Our new weekly holiday, #MinimalistMonday, has returned again! In the introduction to our #MinimalistMonday series, we discussed Marie Kondo’s book about the Japanese art of decluttering called “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up”. If you missed that first post, look it over before you go any further! It helps set the scene for why we are so obsessed with the author’s KonMari Method and the idea of simplification and minimalism as a whole.
In her book, Kondo covers countless topics on the subject of decluttering. Repeating and summarizing these ideas would defeat the purpose of your purchasing the book and reading her words for yourself. Instead, we’ll mention a few main takeaways and some of our favorite concepts on this subject.
Kondo struggled in her early years as a tidier by narrowing down her criterion for getting rid of things. She would toss out things that were no longer functional, in style, or she hasn’t used in years. However, those standards didn’t produce genuinely tidy surroundings; they were a band-aid or a quick fix. It wasn’t until Kondo started looking at tidying as a glass half full rather than half empty that she started to get to the heart of the tidying process.
In other words, instead of choosing items to discard of, she began to choose the items that she wanted to keep — and those were only the ones that brought her joy. Because at the end of the day, joy-inspiring items are the things that you want to surround yourself with; anything short of that is meaningless and has no place in your home. This may sound drastic, but Kondo has found that this truly is the answer to her — and her many clients’ — decluttering issues. She recommends picking up each and every item one by one and asking yourself, “Does this bring me joy?” You shouldn’t glance at a packed closet, scan the inventory and make a sweeping conclusion about the group. You must physically run your fingers through every last sweater, scarf and shoelace.
As mentioned in our first #MinimalistMonday post, Kondo teaches that it is detrimental to sort by location in your home. For example, many tackle the kitchen, then their bedroom, then the basement. This philosophy is fatal for a declutterer simply because people hardly ever store similar items in the same place. This means you might think you’ve gone through all of your winter jackets, only to discover a few more in a neglected hall closet a few hours later. You’ll then have to trace back to your train of thought on that category and you cannot make an accurate decision under such circumstances. Kondo says, “Repetition and wasted effort call kill motivation, and therefore it must be avoided.”
Sorting by categories is as literal as it sounds. Kondo instructs you to physically gather all like things in one huge pile or spread out in one location so you can accurately assess what items you have within that category. This gives you an accurate grasp of how much you have. You might be surprised by the sheer volume while you do this, which is helpful in and of itself for decluttering. This may motivate you to let go of items easily once you realize just how much you own. You can also compare items that are similar in design and discard repeat items.
But what are we talking about when we speak of categories? And in what order should you go through said categories? Let us explain…
Have you ever started to go through your stuff in hopes of downsizing, opened the first box and spent hours re-reading old journals, sifting through photos, or texting pictures of concert tickets to long-lost friends? Kondo is aware of this trap and has created a specific order for going through your clutter in order to avoid it and other tidying traps. It’s important to start with the easiest category and then finish with the hardest one.
As you proceed through the categories, you will gradually hone your decision-making skills and won’t get so overwhelmed. Kondo recommends going through your clothes, books, papers, miscellaneous items, and finally things with sentimental value (letters, trophies, photo albums, gifts, etc.). She even recommends splitting those categories into subcategories to increase efficiency. For example, clothing might be divided into tops, bottoms, clothes that should be hung (jackets, coats, suits, etc.), socks, underwear, accessories, and shoes. Read the full text of the book to see what Kondo has to say about each of those categories and why she recommends this order in particular!
Kondo gets personal on this last subject by sharing how she initially fell in love with the art of decluttering. When she was just in junior high school, she read “The Art of Discarding” by Nagisa Tatsumi, which emphasized the importance of discarding unnecessary things. Immediately after flying through its pages, Kondo filled eight garbage bags with stuff she no longer needed — or even remembered she had to begin with.
The feeling afterwards was liberating and addictive. She then questioned why she had any of that stuff to begin with and was excited and refreshed as she examined her transformed space. The air seemed fresher, and her mind felt clearer. It was then that Kondo realized, “If you tidy up in one shot, rather than little by little, you can dramatically change your mindset.” If you don’t change your mindset, you are doomed to return to your clutter-filled lifestyle!
These are just a few of our favorite takeaways from “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up”! Next week we will add a little more to this growing list, and unpack some of Marie Kondo’s ideas about reorganization and putting some of your saved items back in their proper place. You might be surprised to hear that she thinks storage experts can be hoarders!