Marie Kondo, born 1984 in Tokyo Japan may have been a bit of a pain when she was growing up. Her Wikipedia page reveals she used to arrive early at school to tidy up the bookshelves in the classroom while her classmates were playing outside.
“I was obsessed with what I could throw away,” she said later. After she experienced a nervous breakdown she realized she should rather look for things she wanted to keep. “Identifying the things that make you happy: that is the work of tidying,” she decided.
The fact she spent the next five years as an attendant handmaiden at a Shinto shrine is neither here nor there. Marie Kondo has sold millions of copies of the four books she wrote, and appeared on Time Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People” in 2015.
We were intrigued when Sarah Griffiths investigated the relevance of the Marie Kondo lifestyle solution, and decided it deserved a post.
Is Tidying Our Homes Really a Positive Life Changing Step?
Marie Kondo’s method involves gathering all one’s personal possessions together, on the basis of one category at a time. We might decide to start with shoes or empty boxes for example. We only keep those that “flutter, throb, palpitate” within us. The rest go out with the garbage.
“Treasuring what you have; treating the objects you own as not disposable, but valuable, no matter their actual monetary worth; and creating displays so you can value each individual object are all essentially Shinto ways of living,” the Wikipedia explains.
We were fast becoming confused. What if everything “fluttered, throbbed, palpitated” in the heart of a hoarder? For a moment it seemed Sarah Griffiths agreed.
Piles of Stuff Van Also Give Us a Rush of Satisfaction
Sarah Griffiths opens by conceding piles of clutter don’t sound like a big deal to most of us. It might mean we struggle to find a clear surface to put a glass down on occasionally, or we end up stubbing a toe on a carelessly misplaced pile of sports equipment,” she admits.
But it doesn’t make our life any worse, she continues. In fact, most of us quite like our stuff. It helps to turn the buildings we live in into homes and can give us a rush of satisfaction. So what’s the problem with hoarding then?
Objects Can Even Represent Comfort and Security for Hoarders
So says James Gregory, clinical psychologist and expert on hoarding at the University of Bath. In the most extreme cases though, hoarding is recognised as a medical disorder that can rob people of their quality of life. At this extreme point throwing things away can trigger the part of our brain that also processes pain.
We can compare this situation to the sports togs we wore while we were at school. These are far more than mere objects. They are receptacles for some of our most precious memories and that’s why we can’t throw them away.
“One of the obvious advantages to a tidy house is that being able to easily locate things will cause you less stress,” says Chris Stiff, a lecturer in psychology at Keele University.
However, “It could go either way,” says Stiff. “It could be a very negative experience if you throw away irreplaceable sentimental objects but it’s possible you could feel cleansed – you might feel free of your past.”
This brings us back to possessions that “flutter, throb, palpitate” within us. Albert Einstein’s desk anecdotally looked like a dog’s breakfast after the dog slept in it. “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind,” he asked “of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?”