I’ve spent nearly 15 years coaching teens and young adults on organization, time-management, personal productivity and overall wellness. The straight-forward system we developed at Green Ivy is now being used by tens of thousands of students all over the world, and we know our system works because it is simple, effective, and easy to get back on track. We are now working with more and more college students and young adults, because these issues are still around when a person leaves college and enters the work world. Much of our system was highlighted in my books, That Crumpled Paper Was Due Last Week and The Myth of the Perfect Girl.
Regardless, I am always open and willing to learn more, and always excited to find new tips or strategies that may alter my own perspective in some way. Sometimes new ideas reinforce what we already do, and other times I am forced to reckon with a shift in perspective.
I am a little late to the game with Marie Kondo’s runaway hit “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: the Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing” (Ten Speed Press). I’d read a number of articles on the book, and seen it written up many ways, but after years of working on such issues, I know it is important to go to the source.
Given the terms “magic” “life-changing” and “tidying” in the title, I knew I couldn’t go wrong. Even though I considered my apartment fairly organized, I knew it still had potential because I found myself constantly cleaning up. Last Saturday morning, I went to my favorite coffee shop (the place where they ask me, “the usual?” as if it is a question) and started reading the book. I read nearly half of the book in one sitting.
What happened next could only be described as magical. I went home, and was motivated more than ever before. Within an hour, I was cleaning out my closets – I started with electronics, and then moved to clothes (Marie Kondo recommends sorting all at once, in the order of clothes, books, paper, miscellany, and then mementos). Nearly ten hours later, I had filled fourteen garbage bags and even more piles of stuff to be donated and exited. Every drawer was emptied, sorted, and neat. I now know where EVERYTHING in my apartment is, and got rid of a lot of things I had “just in case” – let’s be real, just in case was never going to happen enough to hold on to it for so long.
Even though I already decluttered and re-organized with the amazing help of the ladies at New Minimalism (which I highlighted here)… this was next level. I couldn’t have gotten here without doing all that beforehand. Sometimes, it’s a layered process. For me, the KonMari method was incredibly meditative. There was no talking or music. I didn’t answer the phone or check email. I had to remind myself to eat. Hours later, every drawer has plenty of space, and I get energized opening them. My socks are properly folded and my tights are neatly arranged. I thought I was neat, but there was clearly more work to do.
A few days after the massive undertaking (and to be honest, it took more than the one ten hour marathon to get everything out of my house and donated properly) … I am far more relaxed and calm. Other than needing to put things away now and again, my place is far more tidy.
In other aspects of my life, I noticed within days that a few loose-ends at work and in life started tidying up in wonderful ways. Packing for business trips now takes far less time – and is far more fun. I went shopping to buy things I could now recognize I needed, and vowed to only bring things into the apartment that brought me joy.
It has indeed been magical.
In terms of our work at Green Ivy, I saw a great deal of overlap. While I might not agree with *everything* (I try to donate and recycle more than throw in the trash), here are some of the most poignant places our philosophies align:
1. Do it all at once. Marie Kondo recommends doing all the organizing at once – and so do we. When a student comes into our office for an initial workshop (or we work via Skype) the first session is devoted to going through every single piece of paper and finding a proper home. I have gone through over 1,000 pieces of paper, one by one, in a single sitting. Students leave our office calm and energized because every paper is neatly sorted into their respective binders, and everything has a place.
2. Sort by category, not by location. When we organize papers and items, we have students sort all the materials for one subject at once – not what is in one backpack vs. the living room vs. the bedroom. All papers, at once.
3. Discard before storing. We help students sort through papers and recycle what is no longer needed before storing things in binders and backpacks. Students often note how much lighter their backpacks are after we sort everything out.
4. Selection criteria: Does it spark joy? Binders might not seem to spark joy, but they can! We encourage students to choose fun colors, and to decorate binders in a way that sparks happiness. It’s the little things. And PLANNERS! I love the ones at Paper Source because they spark joy for me, and we know there are ones that students are likely to keep using more than others.
5. Above all, keep it simple. The KonMari method requires no fancy organizational tools – in fact, she focuses most of her efforts on using shoe boxes in drawers to sort socks and the like. Our system is equally simple, and requires no fancy stuff. I’ve written more about our supplies here.
Have you read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up? Whenever you’re ready, I highly recommend digging in….