I drank the Marie Kondo Kool-Aid and my closet has never been happier

By Shawna Malvini Redden

Shawna Malvini Redden
Shawna Malvini Redden

“I have nothing to wear.”

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times. And usually while facing a closet bursting with clothes.

Well, those days are over. O-V-E-R. How, you wonder? Marie Kondo’s best seller, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

I was skeptical at first but the title of this tiny book is actually no joke. Her approach to de-cluttering and streamlining life is paradigm shifting and has changed the way I organize my closet, my shopping, and my life. No. Joke.

It started on Twitter, when I read posts from friends bragging about taking a dozen bags of clothes to Goodwill. They recommended the “KonMari” method which entails decluttering by category (clothes, housewares, books, mementos), rather than by room. The crux of the magic? Looking for what sparks joy.

Kondo’s system involves gathering everything from a particular category in one place, and then touching each and every item. If it sparks joy, it stays. If not, it goes. Simple as that. She has rationale and counters to every argument against that simple criteria. “But what if I need it some day?” No, you really won’t. “But it cost a lot of money!” And? “But it’s useful.” Certainly my circa-2000 jeans are still useful, just not to me!

The easiest place to start, according to Kondo, is in the closet. So one weekend I gathered every article of clothing I own—including coats, shoes, hats, winter stuff from the top of the closet, old memento t-shirts I never wear but can’t bear to part with. I piled everything together and one-by-one touched each item and sent two-thirds to the Goodwill stack. Seriously, in a weekend, I parted with the majority of my wardrobe.

Most choices were easy. Identifying joy is very quick. Most of the time, you just know.

But some stay-or-go decisions were difficult. Like my red patent leather peep toe pumps that never fit right but were oh-so-cute and reminded me of the shopping trip with my mom that one time. Or the gorgeous and expensive dress that I just never felt comfortable wearing. Or the very practical but ugly winter jackets. Hence, my mid-sized “maybe” pile (that frankly, except three items, ended up in the Goodwill stack).

After six or seven hours of sorting and organizing, I filled eight black garbage bags and between you and me, still had plenty to wear.

So how do you keep from cluttering up again (which is always my problem after a big purge)? A large part of Kondo’s method involves changing the way items are stored—so that you can see them and without stacking. For instance, clothing in drawers is organized horizontally instead of vertically so you can open a drawer and see everything at once instead of only the item on top (see image, this is hard to explain). Also, Kondo advocates arranging things by color, from light to dark. Although I was skeptical at first, I love opening a drawer and seeing shirts and shorts at-a-glance, arranged in a colorful gradient.

What I love:

  • Knowing that everything in my closet is something I actually adore. I don’t run into that pair of pants I only wish I could wear or feel angsty about obligation outfits.
  • I know when I actually don’t have anything to wear. For instance, in the spring cleaning process I realized I had no shorts. None. So that category got addressed first in the summer shopping process (that obviously followed because now I have room in my shoe rack again. Ahem.).
  • Liking my closet. I decluttered in June and two months later my closet and drawers are still immaculate which is a damn miracle.

Cautions/Advice:

  • Read the book first. You’ll be tempted to dive right in and start decluttering, but she’s got a method to her madness that really works. Also, read with an open mind. Kondo is Japanese and her writing is influenced by Eastern philosophy. There is a lot about respecting clothing and paying honor to the work it has done for you. Some of the anthropomorphizing may be a little difficult for Westerners, but the method is still sound.
  • It takes a lot of time. I did my closet in a weekend, but other areas of the house are um, still in progress. The kitchen was easy but the bookshelves took forever. The keepsakes? I plan to get there by Christmas.
  • Do not, and I repeat, do not try to declutter your spouse/roommate/child’s areas for them. She’s very clear on this point and I learned the hard way trying to donate my husband’s old grungy polos without permission.

The long and short? I feel SO free for having decluttered one area of the house, and I’m slowly but surely making my way through the rest. I can’t recommend this book highly enough!

 

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Gather all like items in one place. You better believe that peacock dress on the left stayed in the “keep” pile. Then sort into yes, no, and maybe. Comfort your dog if, like Goliath, he seems to think you’re moving away or going on the longest trip ever.
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Organize drawers. Shirts and shorts may require extra folding, but I haven’t found them to be more wrinkled than usual.
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Arrange clothes by color from light to dark. For drawers, Kondo says to start with light in the front, and in the closet, to have darkest clothes on the left and lightest clothes on the right. Don’t ask me why.

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3 Comments

  1. Jessica says

    I’ve done the vast majority of our house. I just did garden tools, which almost made me barf from all the rat poop in the shed. Some categories were fun, like jewelry, others were simply horrid, like garage stuff. It is life changing, it really is. And don’t just read the Instagram posts, you have to read the book because it’s not only about what you keep, it’s about how you store it all too. It’s wonderful, even for rakes and shovels.
    I blogged about most of our process, and I’m glad I did because I still can’t believe how much our house has changed in the process.

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