The clutter in my house seems to reproduce at an exponential rate. (I blame my husband and children.) In an effort to curtail the clutter babies, I looked into Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.
Her “revolutionary” method promises to take tidying to a whole new level and lead to dramatic results. Best of all, if you follow all of the instructions in her bestseller, you’ll never have to organize again. Sold! I purchased the book online, along with a Veggetti Spiral Vegetable Slicer, Makes Veggie Pasta. Clearly, I was off to a great start.
I read all 204 pages looking for her secrets, but despite the title, there are no magical Japanese fairies to do the work for you. You have to do it all yourself. Kondo’s KonMari Method instructs you to purge your house of unwanted belongings category by category and then use specialized storage techniques for the lucky items that remain.
The Big Purge
Kondo recommends you go through your entire home in a single sweep, discarding all unnecessary items in one big tidying marathon. I’m guessing she doesn’t have kids—and the baggage that comes with them—and has tons of extra time on her hands. Still, she made it sound so blissful and easy that I blocked off the weekend and badgered-encouraged my husband to help me.
“Our life will truly begin after we put our house in order. It says so right here!” I gave him my best sales pitch and pointed aggressively at the book.
“The whole damn house? Can’t we just pick one room to tackle each weekend?” he pleaded, probably hoping I’d lose interest after the first weekend.
“Nope. That’s not how it works,” I explained. “The KonMari Method explicitly says to purge our crap all at once and by category, not by room. First, we’ll start with clothing, then books, then papers, then komono, then…”
“What the hell is komono?” he interrupted.
“I don’t remember. I think it’s Japanese for ‘the rest of your crap.’ Anyhow, we’ll purge komono and finally sentimental items. Those are the hardest.”
My husband finally acquiesced. Probably because I promised him sex in the newly organized house.
Does It Spark Joy?
Whether or not a possession sparks joy in you is how you determine whether it stays or goes. Yes, you read that correctly. You hold an item, look deep into your heart, and make a decision based on the level of joy it inspires. By that criterion, I’d only keep my wine, my vibrator and my family (and some days, by “family,” I really mean “the family dog.”)
Tackling His Clothing
Early Saturday morning, my husband and I started in on the first category for our KonMari tidying project: his clothes.
“Okay, let’s get started. First, put all of your clothing on the ground,” I instructed.
“On the ground? That sounds like a terrible idea. We won’t be able to walk around to get beverages or go to the bathroom,” he said.
I had to admit that he was right (something I’m loathe to do) so we ignored Kondo’s advice and emptied his dresser and closet into an enormous pile on the bed.
“Don’t forget your coats. Grab all of your clothes from the entire house!” I demanded. I’m not 100-percent sure, but I think I heard, “Grab this!” as he walked down the hallway to retrieve his outerwear.
“Does it spark joy in you? Does it?” I asked repeatedly while dodging the articles he hurled across the room at me.
I give my husband credit, though. He was quick and efficient in determining what sparked joy in him. Unfortunately, his joy did not include several items I had bought for him, and they ended up in the purge pile. I tried hard to keep my mouth shut…until I couldn’t contain myself any longer.
“You’re putting all of your sweaters in the KonMari pile of crap?” I finally unleashed.
“When do I wear those, except when you dress me? Which does not spark joy, by the way. Now, if you undressed me,” he winked.
I dismissed him: “Dream on, Sparky.”
Organizing the Survivors
Once my husband had successfully purged all of his joy-sucking attire, we got to work at organizing what remained.
“Can’t we just put them back in the dresser and closet the way we had them?” he begged. “There’s so much more room now.”
“Absolutely not,” I advised. “We need to lovingly stroke and fold the clothes into teeny tiny rectangles and hang up the clothes that would be happier hung up. Clothes have feelings, you know, especially these few remaining ones. They probably have survivors’ guilt.”
“Are you fucking kidding me?” he asked in disbelief.
“Nope. Do it the right way, or I’ll KonMari you,” I insisted.
Apparently, while my husband is excellent at purging, it became immediately clear that folding is not his forte.
“You’re not folding those correctly,” I reprimanded. I then made him watch KonMari instructional videos on YouTube and we refolded his T-shirts. “And we need to redo all of your socks. You need to treat your socks with care and respect. Never, ever ball them up. That stretches out the fabric and isn’t restful to the socks. Properly folded socks are more joyful,” I advised.
“You’re just talking crazy now,” he grumbled.
“Hey, don’t blame me. This is the KonMari Method. In fact, we’re supposed to be thanking our socks every day for all of the hard work they do. We need to become Clothes Whisperers.”
“Are we still going to be married at the end of this?” he wondered aloud.
Purging My Collection
My turn at purging went much more slowly. Apparently, I have a hard time deciding what sparks joy in me beyond the items I already mentioned. I repeatedly asked my husband, “Does my outfit spark joy in you?” He wisely kept his opinions to himself.
I also discovered that a good portion of my clothes don’t fit anymore. Sure, they don’t spark joy right now, but they sure will when I lose those 10 extra pounds. So I heartlessly threw them into a box in the garage, which I’m sure violated several rules.
By the end of the first day, however, we had successfully shed 10 garbage bags of clothing and accessories, and we lovingly (but without talking to or groping them) organized our remaining clothing and shoes in our closets and dressers. It was a painful process, but our closets look fantastic. While they aren’t changing my life, they do indeed make me happy.
Moving Beyond Clothing
“Are you ready to tackle the rest?” I asked my husband excitedly.
“What!? The clothes took the entire day. There’s no way we’re going to finish the rest of the house this weekend,” he protested.
“Sure we can! Let’s plough through it. We can stay up all night!” I exclaimed.
To which my husband replied, “You no longer spark joy in me. Get in the garbage bag.”
In the interest of saving my marriage, I changed my plan and focused on KonMari-ing the crap out of the rest of my bedroom, so at least the master suite would be transformed. In the process, I moved all the books, papers and komono to the office—to be sorted on a future weekend.
What Did I Learn?
If my bedroom is any indication, using the KonMari Method should yield spectacular results in the rest of my house. Despite the bickering with my husband, I think purging by category and getting rid of things you don’t love is actually very effective. Will it change my life? That remains to be seen.
The KonMari Method also includes some fabulous folding tips, but I am realistic. I can barely finish the laundry each week. There’s no way I’m going to fold all of the clothes using her techniques. The clean clothes will need to learn to be happy inside the laundry basket.
Also, I’m not talking to my socks. ‘Cuz that’s just fucking crazy.
© 2015 Kathryn Leehane, as first published on Club Mid.
Photo Credit: bialasiewicz / 123RF Stock Photo