For me, it's like this obsession that overtakes me once or twice a year - it slowly builds, my closets getting more crowded, and I spend more time looking for things, only to find them at the bottom of the folded pile, shoved back and wrinkled. Finally I've had enough (and it often coincides with a time when I'm feeling overwhelmed or stressed), and spend days trying to implement clever new organizing strategies and giving things away. My friend tells me it's because I'm a Virgo (and I relate to Nate Berkus when he said that going to the container store was like porn for him), but truly, for me, the adage that outer order leads to inner calm is powerful.
But can decluttering change your life?
The concept in a nutshell
Marie has been obsessed with tidying her whole life, but found it was a losing battle - once you find a good solution (new shelves, new letter organizer etc.), it inevitably gets filled up, disorganized and you're back at square one again. After years of testing and researching, she hit on a concept (called the Konmari Method) that has fundamentally changed how we approach organization. It’s intense but it has the power to truly stop this cycle of mindless accumulation and then purging. The basic premise is to simply rid yourself of anything that doesn't give you joy.
I had gone through a pseudo version of this process when I read her first book (about a year ago), but didn’t fully commit to the process as she recommends - I didn’t bring everything from a category into one place (for example, all shirts) and hold each one of them to test if it sparked joy (I just ran through my shelves and got rid of the obvious things I knew didn't give me joy). Even so, I got rid of bags of clothes.
This time I decided to get serious and commit. It had been about 8 months; this time, I spent the better part of a day just on my clothes (the first category she recommends starting with, so you can begin to tune into the feeling of what brings you joy before moving on to more sentimental items), and it was intense but amazing. It was tough seeing a few things that are almost brand new (and weren’t cheap) but simply don’t fill me with joy anymore. That’s when emotions of guilt and regret arose.
Dealing with the emotions that arise when discarding
Kondo has a fantastic solution to that challenge. She suggests:
- mentally acknowledging that it doesn't give you joy
- expressing gratitude for the joy it did give you when you bought it or received it
- then sending it on its way to make someone else happy
In western culture, we are unaccustomed to honoring our objects in this way, but I will fully admit to doing it. I donated 8 more garbage size bags to the women’s refuge as a result.
Think of who you're donating to
A huge part of the emotional aspect of this was knowing who the clothes were going to as well. I imagined how happy that beautiful but barely worn item might make a woman who had just been through some pretty tough things. That made me excited to let it go.
The folding technique - AMAZING
When I first read the book, I sort of ignored the folding instructions as I had trouble visualizing what she was talking about. The second book, Spark Joy, has great diagrams you can follow, but I found the video below to be really helpful. This method stops clothes from getting pushed back, wrinkled or messed up when another item is removed. I am such a clothes folding nerd now it's ridiculous.
Now, when I go into my closet, I feel excited about the things I have and peaceful because I can actually see it all. Honouring my belongings by taking care of them makes them feel even more special, so my home is transforming into a place where I feel almost like royalty because I am surrounded by wonderful things I adore and also the space to enjoy them. That's another beautiful point Kondo makes - that our things should be worthy of our homes, so we should only keep and wear the very best of what we have. This transforms our daily existence.
The mental energy this process takes can be exhausting, and after finishing my closet I have paused before doing the rest of my house, just to recover. Kondo allows for this, and says doing the whole process for the entire house takes about 6 months if done properly.
How it has changed my life
I’ve noticed that since fully committing to this process, I have been much more mindful in my buying habits. I’m more aware of what I already have, and how a new item compares; if it doesn’t fill me with the same sense of joy the things I've kept do, then I walk away or return it.
Even though I have far fewer ‘things’, I feel more abundant because I can see everything I have, and everything I have brings me joy.
Of course, this sense of mindful attention to what gives me joy is definitely guiding all aspects of my life. It's making me consider what activities really do give me joy (riding horses, reading, time with family and friends) and those that do not (tv - such a big one!). Of course, this applies to relationships, jobs, even locations, so I am consciously choosing joy and it continues to make my life more and more meaningful.
How it's helping me get more sleep
I have a hard time going to bed early enough to get a good night’s sleep. I realized that part of it was that I didn't enjoy being in our bedroom - it wasn’t a bomb site by any means, but we had clothes piled in a corner and on the dresser, the bed was unmade and the closet was too full, (further contributing to the pile in the corner). Our bedside tables were purchased gently used online when we first moved to Auckland, and definitely did not give us joy. As a result we really focused on the bedroom.
We found beautiful new bedside tables and lamps that we love, and now our bedroom is a calm, restful place I love to be in. It doesn’t guarantee I go to bed early, but it sure helps.
I have bought a few organization books in my day - and these books are just head and shoulders above the rest. I cannot recommend them highly enough.
Having control over a space helps you feel more control of everything else in your life. Add that to not only having a clear space, but a space (and life) filled only with things that give you joy. What an amazing way to live!
Our life hack to try this week
Getting 30 minutes more sleep per night. The benefits of sleep outweigh just about anything else you can do for your health if you are chronically sleep deprived. We will do a podcast on this in about two weeks, but we are going to set alarms to remind ourselves to go to bed earlier and let you know if it makes a difference. We’d love you to join us and let us know how you go on our website or Facebook page.