Marie Kondo and Newton’s First Law

By Rebekah Page-Gourley posted 02-11-2019 09:06


About four years ago, I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and wrote about my takeaways here. Essentially, I concluded that while I don’t subscribe to some aspects of the KonMari method, I definitely think decluttering is incredibly cathartic. I suggested that “[a]n uncluttered physical space really can inspire a new outlook.”

A few weeks ago, Marie Kondo popped back into my life, this time via her Netflix show, Tidying Up. My six-year-old took one look at her and was completely mesmerized, so we watched the show together. About halfway into the first episode—as the TV family dumped every single item of their clothing into one giant pile to determine which items “sparked joy”—he jumped up and said, “Let’s go do that to our clothes now, Mom!”

My first response was to pull the blanket back over my feet and say, “No way, buddy, it’s Friday night, and I’m way too tired.” But he was persuasive, and eventually I thought to myself, “How many times have I tried to get this kid to put his clothes away? How can I pass this up?” So we went for it, first with his clothes, then with mine. We stayed up past both of our bedtimes, and when we finished culling, we folded—Kondo-style. When my husband got home from a work trip the following day, my son made him dump his clothes onto the bed for joy assessment and then taught him how to fold them! It was magical.

I predictably rode that first night’s momentum to tidy up other parts of the house, but what surprised me was how the motivation snowballed way beyond decluttering. As I cleared out the stuff, I felt strangely empowered to take care of random tasks that had been languishing. I called my dentist and told them I was switching to a new office—an awkward conversation I’d long been avoiding. I fixed a janky floor board and replaced a broken laundry rack. I put an updated battery pack in my carry-on suitcase. We pulled the trigger on a new dresser, moved furniture around, and finally started the process of getting a bed in our guest room (something that has been on our agenda for 6.5 years). I dove into several projects at work and made tons of headway, way ahead of schedule. And on and on.

As my colleague put it, that decision to dump out the clothes “unblocked” me in some way. It started a chain of events that I plan to ride as long as I can. I’m sure I’ll get blocked again, but it’s reassuring to remember that sometimes it just takes one random decision or action to start things up again—and keep them moving.