The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo is a simple little book, but it can change your life. At 224 pages, it doesn’t take long to read, and the language translated from the Japanese is easily understood. The concepts seem deceptively simple but the impact can be great if one is open to it. One thing that might seem unusual about Kondo’s methods is the way she acknowledges the spirit of things. For example, she thanks her clothing when she hangs it up at end of day. In clearing out clutter, one must hold each object to see if it “sparks joy.” This might seem strange at first, but Kondo spent 5 years as an attendant maiden at a Shinto shrine, and this may explain the animism in her teachings. And by holding each object, we get it out from the back of the closet or down from the shelf, and we consider why we acquired it and if we still really want it. There are some good articles about the KonMari method, like this one in the New York Times, or this one that actually has an excerpt from the book and a little video of Marie Kondo explaining some of her organizing principles.
In America, many of us have so much STUFF that we rent storage units and we don’t know where things are anymore, so we end up buying multiples of things we already own but cannot locate. Kondo takes exception to all this storage. It’s one thing to store a bin or two of seasonal clothing, or holiday decorations in the attic, but the level we have taken it to is indicative of issues that need to be resolved. And after all the clearing out, we can stop paying for things we don’t really need, stop taking care of things we don’t want, and spend more time living. In one example, a client of Kondo’s cleared out a lot of books and realized that most of the books she had kept were about a particular subject she was passionate about, and so she changed her career. Another little bit of magic is that supposedly, all the things you really want will fit easily into your living space. The things that spark joy will be close at hand, respected and available to use and enjoy.
A few weeks ago, after reading Kondo’s book, I didn’t think much about it, but something in my consciousness was unlocked, and I soon got the bug. Kondo recommends starting with your clothes, so of course I began cleaning out a large filing credenza in my office, getting rid of about 25% of the papers therein. Then I began going through old Martha Stewart magazines (I no longer subscribe). I cleared out 40 of them, and went into the attic and brought down the rest and stacked them all in one place. Then I got rid of 20 more. This was a bit time consuming, and my husband was now beginning to wonder if everything else was going to fall by the wayside as I continued on my clearing-out spree, so I put that task aside for another time, but at least the magazines are whittled down and now all in one place. Also, I realized I had a moral obligation to recycle those magazines (not donate them), because they’re full of recipes for dead non-human animals, and so that’s what I did. One less bin in the attic.
I’ve already returned this book to the library, but from what I can remember, Kondo recommends beginning by clearing out objects you no longer want, because this is the best way to figure out what you need. And this involves my favorite concept from the book–amassing all like objects in one place first. My previous method of organizing was to tackle one drawer, or one corner of a closet, etc. However, the benefit of putting all like objects in one place is so you can SEE how much of that thing you really have. This in turn influences how willing you will be to let go of things. One of my best friends recently called me a minimalist. She will now see this is not true, for I will show you an example of my most-recent lost weekend of organizing. I decided to tackle socks. Not my sock drawer, but socks in general, because the truth is that I sort of knew I had socks in various dresser drawers. I would buy a pack of socks, and decide the seam was too pronounced on the toe, or that I only liked 4 of the colors in a pack of 6 pair, etc. So, I would put the extra socks in the bottom drawer or something. This went on for 10 years or so. I put a clean bed sheet on top of my comforter to create a flat (and conveniently elevated) surface that would show off all the socks for the photo below. Well, I was shocked to find I had 90 pairs of socks! After putting some never-worn socks in the donate bag, throwing away any socks that were a bit worn or pilly, and also tossing the singles, I was left with 45 pairs of socks, and this includes footie socks, hiking socks, cotton socks, knit dress socks, etc. I will not buy socks again for a long time and will throw them away as they wear out, bringing this number down to a more-reasonable level. Kondo recommends using regular old cardboard shoe boxes to organize, so despite my penchant for fancy storage boxes, that’s what I did. I also used this video to fold my underwear. On a roll now, I next tackled all tee shirts, including tanks that I wear as undershirts in winter, and short-sleeve and long-sleeve tees. Again, I used the handy YouTube videos for folding–this one for short sleeve, and this one for long-sleeve. Folding is an important part of the KonMari process, you see, and I am now a Konvert. See last photo below for tee-shirt drawer results. Since my tee shirts had been hanging in closets, folded into drawers, and mixed in with sweaters, this process led me to organize my sweaters all into one drawer, and switch out my cold-weather clothing for warm-weather clothing. Even Lars got into the act, and I stopped to help him organize his three big dresser drawers. In the process of all this, I threw out things like old sachets that had lost their mojo, and 4 decrepit sports bras. Into the donate bag went two packs of unopened panty hose (shudder) from God-knows-when. One thing leads to another, in an inspiring way. Where will it end? Who knows? I will give it some thought later, but right now, please excuse me while I go Kondo the coat closet.
AFTER, with underwear on the right
ALL TEE SHIRTS, INCLUDING TANKS on left, SHORT SLEEVES AND LONG SLEEVES.