KonMari in a Desi Home: Lessons Learnt!

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Most of us have heard or read about the KonMari method that is based on the book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying up” by Marie Kondo. The book provides some useful steps to declutter and tidy up the house. I read the book last year and applied the method quite religiously to my extremely desi house in Canada.

Before I go into the details of the lessons learnt, here is a quick recap of the KonMari method. I recommend reading the book if you have the time, but there are also many useful YouTube videos to start applying the method, folding techniques etc.

Step 1: Visualize the goals

Decide what you want from your space and what your ideal life style is. Start tidying up with the end in mind.

Step 2: Discard first by grouping items into categories

The first step to sorting is to discard extra items. Marie Kondo recommends piling all similar items together before you discard. This means all the clothes in the house in one pile, all shoes together, all toiletries together etc. She feels that when we discard by rooms or cupboards we have similar items stored in each space; a fact we don’t realize until we see them all visually together. The KonMari method recommends starting with clothes, shoes, books etc. first and doing sentimental items such as photographs, letters, heirlooms in the end.

Step 3: Keep the items that spark joy

Now from each pile, pick items individually and only keep the ones that spark joy. No need to keep the shirt you haven’t worn in two years and makes you feel fat. Many redundancies are also identified by piling similar categories together and you realize you have three cleaning brushes whereas only one was required.

Step 4: Thank & Discard

For every item that you pick to discard, thank it for the role it played in your life and set it off on a new journey as you put it in the discard pile.

Step 5: Designate space for all items and then put into order

Put the items back in their space designated for each category to avoid duplication. Store items vertically and make sure you can visually see everything. According to the KonMari method, items that are hidden behind or under others are forgotten about.

It took me a couple of months to do top to bottom KonMari in my house with two young kids. I was and still am quite happy with the results. By knowing where everything is, you reduce the stress of searching for items. We discarded many bags full of clothes, shoes and paper. I’m also more conscious of what I bring in the house and that helps keep clutter in check.

However as any desi knows, there are some specific elements of our lifestyle that make our house anything but ordinary. While applying the KonMari method to my house, here are the lessons I learnt:

Lesson 1: Desi clothes are a separate category

Marie Kondo recommends starting the process of discarding with clothes first. However this turned out to be one of the biggest challenges for me as I realized that my clothes are divided into two categories: Western clothes that I wear every day and South Asian clothes that I wear infrequently but each one of them is a rare piece. It was easy applying the KonMari method to my western clothes however with my South Asian clothes even after a fair bit of discarding I was left with a huge collection that was beautiful and unique to my needs. I made peace by keeping them all in a separate closet that I visit on special occasions dressing up for a desi dinner. Recycling South Asian clothes while living in North America is a separate topic for another blog post I’m working on!

Lesson 2: An immigrant’s house is a land mine of memories

Marie Kondo advises dealing with sentimental items in the end. She probably never immigrated out of Japan to another country. As an immigrant who moved from Pakistan to Canada at the age of 28, my house is full of things that have special memories. When I moved to Canada I had 3.5 suitcases to pack away my life (I allowed by husband half a suitcase). On every trip to Pakistan, I bring back things from my parent’s house that are a special connection to my childhood and life growing up in Pakistan. There is no way I’m discarding these items even though they take up space in my house because each one of them is a time machine into special memories. So sorry Marie Kondo, some items are never going away like the sweater my grandmother knitted, the tea set my mom gave me, those piles of letters and definitely not that kurta I never wear but was a special gift.

Lesson 3: KonMari is no match for the Desi Mom Guilt

Marie Kondo has special strategies of dealing with items that were gifts from family and we don’t part ways with because of guilt. She has obviously never met the force of nature called a desi Mom or Mother-in-law. I’m sure I will never hear the end of it if I discard the rug my mother brought for me all the way from Pakistan because it didn’t “spark joy” anymore. Marie Kondo doesn’t realize that a desi Mom has many ways of investigation even if she doesn’t live with her children anymore namely: Skype calls, direct questioning and emotional blackmailing.

Lesson 4: Can’t bag a Desi bag inside another

By grouping similar categories together I realized I had quite a collection of desi bags with traditional embroideries, truck art and bead work. KonMari recommends putting one bag inside another to save space, however I realized I couldn’t do that with my collection since all of them are unique and I need to see them visually to choose which one goes with my outfit (or which one I plan my outfit around!)

Lesson 5: South Asians win at storage solutions

The storage skills of South Asians is the stuff of many a social media jokes. Yes, we store leftovers in yogurt containers, needles in Quality Street chocolate boxes and miscellaneous items in Pringles cans.

In the KonMari method you use existing boxes lying around the house and don’t buy special storage solutions. I found a never-ending supply of empty boxes in my basement left for “some day” they will come in handy. Definitely a KonMari win!

Lesson 6: “Learn to do without” is an inherent Desi trait

KonMari is a method not just for de-cluttering but also a lifestyle change. Marie Kondo recommends “learning to do without” and use existing items in the house before going out to buy something. I realized that this a philosophy I was brought up on as my parents managed within their tight budgets and I had carried it on as I managed my own house. Out of tomatoes? Don’t worry, substitute with yogurt in the recipe. Why do you need a new jacket? Here is your sister’s perfectly fine hand-me-down. Leftovers Friday is actually pretty cool, etc.

To summarize, I think no method is a universal solution, be it KonMari or another decluttering strategy. I learnt this as I applied KonMari to my own house and was able to adjust the method to my lifestyle.

Have you tried KonMari in your house? Do share your experiences! Would love to hear from you!

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Tamania blogs about her Pakistani-Canadian family at UrduMom.com, sharing the journey of raising bilingual children, teaching them urdu in fun ways and their multicultural life in Canada. She loves to write about parenting, travel, cooking and lots of random happy things

8 COMMENTS

  1. I am making my way through this book right now – so this article could not come at a more perfect time!

    The fact that it took you 2 months is putting my mind at ease. I felt so overwhelmed thinking…where will I start??? When will this end??

    I love how you incorporated the Desi lifestyle…definitely makes the Konmari method a lot more doable! Thanks!!!

  2. I relate to every single word as an expat. I tried the method and then decided to let it go when it came to my emotional pieces. That’s where I turned around and said ” Kaun Kon Mari!!!”.
    Enjoyed every word:)

  3. Everything I thought up in my head about Kon Mari is THERE in print right in front of me! Thoughts keep floating, writing freezes them. I loved reading my thoughts into your writing. Loved point 3 and 5.
    But that shirt which makes me feel fat is one thing I’m gonna get altered, it’s too dear!! ?

    Now that we are moving to a bigger house, I feel awkward ‘downsizing’, but it is also relieving to get rid of so many extras that don’t spark joy. Esp western ones. I also found a way of getting rid of desi extra clothes!

    I have also become careful not to buy extra stuff ‘just because I really like it’. Whatever you buy should already have a space in the house, otherwise it’s not a good time to buy it. Glad you analyzed the ‘all too awesome’ kon mari method from another very practical and very valid point of view, a view I couldn’t agree more with.

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