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The Quad: Benefits of spring cleaning, using KonMari method to find what ‘sparks joy’

(Clara Vamvulescu/Daily Bruin)

By Stephanie Foo

May 9, 2019 12:00 pm

Jenn Nguyen used to keep all of her school assignments, letting them pile up and accumulate dust at home.

When she came to UCLA, the first-year psychology student began using organization expert Marie Kondo’s decluttering methods to spruce up her room and get tidier – and get rid of all those dusty papers.

“A cleaner and more organized room allows me to get more work done,” Nguyen said.

Whether students are scrambling to find summer internships or getting ready for summer beach days, spring signals a time for change and growth – and especially spring cleaning.

Spring cleaning’s been around since the earliest days of civilization – its origins are debated, but it’s likely that it has its roots in holidays like Passover or Nowruz, during which celebrants often declutter their households. But this spring, with the popularity of “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo,” spring cleaning – and Kondo’s KonMari cleaning method – have been on people’s minds a little bit more lately.

Kondo’s minimalist approach to decluttering your living space based on what “sparks joy” achieves just that. From YouTube videos on professionally organizing one’s possessions to Twitter memes about what “sparks joy,” many are reassessing the value of their belongings.

Broken down into four steps, the KonMari method is a decluttering system that serves to pare down one’s belongings and organize their living space. She teaches her readers to tidy up your space all at once rather than in intervals. Every item is then sorted into categories. In each pile, one must decide whether each item sparks joy for them or not. If not, that item is thrown away or donated.

Her philosophy, although simple, has garnered immense popularity with numerous people revamping their living space and donating their unwanted belongings. With the urge to purge, many have donated their excess possessions to donation centers or thrift stores in overwhelming amounts.

According to The Washington Post, Goodwill centers in the D.C. area experienced a 66% increase in donations for the first week of January this year as did other donation centers across the country.

Kondo’s organization tips not only aid in refreshing one’s living environment but also promote a clearer state of mind that offers greater happiness and less stress. A disorganized space can often be distracting, forcing our brains to juggle multiple stimuli and thoughts at once.

In a study published by the Princeton Neuroscience Institute, scientists discovered the chaos reflected in your surroundings impedes the brain’s ability to process information and focus on the task at hand. The brain’s visual system becomes overwhelmed with simultaneous stimuli vying for neural representation.

In turn, one’s accuracy to complete a task can suffer. A study of 80 people at the University of Navarra reported that people made more mistakes in a messy space than in a tidy one.

[RELATED: Students personalize dorm rooms with photos, decorations]

Royson Lin a third-year cognitive science student said the KonMari method has worked wonders for his apartment space and lifestyle. After reading about it on Twitter, Lin went on to read all of Kondo’s books and watch her Netflix series before implementing it into his own space.

Initially, Lin said he experienced difficulty with throwing away things he knew his parents would value more than him, but also created clutter around the household – in particular, he struggled to throw away a uniform from a charity organization that he and his mom worked for throughout his childhood.

I did not feel a strong attachment to (the uniform) but I know my mom did and I felt bad,” Lin said.

After sorting out his personal happiness and external factors, he not only pared down his collection of clothing to one drawer of his dresser but also began prioritizing his personal happiness in other facets of his life.

“But it has also helped me decide what things I want to do with my own life instead of being afraid or forced by my parents,” Lin said.

However, implementing Kondo’s method is easier said than done. For some, getting rid of items that simply do not bring pleasure can be difficult to justify. In an INSIDER article, clinical psychologist Marla Deibler said each person values their possessions differently and does not have to clean their clutter to feel happy – some may revel in clutter while others do not.

Nevertheless, the KonMari Method requires time, energy and commitment. One must fully devote themselves to the task and truly evaluate their values in order to reap its benefits. Whether it means blocking out a few days or asking more introspective questions, reorganizing your living space can be an achievable goal and in turn, the catalyst to living a self-motivated, joyful life.

“Trust yourself and the decisions you make. You know what makes you happy or not,” said Lin. “It has brought me inner peace and the ability to choose happiness first.”

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Stephanie Foo
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