I consider myself an organized person. I was more organized in my past life. That is, before I had children. I’ve also said it’s easy for me to throw things away. In fact, organizing could be one of my hobbies.
Despite this, I can’t seem to keep our home tidy, neat, or organized.
Despite organization, we still had SO. MUCH. STUFF.
Our Stuff was anything but simple. Stuff overwhelmed the homes and apartments we’ve lived in, no matter how small or large the space was. I would stand in the center of my home, looking around at all the Stuff, and thinking, “Stuff. With a capital ‘S’.” All this Stuff was practically a living being. It took over my home, my life, and made my organizing attempts futile.
Then We Bought Our First Home…………………………
We moved into our first home in March last year. In preparation for the move, we trashed or donated So Much Stuff. I truly could not believe that in my “organized” home, I found somewhere around 10-15 huge black trashbags of TRASH. And another 10-15 bags of donation items. Things I didn’t really use or no longer needed.
I also found stashes of things I kept purchasing, forgetting I already had enough. This included perhaps 30 miniature Kleenex packs designed to go in your purse. Even more humorous, I always kept one of those little packs in my purse. And would forget it was in my purse. I had been known to purchase a box of Kleenex while in a store, out of desperation, while the mini pack of Kleenex was in my purse.
Another stash item was photo paper. I found three separate stashes of 4×6 photo paper, each stash with several packs of 100 sheets each. In all, probably well over 4,000 sheets of 4×6 photo paper. I had never used any of it.
Before we moved, I had clothing from my “old life” in a business career. I sold a bit and donated some. I kept a lot. Just in case. I had SO much clothing from having a job where I was expected to look professional, attractive, and put together every day (and where other women dressed to the nines and had much greater incomes than I did).
As we packed, I knew things were getting packed, that I would unpack and not need. Some fantastic folks from church helped me (since I had a two-year old and newborn while we were packing to move). Sometimes I let them pack up a whole closet or section of the house, without looking at the items myself.
I was shocked and proud of how much we disposed of prior to moving.
Then we moved. Family and friends helped us. It took two loads in the largest Uhaul truck. Our home had been 900 square feet.
Our new house was 1300 square feet. And a garage! And attic!
As we unpacked, I trashed and donated more. Besides the Stuff from the home we were renting, we had three storage units. One of those storage units we’d had for about seven years. It was full of decorations, childhood and sentimental items.
All that Stuff arrived in our new home, and garage. My mother in law came for a week right after we moved. She played with the kids while I settled into our home. She helped me do projects while the kids napped, and was amazing. While she was here, I unpacked the survival areas – kitchen, clothing, bathroom basics.
After she left, we faced the daunting task of everything else. It was slow going. It was hard to know what things we needed in the new house. And if we didn’t need it, but didn’t really want to get rid of it, then what? It remained in a box in the garage. Benjamin built decking in the attic above the garage, and we moved lots of Stuff up there. The garage was still primarily full.
Then We Read The Book………………………………………………
A Facebook mom group was talking about the book. I was drawn to the tile. I read it on Kindle, and was completely captured by this method of purging and organizing a home. It was like nothing I’ve heard of before. It resonated with my deepest intuition and desires.
One key component of Marie Kondo’s method is to deal with your own Stuff – not the Stuff of your household members. Even when their Stuff annoys you and gets in your way. Deal with your own self and your own Stuff.
So I did. I began with the clothes in my closet, as she recommended. In our old home, my clothes filled 3/4 of our shared closet, 90% of our kids’ closet, and perhaps 10 boxes of off-season items stored in the garage loft. In our new home, I had clothes in my closet, my husband’s closet, the coat closet, the garage, and the attic.
My husband knows I love clothes. One day after purging my closet during the kids’ nap, I sent him a text with a photo of all the items I had cleaned out of my closet for trash or donating. I informed him that my clothes were no longer in his closet. He was astonished.
Then I did our kids’ clothing (because they were too little to do it themselves, plus I had a good idea of which items they enjoy wearing or not). I got rid of perhaps 50% of what was in their drawers, yet they still had tons of clothing. I went through the kids clothes of different sizes in the attic, and filled 9 giant trashbags to give to a friend with a new baby boy. We still had more than we needed in each size.
I showed my husband the kids’ new tidy drawers, my tidy closet, and the practicality of the KonMarie folding method for clothing.
We talked about the book, about our Stuff. I know he wants to be more organized but struggles with how. We both know he keeps more than he needs, but has a hard time letting go. Reading is also hard for him, so he agreed to let me read the book out loud to him.
We read slowly. One or two nights per week, for an hour or so. It’s a short book, so we got through it in a bit over a month. About halfway through, he was ready to tackle his clothing (the first category she recommends in her method).
I made a worksheet of the categories and order she recommends, and we’ve slowly been plugging away.
I’ve learned a lot about myself. I’ve been proud of my husband, and of my son, for sorting through their things.
We’ve slowly been experiencing the life change she talks about in her book.
What To Know Before Reading the Book ………………………………………………..
I would recommend any American with a normal amount of American Stuff in their home, to read this book. Whether you feel are organized and want to tweak more, or whether you feel buried in chaos and mess. It will be useful to both parties.
Marie Kondo is Japanese. She is a professional organizer in Japan. She has developed her signature method over many years of trying different ways of organizing her own home, and client homes. Her basic principles are effective and inspiring.
Some parts of her method, and some of her ideas, are a bit extreme to me. Her religious beliefs filter in throughout the book, and affect her instructions to readers.
An example. When you dispose of an item, she suggests you “thank it” for its service to you. A loved pair of shoes that is too worn out for continued use, but served your feet well for many years. Tell the shoes “thank you”, as if they can hear you, before disposing of them. For items you purchased but never used, such as a sweater on clearance. Thank the sweater for teaching you, it is not your style. In this way, she says you communicate with your belongings, and it helps your process of disposing of items.
Since I’m a Christian, I don’t believe the objects I own have souls, can hear me, or have a life I need to speak to them about.
However. I DO indeed have a soul. I DO indeed have emotions. And I do indeed have a mental, emotional, and sometimes spiritual response within myself, and with God, as I touch and make decisions about items I own. With certain items, it was freeing – and just what I needed – to talk to the item, or better yet, talk to God about the item.
For example, when I found my collection of folders and notes from each of my college classes. So organized and neat. So perfectly labeled. I’ve been lugging that heavy box around for over ten years now. I kept it because I thought I could use my notes when I homeschool my children. I’m realizing there will be plenty of homeschool resources when I get to that season of my life, and the likelihood of those college notes helping, is slim.
But it was REALLY hard to think about dumping it in the trash. Really hard.
So I laid my hands on the folders, touching their spines, and prayed. Thank you God, for my education. Thank you for my professors. Thank you for that season of my life. For the good parts of it that shaped me. For the sad parts of it that shaped me. Thank you for the lessons and people that affected my life during that time., helping to make me the woman I am today.
Then I threw it into the dumpster. And it was easy. I felt relief and peace.
I believe God created us, loves us, and wants relationship with us, I believe all religions (including those who claim atheism or no religion), are in fact part of each individual’s journey to find Him. So I’m not bothered by Marie Kondo’s philosophies. I see them through the view of our loving God, and translate her concept into something that makes spiritual sense to me.
My Summary of the Book In a Nutshell…………………………………………….
– Write a vision of WHY you want your home to be tidy. Dig deeper than “to have things neat.” Dig into your feelings of frustration or fatigue, into your dream of peace, time to do things besides clean, etc. This vision statement is your personal motivation to keep you going through the process.
– Touch every object in your home and ask your intuition, “Does this object spark joy for me?”
– If it sparks joy, keep it.
– If it does not spark joy, dispose of it (trash, donate, or sell).
– Tidy your entire home in that manner, over the course of a few months.
– Tidy by category rather than by room.
– The categories are as follows: Clothing, Books, Papers, Komono (miscellaneous, which includes several subcategories such as kitchen items, hobby items, personal care, CD/DVD, etc.), and Sentimental (photos, keepsakes, etc.).
– Gather all objects of one category, in one place, then sort the entire category at once, to determine joy sparking items. If the category is too large, break it into sub-categories (such as clothing: tops, bottoms, accessories, etc., or books: non-fiction, fiction, reference, etc.).
– ONLY AFTER sorting a category and discarding non-joy-sparking items, organize what is left in that category. She gives specific tips for each category on best ways to store / organize the remaining items. Since the quantity of items is greatly reduced after sorting them by joy, organizing becomes easy and fun.
– Complete your entire home in a “short” time (she says less than six months).
– At the end of it, your home will be filled with items which spark joy. Every object you touch, every item you lay hands on, should fill you with joy all day long.
– Making a drastic, quick, noticeable shift in your home like this affects your whole being with such intensity, you will be moved to change other things in your life, have time for new things you desire, etc.
To “KonMarie” or “KM” an object, does not mean to dispose of it. It means to touch it, ask yourself if it sparks joy, then dispose/donate it, or find a place for it in your home.
Each Point of the KM Method is Key……………………..
Each of the items I mention above are key to the efficacy of her method.
Tidy without touching things, and the decision making process is harder. Our bodies are emotional, physical, mental, etc. Touching and holding items gives the greatest dimension and aids in deeply attuning to your own heart.
Dispose of things for reasons other than sparking joy, you get stuck in ration, and eventually derailed. Humans are both reason and emotion. I used to get rid of things if 1) I didn’t use them any more and 2) I didn’t see a possible future where I might use them. I kept WAY too many things by this method, which I never ended up using. Things I would have liked to use and enjoy, were buried in things I might need someday.
Tidying by room instead of by category, does not allow you to locate duplicates, or notice the sheer volume of objects in a certain category. It may allow you to discover a joy-sparking blanket hidden away, that can replace a worn-out blanket you’ve been using without knowing you owned something you liked better. Tidying by room is also the most common method people use, and a common reason to fail in tidying.
Purging / discarding BEFORE organizing is also key. Trying to fold and organize Too Much Stuff, soon reverts to unorganized chaos. Surprisingly, in our home, when an area was over crowded, once we discarded things and kept only what sparked joy, the items that remained fit PERFECTLY
Going through everything you own, in this manner, in a brief window of time, really does affect your entire sense of being.
It was important for slow decision-maker / processors like myself, to go a bit slowly. I would not have wanted to do all categories within the course of two weeks (if that were possible). I needed time to pay close attention to each item. I needed time for my inner person to change, which it did, during the process.
In the categories we have sorted so far (we are part way through Komono), we have eliminated around 75% of what we owned in each category. Shockingly, that left us with still more than we needed, and plenty to go around. It doesn’t feel sparse, it feels just right.
My Tips For Beginning the KonMarie Tidying Method……………………………………..
Read the book. Read all of it.
As you read, make notes of key sentences that motivate or inspire you. Make a list (or google a list) of the categories. Bookmark or highlight sections to reference later.
Begin with your own stuff. If you are able, and your household members show interest, read the book to them or have them read it. Don’t force them. Don’t purge their stuff (I have made exceptions for my children in certain categories, and let them help in other categories, based on their age and capability). With older children or your significant other, let the change you are making with your own items, be an example. There’s a good chance they will become interested as they see you making progress and becoming a happier person.
Before beginning a new category, re-read or reference your notes / highlights from that section again. It always helped motivate me, and remind me of certain details about that category, which I had forgotten since completing the book.
If you begin to purge things from your house simply by reading my blog post, or hearing things from other people, you could make good progress for a while. You may also get stuck at some point, or give up because it isn’t working.
So. Read the book. There’s lots of great details in the book to help you over stuck spots. Read it before you begin, if you want to do this method. Give the author and the method a chance by reading what she wrote, before you begin. It’s not like any way you’ve tried to clean your house before. The book is a bit repetitive, I believe on purpose, as repeating key points helps readers remember them. And you will need to remember them, to get through the process.
Stay Posted for My Experience with Each Category………………………..
It truly has been life-changing thus far. Each category has taught me things about myself. Allowed me to face my past, my present, my hopes for the future. Some changes are already happening within me, and in my days, and more are to come. God is good. He can even use organizing to change my heart.