I just finished The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up book by Marie Kondo. Previously I had perused a copy at Costco when it was then new and trendy. I dismissed the concept because she spoke about possessions like they were friends and thanking them before parting with them. It was just too much. Too crazy.
Years later, I read an excerpt from the illustrated companion volume Spark Joy about folding clothes found in the Reader’s Digest and it really was quite awesome. Especially after my LuLaRoe makeover, it felt like my new clothes were meant to be folded and stored upright. So I gave the book another chance and here’s some of my insights as I was discarding:
Day 1 Clothes
It actually started last night at like 11pm. I decided to do my clothes since I don’t own that much and sorted and discarded til 1 am. Yeah, I had to get up again at 7 am like I always do. But it felt great.
I am not a hoarder especially when it comes to clothing. I am pretty good about laying to rest old clothes and here in Texas, you can schedule a local charity truck to pick up the clothes and other small household items, to use for proceeds towards charitable causes. I usually support local organizations: the act of donating items to a charity instead of to the trash, helps dull the pain of the discarding phase.
The key to the KonMari method is letting go of emotion that bind us to material possessions that really don’t work for us. If the item sparks joy, then keep it. If not, then discard or donate.
I was finally able to let go of old clothing that I had saved to try to fit into again. I mean, maybe it’s all due to a matter of time, but I have accepted the fact that my last pregnancy has altered my body entirely (not just the little fat pouch, which I should work off, it will only take me like two years) as in new bra size (not cup), new shirt size, and new body shape.
The next day, I worked through my kids’ clothing, which I often do throughout the year but doing it all at once really felt effective. My kids didn’t seem to mind me sorting next to their play and they still napped well in the afternoon despite the indoor activity probably because it was so unorthodox of an after-lunch activity. This time I was finally willing to let go of some of the hand-me-down clothing I had received from other moms. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good hand-me-down just as much as the next mom, but there was so much I keep that was out of style, weirdly colored, or just ill-fitting. I mean, we’re talking clothes already 6 years old which my kids will not be able to fit into for another 3 years. It’s time for someone else to enjoy them.
It feels great. I know in the book, she says claims it will be life-changing, but to tell you the truth it is. It’s liberating.
It also makes me really evaluate my re-gifting of kids clothes that I did in the past to my brothers and in-laws. I am going to stop this practice mostly because I realize that I only kept a small amount of hand-me-downs due to geography. We all live in different climates and have different lifestyles. I don’t want them to have the burden or obligation to keep something. I would hope if I did ever send something to them that wasn’t suitable, that they’d be courageous enough to sell or donate it.
There are, however, a few things in the book which are wrong, I mean, unrealistic for moms with kids. We use a ton of clear plastic bins in our house, the ones from Costco. Homes with children will need storage. I can’t start all over with new wardrobes with every child. I can’t throw away baby gear, even if it’s taking up a lot of space in my closet. The same thing goes with maternity clothes; perhaps she has never seen how expensive those clothes can be.
And some kids’ toys you can’t really get rid of. This falls under that gray area of others’ possessions and kids’ things. Yes, there are toys they don’t really play with and those will go bye-bye. But there are things that feel like clutter like random plastic containers, but they play with them all the time and would be a waste to throw away a cheap toy just because it looks like trash.
She says to stop the practice of packing away seasonal clothing but I still like wearing certain shades of colors for certain seasons. I do see how storing away clothes is a recipe for forgetting what you have in your closet. I need to change my shopping skills a bit though and stop buying clothes to last just for a season but to be worn throughout the year. We can wear the same shirts all year round here if I buy the right items.
Take all tags off clothes? I disagree. There have been so many articles of clothing that I returned because I simply changed my mind about how they looked on me after I returned home. I am so glad I didn’t take off the tags so I could return the item for a full refund. Keep in mind that I am one who does actually do returns within the time limit and I remember to keep receipts etc. For others, tag removal might be the necessary painful reminder to only buy what you love in the future in order to avoid buyer’s remorse.
Day 2 Books
I actually did a clean-out of my books years ago, so I only have 50 of my own books. What has grown is my children’s book collection, which I will not let go of yet, since my kids are still super young and need a good variety.
I did, however, let go of The Help, which was probably the last hard copy grown up book I bought. And from the kids’ section, I sent packing a Nihao Kailan Look and See book since Qiaohu rules our Chinese library now.
I consider myself a pretty good declutterer. Cleaning a hoarder’s house, a pack rat’s house and living with my cluttered siblings is enough to change anyone’s life forever. This book was still relevant to me. What has helped me is the advice to discard by category instead of go from room to room. While this is kind of tedious work, it’s very dramatic and therefore memorable. It is true that you will not likely forget swimming in a pool of your own clothing, underwear and all.
Day 3 Papers
I used to do the binder method which I wrote about in this blog. I’m letting of the binder and I’m going to try out a simpler system of just using one folder or container.
I did a part with Baby B when she woke up from her nap. She loves playing with my checkbook and some coupons which expired months ago. Yes, paper trails are so easily created!
Day 4 Papers Again
She argues that eliminating what is unnecessary will help one determine what is most important to him or her and I agree. She also says it’s okay to donate or let go of gifts, as the gift giver already expressed love and care when the gift was initially given. If we hold onto gifts that are not used or enjoyed, we’re complicating our living spaces with things of little meaning and that was not the intention of our gift giver.
I also love that she sees right through people’s excuses when they claim they want to regift a possession or put it at a parent’s house for safe keeping: these actions are just delaying the thought of letting go. We need to love enough to let go and move on.
I have been working on papers for two days now. I’m finding it extremely difficult to let go of necessary documents because I was always taught to keep them for 7 years. I will simplify by trying to keep all paperwork in a single file cabinet instead of throughout the house and I did whittle down half of the existing paperwork.
I’m just having a hard time throwing away the paper trail. Medical documents, old tax forms and returns and some warranty information are all keepers but I can’t put them all into one file folder as she suggests. So I still have many folders, but instead of a ton of subcategories, I just have main ones: warranties, receipts, family history, kid’s medical and my medical. This is more my style.
I’m going to have to take some time to see what more can be reduced. I know it’s supposed to be a one-shot experience to discard, but on papers, I need some time.
Day 5, 6, and 7
So the last part is this vague conglomeration category called random objects and for this, I did do room by room mostly because of time and space and the kids. If I had things of a certain category spread throughout the house, like craft supplies, I did bring all items together to sort, but for example, bathroom stuff is only in the two bathrooms of my house and it is well-organized, so it didn’t make sense to take it all out.
On the last day and on days after this purge, I thought to myself, what more can I do? For days I didn’t know and that was because there was simply nothing else to do. Amazing.
Part of the magic is when you do it by category, your mind will take an inventory of all your belongings in the house. When you ask yourself, “Is this all my clothes?”, You’ll search for the random places you’ve stored all your clothing. When you’ve finished your mind feels at peace because it no longer has the burden of remembering where everything is, because if organized properly, anything will be easily located.
This does not mean my house is spotless clean and totally organized. I am still working on Part 2 Organizing.
You will still need to do actual cleaning every day but tidying up and decluttering are done long term. You will need to go through things again, like when you move or all the kids grow out of baby toys, etc. But it’s a rare event.
The results are fabulous. My closet looks awesome. I’ve started tracking down shoeboxes, her preferred storage container, for phase 2 and I am thrilled that we are donating 6 diaper boxes’ worth to the charity trucks.