How to identify what is truly precious - 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

How to identify what is truly precious
The magic of tidying dramatically transforms your life

After a client has finished the process of selecting what to keep and what to discard, there are times when I will retrieve a few things from the “keep” pile and ask once again, “This T-shirt, and this sweater, here, do they really spark joy?”

With a look of surprise, my client inevitably says, “How did you know? Those are all things that I couldn’t decide if I should keep or throw away.”

I am not a fashion expert nor do I retrieve these things on the basis of how old they look. I can tell by my clients’ expression when they are choosing—the way they hold the item, the gleam in their eyes when they touch it, the speed with which they decide. Their response is clearly different for things they like and things they are not sure of. When faced with something that brings joy, their decision is usually instantaneous, their touch is gentle, and their eyes shine. When faced with something that doesn’t bring them joy, their hands pause, and they cock their head and frown. After thinking for a few moments, they throw the item onto the “keep” pile. At that moment, there is a tightness in their brow and around their lips. Joy manifests itself in the body, and I don’t let these physical signs escape me.

To be honest, however, I can actually tell which items do not spark joy in my clients’ hearts even without watching them during the selection process. Before I visit their homes, I give them a private lesson on the KonMari Method. This lecture alone has a significant impact, and often when I make my first visit to their house they have already begun tidying.

One of my prize students, a woman in her thirties, had discarded fifty garbage bags of belongings by the time I got there. She opened her drawers and closet proudly and said, “There’s nothing more to get rid of in here!” Her room certainly looked different from the photographs she had shown me. The sweater that had been thrown carelessly over the dresser was now neatly stored away, and the dresses that had been jammed to bursting on the rod had been thinned out so that now there was some room between them. Yet even so, I pulled out a brown jacket and a beige blouse. They looked no different from the rest of the clothes she had decided to keep. Both were in good condition and looked like they had been worn.

“Do these really bring you joy?” I asked.

The expression on her face changed instantly. “That jacket, you know I love the design, but I really wanted one in black. They didn’t have a black one in my size.… Not having a brown jacket, I thought that I would buy it anyway, but in the end it just didn’t seem to suit me and I only wore it a few times.

“As for the blouse, I was really attracted to the design and to the material, so I actually bought two of them. I wore the first one until it couldn’t be worn, but for some reason I just don’t seem to choose the second one anymore.”

I had never seen how she treated these items nor did I know anything about the circumstances surrounding their purchase. All I did was observe carefully the clothes hanging in her closet. When you examine things closely, you can begin to discern whether or not those things bring their owner joy. When a woman is in love, the change in her is apparent to everyone around her. The love she receives from her partner, the confidence that love gives her, and her desire to make the effort to look beautiful for him all give her energy. Her skin glows, her eyes shine, and she becomes even more beautiful. In the same way, things that are loved by their owner and treated with care are vibrant and radiate an aura of wanting to be of more service to their owner. Things that are cherished shine. This is why I can tell at a glance whether something truly sparks joy. The genuine emotion of joy resides in the body and in the possessions of the owner, and therefore it can’t be concealed.