookshelves once. I took pictures of all the boxes for the Craigslist sale, with spines showing.

I ran across those pictures a few weeks ago. I wish I still had most of those books.
posted by clawsoon at 3:06 PM on May 13, 2015 [6 favorites]


It gave me pleasure when I was in the CD store the other day looking through the "used new arrivals" bin and saw at least 10 CDs from the batch that I had brought in to sell a couple weeks previously. I was glad that someone else could have the pleasure of discovering them.

What intrigued me about TFA was that it rephrased some of Kondo's maxims in the language of behavioral economics, for instance the sunk cost fallacy and loss aversion, that might appeal more to a certain kind of rationalist, woo-averse person that is a significant portion of the userbase of MeFi (at least as vocal as, if perhaps not more numerous than, crouton petters).
posted by matildaben at 3:11 PM on May 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Mallory Ortberg: How to get rid of your clutter and live abundantly
It’s important to be very rich but have almost no items in your home. This will confuse vengeful spirits that come looking to destroy your possessions.

Also, if you have too many items in your home, helpful ghosts may be unable to find you, as clutter interferes with their echolocation.
posted by purpleclover at 3:34 PM on May 13, 2015 [22 favorites]


How did I miss that piece?! It's pitch-perfect and I love Mallory Ortberg to pieces.

What’s in your kitchen cabinets? Pots and pans and handheld graters and hateful trash that’s preventing you from calling your estranged sister.
posted by dialetheia at 4:09 PM on May 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


On the other hand...
posted by batfish at 4:30 PM on May 13, 2015


I bought the book a few weeks ago. I've done the initial clothes purge, I'm reserving Memorial Day weekend for the purge of the books.
I enjoyed the Japanese and animism bits in the book without feeling like I'm being brainwashed into some weird New-Agey mindset. I took them more as a view into a culture and way of looking at life.
posted by King Sky Prawn at 4:33 PM on May 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


A while ago, my friend gave me a decluttering book called Seven Layers of Organization. Not long after, I found it seven layers deep in clutter.

(I asked the same friend to send me the Kondo book just now - maybe this one will work!)
posted by moonmilk at 7:10 PM on May 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


I said I loved the part about letting the socks relax, I didn't say it is my new religion. I have some objects that have beauty and gravity, when I am near them, I am home. I bought a piece of Murano glass with my babysitting money, when I was thirteen, $3.50 at the BX. It is always in my room. So calm, like slow moving water stilled for me, by a Venetian craftsperson long ago. I have a tray of rocks from various walks, it moves with me wherever I go. Some things hold down the fort, as they say.
posted by Oyéah at 8:13 PM on May 13, 2015 [5 favorites]


Tube vs fold? What? The homo economicus way to store socks is to only own one color, so that any two socks match, and then just dump them into a drawer. What does it even mean for a sock to wrinkle?
posted by pwnguin at 8:32 PM on May 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


I just want to say that I am so tickled every time I see 'crouton petter.'

And this thread is making me think it might be a good idea for me to declutter some junk.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:44 PM on May 13, 2015


Could someone please tell me how to Kondo high school yearbooks? Do they bring me joy? No, not really. I didn't have a great high school experience, so maybe I should discard them and love who I am now? But they might bring me joy, I guess, if I had kids someday and they wanted to look back and see goofy photos of their parent. But I'm also getting older and it's looking more and more likely that, unfortunately, I won't have kids, so letting the yearbooks go would mean acknowledging that ship has sailed, which makes me sad. Plus they're big and heavy and pain to move. BUT if it did get rid of them, I couldn't just go down to a bookstore and replace them like, say, a copy of Franny and Zooey. Help?
posted by bluecore at 11:49 PM on May 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


bluecore, scan relevant pages of those yearbooks and then discard/recycle them.

Scanning or photographing useless but hard-to-part-with stuff is how I was able to finally declutter after downsizing my apartment a few years ago; now I don't even get that attached to stuff like I used to.
posted by Room 641-A at 12:11 AM on May 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


Stuff like yearbooks are quaintly american, so Kondo probably doesn't have to ever deal with them.

I would lose this book, like I did with my copy of GTD.
posted by scruss at 5:44 AM on May 14, 2015


But they might bring me joy, I guess, if I had kids someday and they wanted to look back and see goofy...

Goofy...old cellphones? These I really struggle with getting rid of. I love to think of some future child of mine holding my old chunky Nokia from 2001 and being bewildered and also looking really cute with a huge cellphone. Then I would show the child my Motorola Razr from a few years later and really blow their minds. Then I'd be like "this used to be called an iPod, and your mom spent almost $300 on it!" Right? It's a serious quandary, because I know I've gotten such a kick out of my parents'/grandparents' old technologies. But also this is how hoarders are made.

I also wonder/suspect if this isn't a uniquely American or Western problem, similar to the high school yearbooks. Part of my romantic feelings about old technology is colored by The Wonder Years, for example. It'd be interesting to know what, if anything, in Japanese pop culture is similarly nostalgia-fueled.
posted by witchen at 6:18 AM on May 14, 2015


It is sort of covered in the book. The thing is, even if it's a goofy old cellphone, if it brings joy* into your life, then you should keep it. The thing she addresses is the quantity of stuff we either never think about or which we retain because of feelings of guilt, responsibility and so forth.

It's not so much that she's exhorting us to get rid of everything, but that if we considers our stuff in the light of whether it explicitly makes our lives better, it's remarkable how much of it we'll happily dispose of, especially if we can do it in such a way that we get closure on those negative feelings.

*Whatever joy means to you.
posted by Grangousier at 4:16 AM on May 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


Could someone please tell me how to Kondo high school yearbooks?

They're probably already online. You might need to download a few bucks for a subscription to ancestry.com or something.
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:20 PM on May 17, 2015


Inspired by the January thread, I Kondoed (Konmaried?) my clothes on Saturday. It was exhilerating. Sort-of embarrassing revelation: I haven't had a proper dresser for several years because I've been moving a lot and they're a pain to move and my clothes always end up on the floor anyway! But I do have two small metal mesh drawer sets (like this) that are essentially meant to be filing cabinets.

Anyway, once I'd separated out all the stuff to discard, pretty much ALL of my remaining clothes aside from the things that need to be hung fit comfortably inside these four drawers. It's kind of jaw-dropping. I also got rid of almost all my winter clothes, so I guess I'd better spend the summer saving for some new ones! The coats were all getting ratty and the sweaters almost all had holes. I had one coat that wasn't yet ratty but it depresses me because it's grey and shapeless and makes me feel like a corporate drone. No joy there!

The real moment of truth came when I was hanging out with a friend yesterday, and she mentioned that she was planning to go to Goodwill this week to drop of some of her own stuff, and since she has a car and I don't, she offered to take the clothes-to-be-discarded off my hands. So I did that - and now about 3/4 of my clothes are gone, dunzo, no turning back. Meep.

Today I'm procrastinating doing my books. That's going to be harder. But I think what's going to be a real pain in the ass is all the damn drawers all over my house that I just threw stuff in without rhyme or reason.

All that said, I really like this system. I appreciate focusing on what to keep rather than get rid of. Because I don't tend to have a sentimental attachment to many material things, but I do for whatever reason have trouble throwing stuff away. So it's a lot easier for me to focus on what I actually want to have around me.
posted by lunasol at 10:46 AM on May 25, 2015


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