The magic of tidying up your cottage, Marie Kondo-style

Marie Kondo’s 2014 book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing is back on the New York Times best sellers list; second-hand shops are reportedly overflowing with donations; and online forums are buzzing with tips on where to find the best boxes for organizing “komono” (translation: knickknacks).

If you’re eager to launch into the new year with your own decluttering project, there’s no better place to start than at the cottage. Here are some of the ways you can use the KonMari method to feel like a bit of a tidying wizard.

1. Tidy up the entire property—not just the main cottage.

It might be tempting to start organizing your kitchen and then work your way to the garage, but one of the key elements of the KonMari method is to tidy by category, not location.

Marie Kondo suggests tackling the following categories in this order: 1. Clothing 2. Books. 3. Papers. 4. Komono (miscellaneous items, including those in your kitchen, bathroom, linens and the garage). 5. Sentimental items. (For cottages, we think there’s also likely a sixth category: food. Who doesn’t have an expired box of pancake mix in their cupboard?) That way you get the easy stuff out of the way before you have to move on to matters of the heart.

Sorting by category rather than location works particularly well for cottages, especially if you have multiple buildings on your property. It gives you a chance to canvass the bunkie, boat shed, and other outbuildings to ensure you’re not hoarding unnecessary duplicate items or tools. (On that note, when you put everything back, remember to sort and store similar items together.)

2. Set a realistic deadline.

Once you’ve piled all the stuff from one category into a pile, the next step is to touch each and every item, and decide what sparks joy.

It might sound like an exhausting process (can a jerrycan of gasoline really spark joy?), but proponents swear by it.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, this is going to take time. You can’t KonMari an entire cottage in a weekend. This may be one of those rare instances when it’s good news that winter is long and springtime is months away.

3. Know your trouble spots.

Let’s face it: Cottages are where secondhand furniture and tchotchkes goes to die. Chances are, your biggest challenge won’t be clothing or papers—it will be “komono” and sentimental items—particularly if your cottage has been passed down through the family for generations. We suggest pouring yourself a glass of wine or a strong coffee when it’s time to tackle categories four and five.

When it comes to gifts, Kondo says that it’s often not the object itself that sparks joy—it’s the act of giving and receiving it. That’s why it’s time to do away with the guilt we often associate with unwanted gifts. So if you hate the Big Bass Billy singing fish given to you by your cousin-in-law? Power to you to bin it (or burn it). Similarly, if it doesn’t belong to anyone who uses the cottage, it can probably go.

It will be easy enough to be discerning about some things, but heirlooms can be harder. If you’ve got multiple landscape paintings done by your great aunt, for example, pick a favourite and donate the rest.

Of course, when it comes down to it, remember that tidying up isn’t about trying to get rid of as many things as possible—it’s about making sure that the things you own genuinely spark joy.

4. Give thanks to your cottage.

The best part of the Netflix series is watching how families react when Kondo asks them to “give thanks” to objects or to their homes for their service. She kneels down, before having a quiet moment of thanks with the homeowners.

It’s the most centring moment of the KonMari method—and we think that for cottage owners, giving gratitude will be the easiest step.

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