Is Tidying Up with the KonMari Method Really Life Changing?

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Tidying Up with Marie Kondo is all the rage on social media right now. This is not surprising because just a few years ago her book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, was a New York Times Best Seller (and has now reclaimed a spot on the list, thanks to the new Netflix show). While I never read the book and just hit play on the pilot episode of the series as I sat down to type this, I did give the KonMari method a try to re-organize my closet before I went back to work following my 12-week maternity leave.

I knew just enough about the KonMari method thanks to my Mom, who read the book when it first came out and gave me the Cliff Notes version over the phone. Since I’d been wearing maternity clothes for half a year (at least), and didn’t even knew if my pre-pregnancy clothes fit anymore, it seemed like a good idea to go through my closet before heading back to work full-time.

Clothes

From my Mom’s summary, I learned that I was supposed to take every single item of clothing I owned and put it in one big pile. Then handle each and every item and ask myself “Does it spark joy?” With joy being the only reason to keep it. Not “Does it still fit?” or “Have I worn this in the past year?” Simply, “Does it spark joy?”

That is an entirely different question when evaluating your wardrobe.

Given that I LOVE to shop, I knew this process would take some time. I had two closets full of clothes, along with two dressers (excessive, I know.) Naively, I told my husband I would need a day or two to clean out my closets. And asked if he would take the lead with the baby, so I could focus on that for a bit.

He agreed, of course. Since just a few short months before he had witnessed me push a child the size of a small watermelon out of my body. But honestly, neither of us were prepared for the undertaking this little project would turn out to be.

Once I got the go-ahead from the Hubs, I started pulling clothes out of one closet and heaping them onto the guest bed. That process moved fairly quickly. And when I was done, the pile was already HUGE.

The “Heap” post closet clean-out.

I paused for a moment and looked at it in awe. And then told myself I needed to keep going. I moved on to the next closet and went back and forth between rooms, piling more and more clothing onto the heap.

Then I pulled open my dressers and started gathering all of the contents inside. Pants and jeans and pajamas and t-shirts. Workout clothes I hadn’t even looked at in over a year. And tights. Why so many tights? I wear tights like once or twice a year.

On to the pile they went. Along with bras and socks and underwear. Until finally, every drawer was empty. And both of my closets bare.

Afterward, I looked at the giant pile of clothes on the guest bed and said to myself “What have I done?”

I was immediately overwhelmed. But I also knew there was no going back.

So I grabbed a few garbage bags from the kitchen and picked up the first item.

Does it spark joy?

With each item, the answer came a bit easier. I tried to just go with my gut reaction. And to clear the clutter in my mind trying to ask some of those other questions instead. 

Another tip from Marie is to “thank” each item you decide to get rid of. Thank it for its service. Thank it for keeping you warm. Thank it for making you feel beautiful. Etc.

Let me be honest. That part felt a little weird to me. I thanked some of them, but I can’t say I thanked them all.

But I started to notice trends as I continued to work through that ginormous pile. There were certain brands that did NOT seem to spark joy. Most of them were fast fashion brands that are cheaply made and fairly inexpensive. You know the ones I’m talking about. The clothes that don’t seem to hold up all that well, or shape shift after a few washings.

Regardless of what a steal they may have been at the time, joy they did not spark.

By the time I made it through the mound of clothes I had heaped onto that poor, unsuspecting guest bed, I had filled 20, yes TWENTY, garbage bags to donate. And in theory, I was left with only items that truly sparked joy, and gave me that warm, fuzzy feeling for whatever reason.

But that was only the first step of the process.

Then came the folding.

Marie recommends a specific method of folding your clothes in order to tidy your drawers and closets. You fold each item into a small square, first by folding the item in half and then in thirds. Each item is supposed to stand up on its own when you are done.

So listen. Here is where actually reading the book might have been helpful. I did not follow her folding method to a T. Mainly because I never actually watched her do it. I assumed I knew how to fold in thirds from my 6 months of working at Express as a freshman in college. So, I just kind of went with that.

My son’s t-shirts folded using the KonMari Method

My clothes did fit into my drawers much better using that approach though. Because you don’t stack them one upon the other, like I used to do. Instead, they go in the drawer standing upright, one item next to another. That way you can actually see each item when you open the drawer. Instead of maybe having to remove a few items in order to get to the one you want because it’s buried.

As for hanging items, Marie’s advice is to have your closet “rise to the right”, with longer, darker, heavier items on the left and shorter, lighter items to the right.

Because of the configuration of my closet and the fact that even after getting rid of 20 bags of clothes, I could not fit all four seasons into one, “rise to the right” wasn’t going to work for me. So, instead, I simply categorized my hanging clothes by like item, and then by color, going in order from light to dark.

For instance, all of my dresses are hanging together, sorted in order from white to black, with the rainbow of colors in between. Same with my skirts. And dress pants. Plus short sleeve shirts. And long sleeve shirts and sweaters.

I bought all new hangers (seriously though, those Joy hangers are worth it) because I wanted the uniformity. I figured, if I was going to do this, I wanted to do it right. (A WIRE HANGER?!)

When all was said and done, the whole process took me about 2 weeks. Not the long weekend I was expecting it to. So, if you are planning to try this, consider yourself warned.

Books

Once I finished with the clothes, I moved on to step 2 of the KonMari Method. Which is books.

As an avid reader, and writer, I thought I would struggle with that one a bit more. However, the process of weeding out my books was much easier. Perhaps because I have a Kindle I can store books on. Or that we have an amazing Public Library right down the street I can borrow items from whenever I want. 

I kept some of my favorites I thought I might re-read one day. And some new releases and best sellers I want to get to eventually. But then donated the rest to the Friends of the Monona Public Library.

Paper

After books comes paper.

So, I tackled the filing cabinet next. Which is a project in and of itself, considering I had tax records dating back to the 90’s and warranties for every item that had ever been brought into the house.

I bought new file folders and a Dymo Label Maker for a completely fresh start. I had a little anxiety about getting rid of some of the old paperwork, but Marie is right. Much of the paper we hold on to we will never ever need again. So many records are kept electronically now. Even instruction manuals for our household electronics are just a quick Google search away.

We burned a TON of paper in the fire pit that week. And it brought a great sense of accomplishment.

I can actually open the drawer to see all of the contents inside now. And when I do need to save something, I don’t have to cram it in a folder that is already jam packed tight with paper.

Kitchen Items

Our Kitchen towel drawer post-KonMari

From there, I moved on to Kitchen items, which is part of the KOMONO stage of her method. KOMONO is Kitchen, Bath, Garage and Miscellaneous items. I didn’t tackle kitchen items until the following summer when my husband (finally) remodeled our kitchen. Since we removed everything from the cabinets in order to sand, prime and paint them, it was so much easier to weed out items that I didn’t want to put back in them once the paint finally dried. (Turns out, we really do only need one potato masher.)

I never really made it past the kitchen though. Perhaps because I feel most overwhelmed by her last category, which is “Sentimental Items”. Maybe I’ll actually read the book before I try to grapple with that one…

Tidying is definitely a work in progress. And with a small child and a husband with hoarder-ish habits, it feels like the work will never been done.

Has tidying using the KonMari method changed my life? Eh. Probably not. It definitely made my closets more organized and has changed the way I shop though. I often ask myself “Does this spark joy?” when considering new items to add to my wardrobe or bring into the house. So, there’s that.

Yet, every now and then I catch myself slipping back to into old habits. Which basically translates to “Ooh, but it’s only $3!” Especially when I find myself wandering around Target, Kohl’s or Old Navy unsupervised.

I guess if that happens a lot less than it did before I KonMaried, then maybe it did change my life a bit after all.

 

 

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Alicia
Alicia was born and raised in Racine, Wisconsin and moved to Madison in 1996 to attend the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she received her degree in Communication Arts with an emphasis in radio, television and film. She’s been working on campus in some capacity ever since and currently manages career and leadership development initiatives in the School of Human Ecology. Alicia married her husband Eric in 2012 and became a mom to her sweet and funny son Ellis in 2015. When she’s not playing with or reading to Ellis, she likes to read, watch TV, and might be caught playing bingo at the VFW. She also runs her own lifestyle blog (madtownmomma.com) and catches for her softball team through Madison Schools & Community Recreation every summer.

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