Note: For Goals Week, I’m sharing a significantly updated version of a post I wrote back in April about the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I used the methods in this book to finally wrangle my clothing into a semi-organized status and I’m applying the principles now to my kitchen area in preparation for one of my 2016 goals: decorating my downstairs living area. I thought it would be helpful to revisit Marie Kondo’s overarching principle’s, particularly since I can now throw in some extra insight from living with the results of my last reorganization project for eight months.
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I always reorganize before I embark on any kind of reinvention project. All minds work differently, of course, but I do my best thinking in a clean, well-organized environment. But here’s the problem: I’m not naturally a clean, well-organized person.
I love organizing. I happily sort my things into piles. I am a ruthless discarder. I turn all my hangers in the same direction. But organizing does not love me back. I get things all nicely organized in one place and go on to the next project only to find that my first project has gone back to its old bad habits while my back was turned.
But I am always ever optimistic that my next try will be the one that will finally “take”; that this new organizing system will finally be the one I can lean on forever and will turn me into the neat person I just know is living inside of me.
I turned, as always, to a book for help. The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo has been a bit of a sensation for the past year or so. It’s a New York Times best-seller and I’ve read countless other blog articles about it.
The first sentence of the book is mildly ambitious:
In this book, I have summed up how to put your space in order in a way that will change your life forever.
This seems like this might be the book for me.
Marie Kondo promises that if I follow her system I will never revert to clutter again and, as an added bonus, attract dramatic changes in my life such losing ten pounds, attracting new business, and gaining new love.
I don’t mean to sound flippant when I write that. I truly believe that cleaning up your living space to make room for the life you are working toward can take you closer to that life. It’s the ultimate “dress for the job you want, not the job you have”. So clearing out the clutter of our previous life is a great way to make room for the next phase of our new life.
So what is Marie Kondo’s method, which she calls the KonMari Method? To appreciate it, you really do need to read the entire book – a short easy read; but here are few highlights:
- Before you start, visualize your destination. Where do you want to be when you finish your organizing process? What is your ideal lifestyle and why do you want it?
- Focus on one category at a time, not one room or area at a time. The best sequence is clothes, books, papers, miscellany and finally, mementos. Katy’s updated note: This is hardly a complete list and can’t be taken as a one-size fits all prescription. Where’s the cooking stuff? Where’s the beauty stuff? What if, for example, you are a sucker for every hair care product on the market? (Asking for a friend.) I think the larger points, though – focus on the category, not the room and finish with mementos last because otherwise you will get bogged down are very valid. I shudder to think of going through my mementos.
- Discarding must come first. When you begin to organize, gather everything from the category you are organizing, place it all on the floor and go through it all. Discard everything you don’t need and then, only when you are done discarding, begin putting things away.
- As you go through all your belongings, ask yourself: does it spark joy? If the answer is no, don’t keep it. It’s as simple as that.
- Save mementos for last. If you start with mementos, you’ll get too bogged down in memories.
- Make Tidying a special event, not a daily chore. If you a do a little a day, you’ll never finish. Although she doesn’t say you can organize your whole home in one big job; she estimates it will take about six months to do it right. Updated note: When I read the book the first time I disagreed with this advice. Who could do their whole house all at once? It took me two full weekends to do just my clothes and living in the mess of everything out during that one week was kinda a nightmare. But I missed the part where she said it could take up to six months to tidy up your whole house. So I don’t think she really means to devote your whole life to organizing your whole house at once. Rather, I believe what she means by this is to treat each project as a special event as opposed to the more typical “Go through your house and throw away 10 things each day” type of advice. I’ve been too neglectful of my organizing project so it’s taken me longer than it should but I’m thrilled with how my kitchen is coming together so I plan to spend the colder months tackling other projects, which I will treat as just that: projects, not little bits I’ll be doing each day.
can did this book change my life and make me the organized person I know I am inside? Well, kinda. You can see the results of my clothing redo here and 8 months later, it’s still mostly ok except for two trouble spots: I have nowhere good for my shoes and I have too many sweaters that spark joy and not enough drawer space to keep them. Also, too many sweaters are bulky and I’m not sure about what to do with them. Fold? Closet? So this continues to be a learning process.
I’m really pleased with what’s going on in my kitchen though and I really think I’ve developed a system that I’ll be able to stick with. I’ll be posting about that next. Join me, won’t you? And please, share any organizing experiences you have in the comments.