The ‘KonMari Method’ has taken the world by storm. Japanese cleaning guru, Marie Kondo started her career with her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up which soon became a bestseller in the US and UK. But it was her hit Netflix series Tidying Up With Marie Kondo, which aired this January, that has given her a bit of a cult status. The term ‘KonMari’ has become synonymous with cleaning and can be applied to all aspects of your life, especially if you have a cluttered digital life.
According to Kondo, de-cluttering is a philosophy. When you tidy up, you are re-evaluating your life and how you want your future to be. In her TV series, Kondo visits people who are at a certain stage in their lives where they want a change but are mentally and physically held back by their clutter.
Think of it as a strategic spring clean, but with your items. Kondo has different methods of folding and packing away sections of your things, such as clothes, kitchen utensils to paperwork. However, the main point is whether the items bring you ‘spark joy’, Kondo’s phrase for the magic connection between a person and their item. The focus is not so much on utility but a person’s relationship with an object and what that means for them. Instead of asking ‘do I use it?’, ask ‘does this make me happy?’
But what about our digital lives? Having a cluttered digital life leads to distractions and stress. Feeling overladen with notifications? Finding increasingly slow downloads? Feeling overwhelmed whenever you open your inbox or Twitter feed? If so, you need to ‘Konmari’ your digital life.
For physical items like cords and chargers, Kondo suggests keeping them in all one place, preferably a box. For devices, you have to rank them in order of preference and eliminate those that have served its purpose.
However, the ‘KonMari Method’ is effective and universal. It’s not just for your house, but can be applied to de-clutter digital spaces, even if you cannot see them.
This is admittedly a large one to tackle. You can apply Kondo’s suggestions for ‘paperwork’ when de-cluttering emails. Kondo suggests separating papers into two piles: those that need to be dealt with (e.g. bill) and those need to be saved (e.g. contracts). Firstly, deal with your unread emails. Place ongoing threads and any emails you consider important in a folder. Rather than sorting through each email, delete the rest. No amount of joy can be found by going through all your emails. If you find this too scary, start by deleting emails that are more than 3 years old.
This method can also be applied to documents stored in your PC, which can start to clog up your memory and normal running. Even having too much on your desktop and home screen can make you feel stressed before you can even work!
Your phone will probably have given you hints to its bursting storage capacity. Apps can be easily considered the same as physical objects. The great thing is you can always download them back. Therefore, you should delete any app you are not using on a daily basis.
Your social media feeds will have more emotional value. However, chat conversations (e.g. WhatsApp) can take up a lot of storage and should be deleted if you are not currently using it. Some platforms allow you to delete the conversation, but some might require you to exit the group which could leave you feeling guilty. This could be a good stage to evaluate why you feel emotional. Kondo’s method always stresses the process of cleaning, rather than a simple clear-out of everything. It involves raising tough questions and making hard choices.
If you feel overwhelmed and troubled when you open up Facebook or Twitter, something has gone wrong in your network. Think about whether what you follow is something or someone ‘you want to bring forward into your future’. If the answer is no, delete and replace with something you do. The same for your ‘friends’ list.
Photos have such a strong sentimental element, it can be hard to let any of them go! But they can be one of the biggest memory cloggers on your phone. This is why Kondo advises that it is best to leave this until the last stage. Go through each one and ask whether it ‘sparks joy’ for you. As Kondo writes, “The meaning of a photo lies in the excitement and joy you feel when taking them. In many cases, the prints developed afterwards have already outlived their purpose.”
People tend to rely on hard drives and memory sticks, which are great tools for keeping important things backed up. However, too much filing and storing leads to hoarding. Kondo teaches us to really question what we are saving, and not save for the sake of it.