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The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

11 August, 2015

Lately, I’ve been so unhappy with the way my room looks: scattered about the room are clothes, towels, and toiletries, not to mention half-read books. I’ve been so frustrated with this, but I finally figured out what the problem was: I didn’t have room for all my clothes in the closet or in drawers. I kept saying I was going to clean out and clean up, that I was going to find a way to put clothes away so that I wasn’t tossing them over a chair or across the bed when I wasn’t using them. So, I decided to make an event out of tidying up. Why did I decide that this deserved to be a special event? Well, I got inspired.

 

Inspiration for Tidying Up

I read a lot of blogs from beauty and lifestyle bloggers, who always have immaculately clean spaces on their Instagram feeds and blog posts. I would also like to have a lovely, tidy home; a place I’m proud to have guests; a space that both comforts and calms me; an atmosphere that sparks creativity.

So, it was perfect timing that I recently stumbled upon Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. After watching Kondo’s talk at Google, I was already convinced that I needed to follow the KonMari Method of tidying up. I was contemplating buying the book online or even getting a digital copy of the book (less clutter, right?), when I was early for an appointment and stepped into a shop that just happened to have the book on its shelves. Clearly, I was meant to start on this process right away. I read the book in two days and was inspired to immediately start in on this life-changing event (Kondo suggests that you should make tidying a special event and that you should not tidy a bit every day, but do your tidying all in one go… but I’ll get to that shortly).

 

Highlights of the KonMari Method

Sort by category, not by location: Kondo starts by explaining that your tidying will be most effective if you gather together all of one category together in one place instead of working through one room at a time. For instance, you should take out all of your clothes from all over the house and put them in one pile in one room, including off-season clothes, outerwear, and any other items that might not be in the main storage place. This allows you to see how much clothing you actually have and will help you to make clearer decisions on what to keep and what to let go of.

Make tidying a special event, not a daily chore: When you start with a clean slate, it’s much easier to maintain the tidiness, but it is much harder to tidy up if you’re constantly doing a little each day. If you try to do a little bit each day, you will nearly always put it off for another time and if there is something out of place, it encourages other things to pile up. (Another part of the KonMari Method is that everything you own has to have a place. If you can’t find a good place for it, you need to let it go.)

Finish discarding first: Before you start to find places for things, you must finish discarding everything. This may sound counter-intuitive if you have been reading about various storage methods or looking for inspiration at Ikea or the Container Store, but Kondo says that you will naturally select the right amount of things to keep for yourself and your space. If the first pass doesn’t feel completely right, another pass will help you to find the sweet spot of just the amount of things you need in your life.

Ask yourself if this item “sparks joy”: The criterion for choosing what to keep (a positive criterion as opposed to the usual negative criterion of “can I get rid of this item?”) is to ask yourself if the item “sparks joy”. After all, if it doesn’t ultimately make you happy, what is its purpose? Let it go and allow it to fulfill its purpose somewhere else. As you go through all of your things, hold each item up and ask yourself if it sparks joy. If it does not make you happy, thank the item for serving you in its own way and give your blessings on its future journey.

Reduce until you reach a point where something clicks: Kondo says that you will come to a point where you suddenly know exactly how much is right for you. I haven’t hit that point yet, but she assures the reader that if you have not yet felt that click, you can still reduce your belongings. Eventually you will choose the exact right amount. Focus on choosing things that inspire joy and on enjoying life by your own standards and it will come.

Designate a place for each thing: You must find a place for every thing you own. Although this seems like a daunting task, it’s far easier than deciding what to keep and what to discard, Kondo says. The benefits of having a place for every thing is that you will no longer buy more than you need, things will not accumulate, your stock on hand will decrease, and you will live a simpler life, free of clutter. However, she warns, that if you ignore this principle, your space will become cluttered and disorganized again. “Clutter is caused by the failure to return things to where they belong,” writes Kondo.

Discard first, store later: This way you will be left only with the amount that fits in the space you own. If you start putting things away before you are done discarding, you cannot properly see the volume of items you have to choose from.

 

Results

At present, I have only completed a tidying of my clothing and handbags, I already feel lighter. I started with a huge mountain of items in the middle of my bed that had previously been spread out around the house and had also been lying on the floor(!!), so I put on some music and set to it. A few hours later, I had reduced my clothing by at least two thirds and had put together seven trash bags full of handbags and clothing to donate to Goodwill. I knew if I waited, I would regret it, so I immediately packed those things away in my car and drove to the Goodwill to drop off the bags. I was surprised that when I held a few of the items up and asked myself if they sparked joy, I didn’t really feel either way about them. Ultimately anything I was unsure about, I decided to toss into the donation bags. It’s been only a few days, but I can already say that I don’t miss the things I tossed in. In fact, I already know that I have not yet reduced enough. I think my plan will be to do a clothing-tidying event at least every six months, but I also plan to do another once I’ve gone through all the other things in my home, including (next up) makeup and toiletries, shoes, and kitchen items.

Counter to my normal character, I am actually very much looking forward to the rest of this tidying project. I normally hate cleaning, but I think there is some magic in setting oneself free from the shackles of “stuff.” And, when I really think about this project, it really benefits my pursuit of all of my Core Desired Feelings this year, which are: Bold, Joy, Creativity, Radiance, and Grace. I can see easily how the act of tidying up and the state of being tidy in my own home will benefit each one of these feelings. I fully expect to feel closer to each of these feelings as I complete the process.

With regards to being Bold, having a good selection of clothing and accessories and easy-to-find makeup and jewelry will allow me to dress for success and if I’m spending less money on buying things I don’t need, I’ll be able to put away more money for travel, both of which were goals of mine this year.

I will certainly feel more Joy if I am surrounded by only things that cause me to feel joy specifically. It will be even easier to feel that joy when each thing has its place and I am able to find and return the things to their own places quickly and easily.

Having a clean and tidy space will certainly spark Creativity, as well. Having a visually quiet space and knowing where all my art supplies are will also help maintain a sense of creative flow.

That Radiance that I hope to project will be so much easier to share with a tidy house I feel confident in sharing with others. Wearing only clothes and accessories that I feel are part of a style I like and that spark joy within me will reflect the light within me. When I’m not so worried about myself and the things I possess, I can spend more of my energy making others happy, as well. I am really looking forward to that part.

Grace and elegance will be reflected through the tidiness of my home and the style of my dress, as well as my actions. Keeping up with all of these will be so much simpler once I’ve finished my tidying up and am able to maintain that state in my home. I hope that others will find my place and my presence a source of calm and comfort.

While I am nowhere near completing the act of tidying my home, I certainly feel better after donating many items I wasn’t using and don’t need. I wished them well on their journey and hope they benefit some very worthy people in their next lives. And I even found that letting go was easier than I thought. I plan to use this method to reduce and tidy up other areas of my life and actually look forward to it.

Have you tried the KonMari Method? What was your experience?

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