This is the new advice column for the incomparable Marie Kondo, whose Netflix show Tidying Up with Marie Kondo has taken the world by storm.
I recently watched your show on Netflix and found your approach to tidying up a house to be life-changing. Once borderline hoarders, my husband and I recently got rid of three metric tons of clothes, books, and decorative lawn acorns—as measured by the truck scale at our local dump.
Having now mastered our physical space, we are looking to tidy up our mental and personal spaces too. As I am writing this very email, I’m staring at a calendar that is hopelessly crowded with errands, social obligations, and the many meetings I have to attend on account of being the committee chair for our town’s yearly Decorative Lawn Gnomes and Acorns Festival. Do you have any advice for simplifying these other aspects of our life?
A slave to my calendar
I empathize with you, as I once also felt like a slave to my calendar. When I first began to tidy up my own house using my trademarked Kondo Rules For Tidying Spaces™, I would actually list all the tasks I had to accomplish in my calendar. Here’s a screenshot of what my calendar used to look like:
It eventually dawned on me that I’d merely traded a cluttered space for cluttered time. So I decided to come up with a new system to help tidy up my days. And although I’d planned to unveil this system during season 2 of my Netflix show, I’ll go ahead and give you a sneak peak now.
The first thing you need to do is pull out your calendar. Now, pick a day to start with. It could be today, tomorrow, next Monday, but whatever you choose, make it soon. There’s no time to waste in taking back control of your time!
Okay, do you have that day? Great. Now touch it. Yes, I realize you may be looking at a virtual calendar on your computer. But I still need to you to touch it. Touching it? Don’t be afraid to press down rather firmly—modern LED screens are very durable. Okay, while touching this particular day I want to ask yourself—does this day spark joy for me? Don’t just say it in your head. Say it outloud. Did you say it yet?
If it does, simply move on to the next day and ask the same. But if it doesn’t, then we have more work to do. For this joyless day, I want you to begin by deleting all the events, tasks, meetings, or other “blocks” of time you have listed. DELETE THEM ALL. Don’t move events around, don’t reschedule meetings. Just delete them.
Ahhh. Now, that feels a little better, right? Oh, but we aren’t done just yet.
Okay, once you’ve removed the day from your calendar—one way or another—you will need to reach out to all your friends, family, coworkers, casual acquaintances, and creditors to let them know that you are no longer observing this particular day. I find its simplest to send a form letter to everyone on your contact list and to also include a copy of the letter when you pay any bills.
Dear [Their Name],
I’m just writing to let you know that I am no longer observing [day/month]. Please do not text/call/email or engage in any other form of communication with me on this/these day(s) each year, as I no longer recognize this/these as a valid date(s) in my own life. Any messages or other information communicated to me on this date may as well be sent directly into a black hole and destroyed by the singularity at its center.
In a pinch, for example if the day you’ve chosen to eliminate is tomorrow, then a simple email auto reply + Do Not Disturb on your phone will do.
Once you’ve removed one day from your calendar you should continue through each of the remaining days, asking of each, “Does this day spark joy for me?” Personally I found it surprising how many days did not spark joy for me! When I first began this practice I removed a few days from my calendar. But with each passing year I’ve found it easier and easier to eliminate days. I’m currently down to just six observed days in the calendar year!
Is it a bit strange? Yes. In fact, I don’t sleep at all during those six days as every waking hour is spent tidying my house or filming new episodes of my Netflix series. But it’s also completely freeing to no longer be bound by time.
The answer is nothing! And by nothing I don’t mean I just sit around with no responsibilities and catch up on episodes of Killing Eve. I mean I do nothing. I am nothing. Time for me, on my non-observed days, completely ceases to exist or have any meaning. Asking what I do on those days is like asking what I did before I was born, or if condiments organized by pH level spark joy if no one is around to open the refrigerator. These are completely nonsensical questions!
Because, of course, other people will go on existing on those dates and there’s the question—how they can exist at the same time that I do not? But then again, I’ve spent most of my life organizing my shirts into a perfect rainbow of colors within my drawers while the rest of the world just plops down red next to green—and somehow the fabric of the cosmos has still held.
The point here isn’t to concern ourselves with the paradoxes that arise from brutally annihilating from existence any days that do not spark joy in you. The point is to simplify. Tidy things up a bit. Find time to relax, or better yet, enter a sort of stasis field where time is frozen into motionless crystals.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to wrap up this response before the clock strikes eight. Because I have recently decided to stop observing the time from 8:00 to 9:30 P.M. each day. Sure, on the one hand I could really have used that time to keep up with the 50 weeks of work I need to somehow accomplish in the six remaining days that I observe each year, but on the other hand, that block of time simply did not spark joy in me.