katazuke and konmari

Katazuke 片付け

(かたずけ)

片- one-sided, leaf, sheet

付ー adhere, attach, refer to, append

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (which inspired the title of the magic of greeting of course) became an instant sensation and has sold over – copies worldwide.

51mf3u-jpal-_sx348_bo1204203200_There are innumerable pins on Pinterest and countless articles on blogs and in newspapers, not to mention the many self-help books published, on the topic of organization. Get rid of your clutter. How to properly do a spring clean. Buy this organizer for your kitchen cabinets and you’ll never lose anything in there again. Buy this binder for all of your bills and you’ll never have to worry about missing one.

The magically tidy Japanese author Marie Kondo says you don’t have to buy anything (except, perhaps, her book).

How is it that with all the help out there on this topic, we’re still grasping at the proper way to stay organized??

I can only answer this for myself. As much as I look like an adult and mostly act like one, I don’t think I ever really learned how to be and stay organized. Murphy’s law is the story of my life. Truly everything does tend toward chaos – your clothes will never by the end of the week magically end up more neat than at the beginning, especially if you change your mind about what to wear 15 times every morning (yes, that’s me).

I was telling my Japanese teacher about my need for a Japanese life coach. I wasn’t raised in Japan so I was not privy to all of the magical tactics that Japanese people practice from when they can barely tie their own shoes (more likely they don’t have to because they’re Velcro). She told me about her 4 year old son who goes to nursery school and is already probably more organized than I am.

The teacher insists that they (at 4 years old) carry their own book bags and lunch boxes, and unpack everything themselves every morning. There is a proper way of doing this. He or she has a photo of the proper way things should be organized on the board. They don’t have to say anything. The students know – “Ah, if I do it that way, I’ll be able to be ready for the next task (read: game – they’re in nursery school!) more quickly”.

Of course, even in elementary school there are no janitors. Students clean the schools themselves. In elementary school, they bring their own rags. This cleaning time continues all the way through high school. Why should someone else clean up after you when you can do it yourself and be practicing proper behavior at the same time?

Meanwhile in America, telling a student to pick up after themselves might be considered “child labor”.

It’s not about whose job it is

Naturally, this transitions into the idea of taking care of our environment. The idea of cleaning up after yourself inherently holds the idea of doing so for the benefit of all. Of course, it benefits you to be organized and function well. Those around you are also impacted. When everyone cleans the school together, they can all enjoy a clean work environment. The same goes for littering. If you litter, you are damaging the lives of everyone around you, let alone the poor earth that supplies everything for you. What kind of person does that make you?

These are all habits. Habits have the power to greatly impact how a society functions. Many (not all) Japanese people are very organized, arrive early (on time is considered late), care about the environment and those around them, and do not cut corners. Thus, the country is clean; many transportation systems run smoothly; the service industry is top-notch; the products are of high quality.

Every single Japanese person I’ve talked to about this has said, even so, there are so many Japanese people who are disorganized. However, they do agree that, for instance, when Japanese people go to a cafe, they will often wipe up the table after themselves and make sure they haven’t left a mess – even though it is someone’s job to do it.

As I leave the cafe I’m sitting at, I will do the same, knowing that the next person can enjoy a clean space, and will do the same for the person after. And it certainly won’t feel like forced labor.

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