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Three unconventional things I learned from Marie Kondo

Lessons to draw from all of her teachings

By Lucy Dan (she/her/她)Published 2 years ago 5 min read
Three unconventional things I learned from Marie Kondo
Photo by 🇸🇮 Janko Ferlič on Unsplash

{1} What is Joy?

Joy is so easy to see in kids. Notice how their posture, their facial expression changes when they're happy and playing; contrast that with what they look like when they're sad.

In adults? The older you get, the more complex emotions become. We associate joy with the future often. I'll be happy when I earn this much, have this many friends, own this house.

We dampen short-term emotions for a longer-term goal. Eventually, we dampen those short-term emotions out of habit, or out of conformity.

In a way, it starts off as useful because we learn to manage our emotions and our frontal lobes allow us to learn about how to balance between immediate and delayed gratification.

We're taught that being happy because of material goods is shallow and mute that feeling of joy when we have any sort of positive relationship with an object. We are afraid that we will build a life where we solely derive joy from things, and not people or experiences.

We forget that the material things in our lives together build an environment that we interact with every day, and that alone is an experience. And those experiences can be good.

The feeling of wearing your favourite sweater. The power of listening to a song that brings bittersweet tears to your eyes. The crispiness, the flavour of freshly made stovetop popcorn.

Give yourself permission to enjoy yourself and to feel happiness beyond the dopamine hits we get from producing something. The feeling that what you have in your apartment is enough, and that you inhabit a place filled with love.

That's how Marie Kondo revived my connection with joy.

{2} More accurate decision making

This second one is a practical life hack.

Step one for sorting any category involves gathering everything and all things from a category and dumping it into one pile. If you've seen her Netflix special or tried this out yourself, you know what this looks like: a shockingly large pile of clothes.

This taps into our visual working memory. We decide when we're faced with all of the decisions.

We're not relying on a memory of these items, they are quite literally in front of our faces as we serially decide on whether they get to stay or leave. When we rely on the memory of items, this is subject to filters and biases of how many you have or how much you like each item.

Have you ever bought a grocery item just to get home and realize that you already have a few cans of it in the pantry, forgotten? This is that exact feeling.

It's about acknowledging that too often we try to make decisions based on memory, and often, our own biases and filters from memory skew our decision making.

This is such a genius concept that I adapted it with my daily/weekly scheduling. Instead of scheduling on the go (i.e., replying instantly to emails and giving people the first available slot), I leave all non-urgent scheduling decisions to the end of the day.

It allows me to see all of the opportunities together in one place and make decisions about what to keep and what to give up.

I've always known that visually thinking about something is my strength but sometimes I'm just haven't unlocked the creative ways I can tap into this strength. So thank you, Marie Kondo, for giving the tangible first example through the five categories of KonMari.

[3] Battling emotional reasoning and investing in quality items

Marie Kondo recommends sorting items from clothing, books, papers, kimono (miscellany), sentimental items. At first I was really annoyed by the order of her categories, impatient about why we have to go through this entire process (i.e., why can't we just do everything all at once?).

Now that I've gone through the process, I realize it's in order of increasing emotional attachment to items. You first get to build your decision-making skills for what to keep and what to let go of while minimizing the chance of emotional reasoning.

Once you've strengthened this skill, you get to deploy them. This is where the risk of emotional reasoning fighting back is met with your seasoned practice of making intentional decisions.

From strengthening my skills over the first few categories, I very quickly realized that my form of emotional reasoning comes from fear. I hang on to items "just in case I need them in the future". This comes from growing up in scarcity.

I had so many cheaply made, broken items that I held on to, just in case I could upcycle them into something better. Ten dollar flats that are essentially just aesthetic pieces of cardboard, I'm looking at you.

Having that visual of just how much I was hanging on to helped me shift into a mindset of sourcing new purchases with are higher quality, not only because they last longer, but also because when they reach the end of their life cycle with me, they have more potential to be recrafted.

This was an important lesson to learn because so many cheaply made items are made to break in such short periods of time that those repeated purchases actually eventually amount to more than if you initially invested more in a better-made product.

I don't regret buying $10 flats, though. There was genuinely a time where I only had $10 to spare in my budget and I did what I could to be flexible in life choices to preserve that $10 piece of foot cardboard the best I could. Do what you can, with what you have.

But taking the time to consider my relationship with each item I own has helped me be more consistently aware of whether going the cheap route is still the best decision for me at any given time. It helped me build a more regular and natural questioning routine when I make new purchases to add to my existing balance of owned items.


  • Am I in a dire enough situation that I must purchase the cheaper, lower quality item right now? What are some alternatives I can use before buying this?
  • Is the more expensive item actually better quality? Can I wait to purchase this instead?


  • I relearned the pure meaning of joy, what it looks like and feels like in my body, in relation to what I own.
  • I adapted my schedule using this life hack: gather everything into one place and make better-informed decisions from there.
  • I became more conscious about my internal battle between emotional reasoning, and long-term/short-term considerations for purchasing new items.

This piece was first published here.

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About the Creator

Lucy Dan (she/her/她)

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