A couple of months ago my mother gave me ‘The Life- Changing Magic of Tidying Up: the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing’ by Marie Kondo. A book that I felt I had no time for. My first thoughts were “F&$k you mom, what are you sayin?” And I reacted this way, silently, because I felt defensive over the imperfections I already felt about my living space. Chalk it up to a mother’s guilt about not being perfect. We don’t have a dirty house by any means, and there is definitely evidence of children at play, but I do always seem to be picking up something or adding items to a pile to ‘deal with at a later time’ (psssst which rarely happens). I disregarded the book and it sat, cluttered, on my bedside table for weeks.
One night, I got in to bed early and started reading. It’s an easy book to read and Marie Kondo’s narrative is simple and soothing. The Japanese art of tidying up is not about being a better housekeeper, but rather a practical philosophy to cultivate joy in your life and a simple method to follow. And since my intentions for this year was to take care of myself I started to read a little every night, typically rereading what I was too tired to absorb the night before (I am not a robot and my kids still wake in the night).
I took the book with me on vacation where I finished it poolside. I reflected on my habits and the reasons I have kept so many ‘keepsakes’ with me through my life or just why I felt guilty about the shirt that I bought but never wore. Don’t mistake keeping what felt like sentimental things at the time for hoarding. It’s nothing like that. But what was the purpose of the photo albums filled with pictures I don’t look at, or clothes that I bought but actually don’t suit me, or the gift I received from a relative that sits in a closet because it isn’t my taste but I have felt too guilty to throw out? Shelves of books that have gone unread because we haven’t had time or we have bought new books in the meantime? I have kept all these items and more with little to no regard about how they actually make me feel being surrounded by them. Things I’ve kept out of obligation or laziness exuding annoyance as they clutter our closets. After reading the book and realizing that I didn’t need or want many of these items as they have already served their purpose in my life, it was time for them to move on. I was determined to put the KonMari method in place in our home.
With young children and the plethora of weekend activities, it was unrealistic for me to do everything in one day, as the method perscribes. Additionally, KonMari says that one cannot discard on behalf of another, so I also had to get my husband onboard to sort and to help me remove items from the home… This fact alone is a challenge. We started the process the same weekend we did the Three Day Potty Training as I knew we would be in the house anyways. KonMari outlines this workflow for decluttering and tidying:
- Clothes and Accessories
- Miscellaneous items
- Sentimental items
The book goes into detail on each category and subcategories – very helpful in removing doubt on what you need to keep vs. discard.
I started with my husbands clothes. Dumped everything out that he owns and started sorting in piles, eventually ending up with three:
- Clothes I know he wears
- Clothes that seem to have a purpose (athletic, seasonal, etc)
- Clothes that I have never seen him wear/old Tshirts/damaged
Immediately I folded all of the clothes that I know he wears using the KonMari method and put them away. That made me happy. Then I presented him with the remaining two piles. To my surprise he was ok with getting rid of most of what was in the third pile and some of the second. That made me happy. I think he was truly unaware with how much he had amassed over the years and seeing it all in one pile made him realize that he didn’t need it all. I folded and stored the remaining clothes, including socks and underwear. The results of my hard work have been proven in the ease of his morning routine. Everything he needs is folded for selection and I am no longer asked if he has underwear or where the blue socks are – seems simple, but when they were all stuffed in the drawer finding navy socks among the black briefs was time consuming and annoying. Mostly for me.
Over the next few days I moved throughout our home sorting and discarding items by category. We recycled, donated and went to the dump. Our book shelves now only house books and belongings that bring joy – no longer cluttered with papers and books that hide the items that make us happy. Our kitchen has been reorganized to achieve a clutter-free counter policy – no more cooking oils or seasonings on the counter and the kettle is now stored away. I didn’t get rid of anything and in fact, our cupboards contain more items than before, but the space has been better utilized.
I feel lighter and my mind seems less cluttered. Cleaning up now is easier as there is less clutter to work around. I find myself having a better relationship with my home and the items I surround myself with. KonMari tells you to thank your belongings for the hard work they have done for you throughout the day and to greet your home upon arrival. It sounds perhaps a little silly, and I certainly don’t find myself talking aloud to my shoes, but as I fold my clothes, that have been carefully chosen by me because they bring me joy, I can’t help but have an appreciation for them. And that thought alone keeps me from tossing them over the dresser with no regard only to find them buried and creased days later with other items carelessly dumped on top of them. So, what I have now given myself is ease in my daily routine by removing physical and emotional clutter.
Find the time to read this book and evaluate what sparks joy in your life. Take time to carefully curate your space and allow yourself to be free of physical and emotional clutter. Even if you need to take an abridged approach like I did (I only hope Marie Kondo would approve), the small changes made has improved our home and our minds.
p.s. my mother wasn’t wrong. Don’t tell her though.