About a year ago, I bought a copy of the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo because I was intrigued by the first sentence:
In this book, I have summed up how to put your space in order in a way that will change your life forever.
I’ve fallen for organization books before, but this one felt different and it was taking the Internet by the storm at the time so I thought I’d give it a try.
To my astonishment, I fell in love with precise little Marie Kondo and her unusual ideas about how keeping only those possessions that spark joy and discarding all others (after thanking them for their service, of course.) I ended up following Marie on far more of her process than I would have ever anticipated and I plan to continue with the process throughout this year as well. (She recommends to do everything all at once but I know of literally no one who has done that. I think it would have taken me a full two weeks of 8 hour days to complete the process in one go.)
I focused on the two areas the caused me the most pain: my bedroom and my kitchen. I also tenderly moved into my books while remembering that surrounding myself with books, in itself, brings me joy.
I’m going to share what I’ve learned in this past year and what’s worked for me and what hasn’t, but first, let’s just review how much I needed some type of help with organization by looking at the before picture I posted on the Internet for the world to see.
And this is my closet today with only minimal, “I’m going to take pictures so I’ll turn the hangers facing the same way” improvements.
Marie Kondo promises that anyone who goes completely through her process has never backslid; that following her method causes a permanent change. In her new book, Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up, she defines not backsliding as having a place for everything and being able to put everything away in 30 minutes if company is coming over. I’ve more than surpassed that standard and in this past year, I’ve learned to experience a new type of joy: that of reaching for a shirt in my closet or tool in my kitchen and finding it just where I thought it would be on a regular basis. It’s a pleasant, satisfying experience.
I’m not going to use this post to give an overview of the KonMari process; I’ve written not one but two posts about that already. (This one has a chart!) But here’s a quick overview of what has worked for me and what hasn’t.
What Worked – Have a Picture in Mind of the Final Goal
I realized that the pictures in magazines that spoke to me and gave me peaceful, joyous feelings were open, airy spaces and yet I tended to keep tons of stuff. Then I needed storage furniture to keep my stuff!
What Worked – Keep Only That Which Sparks Joy
Marie Kondo emphasizes that when you’re going through the discarding process, you’re not looking at what to discard, you’re looking at what to keep. What actually gives you pleasure? If you can’t say absolutely yes to this, then don’t keep it. The goal is to find yourself surrounded only by the things you love. I took to this goal so enthusiastically that we discarded several pieces of furniture, including our dining table.
What Worked – A Place for Everything and Everything in its Place
My major kitchen reorganization took much longer than I thought it would for a couple of reasons: touching every item in the kitchen to see if it sparked joy was time-consuming, and determining where things should return to once I took everything out took at least twice as long as I thought it would. However, once I found a good place for each item, I finally discovered the pleasure of having a well-defined place for every item and six months after my big kitchen reorganization, things are still in place. Such a delight.
What Worked – Folding My Jeans and Sweaters and even my Socks
My jeans and sweaters and even my socks and tights looked neater and were easier to find in my drawer folded vertically using the KonMari method. By the way, the best resource I’ve seen for how to fold things using the KonMari Method is this one from Goop. And here’s a tip from me: fold things tightly. You want your little clothing packet to be able to stand up on its own.
What Didn’t Work for Me – Folding My T-Shirts
I dutifully folded my t-shirts for almost 9 months before I got out my summer clothes this year and decided, like a rebellious daughter trying out her own ideas for the first time, to hang up my t-shirts in the closet! Even folded vertically, it was difficult to tell which t-shirt was which and who could tell between my long-sleeve black t-shirt, my short-sleeved black t-shirt, and my black tank top? Hanging up, arranged by type and color, I can easily tell what’s what. Marie Kondo actually gives permission to break her rules in Spark Joy if that feels right to us and even adds:
Even if you make a mistake, your house isn’t going to blow up
So, that’s a comfort.
How about you? Have you tried any of the KonMari methods? What’s worked for you? What haven’t you liked?
Get the Newsletter!
Sign up now and you'll get Midlife Rambler delivered right to your inbox!