For those of you (to quote my mother) “who live in the Stone Age and don’t know what Kondo-ing is,” I’m referring to the “Japanese art of de-cluttering and organizing.”
And no, I’m not making that up. It’s the subtitle of Marie Kondo’s smash hit New York Times bestseller, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.
I haven’t actually read it but I heard about it on NPR (ironically while I was en route to my favorite thrift shop) and it inspired me to do some Googling. A few Youtubes later, I was convinced I had the basic gist of Kondo’s approach.
And come on, who can resist the appeal of a Japanese approach to… well, just about anything design related?
According to the KonMari approach, when you put your house in order you put your affairs in order.
You surround yourself with only things you love.
And you avoid the inevitable relapse, which has always been my issue, despite having grown up in a household where the annual Spring Cleaning Purge was a tradition that my mother loved but my brother and I hated.
I was skeptical when I first heard about KonMari method—what would make this any different than past attempts?—but she insists upon three rather ingenious principles.
- You have to do it all at once, and you have to do it by categories. In other words, if your intent is to clean out your closet, you have to get ALL of your clothes together in one fell swoop, including those destined for the laundry or those waiting in your under-the-bed storage containers for the next spring/fall flip. Seeing them all together helps you make better choices.
- You go through item by item and you keep only the things that bring you JOY. This means you can’t hang onto things just because they were a gift from so-and-so, or they might fit someday, or you’re really going to mend them sooner or later, or because you feel guilty about having spent so much on them in the first place.
- You offer gratitude to each and every item for the role is has played in your life before saying goodbye. Kondo does this with a little bow, which I admit I felt kind of silly doing but I figured what the hell? In for a penny, in for a pound.
It took forever. And I ironed all of my nice clothes as I went, which really slowed the process down, but when I saw all of my clothes piled up together, I was truly shocked, despite my regular attempts at purging and the fact that I eliminated boxes and boxes worth before I moved into my new house less than a year ago.
This past winter, for example, I realized that I had to start flipping my scarves—in other words, I had so many that I had to separate the winter scarves from the spring/summer scarves because I couldn’t fit them all into my closet at once. Scarves!
Granted, scarves are kind of my thing… but still. This is embarrassing:
Another issue that’s always bugged me is this super cute dress I bought nearly five years ago. I remember exactly when I bought it, exactly where I bought it and exactly how much I paid for it. It was the night of my third date with a certain gentleman from back in the day, otherwise known as Date #3.
The plan was to meet in Northern Liberties for dinner at a swanky sushi restaurant, followed by a modern dance performance at the Suzanne Roberts Theater, only he was late. I was miffed, so I left the restaurant and decided to go shopping instead. At the time, it seemed that the best way to prove my hell-if-I-care independent woman status was to make him wait by heading over to a trendy little boutique and purchasing a gold and black cocktail dress made of raw silk using eco-friendly dyes and ethical labor practices.
Hence, it was not cheap.
Also, it didn’t actually fit. But it was so pretty, and I figured I could just alter it or, you know, somehow reduce the size of my rib cage and increase the size of my bust.
I kept hoping, especially when PIC saw the dress and mentioned how much he liked halters, but really, what was the point? Looking at is just made me feel guilty. Date #3 didn’t turn out to be a very nice guy, and I felt silly for having hung onto that dress for so many years simply because I’d spent so much on it.
Still, it had meant something to me once— I was still living with my parents at the time, I didn’t have many friends and my self esteem wasn’t all the impressive, to say nothing of my bank account; it had felt good to be able to buy a dress like that.
And so I said thank you to the dress, did my little Kondo-esque bow and let it go.
It deserves to be worn by someone, not kept in a closet.
After that, I went all out: completely reorganizing my closet, color coding my hangers and even thinking for a brief moment that I had enough leftover space to allow PIC to move his clothes in (currently, he keeps his things in the spare bedroom and the linen closet). I quickly came to my senses—once I restocked my closet with all of my accessories, I realized there wasn’t actually enough room for his things—but I did move all of our “neutral” items (linens, towels and additional bedding) from the linen closet into my closet to give him some much needed extra space.
I guess I’m just magnanimous like that…
At any rate, I was pretty worn out by the end of the day. And the culling of my scarf collection took more than the 24 hours I had set aside, but the results were rather beautiful.
Catalogue worthy, if I do say so myself:
And the best part is that I’m so enamored of my newly organized closet that I have gone a FULL WEEK without messing it up! I’m no longer piling my clothes so PIC and I can actually sit down on our beautiful little bench seat, and the laundry basket fits inside the closet so I don’t have to look at it when I’m trying to clear my mind and go to bed.
I even did the recommended sushi roll up thing with my socks and the vertical drawer storage with everything else. Now I can find exactly what I need when I need it and when PIC and I had ourselves a little date night last week, I had plenty of great already-ironed pieces to pick from.
After getting rid of two large bags of clothes, I’m optimistic that this will remain my for-once-and-for-all clean, and I intend to tackle the rest of the house (including my office) later this month. It just feels good, and it makes me feel like I’m doing a better job of walking the walk in terms of yesterday’s post and escaping the plague of stuff.
Now your turn: any one else out giving the Kondo approach a try? Any closet horror stories or brilliant de-cluttering strategies to share?