Review of the KonMari Method of Decluttering
It was overwhelming, the task I needed to do of getting rid of clothing I never wear; of downsizing general “stuff,” and making sure there was a place for everything and everything in its place.
Since I have struggled for many, many years with this feeling of “it's just too much to tackle,” leaving me depressed and anxious, I was a bit dubious about the starting point for this method, as on the surface, it seems to actually make matters worse and even more overwhelming.
However, as I discovered, as stressed as I was, this caused only a minor uptick in my anxiety; and the end result was well worth it. I began with clothing; her suggested starting point.
Empty the Closet!
What? Everything you have in the closet that is an article of clothing—OUT, and piled onto the bed. Next, the things in drawers. All of it—onto the bed!
At this point, it was at once intimidating and eye-opening. I knew I always had trouble fitting things into the closet, but how disorganized it all was turned out to be a large part of the problem. (And I took comfort in the fact that it was less than half the amount of one of Mari's clients on her Netflix show!)
Having lost my husband just 4-1/2 months prior, I had already (bravely, I thought) cleared out much of his closet apparel and donated it to charity. However, I realized I had forgotten all about the drawers. Ugh!
So, out it all came, and there wasn't even room for a cat between the piles. (Well, cats being cats, that didn't bother them: they just opted for the tops of the piles.)
Mari Kondo, for those unfamiliar with her or her method, is a very petite Japanese lady. She is just bubbling over with energy and good humor. As she speaks extremely little English, she travels to the families she helps with an interpreter.
Her main focus is joy. Everything you decide to keep she says, must “spark joy.” If it does not, it's on the go-away pile.
In a very Zen-like way, she asks that you thank each item you are getting rid of, for having provided joy or allowing you to wear it at some point. She even says to thank your house.
If you can't have her or one of her multi-national certified consultants come to your home, she's written a book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and there is also an 8-episode (as of this writing in January of 2019) series on Netflix, spun off from her book.
Trailer to the Netflix Show
Once I got over the shock of how many clothes were on my bed, I pitched in to the process. For myself, I had to slightly rework the phrasing; not everything I wear “sparks joy,” but there are definitely things I like, and things I consistently pass over when choosing what to wear for the day.
First, it was my t-shirts. I knew there were a lot, but I was stunned by just how many there were. As I went through these, I realized a lot of the shirts I never, or very rarely wear, did “spark joy,” for they were souvenir shirts that reminded me of fun times we had.
Why, then, was I never wearing them? Fear. Simple fear of “messing them up,” and then not having them anymore. As I analyzed this, I thought to myself, “How stupid! Why buy a t-shirt as a souvenir if you're never going to wear it?!”
So, I made a decision right then and there that I will start wearing these shirts, and I hung them back up in a more organized fashion.
Mari's method for folding clothes is not something with which I was familiar, and it took a little trial and error, but I used that method for storing into drawers my summer t-shirts, as well as my less-nice ones that are just good for knocking around the house.
This will save me from the bi-annual task of gathering all the seasonal clothing and wrestling with those vacuum storage bags that never seem to work properly anyhow. I will simply trade closet for drawer and vice-versa. (Of course, this is also sad, because I only have that drawer space available due to now being alone.)
Her method for folding pants did not work for me; it left them too tall to fit in the drawers, as she shows. So, for my summer pants (shorts and capris), I fell back on my father's Navy sea bag method of rolling them instead of folding. Worked like a charm.
My cool-weather pants, jeans and sweats, I drape in half over hangers, as there is more room in the closet than I have drawer space (my drawers are all quite shallow).
I do have to admit, I didn't actually have every item out on the bed; I left my pajamas in their respective drawers. I'll tackle that next, along with a few other miscellaneous clothing items. But it won't be so daunting now that I know how the process works.
The Next Steps
Mari's method is the same for other areas: kitchen, garage, miscellaneous items, and sentimental items. I'll be applying it next to my office, in the hopes of getting that finally put to rights.
Although I will be applying this method by locations, her actual philosophy is to de-clutter by categories, not locations. That said, my “locations” are actually also categories. Office stuff is office stuff, regardless of its location. The fact that I am lucky enough to have a home office gives me a location-based-category.
See below for the before and after photos of the first stage of the office project.
The OfficeClick thumbnail to view full-size
The Shop Will Have to Wait
The garage/shop will be the supreme challenge; one I am not yet ready to tackle. We were self-employed for years, doing everything from woodworking to ceramics to handyman services; we have every tool you can imagine, and many duplicates as well.
As big as the shop is, it is also now very cluttered with all kinds of stuff that doesn't belong there, but has no other space in which it will fit while it awaits repair or sale. There just isn't room to move or work now, let alone drag everything out of boxes, cupboards and drawers for sorting.
Generally, I am very pleased with my first foray into the KonMari method of organizing. I now have the confidence that I will be able to deal with the other disorganized areas in my life.
I plan to watch other episodes on Netflix, and solidify the method in my mind. I do believe this is a very viable approach to what seems to be a national problem. As one comedian said, “We don't send our kids to college for an education; we just need their closet space.”
Can I do it? I must! This is vital, as I eventually need to downsize even more drastically if I am to reach my goal of becoming a nomad and touring the country in an RV, and having no “sticks and bricks” house anymore. Going from a combined total (house, shop, art/craft studio, and a couple of garden sheds) of just over 4,000 square feet down to a tenth of that will be a very serious challenge.
An Additional Note
This is just one of many methods available to help us declutter and organize our lives. This is a semi-minimalist approach; but not fully, hard-core minimalist, as it allows you to keep things that give you joy...and for some of us, that's a lot of stuff, still.
She also goes into how to fold things, and in some areas, that does not work as a "one size fits all" approach. The linen closet is one such example. No two linen closets are created alike, and I found that the "correct" way to fold linens is whatever method you arrive at that allows things to fit neatly on the shelf space you have available in your particular closet.
Her method for towels, for instance, uses a lot of folds, with the towels then stood on the long folded edges. That takes up a lot of linear space, and did not work for me; my shelf space is very limited, so items need to be stacked up. That means not so many folds, for the more you fold things, the bulkier they become, and the harder to stack.
Like many different types of organizing, destressing, and other self-help methods, you need to choose what works for you; take a "delicatessen" approach: picking and choosing from many options to arrive at your personalized solution.
All photos by author.
© 2019 Liz Elias