The philosophy of Marie Kondo seems simple: keep only those that spark joy. Anything that doesn’t fall in this criterion should be warmly thanked before it goes to the bin. Go through your entire home by category, chuck many, keep a few, and you’ll never revert to a cluttered living space again.
Of course, like a five-volume book series distilled into a two-hour movie, the Japanese art of tidying up can be complicated to those unfamiliar with the practice’s cultural roots. For instance, what is joy? What if none of your lingerie sparks this proverbial joy? What if every bit and bauble does? Will my apartment be filled with my beloved wooden matryoshkas and have none of those unsightly mops and rags (which do not bring me joy but bring non-negotiable sanitation)?
And in the eyes of somebody who adores keepsakes, how do you pull off the KonMari without betraying your preferences?
Keeping Is Bad. Or Is It?
As somebody who finds joy in the smallest things, I walk a fine line between being a collector and being a hoarder. While I may not be clinically diagnosed as a hoarder, I am in no way a minimalist. I have boxes upon boxes of trinkets and letters. And tons of mugs and cups.
To be honest, I’d like a living space that breathes easier than my current abode.
So, whenever my schedule frees up, I try to pare down my belongings to the bare essentials. But of course, I’m bombarded by doubts like “What if I need it in the future,” “But this was from my lovely frenemy,” “I don’t need this in Hong Kong, but this is a necessity in Manila.” In the end, I always, always fail to meet my original objectives.
I was just about to give up my attempt to wrangle my possessions into some semblance of order when, lo and behold, I encountered Marie Kondo in a quaint bookshop. I tried her method.
And I failed.
Achieving the Vision
Let me tell you why the KonMari method may not work for people who love to collect sentimental items.
Marie Kondo’s method starts with a vision. You must visualize a dream living space, and anything that contributes to this little utopia gets to stay.
The problem is that many equate this vision with Pinterest boards of immaculate minimalist space. This is, after all, the end product of her Netflix episodes. A bare room stripped down to essential furnishings seems the standard of the KonMari.
A dream space, however, could take many forms. For an artist, a dream living space consists of a roomy workspace with walls plastered with movie posters. For a writer, it’s books upon books upon books. For the scrapbooker, it’s stacks of cardboard and boxes labeled “I might use these in the future.”
An inner conflict brews: what if my dream living space isn’t as tidy as magazine photographs? Did I really follow the KonMari? Or is this another failed attempt at living the tidy life?
The simple answer is that this decluttering method may not work for you. And that’s okay.
On Joy-Sparking Possessions
Another reason why the KonMari might not work: Manila and Hong Kong lifestyles are vastly different from Marie Kondo’s origins. In Japan, tidiness is a way of life. An everyday routine is dominated by the likes of Muji — brands that sell functional items devoid of frills. The influence of Zen Buddhism is far-reaching here — it advises against consumerism and advocates a pared-down lifestyle. The little that they have, therefore, sparks joy.
In contrast, Manila and HK adore embellishment. Why buy an ordinary phone case, when you can secure a pink one emblazoned with three character bears stacked on top of one another? Many embrace ornamentation — the portrait of horses on the dining room wall, the oversized calendars, fine dinnerware on display, reserved for guests.
What may spark joy for one may be frivolous excess for the strict KonMari follower. And, to be honest, I think Marie Kondo would like to have some words with me for all the frivolous excesses that spark joy in me.
After several purges, a home that’s been KonMari’ed might not look as neat and bare as those in before-and-after photos. And again, that’s okay.
Parting with Sentimental Items
What are the things you need to have before even attempting to declutter your sentimental items (while staying true to yourself)?
A Serious Commitment – You have to be committed to finishing what you started. Promise yourself that you’ll go through everything, from the letters from your old best friend to the vases from your aunt. Nothing is exempt.
A Vision – As mentioned earlier, you start the journey with a vision of your desired living space. Use this as a reference, even if it’s not as pretty as those Pinterest boards.
An Awareness of Your Storage – Keep in mind the amount of storage you have. If you’re planning to move to condos for sale in Pasig or small townhouses in Mandaluyong, space is scarce. Although you won’t be following the KonMari method rigidly, you still have to make sure the place breathes easy.
A Resistance to Nostalgia – Nostalgia makes clearing out sentimental items almost impossible. Resist this feeling, as much as you can, so you’re left with the things that really spark joy.
At the end of months’ worth of purging, and your space still hasn’t looked like the minimalist abode of every KonMari follower’s dream, don’t feel bad. What’s important is that you’re surrounded by things that bring you joy. You may not have an immaculately tidy place, but at least it remains a reflection of who you are.