The life-changing magic of realising you have a problem: How the KonMari decluttering method helped me break my stationery addiction

Posted on Posted in Lifestyle, Organisation strategies

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Marie Kondo took the world by storm with her bestselling book “The life-changing magic of tidying up”.

Her decluttering strategy (known as the KonMari method) is simple: Gather all the items in the same category (e.g. clothes, books or sentimentals), create a pile and then one by one, hold each item in your hands to see if it sparks joy. If it doesn’t spark joy, then away it goes!

I was skeptical of Kondo’s methods for a number of reasons but I recently decided to test out her strategy to organise my stationery.

You see, earlier this year I decided it was time to deal with my stationery addiction. It’s embarrassing to admit, but I had developed a bad habit of going stationery shopping every time I felt stuck with my PhD.

When the words weren’t flowing, off I would trot to the stationery store and I would usually leave with at least one new pen and notebook. If I was having a really bad day, I’d buy a packet of post-it notes too.

For some reason I had developed the irrational belief that new stationery (e.g. a new pen, notebook and post-it notes) equated with new ideas and inspiration. I thought new pens would result in greater creativity and productivity levels.

Well, the pens and notepads didn’t. They never did. But somehow I thought the next notepad or new highlighter pen would be the answer to my problems.

When I finally came to the realisation of how crazy this thinking was, I stopped going to the stationery store and started using what I already had. This lasted for 6 months.

Then came the day when I relapsed.

I went to Japan: the land of the most bizarre and wonderful stationery I’ve ever seen.

Again, I was hooked. This stuff was way too cute to resist.

When I came home to Australia after a month of living in Japan, you can probably imagine that I didn’t just have a pencil case with a few pens to declutter and organise.

In fact, once I gathered all my stationery and put it in one place (Marie Kondo style), it took up a third of my lounge room floor.

Years of accumulated stationery
Years of accumulated stationery gathered in one place using the ‘KonMari method’.

Now, this is where the true magic power of Kondo’s method arises: The sight of all that stationery made me feel sick. I felt totally embarrassed and overwhelmed. How many pens did I really need? I had let things get out of control in the stationery department. I knew I had to take control of the situation.

Now here is the point where Ms Kondo and I part ways. Marie Kondo’s philosophy is “If it doesn’t spark joy, then it’s time to get rid of it!”. But I can’t bring myself to throw away useful stationery made from precious resources.

In the end, I did end up throwing away some things (e.g. pens that no longer worked). I also gave away some cute Japanese stationery to my friends and niece.

But most of my stationery I kept and organised in one place. All my notepads together. All my post-it notes together in one container. All my pens for visual note taking in a neat little shoebox (Note: Kondo says shoeboxes are the only storage item you will ever need).

My organised collection of pens and post-it notes: No need to buy any more.
My organised collection of pens and post-it notes: No need to buy any more.

The problem was I had accumulated all this stuff but because it was spread out all over the house I had forgotten I already had over 100 pens, 10 blank notepads and 5 visual diaries!

After completing the KonMari method, I know exactly what I have. In fact, I know that I have enough stationery to last me for at least 5 years! The desire to consume stationery has gone, which is interesting since Marie Kondo says towards the end of her book “After tidying many clients tell me that their worldly desires have decreased”.

I have noticed that I have a deeper appreciation of the pens, notepads and post-it notes that I already have.

So for that, I thank you Marie Kondo for sharing your magic powers with me.

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