Writing left handed

My Beautifully Kondo-ified Closet

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.

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.

The de-cluttering guru

The de-cluttering guru

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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:

The spring scarves and the winter scarves in their under-the-bed storage container

The spring scarves and the winter scarves in their under-the-bed storage container, which basically just succeeds in trapping a lot of dust 😦

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…

White for shirts, beige for blazers... and OCD dream!

White hangers for shirts, beige for blazers… a perfectionist’s dream!

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:

Kondo clean closet

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.

Folded shirts stored vertically

Folded shirts stored vertically

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?

13 Responses to “My Beautifully Kondo-ified Closet”

  1. Kelly

    I would definitely recommend reading the book if you get a chance – there’s a lot of good stuff in there. I started my clothes a couple of weekends ago. I’ve only done tops and underwear, but I’ve got rid of 6 bags of stuff, and my underwear drawer and my sock drawer are so neat and tidy and make me happy every time I look at them! And it’s so nice being able to pick out a particular pair of suitable pants/socks without having to rummage through the whole drawer. I’m itching to get on and do the rest of the house, I just need to find the time. It has definitely changed my mindset though, and I’ve already started picking up random things from around the house to get rid of, and being pickier if I am shopping.

    • Kat Richter

      That’s awesome! And I am so with you on the happiness of not having to rummage. The last time I had to pack a suitcase, I was amazed by how quickly it went because I could actually find everything I needed immediately.

  2. ksbeth

    i love this idea, and have slowly transformed my life and my home in this way, to the point where someone commented, ‘you really only have things you love here.’ exactly.

    • Kat Richter

      Nice! It’s just so time consuming… I’ve got to say the closet really exhausted me and I haven’t found the energy to move further, although I definitely want to.

  3. no longer her landlord

    Hmm…I have to look into this, as I’m forever organizing things at the vacation rentals (and my closet) but never seem to get it “right,” LOVE the idea of vertical storage, clever!

  4. Jill

    No success stories, just a problem. We have boxes upon boxes of papers, photos, mementos, you name it, that were left with us by various relatives, including both our deceased mothers. What do we do with all that? Most of the time I feel like its choking me. But I also don’t know if it will be important to someone else some day, like our kids or their cousins. Sounds like I should get that book.

    • Kat Richter

      Hmmm… Yeah I think family items are harder to part with than superfluous scarves 😦 Have you talked to your kids about whether or not they want them someday (or are they too young for that)? I will say this: I am into history (undergraduate degree and all) and even I felt a rather burdened when I inherited a bunch of things my family thought I would want. Some of it is nice to have but a lot of is just taking up space. The cool thing is that you can digitize a lot of stuff nowadays- although if you have a lot of paper items that you want to keep well preserved, make sure you avoid the rookie mistakes like using scotch tape or keeping items in a mildew-filled basement…

  5. Jennifer Booker

    I’ve started doing this. I’ve been a serious packrat, and the sheer volume of stuff is way out of hand. My gf has a very minimalist approach to belongings, which is very kondo-ish.
    Part of my challenge is that I’ve redefined my wardrobe in the last two years, which at first meant buying everything in sight since I didn’t know what worked or didn’t for me. Now I’m filtering out the stuff that I don’t really want to wear.

    • Kat Richter

      Ah yes, I can see how that would be tricky! As you figure out what works and doesn’t work though, I’m sure you’ll be able to start getting rid of those pesky items that don’t make you happy- and that’s what it’s all about really!

  6. madalynjo

    This is awesome! Ive been doing this and didn’t even know that I have been doing it!

  7. Heather

    Very Cool. I really want to get her book, but I also have another that I’m trying to use. It actually helped me with the Psychology behind why I keep what I keep. When I moved cross country back in 2011 to move in with my fiancé, I had a friend who is a stylist and runs a business helping people purge and restock their wardrobes with mine. (not putting a link to her site unless you want one.) We got rid of stuff that I loved, but just stretched out and didn’t flatter me any more. It was great to have such an unbiased opinion of my clothes as I went, and she didn’t want me to give up anything I truly loved. Now I need to do it again post-maternity leave.


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