The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up – Category One: CLOTHING

My previous posts about our KonMari journey:

Marie Kondo’s method of sorting belongings in the home is unique. Rather than organizing by room, one is to organize by “category”. The first “category” is clothing. Since she also says individuals should deal with only personal things, I began with my clothing.

It wasn’t all in one spot. And I used to be a “clothes horse” as they say. I get attached to my clothing. I spent lots of money on clothing during my professional working years. It was tough to begin with this category, but begin I did.

Kondo says – gather ALL your clothing, from ALL the places it is stored in, into ONE spot.

In our previous home, I stored clothing in:

  • Our joint master closet, using about 75% of the space
  • My son’s bedroom closet, using about 50% of the space
  • A loft in the garage, perhaps 10 boxes of off-season items or maternity / too-small clothing

In our current home, we have two separate master bedroom closets. I stored clothing in:

  • My own bedroom closet
  • My husband’s bedroom closet
  • Our hallway coat closet
  • Garage totes (clothes for painting / working)
  • Attic boxes (off-season and maternity)

The first task Kondo says, is gather ALL your clothing in one huge pile. If it’s too much, break it down into subcategories, like blouses / tops / sweaters, pants, underthings, jackets, etc. Then you TOUCH. EACH. ITEM. to decide if it sparks joy.

Here are quotes from the second book to help identify joy:

“Pick the top three items in this pile that give you joy. You have three minutes to decide.” Those three items – the way they make you feel – that’s joy.”

If you feel unsure about any piece of clothing, don’t just touch it; hug it. The difference in how your body responds when you press it against your heart. Try touching, hugging, and gazing closely at any items about which you are not certain.”

“Feelings of fascination, excitement, or attraction are not the only indications of joy. A simple design that puts you at ease, a high degree of functionality that makes life simpler, a sense of rightness, or the recognition that a possession is useful in our daily lives—these, too, indicate joy.”

In a video interview with Kondo, she says “spark joy” gives up an upward or lifting sensation to your body. When something does not spark joy, you may feel a heavy or downward sensation.

Before we moved to our new home, I quit my job of seven years at a brokerage firm. I donated and sold many of my suits and business clothing.

I get really attached to my clothing. I used to spend a lot on clothing when I worked full time. I hoarded clothing so I could have a full closet to choose from, when I got bored of wearing what seemed like the same thing all the time. I enjoyed collecting clothing, and dressing fashionably.

My current job, caring for my children, made my old wardrobe impractical.  I still had a really hard time letting go of it. Some was sold or donated before moving, but a lot came to the new home.

Here I was, facing my closet with a new way of getting RID of things – by KEEPING them, and keeping only those which spark joy.

Because I’m a mom with two small children, I have lots of messes to clean every day. I wasn’t about to empty the contents of my closet into a pile, only to have to put it all back. That giant mess might take weeks to clean up.

So I cheated. I did the process by looking at and touching my clothes, keeping them on hangers. This cheat is likely why it took me so long, and so many times through my closet, to get it down to just the right items.

The day I began, I had an hour or so before my kids woke up from nap. This was my chance to do what I could.

At first glance, I was nervous. I thought I owned MAYBE five items that truly sparked joy. That’s really not enough clothing to be presentable in public.

So instead, I removed garments I felt strong negative emotion toward. I looked at them, and touched them, and assessed my feelings. If I felt a downward or ick or sad feeling, I got rid of those items.

If you count the business clothes I got rid of before we moved as my “first pass” of purging my clothing, this was my “second pass.” Getting rid of things that made my chest tighten up, made me discover I despised them.

This led to an interesting discovery.

I most often wore things in my closet I hated most.

This was for two reasons: 1) If I wore the things I liked most, they were likely to get stained, ruined, or faded from frequent washing. Instead, I “saved” them by not using them. 2) The things in my closet I had negative emotion toward, I purposely chose to wear because I felt bad for them. I felt bad they were in my closet being disliked. I wore them in an effort to make them feel better.

This reminded me of the childhood problem – which stuffed animals or dolls get to sleep in bed with you, and which are cold and lonely in your dark closet all night. It’s a terribly guilty feeling, thinking about objects you own, but have rejected.

So all those negative-feeling clothes left my closet that day. I also got rid of a few items that were loved, but stretched out or stained.

Kondo asks you to “thank” your discarded objects, as you place them in your get-rid-of pile. You can thank them for teaching you they are not your style. You could thank them for years of good service, now that their journey is complete. I didn’t do this, unless I found something particularly hard to let go of. Then, I considered why. Sometimes I would say thanks, but to God, for an experience represented by that garment. Sometimes I would learn something about myself in that moment.

I got through all my hanging things before my kids woke up from nap. It felt good.

On another day, during nap, I went through small containers of non-hanging clothing (socks, undies, shorts, etc.). Our closets have two hanging racks and large built-in shelves. We use small bins to create mini drawers. For bulkier items like jeans, we folded and placed them directly on the shelves. We did that both before, and after, KonMari.

And here is where I began to go wrong, but didn’t realize until we were almost done with KonMari.

Apparently, I make mental “rules” for myself, and apply them with a black-and-white sweep of the hand. This is an attempt to deal with my conflicting emotions.

Example: “I don’t like orange. I don’t like wearing orange. The only reason I own orange is because I used to match my clothing to Jax, and some of his clothing was orange. (Although I didn’t like his orange clothing either). So all my orange clothing is going away today. But what if I need an orange shirt for Thanksgiving photos? What if suddenly I’m in the mood for orange, even though I don’t like it? No. I’m getting rid of ALL the orange. I also really don’t like pink. So everything pink has to go as well.”

All the orange clothing went away that day. Everything pink went away except for two shirts I particularly liked and could not bring myself to apply my “no-pink rule” to.

Problem: There was this one pair of cozy fuzzy socks that were pink/orange/red striped. I have several of these fuzzy socks, and wear them very happily in the winter. They keep my feet and ankles warm. None of them are particularly attractive, and they are too thick to fit inside my shoes. So I only wear them in the winter in the house, when my feet are terribly cold. I always feel silly wearing them because the prints are silly, and generally speaking I don’t like looking silly. BUT. They are warm. They keep my feet warm, and I like soft, warm feet in the winter. I had them in several colors and patterns, and I got rid of the pink/orange/red striped pair because I don’t like orange or pink and was getting rid of all orange and pink.

The day I sold them at my yard sale for fifty cents, and watched someone walk away with them, my heart cringed a little. So soft! So warm!

But it was summer, and I wasn’t thinking too much about wanting to be warm, so I sold them.

Here comes winter, and a day when I’m wearing that one long-sleeved pink shirt I kept, that I like. And I realize that I wanted those pink/orange/red striped socks to wear, to match my pink shirt. Because all the other fuzzy socks don’t match. And if I was going to wear silly-looking socks, they should at least match my outfit.

I put this story in this post because it belongs here, and is part of my journey. But it wasn’t until completing all of our KonMari categories, that I got to thinking about a handful of items I sold at our yard sale, that I really regret.

In each case, I applied an internal rule, rather than allowing “spark joy” to guide me.

So I discovered that “spark joy” works for both “pack-rat” personalities and “purger” personalities. The “hoarder” or “keeper” personality keeps too many things that don’t spark joy. Thus they are surrounded by lots of items, but not a lot of joy. The “purger” personality (me), gets rid of things because getting rid of things feels good, and less clutter feels good. But they may use internal rules for disposing of items, rather than “joy spark keeping”, then regret it later.

So our goal, is to be surrounded by items which bring us happiness, function smoothly, make our lives easier, have a clean design, and help our days go by with pleasure. Our goal is to KEEP, not dispose of. But to be quite selective in what is kept.

I’ve had now perhaps ten “passes” through my closet. Since I was emotionally connected to my clothing, it has taken time for my heart to become sensitive to what truly sparks joy for me. In each “pass” through my closet, I disposed of more clothing.

I did shoes a few times. I did certain seasonal items once I reached that season, and had a better chance to assess my feelings about them. I did all my grungy “work / paint” clothes another day – this one was tough because a bunch of sentimental college theater t-shirts were there. Not clothing I would wear on a daily basis, but clothing I was attached to for the memories. At one point, the only clothing still in the attic was high-heeled shoes and winter boots. I was getting close to Marie’s point that all my clothing should be in my own space.

I eventually got rid of enough, and spent enough time going through my closet repeatedly (within about a two month time period), that ALL MY CLOTHES FIT IN MY CLOSET. This includes winter coats, scarves, boots, work clothes, EVERYTHING. It now even includes my jewelry and most of my baby carriers.

THIS IS MASSIVE AND MONUMENTAL. I seriously never thought it possible.

I did purchase a few new things along the way, which sparked more joy, and enabled me to let go of others that were merely “fine.” But when I shopped, I kept far fewer items than previously.

Nowadays I order clothes online, using sales and coupons. I try it all on in the privacy of my home, when my children are asleep. I take my time. I encounter my true feelings about things. I try to keep only the most joy-sparking ones. The ones that I put them on and say, “YES. THIS.” without any hesitation. Hesitation isn’t joy.

I have fewer clothes, but more of them make me happy.

Since finishing my closet, I’ve resolved to try to dress myself every day in a way that I can look in the mirror and feel good about myself. I might spend all day cleaning floors on my hands and knees, and wiping poopy butts, and crawling around on the floor playing with children, but I want to feel okay about myself and my appearance while doing so. If I feel pretty, I feel less like a slob and slave.

Dressing nicely is faster and easier when the contents of my closet are 1) few and 2) all joyful.

There was a point in the closet purging journey where I sent my husband a photo of clothes stacked up that I was getting rid of. When he came home from work, I proudly showed him that the only clothes in his closet were HIS. My clothes, and the kids clothes, had been removed from his closet.  THAT my friends, is what convinced him to let me read the book out loud to him, and begin his own journey into KonMari.

After fully discarding a category, keeping only what sparks joy, Kondo has excellent tips for organizing what you choose to keep. She has a unique folding method for drawers. She has ideas like hanging things slanting upward to the right by color and length.  She talks about which type of clothes to fold and which to hang. If the closet has shelves, she talks about which shelf should hold which type of items. Some of these tips are in the first book (The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up) and more are in the second book (Spark Joy).

We use her folding method, although we don’t own dressers. Our closets have built-in shelves, plus hanging rods. On the shelves, we use small bins and baskets to store little items (undies, socks, etc.), folded in her method. We also use bins for floppy items like gym shorts. Bulky, stiff items such as jeans, are folded and stand on-end on the shelves, rather than stacked on top of each other. We have made use of the wall space as well, to hang organizing tools, or to display sentimental items.

I read the second book, “Spark Joy”, about nine months into our KonMari journey. I went through my closet again, after reading it. This time I was arranging things for a more visually pleasing space. I disposed of a few more things I hadn’t done properly before. I purchased a few pretty baskets and a jewelry storage system.

Another Kondo principle is to display things you chose to keep. The goal of her storage methods are to keep everything “on display” – where you can see it at a glance, access it, and easily return it to its proper place. Most of what I’m still tweaking in my closet is how things are stored and displayed. These changes are smaller than the original purging process. But they create an inviting and beautiful space.

Kondo says the closet should be the owner’s personal “power spot.” It should be decorated with things that bring the owner joy. I now have several sentimental items displayed on a shelf in my closet, that previously were in boxes. It is such a joyful place for me to enter now! Not only organized, but decorated with personal and meaningful items.

Despite Kondo’s recommendation that I do this category “all in one go”, I could not.

I could not because of time constraints due to having small children need me all day and all night. I could not because there was too much emotion to process. I could not because I owned such a large volume of clothing. I could not because I was only at the beginning of learning to listen to my heart’s spark. I could not because I was applying broad internal rules instead of listening to my emotion’s voice regarding each individual item.

But get through it all, I did.

Or rather, I will.

Once a friend gives my maternity clothes back.

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One thought on “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up – Category One: CLOTHING

  1. Lol I loved this Joy,
    I’m a purger too. I believe I may have to get these books and start my journey. It’s so interesting how one can get in touch with oneself through this process and discover things about themselves… Never to old for the journey😊

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