Put your house in order and discover what you really want to do - The magic of tidying dramatically transforms your life

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

Put your house in order and discover what you really want to do
The magic of tidying dramatically transforms your life

In Japan, the image of a class representative is someone who is popular, has leadership qualities, and likes to stand out, and we use the term “class-rep type” for anyone with these qualities. In contrast, I am the “organizer type,” an eccentric who works away quietly and unobtrusively in the corner of the classroom, organizing the shelves. I mean this literally and quite seriously.

The first official task I was given in elementary school was “tidying.” I can vividly recall that day. Everyone was vying for jobs like feeding the school pets or watering the plants, but when the teacher said, “Who would like to be responsible for organizing and tidying the classroom?” no one raised their hand but me, and I did so with great enthusiasm. In retrospect, my tidying genes were already activated even at that early age. From previous chapters, you already know how I spent my days at school, happily and confidently reorganizing the classroom, lockers, and bookshelves.

When I share this story, people often say, “You’re so lucky you knew what you liked at such a young age. I’m jealous. I have no idea what I’d like to do.…” But I actually only realized quite recently how much I like organizing. Although I spend almost all my time involved in tidying, either teaching my clients in their homes or giving lectures, when I was young, my dream was to get married. Tidying was such an integral part of my daily life that it wasn’t until the day I started my own business that I realized it could be my profession. When people asked me what I liked to do, I would hesitate and then finally say in desperation, “Read books,” all the while wondering, “What do I like to do?” I completely forgot about being assigned the role of class organizer in grade school. Fifteen years later, I had a sudden flashback while tidying my room. In my mind, I could see my teacher writing my name on the blackboard and realized with surprise that I had been interested in this field since I was very young.

Think back to your own school days and the things you enjoyed doing. Perhaps you were responsible for feeding the pets or maybe you liked drawing pictures. Whatever it was, the chances are that it is related in some way to something that you are doing now, as a natural part of your life, even if you are not doing it in the same way. At their core, the things we really like do not change over time. Putting your house in order is a great way to discover what they are.

One of my clients has been a good friend of mine since college. Although she originally worked for a major IT company after graduating, she discovered what she really likes doing through tidying. When we finished putting her house in order, she looked at her bookcase, which now contained only those books that captivated her, and realized that the titles were all related to social welfare. The many books she had bought to study English or hone her computer skills after entering the workforce were gone, while those on social welfare, which she had bought as a junior high school student, remained. Looking at them, she was reminded of the volunteer work she had done as a babysitter for many years before entering the company. Suddenly she realized that she wanted to contribute to building a society where parents could work without feeling anxious about their kids. Aware for the first time of her passion, she spent the year after my course studying and preparing, then quit her job and started a child care company. She now has many clients who rely on her services and enjoys each day to the fullest as she explores how to further improve her business.

“When I put my house in order, I discovered what I really wanted to do.” These are words I hear frequently from my clients. For the majority, the experience of tidying causes them to become more passionately involved in their work. Some set up their own companies, others change jobs, and still others take more interest in their current profession. They also become more passionate about their other interests and about their home and family life. Their awareness of what they like naturally increases and, as a result, daily life becomes more exciting.

Although we can get to know ourselves better by sitting down and analyzing our characteristics or by listening to others’ perspectives on us, I believe that tidying is the best way. After all, our possessions very accurately relate the history of the decisions we have made in life. Tidying is a way of taking stock that shows us what we really like.