A couple of weeks ago, I started a post about how discouraged and unhappy I was living with all of my mess and clutter. “It’s all too much,” I wrote. I was so discouraged that I didn’t even finish one paragraph. That post still sits in my drafts folder. The same day, I decided to see if I could find a copy of a book a friend of mine recommended, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing (link includes affiliate code.) I am not exaggerating when I say this book has already changed my life. Marie Kondo recommends starting with discarding, all at once, by category, completely. Only after you are done discarding should you think about where to keep what’s left.
The real game changer for me was her one criterion: does it spark joy? A lot of people get hung up on this question, thinking that this means we should get rid of things we need that don’t spark joy, but that’s not what MK is saying at all. By all means, you should keep what you need (and express gratitude for it.) The people who read the book, who hire Kondo for consultations, who look up Konmari on the Internet almost certainly have unnecessary items, though. Those are the things to interrogate, to make earn their place in your life and home.
She recommends a particular category order that has worked for her clients in Japan. On January 25th, two days after I started the “It’s all too much” post, I pulled all of my shirts out of my closet and out of the various piles all over the bedroom and got to work. I discovered that I had 12 tall kitchen bags of clothing and five boxes of shoes that did not spark joy– the clothing and shoes that got in the way of me finding the items that did spark joy. I discovered that I will probably never need to buy 5-finger shoes again and that I probably won’t need to buy a new pair of running shoes until 2017. I also realized that I don’t need a pair of Converse sneakers in every color. When I like something, I tend to accumulate multiples of it, but one thing I’m realizing is that often when something I really like wears out or gets used up, I find something else in the same category that’s also great. By stocking up, I either deprive myself of discovering something new or I clog up my house with so much stuff that I cannot possibly find it, take care of it, or use it.
I finished choosing the clothes I wanted to keep on February 2nd and moved on to books. I had more than a thousand books, so I have to collect them by categories because I don’t have room to set all of my books on the floor. I have now sorted adult fiction, adult non-fiction, YA books, and picture books. I’ve donated enough to fill my Beetle’s trunk one and a half times and I have another trunkful in the office waiting to be bagged/boxed and put into the trunk for the next donation run. Not counting my to-be-read (TBR) books, I kept 50 adult fiction books, 50 adult non-fiction books, 30 YA books, 9 YA books in my Holocaust/ WWII collection, and 70 picture books. I still have to sort academic, language, philosophy, gardening, cookbooks, reference, and photo/ coffee table books. I’m hoping to make a big push today and finish books. Then I can do magazines tomorrow and move on to paper on the weekend.
This book has already changed my life. Deciding what to wear for work is easy now because I can see only clothes I like to wear and that fit. I empty my purse when I get home and put everything where it belongs. No more forgetting which purse I left my favorite hair clip in. And I haven’t even sorted my makeup and skincare, which is almost as big a problem as my clothes were! One other major change is that I no longer shop for fun or buy things to make myself feel better. For a while, I was getting a package a day. It was crazy. I already have more than I could ever need or use. There’s nothing like seeing everything I own (from a specific category) gathered in a pile to make me face my overconsumption head on.
I have spent my entire life convinced that I am obligated to keep every item I have ever owned or touched. It is so freeing to be able to simply release what I don’t love so the things I don’t love can find new homes.