I’ll be the first to admit I’m a product junkie. I love the thrill of a sale and the Target clearance shelves are my guilty pleasure. My bathroom is overflowing with half-used skin care items and makeup samples. My closet is stuffed to the brim with clothes spanning at least 4 different sizes and nearly 15 years of style. I have craft supplies and wrapping paper in almost every room of our house. And yet, I somehow manage to keep this stuff situation under control because my husband and I are also borderline neat freaks.
Let me explain. I like a tidy space and it causes me contact stress just to be around piles of clutter but I die a little inside every time I see one of those minimalist capsule wardrobes where some lady proudly trots out her entire 15-item collection of clothes (and 2 pairs of shoes).
So when I first came across Marie Kondo’s wildly popular book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I approached it with mixed emotions. I do have a fascination with decluttering (sounds great in theory!) but I’m also not about to throw out all of my precious belongings just to have a sparsely-filled cabinet. In my mind, empty shelves are cold and lifeless. But I also have a busy, working-mom life so I know that reigning in clutter and getting organized is key to our home running efficiently.
Last year, I downloaded the book-on-tape version of Kondo’s book from Audible, and took “action” by listening to her lessons each night before dosing off. There. I had heard what she had to say and mentally had already conquered our entire house. The problem was that I hadn’t actually applied her methods once. Notta one time.
Throughout the year I would weed through problem areas like toys, food items, and that maddening pile of paper clutter in the kitchen but I never actually went through her KonMari method until just this past weekend after binge-watching her new Netflix series. After going through a two-day KonMari cleanout of all my clothes I finally understood her methods and why they work so well for so many people. The key is to do exactly what she says, not just your version of it. The process was designed, in my opinion, to get you to a cleaner life psychologically.
So at this point I should probably tell you a bit more about Marie Kondo’s “KonMari Method.”
The KonMari Method is a process of going through all of the items in your home, category by category (not room by room), finding what brings you joy, and discarding the rest. Now you may be thinking, “that toothbrush doesn’t bring me joy, but I’m not going to throw it out.” The way I approach it is, if something is useful and serves you, it brings joy through its function. Essentially, you enjoy having clean, healthy teeth and fresh breath, right? So that toothbrush does, in a sense, bring joy to your life.
Marie divides up her decluttering process into 5 categories:
- Komono (miscellaneous items like kitchen gadgets, food, beauty, holiday decorations, etc.)
She starts with clothes because they are usually the easiest items for people to let go of. While you are working your way through each category, your decision making skills to decide what to keep are being honed, so by the time you reach the Sentimental category, you will have an easier time deciding what truly brings joy to your life and what can be discarded.
For each category, she has you bring out everything in your entire house within that group and pile it onto a large clean surface like the floor. So for the Clothes category, you bring out all the clothes in the house. Clothes in the hamper, in your coat closet, in your attic, and in your drawers. All of it! Then you take each piece, hold it in your hands, and ask yourself if that item sparks joy.
The way I translate joy, is like when you get a new shirt that you love and you cannot wait to hang it up, admire it in your closet, and, of course, wear it proudly over and over again each time beaming with confidence. Okay, so maybe not every piece will be that powerful, but you should at least feel a small twinge of elation, hope, or happiness when you hold an item that you have decided you are going to carry with you into the future.
If you pick up an item and you do not feel that spark of joy, thank it for the joy it once brought, then discard. Even if you never used it, it probably brought a momentary feeling of elation to you when you bought it or received it as a gift. While some might dismiss this step of the process as being to hokey, I think it might help many who struggle with the guilt of getting rid of things.
Go through this process with each and every item, picking up, holding, and determining whether to discard or keep it in your life. Once you have finished decluttering one category, make sure every item you keep has a home (a place to be stored) in your house. Then, move on to the next category.
3 MAIN POINTS OF THE KONMARI METHOD FOR DISCARDING
- DO IT QUICKLY, ALL AT ONCE. This is because you want to experience a compelling and inspiring change, not a barely noticeable, gradual shift. Don’t get rid of a few things a day. Instead, treat the discarding session like an event. Clear your schedule and your mind and fully immerse yourself in the process. You will be so excited about the instant change in your surroundings that you will likely want to maintain that newfound beautiful space.
- SORT BY CATEGORY, NOT BY ROOM. For example, you want to see all of the books you own in one pile and go through them one at a time so you are fully aware of each title you own. If you have a small collection of books in every room of your house (me!), then you might not realize just how many books you have, and in particular, how many you have on a certain topic. Do you really need seven books on Italian cooking?
- FIND IF THE ITEM SPARKS JOY. In contrast to other decluttering methodologies, Marie wants you to first find what inspires you, then get rid of the rest. Don’t look at the pile of things and say “what don’t I want?” Instead, find the items in each category that truly spark joy (make you happy, comforted, inspired, etc.) and use those to guide your decisions of whether you really need to hold on to the remaining items.
HERE ARE SOME OF MY MAJOR AHA MOMENTS AFTER FOLLOWING MARIE KONDO’S METHODOLOGY:
- The KonMari Method is about figuring out who you are now and living in the present. Stop living in the past and holding onto old mementos that might have meant something you back in the day, but no longer serve you in your current life. Similarly, don’t fall prey to the “what if I need this someday” mentality. You need to have faith that if one day you do end up needing that box of 1000 plastic spoons, you will be able to buy them again. For my closet cleanout that meant letting go of many items that no longer fit me, because realistically, by the time I’m for-sure done having kids, and potentially get motivated to drop two sizes, my style may have changed along with the trends.
- The point isn’t to do-without. It is to create a curated collection of items you truly love. You want your home to be brimming with things that spark joy and support your ideal life -not a storage unit for things that zap energy and hold you back. Almost everything in your home requires action or attention at some point, even if it is just rearranging or shoving things around to make room for more stuff. It is up to you to decide which items are actually worth that time or energy.
- The KonMari Method is a means to realize your ideal life. Working your way through the KonMari method hones your skills at determining what brings joy to you and what clearly does not. This doesn’t just apply to objects but less concreate things as well, such as goals, desires, lifestyle, etc. From the beginning of the process, imagine your ideal lifestyle, and try to make decisions in the discarding process that support that future.
- The point of this process isn’t to force you to eliminate things. It is to confirm how you feel about each and every item that you possess. Should this item be a part of your life going forward? Do you want to take this with you in the future?
- The KonMari Method isn’t just a one-time thing, it’s a state of mind. I’ve found that after going through this process with my clothes, I am now able to filter out new things that I am considering buying. “Am I really going to use this?” “Where will I store it?” “Will this make my life more complicated or less complicated?”
I highly recommend reading Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, or at the very least catching an episode or two of the Netflix series based on her methods. My goal is to work my way through all of the categories and do a post on each one, starting with Clothes, which made for a pretty spectacular before and after IMHO.
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