Applied Behavior Science for Health and Happiness
Motivation and Messes
Motivation and Messes

Motivation and Messes

MotivationDue to my ongoing fear of becoming a hoarder, I decided to read Marie Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. Kondo, or KonMari as she is known,  advocates a draconian approach to organizing, discarding anything which doesn’t bring its owner joy. She talks about how her clients will dispose of tens or even hundreds of trash bags of items after she works with them, leaving them with a home filled only with things they love. It sounds appealing, but I’m not sure I’m quite there yet.

KonMari also offers advice for organizing those items you do keep. She had one piece of advice that struck me as very different from what people usually do, but it made a lot of sense from a motivational perspective. She said,

Clutter is caused by a failure to return things to where they belong. Therefore, storage should reduce the effort needed to put things away, not the effort needed to get them out.

Yes! We tend (at least in my house) to try to store items so they’re convenient to get when we need them, but in many cases, the very fact that we need them is motivation enough to retrieve them from a place that is less convenient. On the other hand, the only real motivation to put something away is a desire to unclutter your space. That desire is not, as I have learned, equally shared among household members in most cases.

So what ends up happening is that people’s homes gradually become messier as they fail to muster the motivation to put certain items away. It’s what Fogg’s behavior model would predict, assuming that motivation to use something is greater than the motivation to store something:

Fogg's Behavior Model--the harder something is to do, the more motivated a person has to be to do it.
Fogg’s Behavior Model–the harder something is to do, the more motivated a person has to be to do it.

I’m not sure yet what I’m going to do with this insight in terms of my own home organization, except pay extra attention when certain items are chronically left out or when I’m struggling to put something away in an inconvenient spot. Nonetheless, I love this perspective on how the way that we arrange our physical space can interact with our motivation levels to create mess or not.

As for KonMari’s other advice, as I said, I’m not quite there yet. However, I did decide to pilot her method of folding clothing for some of my items and have to admit it makes much more drawer space. However, ironically enough, it makes my clothes a little harder to put away!

Fancy folding!
Fancy folding!