Before you start, visualize your destination - Finish discarding first

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing - Marie Kondo 2014

Before you start, visualize your destination
Finish discarding first

By now you understand why it is crucial to discard before thinking about where to keep things. But to start discarding without thinking ahead at all would be like casting yourself into the negative spiral of clutter. Instead, begin by identifying your goal. There must have been some reason you picked up this book. What was it that motivated you to tidy in the first place? What do you hope to gain through tidying? Before you start getting rid of things, take the time to think this through carefully. This means visualizing the ideal lifestyle you dream of. If you skip this step, not only will it delay the whole process, but it will also put you at higher risk for rebound. Goals like “I want to live clutter-free” or “I want to be able to put things away” are too broad. You need to think much more deeply than that. Think in concrete terms so that you can vividly picture what it would be like to live in a clutter-free space.

One client in her twenties defined her dream as “a more feminine lifestyle.” She lived in a messy seven-mat room (seven tatami mats take up about ten by thirteen feet of floor space) with a built-in closet and three sets of shelves of different sizes. This should have been sufficient storage space, but no matter which way I turned, all I could see was clutter. The closet was so stuffed the doors wouldn’t shut, and clothes oozed from the set of drawers inside like the stuffing in a hamburger. The curtain rail over the bay window was hung with so many clothes that there was no need for a curtain. The floor and bed were covered in baskets and bags filled with magazines and papers. When my client came home from work, she moved the things on her bed to the floor and when she woke up, she put them back on the bed to make a path to the door so she could go to work. Her lifestyle could not have been called “feminine” by any stretch of the imagination.

“What do you mean by a ’feminine lifestyle’?” I asked. She thought for a long moment before finally responding.

“Well, when I come home from work, the floor would be clear of clutter … and my room, as tidy as a hotel suite with nothing obstructing the line of sight. I’d have a pink bedspread and a white antique-style lamp. Before going to bed, I would have a bath, burn aromatherapy oils, and listen to classical piano or violin while doing yoga and drinking herbal tea. I would fall asleep with a feeling of unhurried spaciousness.”

Her description was as vivid as if she actually lived that way. It’s important to achieve this degree of concreteness when visualizing your ideal lifestyle. If you find that hard, if you can’t picture the kind of life you would like to have, try looking in interior decorating magazines for photos that grab you. Visiting model homes can also be useful. Seeing a variety of homes will help you get a feel for what you like. By the way, the client I described above does indeed enjoy post-bath aromatherapy, classical music, and yoga. Redeemed from the depths of disorder, she emerged to grasp the “feminine lifestyle” to which she aspired.

Now that you can picture the lifestyle you dream of, is it time to move on to discarding? No, not yet. I can understand your impatience, but to prevent rebound you need to move ahead properly, step by step, as you launch into this once-in-a-lifetime event. Your next step is to identify why you want to live like that. Look back over your notes about the kind of lifestyle you want, and think again. Why do you want to do aromatherapy before bed? Why do you want to listen to classical music while doing yoga? If the answers are “because I want to relax before bed,” and “I want to do yoga to lose weight,” ask yourself why you want to relax and why you want to lose weight. Maybe your answers will be “I don’t want to be tired when I go to work the next day,” and “I want to lose weight so that I can be more svelte.” Ask yourself “Why?” again, for each answer. Repeat this process three to five times for every item.

As you continue to explore the reasons behind your ideal lifestyle, you will come to a simple realization. The whole point in both discarding and keeping things is to be happy. It may seem obvious, but it is important to experience this realization for yourself and let it sink into your heart. Before you start tidying, look at the lifestyle you aspire to and ask yourself, “Why do I want to tidy?” When you find the answer, you are ready to move on to the next step: examining what you own.