Can tidying up your home really impact the decisions you make in your life and career? Absolutely, says Marie Kondo
Many of us struggle with decision-making in life.
Give us the room, and even bite-sized choices like whether to have that cappuccino walnut doughnut or the plum chutney one have the potential to morph into big, ponderous dramas.
So it’s little wonder that we often feel stricken by the heavier stuff: leaving a struggling relationship, say, or choosing to move abroad.
The same indecisions hamper our performance in the workplace. One study by Harvard Business Review found that 57% of top-tier corporate leaders said decisions were more complicated and difficult than they expected.
When it comes down to it, decision-making is a habit; one that needs practice to perfect. And one unexpected way of honing it is via Marie Kondo’s celebrated tidying method.
At the heart of most difficult decisions is our tendency to overthink the situation. We go over options again and again, without really getting anywhere.
To cut through this, it’s wise to get out of your head, and go by your gut. “I encourage my clients to pay attention to their hearts,” says life coach Eve Cunningham. “When they imagine spending time doing a particular thing with a particular person – or even alone – does their heart lift or sink? It sounds simplistic but can be pretty radical.”
Kondo’s de-cluttering method encourages you to do exactly that. Rather than think about what you want to keep or not keep, you act according to your heart: you choose what “sparks joy” from within.
You begin to make decisions based on your own value system, which is a priceless tool to develop.
These aren’t always easy decisions, either: Kondo’s approach teaches you to work your way up a rank of progressively more difficult items to throw away, starting with clothes and ending with sentimental belongings such as books, letters and photos.
But crucially, you are learning to make rapid, bold decisions based on raw instinct: and in doing so, you move your life forwards by means of positive action.
In her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying, Kondo writes of her clients: “Because they have continued to identify and discard things they don’t need, they no longer abdicate responsibility for decision making to other people […] they now make their own decisions and are aware that considering what action to take in any situation is what really matters.
“Selecting and discarding one’s possessions is a continuous process of making decisions based on one’s own values.”
Another way Kondo’s method taps into better decision-making is in the finality of it.
Research shows that we actually feel better about the decisions we make when they’re non-reversible: because we don’t leave the door open to mull over other options.
“Once we make a final, no-turning-back decision, the psychological immune system kicks in,” says Heidi Halvorson, associate director of the Motivation Science Center at Columbia University.
“Once we’ve committed to a course of action, we stop thinking about alternatives. Or, if we do bother to think about them, we think about how lousy they are compared to our clearly superior and awesome choice.”
When you choose to throw away your items, you can’t go back on that choice (or not without a fruitless rummage through your local bank of recycling bins).
Kondo says that her clients invariably make mistakes in choosing what to discard; usually it happens “at least three times” during the tidying up process.
But even when people have regrets about what they’ve thrown away, says Kondo, they don’t sweat it.
Because they have learnt the power of taking positive action, they’re confident by that point that they’ll be able to cope, no matter what.
“Life becomes far easier once you know that things will still work out, even if you are lacking something,” she says.
By the same vein, you will learn that even if you somehow make the “wrong” decision in life (the one worry that stalls all of us in making a choice), you’ll figure it out.
The main thing is, to make a decision in the first place. And with Kondo’s method, you’ll kick this muscle into action; once and for all.