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Organizing happiness

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Marie Kondo talks about chaos and clarity, in the world and in our heads. And how wealth and enrichment are two entirely different things.

The hotel room where we meet Marie Kondo is strikingly tidied up. With bare walls and white curtains, nothing lays about without purpose. The emptiness allows one to reflect on their own wishes, values, enjoyment and pleasure. 32-year-old Marie Kondo is known for developing one of the most popular order strategies worldwide: 'The KonMarie Method', named after herself.

With her distinguished sense of structure, the dark-haired woman with the clear voice does not follow a trend. The Japanese follows her own convictions – and shapes a Zeitgeist which is characterized by its penchant for minimalism, valuing the simple and the unpretentious.

At the age of five, Marie – who is as cheerful as controlled – wanted to tidy up rather than play. Inspired by her mother’s interior design magazines, she developed the system which is now honored in the English language with a verb of its own: to kondo. Without this system, disorder would quickly sneak its way back into her everyday life after tidying up, says Kondo. Time and again this is what she wanted to counteract.

Today she shows others how things are to be done. According to her experience, two thirds of one’s own belongings are superfluous. When clearing out, she recommends this order: first clothes, then books followed by papers, knickknacks and finally personal items – and memories.

This is described in greater detail in Marie’s books, which have helped hundreds of thousands of readers to clear out their rooms and closets. Her books are celebrated in 42 countries as instructions on order and were on The New York Times Best Seller list. Marie is celebrated by these readers as a feel-good-manager rather than a queen of order.

During our conversation about the chaos in the world and clarity of mind, Marie explains to us why people have taken to her method.

Hello Marie, can you give some tips to someone looking to shape their everyday life in a more tidy, simple and joyful way?

Absolutely! Keep your entrance area neat, tidied up and clean. You show and learn mindfulness this way. I recommend dealing with things carefully and with certain thankfulness regarding every single thing you own. While undressing in the evening, for example, I thank every piece of clothing and every accessory for everything it did for me that day.

Is it true that you really talk to your things while cleaning up?

Indeed, and loudly, too! For example, I like telling my shoes how nice I found it that they took me to such pretty places today. This is my way of paying respect.

What has the KonMarie method done for you in general?

The objective of my method is to bring joy to people. Not only does it create order, it also trains the ability to judge. With it, everybody can recognize what is truly important to him – not only regarding material things. This newfound ability can often be applied to career matters or relationships just by itself.

Is there one example of an entire life that changed due to your method?

One of my clients, a journalist, worked over a long period for a large, well-respected publishing house. Everything seemed to be fine, yet she was often in a bad mood and looked at many things in a negative light. She also had little trust in herself and in the course of things. While she was learning to re-organize her home with the help of my method, she was beginning to question her everyday life and her way of living. In the end, she realized that she was unhappy with both of them. She quit her job, became self-employed and travelled around the world. Now she writes a lot about her experiences for magazines as well as in her own books. She is completely changed and satisfied with what she does and you can feel that.

Does it free the mind automatically when one tidies up?

In each case, it goes through a classical learning experience. The client I mentioned realized that she can decide for herself what makes her feel good and what brings her joy – and that it is ok to sort out everything else.

So, tidying up is only the first step.

It is a step in raising one’s own awareness. And of course, this awareness changes in regard to other areas, too – for example, in interpersonal relationships. When you find out that a friendship or a love does not do you any good or that it does not bring you joy, then you can let it go more easily after having applied my method.

When you hear all that, it seems as if your method was pointing out the weak spot of society. Is this due to the fact that the world we live in is becoming more and more complex?

Absolutely! Our world is filled with chaos. For a lot of people this begins in their own home. The perspective of a well-organized home gives us a clearer view of the things surrounding us. Therefore we sort out our belongings, our thinking approaches and ideals in a better way.

Your home must be very, very tidy. When do you apply your method to yourself?

When I am travelling, I roll up the clothes that I take along in my suitcase or I fold them in a way that they can stand upright. This way I save space.

What do you take with you when you’re on the road?

I keep it very minimalistic when I am travelling, too. I just need a few clothes, my favourite pyjamas and if necessary some business attire. Something I always have with me is the tea of a legendary Japanese tea master and a few fragrances.

Fragrances?

I have several essential oils from Japan that I like using in the evening for unwinding and for falling asleep. Very relaxing!

Talking about relaxing: you have a Zen corner in your home. What does it look like?

(Beaming with happiness) Yes, I do! It is situated in my clothing room and it is actually rather an antique box than a corner. This is where I store my personal belongings and my little treasures. I would say everyone needs such a corner or box.

Thank you very much for the interview!