This is the first in a 3-part series.
I am a clutterer. Actually, that’s not a real word, but I think you know what I’m saying. I’ve had an issue with clutter since I was a kid. The benefit of growing up as an only child meant I got ALL the toys at Christmas. Barbie gift sets were common in my house and with Barbie comes a lot of little accessories for her dining room table, dentist chair, and Airplane (yes I had the Barbie airplane. *flips hair* LOL). Between the ages of about 6 and 10 my parents would spring clean and help me with my room. This is where the nightmare began.
I would have papers I saved from everything: mail, coupons, store ads I liked, stamps, little pieces of paper that I scribbled on with the perfect handwriting. All of this was obviously trash to my folks, but it was prized treasure to me. This meant spring cleaning was a time of great anguish as they forced me to toss things from my room.
As I grew up, these cleaning fiascos subsided. I was able to throw things away on my own and during the period of time where we moved four times in 5 years, I got pretty good at whittling down things I didn’t really want or need anymore. Becoming a teenager meant I was finally ready to leave many of my beloved toys behind (save for one storage box in that attic that my mom has kept for memory and, hopefully, collector’s sake).
While I no longer cry at the thought of throwing things away, my knack for accumulation didn’t slow down. In high school, I began scrapbooking (guess those little scraps of paper were a sign!). Around that time, my family was watching a lot of HGTV, and one of my favorite shows was Design on a Dime, where they transformed a room with just $500. I didn’t have a job, but I saved the money as I earned it from odds and ends and used that as my goal to create a space that was comfy.
Then came undergrad. I went to college with the essentials: toiletries, school supplies, clothes. I always came back with more. And I’m not just talking the free t-shirts won at sporting events and knick-knacks. I’m talking newspapers, schoolwork, everything. I don’t know if you just hauled off and threw all your coursework, papers and notes away at the end of the year, but I didn’t.
Each May I brought it home with the intention of going through it, tossing the unnecessary stuff and keeping a few important things, but always put it on the backburner. When I moved back home, again, I had every intention of cleaning it, but I never got around to it. I packed it neatly in the closet and moved on. Or so I felt.
I put on my vision board that I wanted to organize my whole room. However, I couldn’t bring myself to do it because I knew the only way to see what was needed and what was junk was to go through almost everything I own. Talk about daunting and monumental. It would take forever!
One day, I was on Thriftbooks and came across this bestseller: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I instantly thought: that’s exactly what I need. The subtitle read: “the Japanese art of de-cluttering” and I immediately dropped it into my shopping cart. I need to get rid of clutter I thought. I’ve also long admired the Japanese and their efficiency, so I figured it must work.
The book arrived in the middle of a busy work season, but I kept it out determined to begin the process within a month or so. The breaking point came in September when Hurricane Florence swept through. Holed up for a few days, I took a bunch of poetry books and creative writing notes from my closet to focus on some new poems. It was exciting. But my room had become so cluttered, the closet so full, that I couldn’t put any of it back. It was in a pile on my bed and I moved it from one corner of the room to another when I needed to do something. That was the final straw. It was literally no way to live and I refused to accept it. It was time to pick up the book.
I finished it in about 3 days and my excitement for tidying flew through the roof! The book makes a pretty amazing claim. In the very beginning, Marie declares that if you follow the KonMari method correctly–just once–you won’t have to do it ever again. I know, for anyone who’s been messy in any way it’s a tall order, and one that might make you doubt the process, but pretty much everything in the book made a lot of sense to me. I was sold on the KonMari method, I wanted a life change, and I was ready to follow it to the T and see if it really could work.
Disclaimer: Although this post is thorough, I highly recommend that you read the book, because the process of reading The Magic of Tidying Up will help you make the necessary mental shifts to complete this process accurately. Marie shares scenarios with her own clients and gives strict directives to prevent the rationalizing we so often do when we try to deep clean our homes that leads to relapse like, “I hate this shirt but it’s in great condition and I might need a green t-shirt one day.”
So, without further ado, here is my journey with the KonMari method 🙂
The first thing you should do when you make the decision to embark on this step, is write down your ideal lifestyle. I almost forgot this so I ended up writing it after day 1, but it is still essential to success. Write the life and environment you want to have. Maybe you wanna do yoga before bed or read the paper in the morning before work. Whatever it is, write everything about the space and life you desire. Here’s mine:
I want a simple lifestyle. I want to be able to go into my room and see everything I own. I don’t want to feel like I’m digging. I want to know where everything is. I don’t want to “search” for things in my own home. I want to know that if I moved tomorrow, I’m not bringing junk with me. I don’t want to move things around to use a part of my room. I want to feel light, not claustrophobic. I don’t want to feel ashamed about anyone seeing my space at any point. I don’t want my clothes on my chair. I want my desk space completely clean when I’m not using it. My art on the walls. I want to get to my writing and magazines easily. I want clear storage. I want to only have my Bbile, journal and clock by my bed. I want space for crafting and yoga. I want to watch movies. I want easy access to my electronics. I want a diffuser. The word that comes to mind when I think of my ideal lifestyle is “open.”
After you write this, ask yourself why. Maybe you want to do yoga daily because you want to relax. But why do you want to relax? Ask yourself why about 3-4 times. I picture it like a matryoshka doll of Whys until you get to the core of what you desire in the first place.
For me, looking on IG or Pinterest was a great inspiration when it came to visualizing the space I wanted.
Then you have to get your mind around 2 main tasks: discard and storage. The entire time you will be discarding items first and storing them when you’re done.
The key is a couple of things:
- You must discard by category and not location.
- You must discard in the proper order.
- You must gather all items in the category and handle them individually.
- You must ask yourself if the item sparks joy. The KonMari method is about the items you want to keep–not about throwing things away.
- You must make these decisions alone and for yourself. And in silence.
The whole idea is that you will be left with only the things you need and the things that bring you joy. There’s no limit. If 50 pairs of shoes bring you joy, then yay! If an old worn shirt with a hole in it brings you joy, then so be it. But when you follow this process you’ll be amazed at how much you are able to donate and throw away.
The categories you will discard are as follows:
- Clothing (tops, bottoms, hung, socks, underwear, bags, accessories, events, shoes)
- Books (general, practical, visual, magazines)
- Komono: miscellaneous (CDs/DVDs, skincare, makeup, valuables, electronics, household, kitchen, other [hobby, packaging, cards, bedding, samples, free stuff, buttons , change, etc])
- Reduce until something “clicks”
You will continue this process through each category. Because I don’t have an entire place of my own, I didn’t really have to deal with kitchen items for example. But I did complete all the categories in the bathroom.
This is the rundown of how much I discarded (whether by donations or trash)
- 13 garbage bags
- 1 bookbag full of paper
- 2 storage boxes of magazines
- 2 hampers full of paper/magazines and
- 6 shopping bags
Now that discarding is complete, you have to store. I took over the better part of the den while I moved things out of the way to tackle each section. I’m telling you now, I wish I took more pictures because there were certainly times it got worse before it got better but I trusted the process, even when my dad peeked in like is this working?
Why does it seem to get worse momentarily? Because one of those key pointers is to gather ALL the items in a category. That’s why tidying marathons look like a mess, because you have to gather all the items and place them in a giant pile.
Storage is much easier at this point because you realize you do have room for things you thought had no place for. Stick to Marie’s method and don’t run out to buy storage things until AFTER you’ve looked at what you have and use those items first. I only bought one item for my room after this (which I previously didn’t think could fit): a small dresser. And I purchased a small drawer set for under the sink in my bedroom.
I started by keeping things compact in the existing storage boxes and placing them in areas where it would be easy to see and store. You don’t want to make things easy to get to, but easy to put away. This helps prevent relapse.
Quite possibly the most important part of the KonMari method, even more important than what you kept, is designating a place for each item. Because for this to truly work, to prevent the relapse we all fear, every item in your space has to have a home. By doing so, you can put things back in their designated location, thereby keeping your house tidy, preventing clutter, and making it easy to find things. Otherwise, things will end up everywhere. So as you store and find places, keep things together and tell yourself, this is where you belong.
I knew from my own experience this was true because for years I’ve kept all my nail polish and nail care in a brown storage box on my nightstand. And nothing goes missing there and it doesn’t get messy, because that’s what the box is for and that’s what goes there. It explained why my room came to that catastrophic halt a couple months ago when I had no place to return my poetry books and notes to. So I already had proof that Marie was right.
It took time and thinking but I got everything where I wanted. The night I finally finished was so monumental that I literally had tears welling in my eyes. I didn’t think I was capable of living that way, yet here I was changed by a book. I didn’t even have drawers yet to put the remainder of my clothes in, but already it was a magnificent change.
You have to do the KonMari method all at once so it can feel like a vast and sudden change in your life. If you are busy working, like me, commit to a section a day. I started on a Sunday and worked on a category each evening so I was finished the following Wednesday. I estimate I spent about 40 hours if not more tidying. It’s no joke.
I went back and read the ideal lifestyle I wanted to have.
It’s unbelievable that virtually everything I had written a couple weeks before is now my reality. Whoo!
KonMari also has a folding method that will change your life. She boasted about a girl who hated folding until Marie came along and that was my greatest test of whether Marie really knows her stuff because I hate folding with a PASSION. But yes, now I take pride in folding. Who knew?
She also recommends standing things on end to store instead up stacking up. It saves space and is much easier on your belongings. You end up treating your property so much better this way and being gentle to yourself too.
If it sounds like I’ve been converted it’s because I have, but not because I’m weird or the book put voodoo on me. It changed my mind. And I was ready to change my mind. I was ready to take a chance because I didn’t like how I was living and I figured anything different was worth trying. And if it didn’t work I could do something else. But I had confidence that it would work and it would help. And look at me now, fully ready to become a KonMari consultant. Lol But really, I would do it in a heartbeat if I had the extra cash on hand to reserve a spot in the seminar.
Want to see Marie in action?? Check out her new Netflix show on New Year’s!
If you think you could use a life change, or a de-clutter session, or want to rise to another level of organization in your life, grab this book, open your mind and prepare to live the life you’ve envisioned. And when you’re done, head back here and tell me all about it!
Wednesday I’ll look at the ways KonMari has changed my behavior and on Friday we’ll do an in-depth look at how my space actually functions.