Fits and Starts

That’s how I   would describe this process.  I started back in August and made some great headway.  But as the items get more difficult, the process becomes more challenging as well. A few things can help – supportive family members and friends (the Facebook group is a huge supporting factor),  uninterrupted blocks of time (good luck with that), and breaks.  I firmly believe in taking breaks from the KonMari process so that you don’t become overwhelmed or discouraged.  Last week was Spring Break; most of my teacher friends were off, so I took off too. (Thirty years in education…hard to break some habits!) This week I am doing yard work.  I like to think of it as KonMari for the outdoors.  Pulling weeds may be a losing battle, but I call it exercise.  And while we have had a few chilly days her in North Texas, when the hot weather sets in it will be here for good, so I’m spending as much time outside as I can while it is bearable.

Kondo doesn’t recommend breaks.  In fact, she believes the process should be done in one fell swoop so that you don’t fall back into old clutter-filled habits.  In theory, that makes perfect sense, and I completely understand her reasoning.  But here’s the problem – life gets in the way.  Family, work, social activities – these are all going to impact the amount of time you can truly devote to this.  I have it better than many – I am retired, my husband is being supportive, my daughter doesn’t live at home, and we have a modest sized home of about 1900 square feet.  And yet…I started back in August.

If you try to KonMari exactly as  she says, you might be setting yourself up for failure. Don’t misunderstand – I absolutely love this process and am doing my best to adhere to her principles.  But rather than looking at them as “rules”, I am choosing to look at them as “guidelines”.  To be sure, I am a rule-follower (most of us Type As are), but I do have a little bit of a rebellious side.  I like to call it “common sense”.  If KMing your entire home in one month doesn’t make sense for you, then don’t do it that way.  The process is only going to work if you are committed to it.  The only way you are going to commit to it is if it makes sense to you, and the only way it is going to make sense to you is if you can do it in a way that feels manageable.

This process should free you, not frustrate you.  So do it, but if you have to make adjustments, don’t beat yourself up over it.  A perfect example would be what to fold vs what to hang.  Kondo wants nearly everything folded.  Now, I love the KonMari folding method; my drawers look amazing and it created so much extra space. (Try it the next time you pack a suitcase – you might only need one bag instead of two!)  But I am not folding my jeans.  They were awkward and bulky and it just looked ridiculous.  It made no sense to me and certainly did not bring me joy. I do have a pretty good sized walk-in closet though, so keeping the jeans on their hangers made for a much neater, organized look that I am very happy with.  Do what makes sense for your space.

Kondo wants us to strive for perfection; I’m on board with that.  But remember that my perfection and yours are probably going to differ – and that is perfectly okay.

Other People’s Stuff

I worked on my kitchen every day for a week.  It wasn’t a lot of fun – most kitchen items are utilitarian, so not a lot of joy-sparking there – but I did manage to get rid of a fair number of boxes and my cabinets are organized.

kitchen boxes

One of the major issues with KonMari is that you can’t KM someone else.  Each person has to be responsible for their own belongings.  If I lived alone, this house would have been done months ago!  But I am slowly making progress with my husband.  He was fine with all the kitchen stuff I sent to Goodwill, but there still remained cabinets and shelves I could not touch because they belonged to him.  He bakes. A lot. So we have shelves and shelves of baking items and cake decorating tools.  They’ve invaded the garage too.  Pans, candy molds, tips, bags – you name it, we have it.  And while I can’t KM his baking supplies, I can at least organize the shelves where they reside.

But he was starting to come around.  I asked him to come into the garage with me so we could organize the dozens and dozens of pans and molds.  Again, if I can’t get rid of it, I at least want it to be neat.  And then a funny thing happened.  As he was going through the items he started to pare down.  Unpopular pans and molds he only used once were put to the side.  And then more and more, until we had a giant tub of cake pans and a smaller, but still large tub of molds all ready to be discarded.  I was shocked!  And I think he was too.  Just the act of sorting through all of those supplies made him realize that he was hanging onto them for no good reason, especially since he wasn’t using all of them anymore.  And that left the remaining items much more easily accessible.

I guess that motivated him, because a few days later he started working on his toolbox. Men don’t get rid of tools; doesn’t matter if they have multiple versions of the same item, in their minds there might one day be a need for this particular size of hex wrench – or hammer – or screwdriver.  But the top drawer of his beloved Craftsman toolbox was so overflowing he could not close the lid. It took him several evenings but, soon he had gone through the entire thing.  It was a sight to behold; and now the lid closes.

But for me, the most validating thing has been his willingness to work on his closet. You have to understand, when I met my husband, I thought I was with someone who also liked orderliness.  His apartment was always immaculate, no piles or signs of clutter.  On my first visit during a party, he actually brought me to see his huge walk-in closet.  Clothes hung neatly, other items stacked on shelves – hardly a thing out of place.  I often joke with him that he sold me a bill of goods, because this is what I live with now:

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And you can’t even see the top of the dresser in this picture.  If there is a horizontal surface, it is covered.  The only saving grace has been that we each have our own closet so I can just close the door and TRY to ignore his. I asked him one day if we could please just go in there and straighten up a bit.  The next thing I know, he had two full tubs of shorts and jeans and an armload of shirts all ready to be discarded. He’s recently lost fifty pounds, so none of these items even fit! Discarding them all means a couple of things.  First, he is committed to not putting that weight back on.  But it also shows that he gets where I am coming from; he understands my need to dig out from under all of this and he is starting to feel it too.  Now, he won’t caress an item and ask himself, “Does this spark joy?” but when I ask him if he is sure about getting rid of something, he will say it doesn’t make him feel joyful.  He’s poking fun a little bit, but he understands the process.  And now his closet looks like this:

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Sometimes, you can get the horse to drink.

Books & Paper

Starting with clothing, which ends up being relatively easy in my opinion, you think that the next categories will go just as smoothly – ha!  Books and paper come next.  I think it is safe to say that we are all drowning under the weight of the amount of paper we have in our homes. Computers were supposed to take care of paper; everything is stored electronically so there should be no need for the paper copy.  That might be true if you are a millennial, a digital native.  But for the rest of us, that little voice that says you should have a hard copy “just in case” (along with an inherent distrust of computers), means there probably hasn’t been a serious amount of paper reduction in the home.

I consider myself a digital immigrant.  I bank and shop online and am confident enough in my financial institutions that I no longer have statements mailed to my home.  But each day when I go to my mailbox, I am reminded of that Seinfeld episode – you know the one – when Kramer tried to stop the mail, specifically junk and catalogs, from being delivered. I may be doing everything else online, but the places we shop and bank still get us with offers and catalogs that just keep coming.  (They must be in cahoots with the postal service.)  And straight to the recycle bin they go.

But beyond the daily paper items that come in and go out pretty quickly, Kondo addresses those items that we all hang onto because we think we must.  Her philosophy is discard everything; anything of importance can be found again electronically.  And while that may be true, I think we all realize (and she does too) there are some things that you just can’t throw away (marriage licenses, passports, etc.) So I went through the file cabinet, ditched what I knew for sure was not needed and kept only those things that I knew I had to.  And while I still have the file cabinet with my categorized hanging file folders (gold/green, concrete-sequential, remember?), I was able to reduce down from two drawers to one.  That was good enough for me.

There may not be a lot (or any) joy in the necessary paper of our lives, but books…well, that is a different story.  My husband, my daughter, and I are all voracious readers; we have a lot of books in our home. To do this the KonMari way, you would unload all of your books onto the floor much like the clothes, and go through them one by one.  Well, I am here to tell you that was not going to happen.  First of all, not all of the books are mine, and I have been the only one KonMari-ing my house at this point. Secondly, I could see them all much better on the shelves.  It’s not like we had books spilling out all over our house, so I was content to keep them as they were.  But later on, KonMari once again made sense in hind-sight.

To put out certain Christmas decorations, we always clear off about six bookshelves in our living room.  The books get boxed away for a month and put back out when Christmas is over.  As I was taking them off the shelf this year, however, I came across some that really didn’t speak to me.  So those went into a separate box to be sold/donated.  Had it not been necessary to remove them from the shelves in the first place, they would have remained indefinitely. So if you get to the section on books and think to yourself, “I can just sort by sight,” you are wrong.  While you might not want to empty every shelf at once, I think emptying one or two at a time and going through the books by hand will make a huge impact on what you choose to keep.  Those books that have real meaning for you will be the ones that remain.

 

Does this Spark Joy?

Time to get busy.  It is a full 65 pages into the book before you actually start doing anything, but there is a reason for that.  You have to understand the philosophy behind the KonMari Method. It would do you no good to start on page 66, because you would still be sorting your things the old way – and probably end up keeping way more than you need. So how do you decide what goes and what stays?  If you follow the KonMari Method, you will ask yourself one question while holding the item in your hand – “Does this spark joy?” Kondo’s rule is simple – if the answer is yes, keep it, but if the answer is no, to the discard pile it goes.  I will admit this sounded a little odd to me, as did thanking each item before I sent it on its way.  But I do believe her advice is sound and helps you to focus more on what you want to keep rather than what you want to get rid of.  I will admit, however, that just having that question in my head make it much easier when I began to go through my things.

20150902_104427Clothing is the first category Kondo tackles and here is her direction: Place every item of clothing in the house on the floor.  And she means everything.  Empty every closet, every drawer, tub, or bin that contains articles of clothing.  Hmmm… I liked this idea in theory, and if I lived alone or if Marie Kondo herself was sitting there with me, I might have done that.  Instead, I opted for a modified version.  I started with emptying my closet and after working through all of the items there, moved on to dressers and out of season tubs.  Did I hold each item in my hands?  You kind of have no choice.  Did I ask myself the joy question for each item?  I didn’t really have to; I had in my head if it didn’t spark joy it was going.  Did I thank the items for their service? No – but I did clear out a lot of stuff and did not feel the least bit guilty doing it.  And while it may sound odd to ask yourself if a pair of jeans or a scarf brings you joy, think about it for a minute.  Odds are you wear the same pieces over and over again.  Why?  Because you like the way they look and the way they make you feel.  You’ve likely been wearing only the clothing that brings you joy all along…

The closet was a piece of cake for me. Dressers, drawers, and tubs a little more daunting but it all got done and in relatively short order, too.  And I no longer need a place to store out of season items; discarding gave me more space. My donation pile was sizable; Goodwill was going to be getting a pretty good selection of items!  But beyond that, I truly did start to feel lighter.  Cleaning out, freeing up space in your environment really can have an impact on your physical and emotional self. Kondo describes this in her book as well.  I think it’s important to realize that this isn’t just about having organized closets and a neater home.  It is about finding the things that bring you joy in all aspects of life – this is just the first step of the journey.