I recently read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up looking for Marie Kondo quotes to whip my New Year’s decluttering resolution into shape. I anticipated her eccentricities, but there were several Marie Kondo quotes that I found surprisingly evocative.
The 2014 English translation of this Japanese book brought Kondo’s minimalist philosophy into the limelight. Thoughts on sock-folding aside, it can be boiled down to this: keep only things that “spark joy.” While this idea has already proved helpful to me, the passages that linger in my mind dealt with how to let go of things that don’t spark joy and why. I always feel lighter after getting rid of stuff, but Kondo analyzes the mental blocks that cause someone like me to become a pack rat in the first place. The following Marie Kondo quotes about tidying felt like an emotional gut punch—just the pressure I needed to get over my nostalgia and learn how to let go.
Marie Kondo Quotes From the Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up That Just Killed Me
Ouch. I recently moved home from a job overseas and have been living in my childhood bedroom. It is basically a small, disorganized museum of my life. When I moved abroad, I took only things I needed and left all the personal mementos and excess behind. Now I’m faced with it all again, and this Marie Kondo quote is right—next time I move out, I need to take everything with me.
“By handling each sentimental item and deciding what to discard, you process your past. If you just stow these things away in a drawer or cardboard box, before you realize it, your past will become a weight that holds you back and keeps you from living in the here and now. To put your things in order means to put your past in order, too. It’s like resetting your life and settling your accounts so that you can take the next step forward.”
I am guilty of stuffing old mementos in drawers or cardboard boxes to be stored indefinitely. This quote hit me hard—these boxes did feel like a weight. I finally began sorting through what I’d collected over the past 23 years, recycling most of it. As a college grad returned from my gap-year abroad, I’m resetting my life in preparation for my first big career move. If I confront the physical weight of my history now, I won’t have to drag the past with me when I move.
“It is not our memories but the person we have become because of those past experiences that we should treasure. This is the lesson these keepsakes teach us when we sort them. The space in which we live should be for the person we are becoming now, not for the person we were in the past.”
I have a hard time saying goodbye to physical objects that represent important life experiences, and this has almost made my room a shrine to my past-self. But the things around us act as stimuli, shaping our thoughts and actions. When I’m surrounded by my childhood things, I’m a bit more like my childhood self. And while she had some good qualities, she’s further from who I want to be than post-college me. Here Kondo not only told me it was okay to say goodbye to this ephemera, she told me why I should.
To let go of objects sometimes feels like letting go of a piece of myself, but this is a false sensation. I am the same person without them, I just appreciate the things I have now instead of drowning in them.
“…when we really delve into the reasons for why we can’t let something go, there are only two: an attachment to the past or a fear for the future…As a result, we increase the number of unnecessary possessions, burying ourselves both physically and mentally in superfluous things.”
Oh. I’ve been stuck in the past, burying myself in memory, my living space and headspace overflowing with excess. This is why discarding things not only makes my space feel lighter, it makes me feel lighter.
“The process of facing and selecting our possessions can be quite painful. It forces us to confront our imperfections and inadequacies and the foolish choices we made in the past…The things we own are real. They exist here and now as a result of choices made in the past by no one other than ourselves. It is dangerous to ignore them or to discard them indiscriminately as if denying the choices we made…It is only when we face the things we own one by one and experience the emotions they evoke that we can truly appreciate our relationship with them.”
This gut-punch quote is for all those objects that evoke a sense of ugh why did I buy this I can’t get rid of it until I make use of it. During the process of decluttering, I’m facing the things that evoke more guilt than joy and accepting the choices I made that brought them into my home—and I’m giving myself permission to let them go. It’s also made me consider much more carefully what I bring into the ecosystem of my home.
Ouch—I’m not cherishing my belongings. I’m hoarding them. The more I discard, the more I see the truth of this quote, the more I cherish what I’ve kept.
“There are three approaches we can take toward our possessions: face them now, face them sometime, or avoid them until the day we die.”
Ugh okay, I’m facing them now, Kondo—you win.
More on Marie Kondo
Have you read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying-Up? What Marie Kondo quotes hit you the hardest?
While she’s known to have controversial opinions about books, others in the Book Riot community have put her ideas into (moderate) practice. Christy wrote about “Kondo-ing” her bookshelf, and Kathleen wrote about what she kept after the KonMari bookshelf purge. Personally, I’ve whittled my 650 books down to 350—so far—and purged my Goodreads TBR as well. Others have had different responses—check them out on the Marie Kondo tag. I’ll leave you with one final Marie Kondo quote that’s challenged my opinion on buying (and keeping) unread books: