Marie Kondo’s book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, was on my radar for a few months before I decided to purchase it. I wish I could remember what I read that made me press click immediately to download it onto my iPad. Thank you, Universe. It was the Sunday after I returned to Philly from the holidays, still hazy after a long nap trying to make up for the 12 hour drive through the night from Indiana with an almost 2 year old. I read the first half of the book in about an hour. I had to force myself to keep reading so that I could get to the part where she told me to start Tidying.
I was inspired to try her method to streamline my daily routines in order to create a better work/life balance. It also coincides with my fascination with minimalism, and the idea of turning routines into rituals. I decided I needed to write about it instead of talking evangelically to any of my friends or coworkers who would listen. (Although many of them are also reading the book now!)
She advises you start with your clothes. I inwardly groaned at having to drag clothes from 4 different places into a huge pile just to put them all back. But I had read the book, and I trusted this strange lady, since she was adamant that it works and can change your life if you follow her steps. I listened, but I was skeptical about having to speak to my belongings. I had thought my clothes were already pared down, since I edit and donate each season. I was mistaken. Once I threw all of my clothes into a pile, it felt massive, but not overwhelming. I awkwardly held my first item in my hands and asked, “Does this spark joy?” Whether that first item passed the test or not, I don’t remember. But rather quickly, I finished the pile, made my decisions, and bagged up about 70% of my clothes. When I write that down, it sounds shocking. But it was surprisingly easy and felt different than the dozens of times I had done this before. I was giddy.
Here’s why it worked for me.
1. Sorting by category is genius.
There is power in confronting the reasons why you have an Everest sized pile of clothes. Especially a pile of clothes that no longer fit, you don’t like, or even use anymore. The mass to sort through becomes easier and easier, since you have to pace yourself with so much to get through. Once you see 5 of the same type of item you’re ambivalent about, it gets easier to say no to all of them, or at least 4 of them. I found that I’d already gotten rid of most things over the years that didn’t fit me anymore or suit my style, yet had hung onto many random items for sentimental reasons, guilt, or “just because”.
2. Take out the Long Criteria of Decision Making, just ask One Question – “Does it Spark Joy?”
Any other time I’ve done something like this, there are too many ways you can rationalize needing to keep something you don’t want. It’s exhausting to have to make so many decisions. “Does it spark joy? Yes or No?” is so refreshing, especially at a time when people suffer from decision paralysis just to order brunch. It’s a joy to have permission to ask yourself one question or just trust your intuition.
Here is how I interpreted “Sparks Joy”:
- Items that I immediately reach for in my closet or make me feel good
- Clothing, colors and materials that fit well and are flattering
- Clothes that feel authentic to my style and how I want to be perceived in the world
- Items with positive emotional ties that I desire to keep (like my late brother’s band t-shirts that I wear)
But what about things you need but they don’t spark total joy, like an old winter coat, or a uniform you need to keep? I had a great discussion on Instagram with Dara Schneider/The Minimalist Athlete (IG @minimalistathlete about this. She’s a purist, and I’m decidedly less so. Dara is inspiring, amazing, and I love connecting with other people on this journey and seeing their perspective. Her extremeness pushes me to challenge myself more. I realized I had created my own Spark Joy – Criteria Range. Realistically and financially, I can’t replace everything I don’t love, especially right now. Plus, it’s a lifelong process. Here are the criteria I’m using for my decisions, which I’m not over thinking, but doing intuitively.
- In order to consume less and be more intentional with what I do purchase, I can prioritize what I need to replace over time with things that spark more joy (fit better, higher quality, etc).
- Mend or tailor items to make them work better for me? If I’m not going to do it immediately, I know I didn’t like that item very much to begin with.
- Is it a seasonal item that I only use occasionally but isn’t my favorite? I’ll keep it and focus on the items I use more frequently.
- I know that my preferences (particularly related to color) change with the seasons. If I love everything else, I’m keeping it until the season arrives where that color feels right to me. I can then donate later if applicable.
- Wearing less things more frequently means I will have to replace things more often as they wear out. Clothes and belongings are not meant to last forever. Don’t expect them to.
- Clothing is just one part of the picture. If I don’t have enough clothes to get me through the week (and had to do laundry more often), other parts of my life would suffer. Efficiency and convenience is one of the reasons I’m drawn to this, especially so I can pare down my daily tasks to have more time to spend with my family and to paint.
Here are some belongings I thanked and sent back into the world. I did take pictures of some things that I really had trouble parting with, which helped me.
- 17 year old thermal pants that my Aunt bought me for a graduation snowboarding trip – just in case I got to go camping again, snowboarding, and never had access to a Target where I could buy another pair
- A bridesmaid dress in a color that didn’t flatter me when I wore it 4 years ago, but will be so exciting for whomever finds that Vera Wang bargain at The Good Will
- Jeans that aggravate my C-Section scar and aren’t in style anymore anyway
- The Letterman jacket that my parents bought you (thank you, Mom and Dad) and I wanted to badly in high school, but only got to wear occasionally since it was really hot in Florida. In fact, one of the times I wore it was while wearing a swimsuit and no pants at a Diving Meet. I would have kept it anyway, but the manufactured leather had started deteriorating and was ruined. It had its final hurrah when I wore it for Halloween a few years ago, and noticed that everything I touched was getting streaks of sticky plastic residue
- 20 year old dress shirt that belonged to my dad, that I wore as a nightshirt in college and for years later. It has since been retired, but I could never part with it. My dad is thankfully still alive, and I can steal hundreds of other ratty shirts from him whenever I want
- A blue tweed jacket I bought for an interview 9 years ago that I felt bad about not wearing again, since I never had a place to wear it to. Also, the style was not good Coco Chanel tweedy jacket, but Working Girl 1980s looking.
3. Thank your clothes.
Okay, so this is the part of the process that I found the weirdest, which boggles me, since I talk to my car and thank her for her service all the time (is that not the same)? I didn’t talk to any clothes until I got to the 20 year old dress shirt of my dad’s mentioned above. I knew that I wanted to let it go, but wanted to understand why I was holding on to it for so long. So I held it in my hands, looked at it, and started talking. The words just came out without me having to think. I understood that the shirt had been my connection to my dad when I was away at college and a little homesick. My dad was not a big phone talker, but I missed him very much. Wearing his shirt to sleep in was a way to connect in my own way. But I no longer needed the shirt, since I’m so lucky my father is here, and now we talk and Face Time often. My dad also emails me nearly every day now! After that incident, I talked to any clothes that needed it, or would just bow my head silently to thank it for its service if I felt inclined.
4. Hold all of your clothes.
I get it now, Marie Kondo. Holding your belongings makes you more attuned with what you have, and makes you remember or decide whether you love them or just need to send them on their way. In a way, you’re the medium and figuring out what your clothes want to tell you. I cannot believe I just wrote that, but it feels true. (And this is why I love connecting with other KonMari Konverts because they will not think I’m crazy, but will be nodding their heads and smiling.) When you turn them in your hands, you can see that it’s your favorite red sweater’s last season due to wear, or that you need to mend a hem to your pants. Holding my clothes made it easier to decide what to keep, and encouraged me to mend or take care of what I did want to keep. I mended a button on my winter coat which took 5 minutes, and now love wearing that coat. I hemmed a pair of pants that had been bugging me for a year, and it took barely any time. perhaps now that I have less, I also want to take better care of what is left.
5. Fold your clothes and store vertically.
I don’t think I can ever go back to before. Her way of folding is very easy, and makes everything in your drawers fit neatly. I don’t know if it’s because I edited so much of my wardrobe, or if it is the new way of folding, but I did not need any more storage than I currently have. Also, it has been 7 weeks since I folded everything neatly, and it’s still as nice as it was the first day. I found myself walking past my drawers and just opening them to look at my sushi rolls of socks, or folded pants. It’s also hard to throw your clothes back into the drawer, since it already looks so nice. You’re not knocking over stacks of clothes and messing it up again. Everything is visible and lined up. Last thing. I was feeling lazy the other day and threw off my t-shirt to change, and was going to put it in the drawer inside out. In my head, Marie Kondo’s voice asked me, “Won’t your shirt be embarrassed to be next to its friends inside out?” Don’t you know that I agreed, folded it up neatly and put it back. I hope I made Marie Kondo proud.
I am also ready to start a career being a Marie Kondo Tidying consultant, apparently she will be offering overseas training in the US! In the meantime I will just enjoying being a Marie Kondo Konvert and writing about my progress here.