6 Lessons all Expats can Learn from Marie Kondo

I came across Marie Kondo speaking on BBC Women’s hour.  The Japanese organizing consultant seems to have completely transformed people’s homes through her little turquoise book titled ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing’. It seems Kondo has now set off a decluttering crazy across the globe. 

decluttering, expat moving abroad

We moved across to Johannesburg five years ago and hugely decluttered then.   I remember carefully weighing and selecting each item ready for our shipment before we moved here.    But now, the addition of three children, a dog, and many wonderful “traditional African memento’s’ has crowded our lives and house once again.  

Time for some Magic.

The secret behind Kondo’s two-pronged approach to tidying is the following: 
    1.    Take every item you own and ask one question “does this spark joy” if it doesn’t - thank it for its service and then get rid.
    2.    Once you have only items that bring you joy, then you need to find a place for each one where it is visible, accessible, and easy to grab and put back.   
All of this sounds wonderful but is it really practical?
Here’s what the book taught me: 

    1.    Tackle Categories, Not Rooms 

Instead of tackling clutter room by room, for example the bedroom first, then the office. Rather tidy by category - deal with every single one of your books at once. Kondo suggests starting with your clothing (apparently the least emotionally loaded item, not in my case). 
As I looked at the pile of my clothes in the in middle of the room, I was not hit with joy, rather cascade of memories. It was the hot pink sequenced skirt from my hen party and the perfect golden dress I wore to my first “black tie Premier Rugby Awards Ceremony”.
I simply couldn’t get rid of all these things - but I remembered that “Clutter is just a delayed decision”, so I took a photo of the special items and then thanked them and put them in the donation pile. I hope they go on to give someone else as much joy.
Kondo states: 

“Truly precious memories will never vanish even if you discard the objects associated with them,”

It is the memory you won’t forget, particularly if you have taken a photo and annotated a personal value associated with it, the item can then be given away.  Kondo knows what she’s talking about when she insisting you put your blinders on and focus only on the category of stuff at hand - nostalgia certainly is not your friend.   

2.    Respect your belongings 

I have to admit this was a little out there for me. Kondo asks you to imagine you to consider your clothes feelings, are they happy being squashed in a corner shelf? But it kinda makes sense.     

3.    Purging Fells SO Good 

Once I got into it, I actually quite enjoyed the hours I spent sorting through all my clothes, books and papers. Living in South Africa it is quite easy to know that someone else will gain the joy you may have had from the clothes.  Giving up my books was a little easier, since most are now on my kindle and I doubt my old sports coaching books will still be relevant.

Finally our paper work - this was the easiest, since living abroad, most our personal affairs is now conducted online (and through our Ultimate Expat File). 


For more on how we went paperless went we moved abroad click here.  

Rather than the panic I had at the start, as I said goodbye to those shoes and clothes that had so much emotion attached to it, I now felt relief. 

4.    Fold it don’t hang it

Once you have sorted through all your: 
    1.    Clothes
    2.    Books
    3.    Paperwork
    4.    Kitchen / Appliances
Then you can decide where everything will go. Kondo’s folding technique makes things MUCH easier to find, and harder to mess up. 

    5.    Garage

This was the toughest yet! Thank you Dad!! We had two boxes of random leads, and adapters, we have an adaptor and extension cable for every country in the world! But bit by bit we began to see the back of the garage wall again. Nails and shelves went up, to allow the remaining items to be visible, accessible, and easy to grab.  
All this - made me feel so good - until three lots of our best friends left, and gave us all their extra spices, adaptors, and furniture! All things I am sure we will need for our new / bigger home, I just hope that they spark joy too!
Sorry Kondo, maybe living life as an expat is just too much for the Kondo philosophy?

Do you have any tips for how you decluttered or packed / unpacked when moving? Share with us in the comments below.