It was only a matter of time before I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo and jumped on the KonMari bandwagon.
Actually, I spent months on the waitlist for this book at my local library, so “matter of time” was really dictated by my fellow library book borrowers. But even so, I was a little strategic about when I read the book when I finally got my hands on it. I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up on a Saturday morning on a weekend I had no plans because I knew it would kickstart a massive declutter — a tidying up spree, if you will. I was right.
Seven trash bags and two boxes (on top of the six bags and one box I donated in the spring, and that doesn’t even count the stuff that went in the recycling or trash either time) later and I feel light as air.
But let’s back up a little bit.
I live in a small apartment. There really isn’t much room for stuff, and yet, all I ever seem to do is accumulate stuff. I’ve been in this space for a few years and recently came to the conclusion that I either need to upgrade to a bigger apartment, or get rid of a ton of my belongings. The space/stuff ratio was very off balance and had become a daily annoyance that I had rapidly grown weary of. Now, getting a bigger apartment just to accommodate my possessions is downright ridiculous (not to mention costly and time consuming and an embodiment of our consumer culture and all that). I mean, the space I have is more than enough for one person! Therefore, I needed to make my stuff and my space work together rather than conspire against each other. Once I figured that out, I was confident that the rest would fall into place.
Enter The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Marie Kondo, a Japanese organizing consultant, shares her tips and beliefs for best practices when it comes to organizing. She’s developed a tidying up method named KonMari, which claims that after you tidy up your home once, you’ll never have to do it again. You’d have to be living under a rock to not know about Kondo and her book, as Kondo apparently has a 100 percent client success rate and this book took the world by storm in 2015. Turns out, I am no exception to this craze!
As helpful as I found The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up to be overall, not all of Kondo’s decluttering beliefs and/or practices matched with mine. There are parts of the book that are a little woo woo for me, so I instead focused on the sections that did resonate with me and use those tenets in my own tidying up process. But even the parts that I didn’t put into action when I decluttered still got me thinking about the things I own, the space they take up, and the role they play in my life.
So what are the parts of KonMari that worked for me?
Only keep things that “spark joy.”
This is pillar that Marie Kondo built her empire on. The KonMari method advises to hold each and every item as you go through your stuff and ask yourself, “Does this spark joy?” KonMari says not to focus on whether or not something is useful or worthy but rather the impact it has on your happiness. I have a lot of framed prints and photographs hanging on my walls, which is pretty much pointless when it comes to practicality and usefulness. However, I kept every single one because they all make me smile. So yes, they spark joy, and therefore they pass the KonMari test.
Don’t let memories or nostalgia dictate what you keep.
When I lived in Beijing, I frequented this great store called Tee Tale and snagged some really cute shirts that I would never be able to get in the US. However, they’re no longer my style and they’re also on the smaller side. Oh, it was so hard to part with them, because every time I looked at them I thought the memories I have of my life in Beijing and how much I loved it there. But truthfully, I haven’t worn them since I lived in China… four years ago. And the fact that they no longer fit how I’d like them to means I’m probably never going to wear them again. So, I donated them. After all, I don’t need the shirts to maintain the memories.
Place things where they are easier to put away, not where they are easier to access.
This was a total game changer for me. I didn’t have a lot of rhyme or reason in where I put things in my apartment, as I was mainly focused on just getting stuff to fit in whatever available spaces there were. But Kondo advises to focus on making it easy to put things away, as that will motivate you to keep things tidy after you KonMari your living space. Since I got rid of so much stuff, I suddenly had newfound space in my apartment. I then reoriented things I reach for regularly in ways that were incredibly simple for me to put away after I used them. I no longer kick my shoes off in my hallway, throw my purse on the couch, and toss my coat over the back of a chair when I come home. They have designated places in my entryway right when I walk into my apartment, so there’s no excuse for me to not ever put them away in the right places.
“Someday” is not today.
I had multiples of things like umbrellas, bags, clothes that didn’t fit, shoes that hurt my feet, makeup and skincare products, etc. You name it, I probably had more than one of it. I’m not quite sure how I accumulated all this stuff, nor why I had hung onto so much of it for so long. Is there any reason to stockpile or have stuff as backups other than “I might need it someday?” And is “someday” a day that ever arrives? In my experience, no. If the shoes hurt my feet, the likelihood of me wearing again was next to zero no matter how cute they were. By the time I work my way through my beauty stash, half the stuff will probably have expired and gone bad. If my weight fluctuates, there’s no guarantee that the clothes I have in a bigger or smaller size will be in line with my personal style. It was backwards to have so much stuff for “someday” when I could barely figure out what to do with it all today. So, if it wasn’t going to be any good for me today, I got rid of it.
An item may have already fulfilled its use. If so, let it go.
I have a teddy bear my ex-boyfriend gave to me before we began our year of long distance. It was a Build-a-Bear teddy, and we built him together. That bear was with me through all the ups and downs of that tumultuous year. It was there for me every single time I cried, which was more than I can say for my ex, ha. As I decluttered, I realized it was time to let the bear go, because I had already fulfilled its use to me. The bear was meant to get me through that sad, lonely year, and he did. That’s all there is to the bear’s role in my life, so I donated it. It’s my hope that it will be a toy that sparks joy for someone else now.
To be honest, once I started to KonMari my apartment, I couldn’t really stop till I was done. I didn’t do it all in a day like Kondo advises, but over the course of several days all I did was KonMari my home whenever I wasn’t at work. I was like a woman possessed! Once I realized how awesome it was to have space in my wardrobe for clothes I actually wore rather than have a jumble of clothes crammed in there, it was like I had a little glimpse into how wonderful it would feel for my whole apartment to be that way. I didn’t want to lose the KonMari momentum, so to speak, so I kept at it until I was done.
And now that I’m done? What’s next, you ask? Well, that’s the topic of my next blog post…
(I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a shoutout to Cait, whose own massive declutter in the summer of 2014 was a huge inspiration when I was elbows deep in my own process!)