I mentioned in a book review that I recently read The Life-Changing Art of Tidying Up, so I thought I’d do a follow-up post about applying her techniques to our home. The cornerstones of the KonMari Method are:
Clean up all at once, not a little at a time.
Tidy by category (clothes, books, papers, etc.) instead of by room.
Keep only what sparks joy.
Now, by saying that you should clean all at once, she doesn’t mean you’ll be done in a day. She estimates that it will take about six months from start to finish. Still, she defies the conventional wisdom that it’s better to clean incrementally so you don’t feel discouraged. Her premise is that doing that will only result in what she calls “the rebound effect,” an inevitable slow return to chaos.
Before you start tidying, however, she urges readers to visualize and articulate the ideal home that they’d like to live in. This struck me as a little fruity, but the more I thought about it, the more I began to appreciate the idea of having an ultimate goal to work toward. It shifts the mindset from a negative (“I don’t want to live in clutter”) to a positive. And as Marie Kondo points out, you won’t know what to keep and what to discard if you don’t first determine the what and why of things I need in my life. Here’s what I’ve written down.
I want a home that is warm, comforting and peaceful. I want a place where my child feels secure and mentally stimulated, where my husband has a haven, where people can show up unexpectedly and make themselves at home. I want to take pride in running a simple, clean, and functional household. My home should be a refuge that is feminine, light and airy.
I struggled with this affirmation because to me, I can’t really have a feminine home with the old, dated furniture that we received secondhand. I’ve been secretly harboring the belief that I can’t have my ideal home without first buying new things, and as for it being “light and airy,” our apartment has faux wood paneling for crying out loud. Unless we move to a different place with new furnishings, how am I ever going to achieve anything like my dream? Uncovering this hidden bias has helped me realize how I’ve created a stumbling block to creating the lifestyle I want in the now. Marie Kondo would probably advise me to replace the furniture that does not “spark joy,” but we really don’t have the money to do that. However, that doesn’t mean that I can’t make the rest of our home beautiful. A cardboard box would feel homey if it was filled with things I love.
The first category she instructs readers to tackle is clothes. Cue an inward groan. If I had to pinpoint the area we struggle with the most, it’s clothes. She recommends putting all your clothes on the bed so you can see them all together. When I did this, I discovered something shocking. See, the above picture (as an obvious disclaimer, that is not my closet) represents the style I love most: soft colors, feminine florals, long tunics, flowy sleeves, lace and a few ruffles. All of those things are virtually absent from my wardrobe. My clothes mostly consist of t-shirts (some with holes!), dark colors, heavy fabrics, and of course, some things I haven’t worn in years. It was a little heartbreaking to realize for the first time that the mountain of clothes I own do not represent me as a person, in large part because most of my closet was gifted.
I started out thinking I had a clothes problem because I just have too many clothes. Now, I realize I have a clothes problem because I don’t have enough clothes that speak to my heart and spark joy. But doesn’t this go back to the same problem I mentioned before? I can’t just throw everything away and buy a whole new wardrobe. After some hesitation, I resolved to stick with the KonMari Method and ruthlessly purge the clothes that I do not love. That means only having very few outfits for now, but my thinking is that I can buy one item of clothing per month and work toward creating a style I love.
This is only the first step in the KonMari Method, and already it’s proved to be both surprisingly difficult and rewarding at the same time. Books are the next category I’ll be tackling, and they may prove to be even more of a challenge. Some women collect shoes, but I collect books. I have so many books that there are great stacks of them hidden in the closet, forgotten and unused.
I am curious to see how far this purging will eventually go. She refers to a “click point” where you realize you have discarded enough, and now the objects in your home are the only ones that bring you joy. I don’t really believe her promise that once the regimen is complete, you will never fall back into chaos–I’ve rebounded too many times for blind faith. But I am willing to try. What do I have to lose? Just a lot of junk I wasn’t using anyway.