Do you greet your house? - 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

Do you greet your house?
The magic of tidying dramatically transforms your life

The first thing I do when I visit a client’s home is to greet their house. I kneel formally on the floor in the center of the house and address the house in my mind. After giving a brief self-introduction, including my name, address, and occupation, I ask for help in creating a space where the family can enjoy a happier life. Then I bow. It is a silent ritual that only takes about two minutes, but it does elicit some strange looks from my clients.

I began this custom quite naturally based on the etiquette of worshipping at Shinto shrines. I don’t remember exactly when I started doing it, but I believe I was inspired to do so because the tense expectancy in the air when a client opens the door resembles the atmosphere when one passes under a shrine gate and enters the sacred precincts. You may think that this ritual could only have a placebo effect, but I have noticed a real difference in the speed with which tidying occurs when I perform it.

Incidentally, I don’t wear sweats or work clothes when I tidy. Instead, I usually wear a dress and blazer. Although occasionally I don an apron, my priority is on design over practicality. Some clients are surprised and worry that I might ruin my clothes, but I have no trouble moving furniture, climbing onto kitchen counters, and doing the other active work involved in tidying while dressed up. This is my way of showing respect for the house and its contents. I believe that tidying is a celebration, a special send-off for those things that will be departing from the house, and therefore I dress accordingly. I am confident that when I show respect by the clothes I choose to wear and begin the work of tidying by greeting the house, it will in turn be happy to tell me what the family no longer needs and where to put the things remaining so that the family can be comfortable and happy in this space. This attitude speeds up decision making at the storage stage and eliminates doubt from the entire tidying process so that everything flows more smoothly.

Perhaps you don’t believe that you could do this. Perhaps you think you have to be a professional like me to hear what the house has to say. In fact, however, the owners understand their possessions and their house the best. As we progress through the lessons, my clients begin to see clearly what they need to discard and where things naturally belong, and the tidying work proceeds smoothly and speedily. There is one fail-proof strategy to quickly hone your sense of what you need and where things belong: greet your house every time you come home. This is the first homework assignment I give my clients at my private lessons. Just as you would greet your family or your pet, say, “Hello! I’m home,” to your house when you return. If you forget when you walk in the door, then later, when you remember, say, “Thank you for giving me shelter.” If you feel shy or embarrassed to say these things out loud, it is fine to say them silently in your mind.

If you do this repeatedly, you will start to feel your house respond when you come home. You will sense its pleasure passing through like a gentle breeze. Then you will gradually be able to feel where it would like you to tidy and where it would like you to put things. Carry on a dialogue with your home while tidying. I know this sounds totally impractical and fantastic, but if you ignore this step, you will find that the job goes less smoothly.

In essence, tidying ought to be the act of restoring balance among people, their possessions, and the house they live in. Conventional approaches to tidying, however, tend to focus solely on the relationship between people and their belongings and do not pay attention to their dwelling. I, however, am very conscious of the important role the house plays, because whenever I visit a client’s home I can feel how much it cherishes its inhabitants. It is always there, waiting for my clients to return and standing ready to shelter and protect them. No matter how exhausted they are after a long day’s work, it is there to refresh and heal them. When they don’t feel like working and wander around the house in their birthday suit, the home accepts them just as they are. You won’t find anyone more generous or welcoming than this. Tidying is our opportunity to express our appreciation to our home for all it does for us.

To test my theory, try putting your house in order from the perspective of what would make it happy. You will be surprised at how smoothly the decision-making process goes.