I first picked up Marie Kondos’ book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up in 2016.
I was in a bit of a rut and felt the need to change something, I just wasn’t sure what. The title of the book was intriguing enough and I was keenly aware of the amount of possessions I had accumulated. Not that I’m a hoarder–things just started piling up and I didn’t know what to do with them or how to get rid of them. My friends and family often commented “You have so much stuff!” Maybe getting organized and “tidying” up would do me some good.
As I read her book, I began the process of bringing joy to my home and tidying all of my belongings by category starting with clothes, then books, paper, komono (miscellaneous things) and saving the hardest things for last—sentimental items. I have to admit at first I thought Marie was nuts. How can you tell if a pair of socks brings you joy?
Once I started to move on to some of the other categories, I began to recognize how certain items made me feel. I was overwhelmed by the amount of things I had, and even felt a bit of disgust and disappointment in myself. It wasn’t until I started to clear the things away that I realized the true weight of my belongings. I learned to recognize that I was keeping some things out of guilt—gifts I didn’t want or need but didn’t have the heart to discard.
I didn’t quite follow her method word for word nor did I complete every category right away, but I did start to notice a shift. Shortly after beginning the process, I landed my job here at Tuft & Needle and slowly but surely things began to fall into place. I began to re-evaluate everything in my life and this ultimately led to some big life changes.
About 8 months later my long term relationship ended and I found myself in a 600 square foot apartment. Half the space I had grown accustomed to. I once again began the process of discarding the things that no longer brought me joy.
I drastically reduced the number of things I owned, cutting my possessions nearly in half. The more I got rid of, the more I wanted to get rid of. Throwing things away became euphoric and addictive. Clearing the clutter gave me the space to process and heal from my heartache. The best part is, a year and a half later I don’t miss any of those things.
I had carried this stuff with me from place to place, apartment to house, house to apartment, accumulating more and more as I went.
Some things were easier to discard than others. Like Tupperware. I have zero emotional attachment to Tupperware. But books, cds (I don’t even own a cd player), photographs. Those items were harder to let go of.
“But when we really delve into the reasons for why we can't let something go, there are only two: an attachment to the past or a fear for the future.”
Books, DVDs, CDs. Do these items spark joy? Do these things represent the person I am right now, in this moment? Or are they an idealistic version of the person I want people to see?
I was faced with some hard truths about myself…
Going through boxes of photographs was painful. Why was I holding on to bad memories? Why was I so scared to let go? Pictures of ex boyfriends, people I was no longer friends with, even my High School yearbooks ended up in the garbage.
Fast forward to now with the airing of her show on Netflix, my instagram feed is filled with stories of friends “KonMari-ing” their homes. I was again inspired to go through my things. While I had purged a lot after moving, things had started to build up again and my one bedroom apartment was starting to feel claustrophobic.
I binge watched the whole season. Something about seeing a stranger's home completely transformed was so inspiring! I pictured what my before and after photos would look like. The black and white photo of my overstuffed closet, followed by a nice tidy colorful photo, things neatly hung with space in between the hangers.
Small shifts are starting to happen again. I’m finally working my way through a stack of unread books. I’ve rekindled a love for writing (hello first blog post!) and am spending more time outdoors and with friends.
Cleansing my space allows me the time to focus on me. To be happier, healthier, the best version of myself I can be.
“We should be choosing what we want to keep, not what we want to get rid of.”
While other minimalist strategies tend to focus on getting rid of things, Marie Kondo teaches you to focus on what you want to keep. Anything else that doesn’t spark joy or make you feel good can and should go.
What I love about Marie is that she doesn’t try to convince anyone to get rid of something. She leaves it completely up to the individual, without judgement. She encourages mindfulness, self awareness, positivity, and gratitude. “As you reduce your belongings…you will come to a point where you suddenly know how much is just right for you”. According to Marie, you can still own 100 pairs of shoes if those shoes are what bring you joy. It’s different for everyone and the focus is how your possessions make you feel.
Her method of tidying by category rather than by room makes a lot of sense. Trying to tackle your whole bedroom all at once would be daunting and may ultimately lead to failure. Starting with a category like clothes that you can finish in an afternoon feels like a small victory, feeding your momentum to keep going. It also helps you to hone in on your ability to recognize joy in your possessions, making it easier to go through the really tough stuff.
Another thing I like about her method is that she thanks the things that she discards. Showing gratitude for your things can make it easier to say goodbye, without feeling wasteful or guilty for letting them go.
It’s not an easy task rummaging through years of stuff. It takes time and will inevitably bring up a lot of emotion. Letting go was therapeutic and helped me to focus on the present.
“The question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life.”
I am by no means a minimalist, however I’m less impulsive (except when I’m at Whole Foods) and more considerate about my purchases and am ruthless with what I allow into my home and my life. I wait longer before making a purchase and ask myself if I really need this thing and why. I focus more on high quality items that will last rather than fast trends and disposables. Not only does this save money but also helps the environment. A study conducted by the EPA in 2015 stated that the average American generated about 4.4 pounds of trash daily! Marie claims that once you are comfortable with the amount of things you own, you are less likely to “relapse” and fill your space with more stuff.
Creating a welcoming space filled with the things I truly love and enjoy has truly made my life better. I actually read those books that I decided to keep. I cherish the photographs that made it through the great purge and store them nicely rather than haphazardly thrown in a shoe box. I no longer dread opening my closet door—I can walk in and see the floor! It doesn’t take me 20 minutes to choose an outfit, because I only own clothing I like and feel good in.
Cleaning my apartment is a breeze because I simply put things back in their place and ta da! Clean. Magic. My life didn’t change overnight, but it was enough of a spark to create change.
The KonMari method is more than just getting rid of things and organizing. This process has changed my perspective and how I feel about material items. It really was life changing and magical for me and continues to be.