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Marie Kondo and the Ruthless War on Stuff (nytimes.com)
103 points by dnetesn on July 7, 2016 | hide | past | favorite | 67 comments

> which means piling five categories of material possessions

Life is a series of boxes. Be it Scrum or Marie-Kondo-ing or dieting or GTD or cleaning your house.

If you feel you're not in relaxed control of your life, produce a handful (and not more) "boxes" (metaphorical or real) that have sufficiently sharply defined edges, and sort your things into them. If the boxes become large, subdivide, but keep the edges sharp.

Revisit your boxes on regular intervals.

That way you don't have to think about things that you don't need to think about right now and have enough space to tend to the things which don't yet or maybe don't at all fit in boxes.

You're welcome, I would like to have my book-deal now.

ok how would you handle information? I mean like work, entertainment, etc

I would recommend an Information Diet.

If you would permit me, here is my experience with the book


and the results:


(I am not to be self-promotiony or anything... the conservation of attention, time and _things_ are just topics that I spend a lot of time thinking and writing about. I am not trying to sell a book or anything. I don't even have ads on my site. Just trying to be helpful)

BTW interesting blog. Added to my rss.

Thank you!

What I do is, and I realize most people aren't interested in something like this, is I periodically delete 90% of my mp3s. I do this for a couple of reasons: the tedium of having a billion mp3s I don't listen to (and schlepping them around, navigating among them, etc), and the way it pushes me into discovering new music.

I do the same for photos. Really nice photos, I keep, and so I've got a nicely curated set of pictures from the last several years. Maybe a couple hundred. Thousands more, taken, gone!

Everything passes, of course. I just make it a little more intentional.

There is a lot of joy to be had looking through really old photos of things you have mostly forgotten. Deleting them seems both pointless and wasteful, why not just move them to a cloud backup so you can ignore them for 10 years?

Oh, I have a few ancient photos. Just a few, though.

There's a joy in freeing myself from ever having to think about that stuff again, too. There's absolutely no cognitive burden, no cloud password to remember, no junk cropping up from time to time, none of it, because the stuff's just gone.

I've gotten old family photos handed to me from time to time, like from generations ago. I didn't know these people, didn't know anyone who knew them. It was just stuff. They could've been anyone. Why keep that stuff? Why make someone else haul it around? No one's going to care, and when I realized that, I stopped caring about most of it, too.

I decide consciously what would be right for me. Those decisions need to be realistic.

Example: I want to do a lot of sport in my spare time, so I can only play a little music and read almost no books. I'm fine with that.

Then I check which emotions come up when doing or not doing something, or when consuming media and information. I think about what those emotions do for me, if they help me on the way I chose to go or not.

Example: Somedays getting up and reading the news or HN makes me a bit miserable, so I close the tab and look at the table doing nothing instead to get back in my good mood.

I try to counter and unlearn emotions which I don't consider useful, and reinforce others. That works best by forming routines.

Those routines need to updated, some more often, some not. There is no formula that fits everyone.

To reiterate: I think work, depending on the kind of work you are doing, is covered by scrum/GTD:

Break down projects into buckets of tasks and make sure that each task item has sharp edges, then regularly review and put enough effort into it that you can start trusting yourself or your team to do this diligently. So that you can focus on the inevitable portions of your work that doesn't fit neatly into boxes.

But I am not entirely sure if that's really what you're asking ? Are you referring to the organization of reference information ?

I find these type of articles fascinating, generally because they advocate a livestyle I literally cannot live.

I do a mixture of hardware and software engineering. I have tons of stuff, generally because I need tons of specialized tools.

I frankly can't even comprehend, on a personal level, not having lots stuff, because it's crucial to my job and my hobbies (which are very similar to my work).

I have widgets or special tools I haven't used in years, that I keep because they, in many cases, would be so expensive or challenging to replace that it would be infeasible, and if I need it, there is no possible alternative.

It'd be fascinating to try to see what approach one of these pseudo-spiritual organizational types takes when confronted by someone who has pursuits that actually have real-world dependencies.

Kondo isn't a minimalist in the sense that you seem to think. She helps people whose homes are overflowing with stuff they don't even like.

If you like your tools, and they fit your lifestyle, and they fit in your home without spilling out of closets and shelves, then you've achieved what she advocates.

Some of the things she advocates are quite extreme. Like keeping no more than 30 books.

I think if you had a chance to look back on your life and you considered critically how many of your books did you ever re-read or lend someone or actually leverage -- that number would be small. It doesn't seem too extreme to me, but, yes, I own more than 30 books. It's not terribly rational of me to keep as many as I do, though.

That's entirely within the arbitrary "brings you joy" rule. I enjoy looking at, thumbing through, and owning thousands of books. Rationality never enters into this 'war of stuff'. Its explicitly an emotional appeal.

I assume this doesn't include stuff like technical reference books? They may get pulled only once every couple of years, but when you need them you need them.

Do you really need those books? There are probably other ways to get that information.

Having those books itself is not an issue. I just think it's worth considering whether you are actually rationally attached to those reference books, or whether they represent an emotional attachment to the possession of objects that signal your identity (career, hobbies, and interests).

When I look at the reference books on my bookshelf, the honest answer is that I really don't ever look at them, they're just there to tell visitors about me. When I need to look up information, usually I go various websites via Google search.

Try fitting more than that into an average Japanese apartment, and you'll find out why.

She's been asked questions like this before during her talks. She says that if you need the item for your job then she would encourage you to find joy in it if you don't already.

I don't have issue with the minimalist sort, and I'm happy some people can so dramatically divorce themselves from the need of things. It's just not for me.

I actually admire the passion for minimalism they have, I just can't do it myself.

I don't think these ideas are mutually incompatible with your lifestyle. Sounds like these things do, in fact, bring you joy.

This is my own interpretation of the point, but then again I've always been a bit spartan about owning stuff both out of not having space for it and an intentional desire to avoid things I don't need.

To me there's a deeper point here about not using material possessions as a crutch for finding happiness and purpose, because it's a common crutch and its effects are temporary at best. The same applies to other sources of unnecessary, self-inflicted complexity in your life.

Purging material possessions that you don't need seems like a useful conduit to reflect on a particularly common source of unnecessary, self-inflicted complexity.

So if you need those tools to pursue your hobbies or career, then great, you should probably have those tools. Then the point applies to you in two questions:

1. How about all of the stuff you might own that isn't about your hardware/software projects?

2. Do you really need all of those gadgets? Perhaps you do, but I'd bet that there's some amount of semi-justifiable redundancy in there because there's an inherent rush of pleasure that comes from acquiring cool gadgets.

I think it breaks down like almost anything that people take to a near-religious level.

My wife and I bought the book and read through it and loved it, but we certainly don't follow all of it. Really we just did it for our clothes and general commodities (kitchen stuff, random shit in the house) and it works great.

However, your example perfectly summarizes where you should steer away from "the program".

This method doesn't make sense for a good number of things. However, for those issues it does apply for, it is fantastic.

>I find these type of articles fascinating, ... I frankly can't even comprehend, on a personal level, not having lots stuff, because it's crucial to my job and my hobbies

Are you reacting to the title of the article instead of its actual content? It specifically addresses your situation of "having lots of crucial stuff":

"She is often mistaken for someone who thinks you shouldn’t own anything, but that’s wrong. Rather, she thinks you can own as much or as little as you like, as long as every possession brings you true joy."

She has also reiterated this point when discussing her book/philosophy in interviews (Google Author Talks, etc).

So yes, if you're a serious hobby photographer, you may have 20+ fixed focal length lenses. A weekend woodworker my have 100+ different clamps and all sorts of power tools and various gadgets. All that gear is compatible with her decluttering advice.

Instead, she's talking about all that other stuff that doesn't bring you joy: clothes you don't wear, the trinkets accumulating in the kitchen's "junk" drawer, the inappropriate wedding gifts that's been taking up space in the top shelf of the closet, etc.

...that book on reorganizing your life you never finished.

Although this specific program is about literally purging stuff it could maybe lead to some thought exercise: Do I really need all these specialized tools? Why? Is there a simpler solution? Why not? Can I create a simpler solution? Can it be scaled? Would the world benefit from it? Etc.

I find them fascinating as they advocate a lifestyle I really don't want to live. I've read 2/3 of one of this lady's two books. I found it full of blinding flashes of the obvious, a few interesting ideas and plenty of ridiculous tales (for instance something very lengthy about being thankful to a screwdriver?)

I find a cosiness in a study or office space that's lined with books and stuff - think Sherlock Holmes' study. That's not to say I want the same clutter everywhere in the house.

It's interesting people can live minimally as I would probably last a week in a nicely minimal space before it didn't look so any more!

Things I don't use once every 365 days get donated or otherwise left behind. It doesn't make sense to have emotions about tools.

I think my pack rat tendencies come from the fact that I very frequently MacGyver stuff up in a hurry, so a lot of stuff I have I don't use, but having raw materials and tools around is usually handy, even if I don't know how they'll be useful in the future.

You might get more value from the "life simplification" method Bruce Sterling described in this keynote speech from a few years ago. (Starting at approx 32 min) http://video.reboot.dk/video/486788/bruce-sterling-reboot-11

== Starting comments ==

- Pay most attention to your common everyday objects. That is, anything that takes up your immediate space: on your body; in the room with you. Also those things that take a lot of your time

- Buy the best possible common everyday objects you can. Most importantly:

-- your bed: you spend a third of your life in it. Consider the per-hour cost

-- your chair: stop whining about your wrists and back hurting and buy a really good chair. Again consider the per-hour cost

- Ditch anything you haven't used in the last 12 months. eg: wedding china, tuxedo, everything in your storage locker

- Only buy real things you really use


== How to get rid of stuff ==

First, note that getting rid of stuff is HARD (but doable). Do NOT start on impulse. Think hard about it and make sure you're morally prepared. Then... for each item in your life ask the following questions:

Q1) Is it beautiful?

Test: You have it on display. You share its beauty with the people in your life.

If yes then keep it, otherwise...

Q2) Is it emotionally important?

Test: It has a narrative. You share its story with other people.

If yes then keep it, otherwise...

Q3a) Is it a useful tool, piece of equipment, or appliance?

Test: It efficiently performs some useful function. It actually works. It is the best possible tool. (Do not put up with broken or shoddy stuff)

Bruce's side comment: There's nothing more materialistic than doing the same job 5 times because your tools are inferior.

Q3b) Are you experimenting on it?

Test: You methodically work on it and you publish your results.

Bruce's side comment: Beware brand-new time-sucking beta-rollout crap.

If yes to either then keep it, otherwise...

-> 4) It is unworthy of taking your space or time. Virtualize it (take its picture; record the barcode; record any anecdotes about it) then get RID of it. If you ever need it again, get another one from eBay.


(recycled from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1767990 )

The formalwear thing strikes me as an interesting edge case.

I do not wear a suit regularly. I work in a lab and dressing up would be physically impractical (they would get destroyed) and culturally odd. Despite that, there are a few occasions where I absolutely need a suit and nothing else will do. Sometimes this even happens at short notice (e.g., for a funeral).

How does this fit into your four-part test? Q3a?

I went through a similar process an I ended up prioritizing just 12 items in my life. I bootstrapped a new apartment from scratch, and I ended up with less than 60 items in total, including those 12 key ones.

The upside of this is i) all items were carefully chosen for quality. They are a joy to use. ii) Radical simplicity means less costs, less maintenance, less mental burden.

I'm reluctant to admit it, but I did find this book really helpful. I'm generally a person that doesn't get sentimental about possessions and had already been doing regularly purge cleaning sessions pretty frequently, and I was still able to part with several large garbage bags full of stuff after reading her book.

Could you describe what kind of epiphanies the book gave you?

A lot of the book is advice and rules about efficiency. Simple things like cleaning items by category, instead of by room (i.e. get rid of your excess clothes instead of just planning to clean a bedroom). There is no mindblowing epiphany, just stuff that works well.

I think the stigma to this kind of thing is misplaced, the book is about taking a slightly more formal approach to something we don't normally think about it. The tech crowd backlash is silly, I think if this was linked to something like 5S organization then the reaction would be different.

Why reluctant?

I love the idea of keeping things tidy and disposing things that simply take up space and will never be used nor offer any other utility --because I wish I could be more disciplined (not that I'm a packrat by any stretch).

That said, many people in Japan _have to_ keep things to some kind of minimum due to inherent space constraints, given the size of dwellings 1 or 2DKs. Many people simply have no choice.

In places like the U.S. or AU, one can get away with having too many things because most people inhabit places bigger than they need.

Funny thing is, I hear people who make a good living saying, if I have not used something in x-time, I throw it out or donate it, as a sort of signaling.

We moved to Canada from Japan about 5 years ago. We only started downsizing 2 years ago, and now we have way less stuff than we ever did in Japan.

See my old apartment here: https://chadkohalyk.com/2016/01/22/our-japanese-mansion/

I wish we here in North America planned our spaces much better.

Downsizing is not just about space. It is about lessening stress, having a smaller environmental impact, increasing financial freedom, and many other things.

I recommend it.

We just moved from a 4300sqft house on the east coast to a 1700sqft house on the west coast, and I've been mentally berating myself for ever believing I needed such a giant place. We had 3 different offices spaces, a big "bonus" room, a mud room, and sun room, and three porches, not to mention a 300sqft kitchen. ... Well, I do miss the large kitchen and 10' ceilings, but that's about it.

Moving to Japan right now, and 600 sq ft is freaking huge.

I've honed the discipline you describe as a byproduct of living in New York City. Long-term storage is limited to 1 bag of camping gear and 1 box of souvenirs. Anything else is used monthly at a minimum.

Necessity is certainly is the mother of invention. The question that downsizers, minimalists and KonMari would ask though is: do you even _need_ that box of souvenirs? ;-)

But good on you for living lean. It is admirable. I isn't that I think North Americans CANNOT do it... I think the post-war culture has made us forget that it IS possible and we can be perfectly happy living small. There needs to be a cultural change beyond the bachelor apartments of NYC. But I might be taking this conversation off track... so I will just stop here.

Seasonal clothing, sports equipment, or holiday decorations?

Agreed, or a backpack in my case with a inflatable bed/tent would do

Shameless plug but we just developed an application with Marie Kondo, check it out on iOS app store (KonMari is the app). It's an interesting mix of a social network as well as a personal checklist for decluttering your life.

You are presented checklists which mirror what she has in the book, and then can work your way through them. You can associate Before/After photos with each checklist, and your followers are able to see your progress. Pretty cool idea.

I read her book and believe it is life changing. Clutter stresses me and I never realized it. The only advice is your partner needs to read the book at the same time otherwise there will be fights when one starts to throw out stuff. After my girlfriend finished reading the book, we threw out 30+ bags from a 1,200 sq ft condo. We weren't even pack rats. Now I can walk into my walk in closet. Feels good.

Here is a link to the book. http://amzn.to/1Ugg8wn

I could do this - I don't need much more than a laptop, pen, paper and a cellphone to work, albeit not ideally - but I have 10.000-plus books, I don't think there is a fix for that (relying on public libraries isn't logistically feasible). Yes, the idea of moving is very worrisome.

I used to buy a load of physical books but my useage has mostly been replaced by ebooks and similar electronic sources. The paper books are still around but not used so much.

That works really well for fiction, but with art books you're generally going to be stuck with low resolution, looking at a tiny screen.

Yes, exactly. Sometimes access to high resolution scans of the material is included with purchase (I recall the Taschen books on the history of typefaces and the Modernist Cuisine set offering some form of this), but not nearly often enough. A lot of books are also simply unavailable as ebooks (like Bertin's Semiology of Graphics).

Why is it that people are constantly looking for prophets and the one true way to live their lives?

The whole KonMari system always sounded rather animistic to me. Shinto connection?

Early in our relationship, I was a little surprised when my wife held a pair of old socks up to her face, within pressed palms, and whispered 「ありがとうございます」before throwing them in the trash.

This is YEARS before KonMari.

So, I think you might have something to your observations. ;-)

Sorry, I forgot to mention the concept: 物の哀れ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mono_no_aware

Oh, and as an addendum... neither I, nor my wife, have even read any of KonMari's books. We are more influenced by minimalism and the Japanese concepts of "mottainai" etc.

For the interested, I finally wrote up a description of one of the core concepts we use in figuring out our homebrew methodology of downsizing/minimalism:


C'mon really...? People need to be told it's nice to not have a house laden with junk? That's worth Trademarking a name?

Guess lots of folks were never told to clean up their crap growing up. What's next? A book deal for some weirdo who starts a movement about using bidets to get a really clean butthole to "center your rectal chi"?

The nonsense people will subscribe to in order to pursue a quick fix for the struggles of being an adult never ceases to stupefy me. No matter how organized you get, the reality: life == hard, never goes away. Accepting the challenge with dignity is much better than giving all your money to trendy cult-figures like this one.

Oh and: clean up your crap!

> People need to be told it's nice to not have a house laden with junk?

No. People are aware of this, but sometimes would like help with sorting out what they should and shouldn't keep.

> No matter how organized you get, the reality: life == hard, never goes away.

OK. So does this mean no one should look for help and guidance with the parts of it they feel they struggle most with?

>> People need to be told it's nice to not have a house laden with junk?

> No. People are aware of this, but sometimes would like help with sorting out what they should and shouldn't keep.

Some people are aware of this. Packrats are not. Believe me, I was married to one.

Absolutely. The biggest criticism of KonMari from Japanese is "no duh." Even the techniques for things like folding and arranging clothing so you can see everything at a glance are common knowledge among Japanese. Baffling.

People need to be reminded of obvious things. In this case especially because there is active pressure to collect things - from your typical BigBoxCo flyers, sales, TV doorcrashers, buy-one-get-one events, etc. I know too many people who are simply drowning in junk, so if it takes a half-cultish trend to get them to unload - then so be it.

It's a bit like obesity.

For most of human existence the ability to find sweet and fatty things and eat them as much as possible and put on as much weight as possible kept you alive. Now it hurts you.

Similarly with stuff for most of human history stuff was expensive, you kept every good thing you could possibly get. Then in the past 60+ years stuff has dropped in price amazingly and keeping everything is no longer a good tactic.

Space has become more expensive that stuff in places where you can get good jobs.

A huge proportion of people reading this could go out and buy a caravan or a new car in cash. Few of us can afford a good place with much space in SV or NYC or Sydney or London.

The amount of work required to fold and put away laundry is absolutely insane. Especially in a household of 5. It's more efficient to just stuff everything into any drawer that has space, and rifle through all your drawers and closets when you want to get dressed.

My life goal was to keep both clean and dirty clothes in baskets. Take from the clean basket, wear, put in dirty basket. Run dirty basket through wash. Dump cleaned clothes in clean basket. No more time spent folding, organizing or even putting stuff away.

My girlfriend was not a fan of the system when I described it. Alas, I still need to fold laundry.

There has to be a better way ...

My family of four solved that by just HANGING everything.

We use one of these http://www.amazon.ca/dp/B00578QVGC in my kids room. On the top bar is the out of season clothes, and on the bottom bar, which is at an accessible height to my girls (4 and 6), we put the in-season clothes.

This works really well since little kids are way better hangers than folders. So when I take laundry out of the dryer, I basically make a pile for the kids clothes and then yell at them to hang everything up. They love it and it saves me lots of folding time. Plus, no wrinkles!

We got rid of our space-stealing dresser and just have a little plastic set of drawers for socks and underwear, which probably could just be in stuffer bags hanging off the clothesrod now that I think about it...

There is a clothes folding machine available now. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/2016/06/03/this-600-la...

I've seen that. It looks like it is just as much work to take things out of the dryer, turn them inside out if necessary, and load them onto that machine. And separately deal with types of clothing articles the machine can't handle.

It's a lot like a dish washer. By the time you scrape and pre-wash and load all your dishes, you could have just washed them and put them on a drying rack. The real value of a dish washer is it serves as that drying rack. Most kitchens don't have a lot of dedicated space to dry dishes.

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