Like for many, the accumulation of stuff snuck up on me. I would have thought that every time we moved, the most recent being one year ago, that we would shed a little more of the collection of two adults, three kids, and two dogs. Yet, here we are. Some of our boxes haven’t even been opened, and while I know the general advice is to not open them–just donate them–I can’t bring myself to do it.
There are a million websites and books offering organizational wisdom on getting rid of things and genius storage solutions. I have pretty much tried them all. My main issue is that they all have loopholes and compromises, and I am very good at finding them. Then I found my match.
I happened upon Marie Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing online. Kondo is a Japanese professional organizing consultant with a wait list for her services, centered around a practice she calls the KonMari Method. Fascinated and slightly obsessed from the age of 5, the art of decluttering has been her life-long passion. She is a Tidying Geek!
While I was dubious about trying another system, much less spending any money on a book that tells me what I already know, it turned out this was the first method that has ever worked for me and this is why:
1. Do it all at once.
Inevitably, work and family schedules and kids pulling things out of boxes would thwart me when I tried to do a room at a time. By scheduling to focus on my purge all at once, I accomplish more and get the boxes out quickly.
2. Focus on the easier things first and sort by category.
In the past, I have always started with things like books, which are actually the hardest for me to get rid of. Kondo suggest tackling full categories and starting with the easiest (like clothing) and working your way up to the harder things (like books and keepsakes). When I piled every article of clothing I own onto the bed, like Kondo told me to, I was horrified at the volume. Apparently, this reaction is common. I don’t wear half of it, either because it doesn’t work with my lifestyle anymore or it was hidden in a closet or a drawer. Getting rid of much of it was liberating.
3. Storage solutions hinder rather than help us.
Something Kondo says in her book really connected with me. The idea that we need clever storage solutions is an obstacle to our goals. They often take up more room and allow us to hold on to more things than we need. She goes on to state that she has never been in a house that didn’t have enough storage for what the family truly needed. When it came to my art studio, this idea killed me. Art supplies are like air to me. Looking at it with new eyes, however, what I began to see was that anything that I was not using could easily be replaced if I ever needed it again. It wasn’t worth the burden of storing it. This was really my turning point.
4. Get rid of that which you do not use.
If you haven’t used it by now, it can be replaced. If you haven’t read it by now, the information you needed from it is no longer relevant. Kondo is fairly blunt, ruthless actually in her demands that her clients (and you as the reader) eliminate everything that does not contribute to:
5. Keep that which sparks joy.
I thought it was a bit much to expect me to hold every item I own in my hand and ask myself if it is useful. Does it spark joy? But the more I did it, the more I began to understand. Kondo speaks about our things and our living spaces as if they are living, organic things. The more I began to see my environment in this way, the more I desired a sanctuary that reflected the kind of life I wanted, the kind of energy I wanted to feel when I walk into my house. It became easier to let go of things and to delight in those things that do spark joy.
While I have given a decent summary of the pearls I extracted from this book, it doesn’t do the narrative justice. Her description of her methods, experiences, and goals for you as her reader is a complete journey. Kondo is not particularly warm and endearing in her book, but I didn’t need her to be. In fact, it very much felt like she had a job to do, and I appreciated the candor and detail that allowed me to finally feel like I had done my decluttering process justice, not just in a practical way but in an artful way.
I plan to extend this method into my purchasing as well. Before I buy, I will ask myself these same questions. For the record, the Dancing Baby Groot I ordered absolutely sparks joy.
Have you tried this method? How does clearing the way feel in your geeky house?