My Journey – One Year Later

posterAs I sat down to write this post, the phone rang. On my way to answer it, the sunlight was hitting the living room floor in such a way that I noticed it needed to be swept. So I took the phone call, then ran a broom across the floor. Twenty minutes later I came back to start the post – again. This is relevant only because it speaks to why, after a year, I am still not finished KonMari-ing my home. It’s not because I am easily distracted but because sometimes other things become more important. Even though I am not completely finished, a year seems like a good point to stop and take stock of how the process has gone so far, and to share this so you’ll know that the only timeline that matters is your own.

Successes

I think it’s important to talk about the successes and the progress made.  If you don’t note these small milestones, it can make it harder to continue. So here are just a few:

  • My closets and clothing drawers are still in perfect KM condition. I still fold all of my clothes into neat rectangles. Yes, it takes a while to fold the laundry, but there are only two of us and I find that I really don’t mind it. I still continue to discard items as I find they no longer bring me joy – or I don’t like them anymore – or they don’t fit well. Whatever the reason, the only clothes in my closets are the items I want there. What’s more – I’m much more judicious about what I purchase and bring into the house.
  • My husband and daughter both got on board. I’m fairly certain my husband could benefit from another round through his closet, but the first one produced so many items to discard that I am not complaining. And the fact that he let me do is dresser drawers was an added bonus. My daughter still has about a half dozen tubs of childhood stuff in her closet, but she got rid of twice that. And those tubs will go with her when she moves into her first permanent home.
  • No rebounding. The kitchen cabinets have remained neat and clutter free, I keep much less of the paper that comes into the house than I used to, and the last time I printed photos I only printed the best ones.
  • We didn’t buy the t-shirt. Yep – I can’t even think of the last time a souvenir or commemorative one came into this house. Score one for us!

Hurdles

I hesitate to call anything a failure because I honestly don’t see the fact that a certain category has not been completed in that way. (A failure would be having to redo my drawers again.) But there have been some hurdles along the way which have kept me from being as far along as I had hoped by this point.

  • Emptying the attic and storage unit AFTER starting the process. Introducing more clothing and books and paper after those categories had already been done really threw a monkey wrench in the procedure. And it is why I thoroughly advocate Kondo’s recommendation to do all of a category at one time. If I had followed that advice, I might be finished by now.
  • You can’t KonMari other people’s stuff. Much of what came out of the attic and storage unit belonged to my husband and daughter. Hubby is still trying to determine what to do with boxes of collectibles. Progress is being made, but it’s his to make, not mine, even though I do feel the impact.
  • I took a few breaks. And I totally feel that they were necessary.  Getting rid of your stuff is not an easy task. Taking a step back to assess where you are can help keep you going. Some breaks weren’t by choice. The death of a friend, the health crisis of a family member – these things took precedence. And they helped to remind me that people are what’s important, not things – which is why I started this in the first place.

What’s Next?

So where do I go from here? Well, according to the KonMari Method, I’ve only got photos and sentimental items left. But I have sixty photo albums and am not 100% on board with Kondo’s recommendation for photos, so that will be a challenge. Since I’ve been waiting until I am completely finished to put some things away, many items are not in their final homes yet. Once I’ve gone through the sentimental items, I’ll be able to put many things in their proper place. Then I will know it is complete.

My ultimate goal is to help others, who are so inclined, to do what I have done. And if it helps me earn some retirement income, well then that will be great too. So, my journey is not finished yet but it is about to get back on track. I hope you’ll stay with me for the rest of the ride.

KonMari in Action

978-1-60774-730-7Marie Kondo is everywhere these days.  In the last few weeks she has been on The Ellen Degeneres Show and Rachael Ray.  There have been articles on Parade.com – Sunday With: Marie Kondo and an interview with Good Housekeeping.  There was even a Mother’s Day quiz on Elle Decor – “Who said it – Marie Kondo or Your Mom?”  But probably the most anticipated event for her loyal followers, was “Tidy up with KonMari” a two-part series that aired on NHK World.  We finally got to see her in action as she assisted two different women in New York to KonMari their homes.  The books are great, but nothing beats actually getting to watch her work her magic with real people (except maybe having her come and work on MY home!)  Don’t miss out – the videos are only available to watch until May 23!

The Women

Gina lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two children. Marie walks through the house with her and sees items piled on every horizontal surface and spilling out of every drawer, closet, and cabinet.  I had my doubts.  And yet, the before and after is remarkable. Emily is single, but planning to move her boyfriend in with her.  She didn’t have as much clutter; it was mostly relegated to one room, but it was a room that was unusable because of the clutter.  And it contained the hard stuff – the sentimental items.  Yes, there were tears.  You really need to watch these episodes for your yourself to appreciate what KonMari does, but here are my take-aways:

Start with the End in Mind

Marie asks each of the women what their ideal life will be like after they’ve finished tidying.  That helps to set your goal and keep you motivated.  So draw a picture, make a list, or put up a photo that helps you to envision what your space – and your life – will look like when you are finished.

Gather and Sort Works!

Whether it is clothing, papers, or bathroom supplies, each and every time she brings categories to a central location and sorts them.  When you see like items all laid out in one place, you get a true sense of what you have and it makes it easier to discard those that you don’t need or want.  It is a lot of work, but you’ll see that it is the most efficient way.

Don’t Buy Storage Items

You probably already own all the bins, dividers, and boxes you will need.  And most items actually end up going into drawers and cabinets where space has been freed up.  Use what you have as you go.  I also noticed that some spaces ended up being temporary storage until they were complete.  Once you’ve finished discarding and your entire space has been KonMari-ed, then you can see if you need to buy something that you don’t already have.

Decisions, Decisions!

As you are going through this process, you are making a lot of decisions.  But remember this – you are deciding what to KEEP, not what to discard.  That initial shift in thinking is tough, but it really does improve your sensitivity to what holds value for you.  And Kondo says, if you really can’t decide, that is probably a sign that you should let the item go.

No Judgment

Marie does not make any judgments about what the women decide to keep.  She guides them when they seem to struggle and she is quiet as they work through the emotions. So if she’s not going to judge, you shouldn’t either!  If something sparks joy and you want to keep it, then keep it without guilt and move on.

It Can be Done

I was thoroughly impressed by the fact that both women were able to complete this in two weeks.  Yes, they did a little bit with KonMari at their side, but the bulk of the process was done during the two weeks that she was gone.  Granted, these were small New York apartments, but I’m not sure it’s about the size.  The women were committed and focused; you have to be ready and you have to want it.

We’re on hold here at my house.  Ready to get back at it after the garage sale, then some home repairs took priority.  But my KonMari journey is far from over…stay tuned!

Progress – Finally!

20160503_203104Whether it’s losing weight, tackling your inbox, or KonMari-ing your home, we are all motivated by making progress.  Numbers on the scale get smaller, the list of emails grows shorter, clutter is reduced – and we feel compelled to keep on.  I believe this is why Kondo is so adamant that you take on your tidying festival in one fell swoop.  She knows that when you don’t see progress it is easy to just throw in the towel and assume this is just how it’s going to be.  I thought I was making progress, cruising right along through this KonMari Method – until I wasn’t.  We had a couple of missteps (see my post The Weight to refresh your memory) that pretty much ground progress to a halt – until now.

Sending the Clutter on its Way

Even though I had taken some items to be donated earlier on in the process (remember all the boxes of kitchen stuff?), there were many items that we came across that we decided to save for a garage sale. After being plagued by one rainy weekend after another, we finally got a break – sort of. Expecting a rainy Friday but a sunny Saturday, we decided to take a chance – and held it on a Thursday.  Best decision ever.  Who knew that Thursday is actually the prime garage sale day?  We barely had the stuff out of the tubs and bags before customers started showing up.  And you can imagine how long it takes to lay out several HUNDRED t-shirts?  But it was worth it.  With one customer after another I was sending the clutter on its way, letting go of items without remorse or regret, and feeling positively giddy – joyful. Yes, the money is definitely nice, but the almost physical feeling of being unfettered as each piece left the garage is even better. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves…(click an image to enlarge)

We still have a few tubs of books to go to Half Price Books and lots of EMPTY tubs to use as needed.  We even sold some at the garage sale! But I now feel like I can tackle the rest of the items in the house with a clearer focus – and they will be the hardest. Collectibles, sentimental items, and photos – in sixty albums.  Mull on that for a minute.

It’s Always Something

So, I can’t leave this post without telling you about the crib.  When we moved from our rental house (22 years ago), we moved our little girl into a toddler bed and out of her crib.  We took the crib apart and stored it in the house. At first it was tucked under a bed, but the longer we stayed here and accumulated more stuff, we sent it over to the storage unit we had to rent.  And there it stayed until we emptied that unit a couple of months ago. There was a baggie of springs and bolts that my husband diligently kept up with so we could use the crib again for a grandchild some day.  But in the spirit of tidying up and letting go, we decided that the crib could go too. We couldn’t sell it on day one of the garage sale because we couldn’t locate the baggie of bolts, but on day two – success!  But not really. As he gathered up the pieces to set out he realized something – we did not have the metal rods that the moving side of the crib slid up and down.  They weren’t left in the storage unit, we were certain of that, because the more we thought about it, we couldn’t remember EVER having seen them. It is entirely possible this crib which we moved from our old house, to our new house, to the storage unit, and back to the house had been missing pieces for twenty-two years. My husband made sure we had the springs and bolts; sadly, we had nothing to attach them to. Sometimes, you just have to laugh.

Sometimes Life Gets in the Way

So, you’ve read the book (or both!), you’re motivated, your tidying festival is underway – and then you have to halt or pause or just take a break.  In a perfect world, everyone and everything in your life would understand that you must KonMari NOW.  You have a goal, and Kondo says that you must do this all at once.  But this is reality and sometimes those outside forces just will not cooperate.  I firmly believe that trying to fight those forces will only lead to frustration and may cause you to give up altogether – or to rebound.  So here are a few tips to help keep you on track, even if life is trying to force you off the rails.

Celebrate Small Accomplishments Along the Way

If you know there is no way you are going to complete your tidying marathon in six months, break it into smaller, easily attainable goals to help you stay motivated. Set a deadline for completing one category (or subcategory) in its entirety.  When that task is complete, take an after picture, post/tweet/Instagram it, share with friends, or just check it off your to-do list. Mark the occasion in some small way so that you will feel that sense of accomplishment and know that you are one step closer to reaching clutter-free nirvana.

Find Like-Minded Individuals to Share With

I was going to say “find a support group”, but this isn’t an illness!  (Although some friends and family might disagree…)  But seriously, having folks with whom to share your victories and your frustrations can have a huge impact on your success.  First of all, they understand the process and know how challenging it can be.  In addition, your fellow KonMari devotees can offer helpful suggestions when you need them.  The Facebook group I belong to has been there to offer encouragement, answer a question, and let me vent. The best part?  You never have to explain, “Well, I read this book about tidying by a Japanese woman…”  We all get it!

Know When to Fold ‘Em

I’m not talking clothes here.  You know you best.  And you know your family and household best as well.  So if you know that starting the next category or subcategory would not be prudent at this time, then don’t. And don’t feel pressured by the book; I know that sounds crazy, but Kondo is so inspirational, that you can almost feel like you are letting her down if you stray from her guidelines.  But here’s the thing – she wants everyone to be successful, so if you know that the only way you’ll be ready to continue is if you take a short break now, then so be it.

This Isn’t Basketball – NO Rebounding

Just because you are taking a break, it doesn’t mean you forget all you have learned and accomplished so far.  Kondo warns that rebounding (going back to all that clutter) is inevitable if you try to do this a little at a time. I understand her point and I even agree; it is very easy to revert if you are not seeing results. But I have to say that my closet, drawers, and kitchen cabinets are still in the same great shape now as they were when I completed those areas months ago. The impact of getting rid of so much stuff still resonates with me. To avoid a rebound it’s vital to maintain the areas that you’ve already completed.  Pick a date to resume the process, and take your break with a clear conscience.

I wish I had been able to KonMari my whole house in six months; I probably would have made it if we hadn’t made the decision to empty the attic and storage unit in the middle of the process.  But at least I’ll know that no stone has been left unturned; everything we own is clearly visible.  And soon there will be much less of it to see.

Komono – Just Because

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buttons2Does anyone else out there have a grandmother who had an old coffee can full of spare buttons?  I’m betting a lot of you are nodding your head.  Now, how many of you have your own stash of spare buttons?  Still nodding I bet, and that’s okay because I am too.  But when was the last time you ever actually used one of those buttons?  Can’t remember?  Me either…and I’m guessing that’s because the answer is NEVER.  How about the spare piece of yarn (thread, fiber?) that comes with some woven items?  I’ve got those too, but honey, if I’m not sewing on a button, I’m darn sure not going to repair a pull in a sweater!  So why do we keep these things?   Typically, the answer is “just because”.  Because why?

The buttons, the items in the junk drawer, the innumerable pens you picked up at the last convention you attended – all of these are a part of what Kondo refers to as komono – miscellaneous items that don’t fit neatly into any of the other categories.  And komono is everywhere.  Just sitting here at my desk I see that I have three pairs of scissors (all the same size), half a dozen flash drives (no idea what, if anything, is on them), and Sharpies in an array of colors.  I can easily get rid of the flash drives – they probably contain old work info and I’ve been retired almost a year now – and two pairs of scissors can go too (besides, there are two more pairs in the kitchen!)  None of these items spark joy, and I no longer need the flash drives, but scissors do come in handy. Those Sharpies bring me joy, however, so they are staying!

That’s the thing about the miscellaneous stuff – some items you just have to keep because they serve a distinct purpose; you can’t be running out to buy a new pair of scissors every time you ditch an old pair for not bringing you joy.  But do I need six pairs? Probably not. To me komono is one of the more challenging categories because it encompasses so much, and it is in every room of the house. How many times have you cleaned out your junk drawer only to have it fill up again?  Folks, there’s a reason it is called a JUNK drawer – and you probably do not need ninety percent of what it contains.  I can sort of envision the whole KonMari process as cleaning out the junk drawer.  If you tackle that drawer once and for all and never put anything back into it that doesn’t belong there, you will never have to clean it out again.  The same goes for tidying the KonMari way; if you do this massive tidying one time, you should never have to do it again. That’s the goal, though it will be a while before I can test that theory.

So, I’m moving on to komono and junk drawers and who knows what I’ll find. The key is going to be to keep only those items that serve a purpose or spark joy. I’m sure there are probably a lot of items that were kept “just because” – but that’s how you end up with a can full of buttons…or ten tubs of t-shirts.

Don’t Buy the T-shirt

In our home, the “commemorative” t-shirt has become the symbol for the large amount of unnecessary clutter we have accumulated.  I knew we had a lot of t-shirts; that became apparent when I did the clothing purge at the very beginning.  They took up two full dresser drawers – and these were just MY t-shirts.  There was a fair number hanging in the closet as well.  I was just unprepared for exactly how many there were; and I’m just talking right now about the ones in current circulation:

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These are just the ones from the University of OKlahoma where my daughter attended college.  I have worn every single one of them, several multiple times.  But here’s a fact – she has graduated now, and while I’d still like to have a couple to wear while I’m rooting them on during football season, I was able to let go of more than half.  Also in current circulation are a couple of concert tees, a few from my college alma mater, my favorite professional sports teams, the university where my daughter now works, one from a local eatery that closed down after decades…you get the picture.  And keep in mind that I was a teacher – at multiple campuses.  So there’s the official t-shirt for the current school year, plus any other events we chose to celebrate with commemorative clothing – times two.

Purging the work tees was easy after I retired.  I kept a few to have made into a quilt and the rest were bagged up.  Piece of cake.  Used the KonMari folding on the remaining ones any my drawers actually have breathing room.  Sounds like a success, but wait!  There’s more…

Down from the attic come boxes and boxes of stuff we haven’t looked at for years.  Some still in old cardboard boxes that are crumbling in our hands, others in plastic tubs that have seen better days.  In addition to typical attic detritus, we find a couple of tubs of t-shirts, which wouldn’t seem to unusual I guess, until you realize the time period they are from…

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Some of these shirts are close to, if not 40 years old.  My dad built the rides at the Adventurer’s Inn Amusement Parks – when i was in elementary school.  I worked at the Dilly Dally Nursery School in the summer when I was 14.  I wore the Budweiser and Mission Impossible shirts in junior high school.  The yellow one was given to me by one of the kids as a thank you gift for being their camp counselor; I was 16.  (Remember when going to the mall and having a custom t-shirt made was all the rage?)  Yes, these shirts all date back to the 70s – and this is just a sampling of what was in that box.  But it didn’t stop there; open more tubs, find more t-shirts.

Why?  Well, my husband worked for Coca-Cola and Dr Pepper so there was no shortage of promotional tees from them – which we felt the need to save…and store.  Brilliant.  And my daughter was in band starting in middle school and we were on PTA, and if you are going to sell a t-shirt as a fund raiser, you of course have to buy one…EVERY YEAR.  And starting in 7th grade she became a member of an educational group that spent a week travelling each summer, and they were given a t-shirt for each day of the trip.  That’s five t-shirts every year…for six years.  You do the math.  And she was in band in high school, which meant so were we, so we all had new band shirts each year.  And of course she got tees for honor society and student council, etc.  Going on vacation to the beach in Florida?  Well, you must stop at a Wings souvenir store and get a t-shirt to remember the trip each time you go…for several years.  Visiting a potential college?  Of course you buy a t-shirt.  Going to a concert?  Your team made the championship? Won the championship? They’re going to Disney, you’re buying a t-shirt.  That’s all well and good, but here’s the real question…why are we KEEPING them???

Off to the storage unit at U-haul to start clearing out; tired of paying to store our excess stuff.  And what do we find?  You guessed it – more bleeping t-shirts.  I said a lot of ugly words, but I only have myself to blame, because evidently, this t-shirt addiction started when I was a pre-teen!  How on earth can I judge my family when I’m holding on to t-shirts that are 40 years old?

My husband and I had no trouble parting with the vast majority of the promotional tees and those affiliated with whatever organization, team, or school our daughter was a part of. I did a couple of video chats with our daughter so she could yea or nay her tees, and amazingly, she let go about 90% of hers.

This is just what came out of the storage unit.  After I chatted with my daughter, she informed me that there was another tub in her closet…and then we found two more in the garage.  In all, we had ten tubs, each holding roughly 30-40 shirts.  Close to 400 t-shirts in all…can that be right?  And we were paying to have some of these stored.

If you treat these as clothing in the KonMari world, it is a no-brainer, and nearly all of them get discarded in some form or fashion.  But what’s left now fall into the very difficult category of sentimental items and mementos.  When I pulled out those shirts that I’ve had since childhood, I was able to tell my husband a story with each one. That is where the joy comes from.  I can’t keep hanging on to them; they are yellowed and threadbare – the attic was unkind.  I’ve been given lots of great suggestions for what to do with them and how to keep the memory, I just haven’t made a final decision yet.

So my words of advice for today are these – don’t buy the t-shirt.  But if you do, know when to let it go.

 

 

 

 

The Weight

One of my favorite of The Band’s songs, The Weight could also be used to describe the clutter in our lives.  While it might not be physically oppressive, it can be so mentally. Some folks aren’t bothered by clutter; obviously, I am not one of those people.  Had you come into my home before I began the purge according to KonMari, you wouldn’t have seen a lot of clutter.  Some areas might be prone to collection – the corner of the kitchen counter, the desk, the chair that holds my purse, keys, jacket, etc. – but that would have been about it. (We won’t mention my husband’s closet…)  But by and large, you would have thought I kept things fairly neat and orderly.  And I did; I do.  But it’s what was NOT seen that was weighing on me and what ultimately caused me to make the biggest KonMari mistake.

Kondo stresses the importance of doing one category at a time and doing it completely before moving forward.  I really thought I was doing that.  I was nearing the finish line about to start on sentimental items which are saved for last because they can seriously bog you down as you travel down memory lane.  And then we had the bright idea to empty the attic.  And what did we find?  Boxes filled with categories I had already completed. Clothes. Books. Papers. Photos. Sentimental items.  So, I start discarding again.  And again, I feel like I’ve made great progress.  That photo on the main page of the blog?  All of the photos and sentimental items put into nice storage boxes ready for their new home (not the attic).

And then another bright idea.  Since we are doing all of this discarding, why not get the stuff out of the storage unit at the U-haul so we can stop paying them each month.  And what did we find?  Again, tubs filled with categories that I had already completed – TWICE. I was so overwhelmed, I was ready for a match and some lighter fluid.  Just take a look…

I cannot say this enough – please, please, please – if you follow no other rule of KonMari, follow this one – do one category at a time, all at once.  Gather the items from every closet, drawer, storage unit, and attic.  I did not do this; that is why I’m in the state I am now.  T-shirts which should have been discarded with clothing have now become sentimental items instead. (MUCH more on t-shirts in a future post.)  If I had gathered all the papers from the attic and storage unit, I would have made different storage choices for them. (Where to store – the thing you should do last, AFTER all the discarding.) So much I would have done differently if I had followed this one rule, because she is right – items stored out of sight are dormant.  And when mine came to light and life, all I could envision was a bonfire.

Instead, I opted to start this blog because I needed a place to share (vent) about this process. The Facebook group has been very supportive, but I found I had a lot more to say than they might want to hear in a single sitting.  And I wanted to share what this process can be like so that others have an idea of what to expect.  Yes, it can be overwhelming and the weight of all that clutter can be crushing.  But I am certain it will all be worth it in the end.