I picked up Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, several months ago, intrigued by the premise and longing for less stuff in my life (and in my closet).
With kids and a busy entrepreneurial lifestyle, my husband and I are constantly looking for ways to pare down the stuff around us, to varying degrees of success.
He likes to throw things out to cut down on the clutter; I like to have a system so things don’t get messy again. Since I’m often short on time, my approach leads to more clutter since if I can’t do things fully I tend to not do them at all.
This book seemed like it would contain the answer I was looking for…a systematic way to declutter the house.
Boy was I ever short-sighted – this book has given me much more than a system. It has already changed my life for the better.
Over coffee one weekend morning, I devoured the easy-to-read book, from start to finish. As I read, and since then as I have skimmed several articles in magazines and on-line sources about Kondo’s unconventional tidying strategies, I came to the conclusion that her approach was too militant for me.
Fold my socks because they need to rest? Please.
Fill garbage bags with stuff and just get rid of them, without having a garage sale or monetizing the stuff you are getting rid of? No way.
However, as the summer drew to a close, I found myself at a precipice: my closet was so full of stuff I did not wear that I could literally not put away my clean laundry.
Something suddenly clicked.
In an instant, I decided to Kon Mari the closet, doing it whole hog, and see what happens. Although I had previously been preoccupied with the idea of holding a garage sale to get rid of it all, I finally came to the conclusion that I was missing the point: instead, my work was to let go of things that no longer served me, getting them out of my living space as quickly as possible and trusting that they would go to people who needed them and could use them, without trying to get something monetary in exchange from the transaction. Once I wrapped my head and spirit around the idea, it was liberating.
Over a two-day weekend, and the three-day weekend following it, I systematically cleared out my closet and also both of my kids’ closets—and inspired my husband to do the same.
The totals were staggering. I took 12 full garbage bags of my own clothes to Goodwill, and gave away 9 more to friends. At that was just my stuff!
The first step was to take all of my clothes out of the closets, all over the house. Not only was my walk-in closet full, I also had plastic bins filled with clothes in my husband’s closet, and more in the hall closet and on several hooks throughout the house. Having loaded up my bed and bedroom floor with my clothes, shoes, and scarves, I now see why Marie has you start that way.
I felt so much shame at the sheer quantity of clothes. No one could wear all the clothes I had. It was motivating.
Then, I started going through the clothing piece by piece, holding each one in my hand and asking Marie Kondo’s well-known question “Does this spark joy?” If the answer was no, I put the item in either the Goodwill or Give Away box (or, in some cases, the Throw Away box); if the answer was yes, I put it in the To Keep box.
It was surprising how, once I suspended my belief that this was a ridiculous question to ask about my clothes, I tuned into my intuition and was able to detach from my past stories about why I needed to keep this or that. Marie Kondo suggests you thank your clothes as you release them, and as hokey as that initially sounded to me, this practice and others made the letting go process easier.
Project Kon-Mari: Part Two
Once I finally got through the process of handling each piece of clothing and paring down to the pieces I would keep, I was amazed at how few clothes were left: it was maybe 25% of my original collection!
I literally shed years of clothing; during the process I came across clothes from my honeymoon, 23 years ago, plus clothes from almost 30 years ago when I spent a year in France. It was a walk down memory lane, and a closure process that was quite healing.
To keep my resolve up, I put the bags of clothes I was getting rid of into the car immediately, without looking at them again. I dropped clothes off at my friend’s home to sort through, and made a huge trip to Goodwill within 24 hours of the discarding process, so I couldn’t change my mind about anything.
Next, exhausted but determined to finish the process, I turned my attention to the crazy-sounding folding techniques that Marie Kondo insists on.
I found her book a bit short on details, but was able to locate some great how-to videos, especially some from Lavendaire allowing me to watch how to fold different types of clothes, real-time. I was encouraged to use dividers in some drawers (like for socks) to keep things neat. Fortunately, I was able to re-use some boxes I had previously stored shoes in, and now could put to better use, since the shoes had been passed along to others.
Marie Kondo treats folding – and clothes – with reverence, and says that she has never met a client who, when taught, did not come to love the art of folding.
I have to say, I was skeptical, but now that I have folded all the clothes in my closet and drawers, as well as those of my children, I’m a convert.
The clothes are displayed vertically in the drawer, allowing you to store more clothes in each drawer and also to be able to see, at a glance, all of your clothes so you can easily select what you want to wear. In the couple weeks since I did all the folding, I have found it very easy to keep things tidy.
Everything has a place now, and it is easy to fold the laundry to put it away in the drawers now. I was surprised to see that even my kids are able to keep their drawers clean – and they are motivated to do it too, as they like how neat and easy things are to store! Wow, not what I was expecting.
Since I finished the process of tidying the closets the Kon Mari way, I have been seeing some things shift in my life. At first, I felt uncomfortable; kind of naked in a way, like I was exposing myself and giving away things I should be keeping.
However, as time passed, I found myself feeling more at peace.
I smile every time I pass my closet.
The idea that I can keep that area of my home tidy is making me feel courageous – and committed – to continuing the tidying process throughout my home. I’m also appreciating my clothes more, knowing that everything in my closet looks great on me and makes me happy. I didn’t think that would feel as good as it does. It is easier to get dressed in the morning, and I feel good in my clothes.
Further, the clothes I’ve given away are going to good use; it is thrilling to me that unused things things in my closet are finding new life in other people’s closets. The freedom of the no-strings-attached giving process is uplifting.
And, the fact that the clothes are taking less space in my closet is allowing me to move around some other items in my home to make room for some spaciousness in other places in the home. This is allowing us to grow the way we use our home and make it work better for our changing needs as our children grow.
I will continue to work through my home this fall, following the Kon Mari method, and see where it takes me.
I’m excited, and admittedly a bit intimidated. But hopefully, by early next year, I will have moved through the entire home and be living relatively clutter-free. I’m excited to see what shifts for me and my family in our lives as we continue this journey.