How to get organized once and for all

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The young, sweet-faced Japanese woman who wrote this book looks like she’d be a pushover, but she’s not. She does not accept your foregone conclusion that you’ll just hang onto “important” papers, sentimental items from school days, and even user manuals for electronics and gadgets, forever. She sure as shit doesn’t want to hear your excuses for keeping a drawer full of soy sauce packets and rubber bands. And she’s not into finding clever storage solutions or buying storage products. In fact, she says “storage experts are hoarders.” Oh snap. She believes peace, mental clarity, familial harmony, and even figuring out what you really want to do, all come from “tidying up.” Which it turns out is code for throwing away 3/4 of the crap that you may or may not realize is cluttering up your house. (Even if you think your house is relatively uncluttered, every room inevitably has at least a small amount of stuff piled in little stacks or hidden in closets and cabinets. And it needs to go. It’s bringing you down.) Specifically, Marie instructs you to physically handle each item and if it does not bring you a “thrill of pleasure” when you touch it, you should throw it out. It’s not unusual for her clients to discard 17 bags of stuff at a time (I think she said the record was 200 bags?). She also believes that tidying up should be a special, one-time event; she’s not into tackling it slowly and she’s not into your tailoring her method to suit some halfassed approach. Decluttering should be done in one go, and then you’re done forever. She says none of her clients backslide. Once you start discarding stuff and see how rewarding it is to live in an uncluttered environment, a “click” occurs, in which you discover what amount of stuff feels right (hint: it’s not much), and you never go back to your old ways.

Marie thinks there are only two reasons we can’t let go of stuff: an attachment to the past or a fear for the future. Even if you were to hire her (she is famous in Japan and has a three-month waiting list), she doesn’t do the hard work for you. She makes you decide what to throw out, facing your belongings and, really, your life.

Interestingly, sales of her book took off when Japan had its last big earthquake. Evidently because many people had lost their belongings and they looked to her book for reassurance that we don’t need stuff—whether a billion photos from vacations, mementoes of a past love, etc.—to remember the good times and to be happy.

Marie believes that your real life begins after putting your house in order. Most people gain confidence in their decision-making ability, some drop excess weight, and many realize what they want to pursue next in life.

Following are “After” pics of ‘junk drawers’ and closets I’ve KonMari-ed (that’s what she calls her method). When Jimmy discovered he was missing some unnecessary, clutter-y item that I’d discarded, he said, “I don’t have my (such-and-such), because you read a book??”

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Gretchen Rubin makes de-cluttering less overwhelming

This video has stayed in my head because it features a very do-able piece of advice from Gretchen Rubin, the appealing, slightly nerdy author of “The Happiness Project.” De-cluttering one’s living space is a key tenet in her bestselling book, which details her year-long experiment attempting to increase her level of happiness. Readers benefit from the exhaustive-sounding research she did—the book is loaded with memorable insights and concrete advice on how to have a richer, more satisfying life.

From “The Happiness Project”:

“One April day, on a morning just like every other morning, I had a sudden realization: I was in danger of wasting my life. As I stared out the rain-splattered window of a city bus, I saw that the years of my life were slipping by. ‘What do I want from life anyway?’ I asked myself. … But I had never thought about what made me happy or how I might be happier. … I wasn’t depressed and I wasn’t having a midlife crisis, but I was suffering from midlife malaise—a recurrent sense of discontent and almost a feeling of disbelief.

‘Is this really it?'”

It just occurred to me that a recipe for unhappiness is to want things over which you have no control.

When my husband and I moved to L.A., it was to pursue screenwriting careers. To be considered for movie projects in particular, you basically have to sell a screenplay first. I was determined, and I made a conscious decision to stop pursuing other interests, at least temporarily, so that I could spend as much time writing as possible. Years passed, in which I kept telling myself, “I’ll start painting again once I’ve sold a script.” “It would be nice to get a dog, once I’ve sold a script.” Finally, at some point—I’m sure a very low point, thankfully I’ve blocked out the details—I realized I was postponing happiness, and that everything hinged on this goal that wasn’t necessarily in my control. So, I decided to make a list of all the things I wanted to do, that I had been putting off, and to start doing as many of the things as possible. One of the items on my list was another longtime goal, that of making a movie. If you know what goes into making a movie, you’ll understand why I thought it would be easier to sell a script than to make a movie and why I had put it off. Both things are hard, but here’s the critical difference: selling a script is not in one’s control and making a movie is.

I’m curious whether there has ever been a time in your life when you thought consciously about whether or not you were happy and took specific steps to try to increase your happiness?