K – Knowledge
As they say “I little knowledge is a dangerous thing”! We read a book or see a video and all of a sudden we can fix anything! But more often than not, we end up making a bigger mess than we started with.
I get asked, daily about my thoughts on Marie Kondo’s Book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up”. Clients often mention they’ve read it, non-organizers ask what I think of it and other organizers roll their eyes when they talk about it. This post won’t be about the book, as it seems to be getting enough press on its own, but rather to talk about what it signifies for people. Many people believe this book is some sort of secret weapon against clutter. They think that just by reading it, they will make their clutter disappear and be able to live a happily organized life forever more. I mean, it’s right there in the title…”magic”. The problem is that there is no magic wand that will get rid of clutter. If there was, I certainly would have gotten one to help my clients. But just like anything that people struggle with (weight, career satisfaction, happiness), one has to put in the time and effort to achieve what one wants.
Our get-rich-quick society of diet pills and instant meals has made us expect that there’s an easy fix out there somewhere for everything we need, and it’s just a matter of Googling it. Unfortunately, that’s just not the case. And in each and every situation of trying to accomplish something without putting in the proper work, there is inevitable failure and disappointment. That’s how I see this ‘new’ organizing method. Mostly, it isn’t new. The ideas have been around for a long time, used by all organizers. It’s just the marketing and packaging that are new. Every client that has read it, has told me that they got very excited and did what it said to do, but it didn’t work for them. And each time I have to explain why it didn’t work.
Here’s what I tell them…The book was written from a cultural perspective different than the one we have in the US. In the US, we are of the mentality that ‘bigger is better’ and ‘more is preferable to less’. For right or wrong, that’s just the way it is. While minimalism is a lofty buzz word goal, it is not the norm. Unless you’re living in New York City, you usually have some space to play with. Space leads to acquiring things, which often leads to clutter, which then leads to feeling overwhelmed, which then leads to trying to find a way to stop feeling that way without actually getting rid of the stuff, which leads to self-help books. Sound familiar? Unless we all plan to move to Japan (or NYC), where space is limited, we will have to find a method that works for where and who we are. While the idea of keeping what “sparks joy” is a great one, this will only help in narrowing down your sweater collection or bookshelf clutter. In my work, I have found that is only a fraction of the clutter in most American homes. What’s to be the fate of the things that don’t spark joy but need to be kept anyway, like tax documents (for 7 years), trash bags, batteries, plungers, etc.? A lot of what we keep is necessary for day to day life.
So this is where the topic of knowledge comes into play. Since there is no magic answer, we need to find out what is and is not right for us, organizationally speaking. It’s not just about letting go of things, we need a way to be able to hold onto the things we want and need without letting those things overwhelm our space and our mind. That knowledge will help us far more than a one-size-fits-all self-help book. Let me say that there is absolutely nothing wrong with self-help, but if we could all heal ourselves by reading books there would be no need for doctors, or psychologists or organizers.
Know that there is no ‘quick fix’ to organizing (or anything else in life)!
Knowledge is power, and power needs structure!
To know me is lo love me (just threw that one in for a giggle. Ha!)