How To Know What Advice You Should Kick to the Curb

You may have heard the “big” news.

Marie Kondo, the author of the Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, has decided she’s given up trying to keep things so tidy.

It’s true. The lady who “could not suppress a gasp” when she saw a client’s socks rolled into balls for storage, now says that with three kids she just can’t devote the time to maintain perfection.

I am shocked. (Not really.)

People who read her book and followed her sometimes extreme advice, reportedly experienced powerful changes in their lives. Which is fantastic.

But the book also made some bold generalizations that went from dumb to destructive.

THE DUMB

The unique selling proposition is that everything in your life should “spark joy.” If it does not spark joy, it is “garbage” and should be put it on the “rubbish heap.”

Not sure why, but my salt and pepper shakers came to mind when I read that passage. Though they did a fine job of adding salt and pepper to food, they did not spark joy. Was I supposed to toss them and go on the hunt for ones that made my heart flutter?

The serviceable but unremarkable shakers are still there. Still not sparking joy. I probably spent the money for new shakers on a nice bottle of wine. Thereby sparking some joy.

THE DESTRUCTIVE

She also claimed, “Unbelievable as it may sound, you only have to experience a state of perfect order once to be able to maintain it.”

You know what? It not only sounds unbelievable it IS unbelievable.

There’s a term in the professional organization industry (I was a professional organizer for a short while decades ago) called “backsliding.” It’s when you make significant progress forward but as time passes, you revert to previous disorganized ways.

Backsliding is so common it’s nearly universal. It’s normal and nothing to be ashamed of. Progress counts, even if we lose ground now and then.

I’ll take her word for it that none of her clients ever experienced it — but with a little side-eye.

THE PROBLEM

Here’s why it’s a problem to claim you’ll never be disorganized again if you follow her system.

When readers don’t find permanent perfection to be their experience, there’s a good chance they attribute failure to their own bad selves. People already bummed out about their level of disorganization don’t need another reason to beat themselves up.

It happens in every “improvement” category, both business and personal. Some over-the-top statement is made about what the outcome should be. But only a fraction of the people who try it experience that ideal outcome.

THE BETTER PATH

Self-development is rewarding, wise, advisable, necessary, etc. Here are self-development rules I follow that have made a difference in both how much I succeed and how much I like myself in the process.

1. If it sounds like unattainable hype, it probably is. Ignore it. People selling their plan or method have to make it sexy to get attention. Sexy doesn’t have anything to do with achievable.

2. Consider it a win even if just one small new idea is put into practice. Incremental progress counts. Thinking it’s required to adopt every part of a process or method of improvement, means I’ll likely adopt none of them. Pick one good tip and stick with it.

3. Know that just because it was the perfect solution for someone else, it may not be perfect for me. That it doesn’t work for me doesn’t make the idea garbage nor does it make me a loser. It just wasn’t a fit.

4. Making a much-desired change or solving a lingering behavioral issue is exciting and the urge is strong to blather on about it. I’ve learned to manage my own enthusiasm about methods that have worked for me when talking about those results with other people. Why? See #3.

5. Keep a visible list of self-development projects. Which books am I reading, courses am I taking, podcasts am I listening to, etc.? all appear on a written list. It’s easy to add “one more thing” when I’ve underestimated what I’ve taken on. Seeing it in writing prevents taking on too much at one time.

In my work as a coach and trainer I see far too many people not giving themselves the credit they deserve for the progress they’ve made. Why? Because there’s still room for improvement.

And that’s a damn shame. What you’ve got when there’s no more room for improvement is “perfection.” And who, pray tell, is achieving that?

Nobody. Not even Marie Kondo. Not that it matters one whit to her, but I like her more for it.

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