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In Marie Kondo’s new book, Kurashi at Home, the organizing pro takes readers beyond the joy-sparking practice of tidying up and into the Japanese way of life on a more holistic level. Now she invites you to visualize not just your ideal home, but your ideal life—from the moment you wake up to the end of each day. For her, it all starts with one daily habit. (As a bonus, this trick will also prevent you from tracking messes throughout the rest of your home.) In this excerpt, Kondo explains how her simple closet-cleaning ritual keeps her mind clear and her energy grounded, one step at a time:
Shoes have a strange appeal. While on the one hand, they’re consumables, on the other, they’re like accessories or even works of art. Some people’s passion for shoes results in collections so vast they could not possibly wear them all. Even those who don’t collect them have experienced love at first sight with at least one pair they bought on impulse.
I happen to love shoes myself—so much so that one day I sat down and gazed at mine intently. I took them all out of the cabinet, lined them up in the entranceway, knelt on the floor, and stared at them for about an hour. It’s hard to explain why. I just had a sudden urge to listen to their troubles. They had shone so brilliantly in the store, but now, shut away in the cabinet, they seemed to have lost their confidence.
I know! I’ll clean them, I thought.
I took out my shoeshine kit and began polishing them one by one until they gleamed. When I was done and had laid them all out on a sheet of newspaper, I thought I heard them speak. “Wipe our soles, too,” they seemed to say.
Open your shoe closet and take a look. Do you feel repulsed? Or captivated? The difference has nothing to do with the quality or price of your shoes.
During a lesson with one of my clients, I noticed something odd when we came to her shoes. She had gathered them all together and was picking them up one by one to ask if they sparked joy, but something seemed wrong. For one thing, they were laid out on crumpled sheets of old newspaper. And she held each one gingerly at arm’s length, dangling it between her thumb and forefinger—even those shoes that looked like they might spark joy. I remembered her expression when I had asked her to take them all out. Hadn’t she grimaced? Yes. She was treating her shoes as if they were disgusting, even though they had once been displayed like jewels in the store.
No item in our wardrobe is treated as differently as our shoes before and after we purchase them. The reason, of course, is that once we start wearing them, they collect a lot of dirt. But that’s because they spend all day confronting the dirt in our lives. Without a doubt, shoes have the hardest job of all.
Perhaps your shoes converse with their neighbors, your socks or stockings, while you are wearing them. “It sure is hot today,” your shoes might say.
“Yes, positively steamy. Hang in there,” the socks might respond.
But privately, your shoes must be thinking, “At least you get to freshen up by being washed every time you’re worn.”
There’s also a vast difference between the tops and the soles of our shoes. The tops are often kept well polished, drawing admiring glances, whereas the soles are rarely so lucky. This seems heartless when it’s the soles that take on the thankless job of tramping through the muck. They’re the ones that should be given special treatment. We should really give them the respect they deserve.
That’s why I adopted the habit of wiping the soles of my shoes before bed or first thing in the morning when I wipe down my entranceway. And as I do, I thank my shoes for supporting me all day.
Of course, sometimes I’m too busy, but when I can follow this routine, I find that it increases my clarity of mind more than cleaning anything else. I also feel like I can go places that suit clean shoes. There’s a saying, “Good shoes take you to good places,” but it’s really the soles of our shoes that get us there. After all, it’s the soles that connect us to the ground.
Reprinted with permission from Marie Kondo’s Kurashi at Home: How to Organize Your Space and Achieve Your Ideal Life by Marie Kondo. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House.
Copyright © 2022 by KonMari Media, Inc. English translation copyright © 2022 by Cathy Hirano.
Author and lifestyle photographs copyright © 2022 by Nastassia Brückin.
Still-life photographs copyright © 2022 by Tess Comrie.
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