I’ve been following the reactions on social media to Marie Kondo and her Tidying Up series on Netflix with interest recently. I did the KonMari method on my whole house last year and I can honestly say that it completely and utterly changed my life so I wanted to share my thoughts on it.
I’ve read so many books about de-cluttering and have always given the ideas a go, some have been more helpful than others but I always fell back into my old ways because I was doing a bit at a time, or one part of my home at a time. I re-read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying up, and then read Spark Joy early last year and it struck a chord with me. I loved the idea of tackling all of a category (Clothes, books, papers, komono [all miscellaneous items] then sentimental) at once so the whole house was getting done. This is my story…
I’ve always been a bit of a hoarder (not so bad that you can’t get through the front door but definitely feeling powerless to throw things away without it being an ordeal). I grew up with a mum was very sentimental about things and so she would keep things she didn’t like because she loved the person who gave the item to her. She would also buy extras of things when they were on offer even when the cupboards were full to bursting. I ended up the same way. I have a very distinct memory from when I was really young thinking that I couldn’t get rid of my ornaments and soft toys because I wouldn’t have anything to fill my house with when I grew up. My poor mum put up with my books not only taking over my bedroom, but also the spare room and the landing between the two rooms. Even after I moved out I left a lot of stuff at her house and she never complained. We were as bad as each other for keeping things. It was so much a part of me to have every surface filled with ornaments and trinkets that I found empty shelves made me feel somewhat panicky.
When my mum died I was proud of myself for only keeping the belongings of hers that I genuinely loved and would use. To this day I still use her very best cutlery every single day, and I wear her jewellery. After we sold my mum’s house I moved in with my boyfriend and as I was moving to the other side of the country I could only take what would fit in the van we hired. I felt that this was a new start, a new me and I would do better.
We bought our home a year later and I gradually filled it with stuff. I don’t know exactly how it happened because I’m not much of a shopper. I think I became someone who would buy a replacement for something that was worn out but then I’d keep both items for some reason. I think I used to keep things just in case! My poor husband is very minimal in his possessions and has never said a word about all the clutter everywhere but I don’t know how he put up with it.
I’ve had a lot of medical issues in the years we’ve been together and I think when you have hoarding tendencies illness can make it worse. I need to keep things I need close by me because I can’t walk more than a few steps, and I can’t carry anything but this would lead to a mountain of stuff next to my chair and my side of the bed because I would never put things away.
Anyway, last year I read Marie Kondo’s Spark Joy which led to me re-reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and these books just spoke to me. I could suddenly see that maybe I could make things different. On finishing those books I took every item of clothing I owned and piled it all on the bed. I had no concept of how much clothing I had and I was mortified by it all (It filled a 2.5 metre wide wardrobe and two chests of drawers). I’m housebound so I really didn’t need this many clothes. I had clothes that I’d not worn in years but kept because I’m sentimental (or because I might lose the weight, or I might gain some weight). Anyway, I got rid of about two thirds of my clothes that day!! I only kept the clothes I can wear now and that fitted me. I later emptied my clothes out of the wardrobe again when we got our new wardrobe delivered and got rid of even more clothes.
Next I moved on to books, as recommended in the method. This was easier than I thought it would be because I’d got used to the idea of sparking joy and what mattered to me. Incidentally, sparking joy doesn’t just mean it makes you happy. I kept books that have made me weep when I read them because they matter deeply to me, and that’s what sparking joy means – keep only the things that matter to you. I got rid of about half of my books over the next few days.
Up next was papers and this was hard work. I’m someone who keeps paperwork because I might need it some day. By this point I’d been following the method for a couple of weeks and knew I could get rid of a lot of papers but it was daunting having to sift through and look at everything so I didn’t actually throw away something important. I also scanned some documents that I needed to keep but didn’t need them taking up room in my file box. Now all my important papers are in one file box and not scattered in various boxes all over the house. The shredder is permanently plugged in and accessible so I can open my post and immediately get rid of junk or anything that I don’t need to keep or refer to again.
Komono was a scary category because it basically means everything that’s not clothes, books, papers or sentimental items! This part took me weeks to complete because I wanted to do it properly. It was also really hard because prior to starting KonMari my idea of having a sort out was buying pretty storage boxes and shoving all the stuff in them (out of sight, out of mind) but sorting through komono meant I had to face up to all that stuff. Some of my most sentimental items were wedged in boxes with general junk so I put those things to one side and got on with going through all of the other stuff. I ended up making myself a list of sub-categories and then putting stuff into corresponding boxes then working from there. It meant I could see how much I had of any one type of thing and it made it easier for me to get rid of all the excess. For example I had a load of stationary but I can’t physically write more than a few words any more so that all went to charity. I realised how much I’d stockpiled shower gel and shampoo etc so I kept all of that but organised it so I’d know when I finally needed to buy more.
The final category is Sentimental Items. This was a hard one to face sorting through but Marie Kondo insists you work through things in a set order (clothes, books, papers, komono and then sentimental items) so that by the time you get to the hardest things you have a much better sense of what’s important to you and you understand what really sparks joy. And even though it initially sounded so silly to me, it actually helped to mentally thank the items before I put them in the charity bags. I got rid of way more sentimental items than I expected to and I instantly felt better, like a weight was lifted off me. I’d finally given myself permission to not feel guilty and to stop holding onto things that don’t make me happy. I’d previously found it incredibly hard to get rid of things that my mum had given me because I knew that I’d never again have anything from her, but now I know that I had joy from those items and good memories and I don’t need to keep them if I don’t want to. Now my sentimental items are where I can see them and that brings me so much joy!
I think the hardest thing was getting my head around not sorting through what I would get rid of but coming at it from the angle of what I wanted to keep and then letting the rest go. Once I got used to that the method got easier and easier. Also the sparking joy thing was confusing at first because my vacuum cleaner sparks no joy but I soon got to grips with the fact that I could keep it because I like having clean floors and it’s my vacuum cleaner that allows me to have clean floors. I think once you get used to what sparking joy is and how it feels for you then you know what you need to keep and what you need to get rid of.
(Every thing in this photo was got rid of… including the red armchair (it went to charity). We loved that chair but we never sat on it because it was always piled high with stuff. Once I’d finished de-cluttering we decided that we’d rather have the space than the chair so it went as well! This was our spare room that I filled with bags for charity or the tip… I didn’t get a photo when it was full. We got rid of things as soon as we had a car load but I reckon I could have filled the floor space in this room twenty or more times with the stuff I chucked out.)
I LOVE the vertical folding that Marie Kondo raves about. It’s amazing how much easier life is when you can see all of the tops in your drawer. I even fold my underwear and it’s a revelation! I will say that I found it hard to grasp what she meant in her descriptions of folding when I was reading the books but if you look on youtube there are loads of tutorial videos and it all makes sense once you see someone folding clothes her way.
I also love the idea of using small boxes within drawers and cupboards to segment the space so things stay where they’re supposed to. I haven’t bought any boxes or containers for this – I’ve used Apple product boxes, shoe boxes etc. I find that the lids off boxes can be great to use as separators. Also if you have excess tupperware containers in your home – the ones you don’t need in the kitchen – can often be used in drawers to corral things. I definitely recommend using what you already have initially because you may find you don’t need to buy anything else.
Another tip while I’m on the subject is get things out of your house as soon as you can after you’ve decided you no longer want them. And don’t ever look in a bag or box once you’ve put stuff in there to be got rid of. It just makes you second guess yourself but if you’ve followed the method properly you already know that these are things you no longer want in your home.
I’m not in great health so going through the whole house took me a few months in the end but it was worth it. I finally finished in the summer last year and my house has stayed clutter-free ever since and is so easy to keep clean and tidy now. The KonMari influence hasn’t left me either – when I spot anything in my house that annoys me or that I don’t like anymore it goes straight in a box for the charity shop. I regularly look through my clothes and books and get rid of anything that no longer sparks joy. I’m not perfect but I feel like the stuff in our home is manageable now and tidying up is no longer an ordeal.
I’ve only watched one episode of Tidying Up with Marie Kondo so far and I’m not sure that it really showed how the method works. The meme doing the rounds online about you only being allowed to keep 30 books is a myth! The rule that Marie Kondo has is that you only keep things that spark joy so when you go through your books, if a thousand of them genuinely spark joy and you have room to comfortably live with that many books then that is fine. So if you’ve been watching the show and are intrigued I would definitely recommend reading both of Marie Kondo’s books.
These days space in my home matters to me more than hoarding stuff.
If you want to know if I have any regrets… I do have one! My one and only regret about doing the KonMari method is that I didn’t take any before photos! I got so swept up in just getting on with it that I forgot. I have noticed that when I look at photos from over the years that the background is always a mess, so that gives me a reminder of how far I’ve come. If you’re about to start sorting your home out I definitely recommend taking photos along the way!
(The photo on the left is an example of the background of a photo. The person didn’t want to be on my blog so I’ve cropped them out but you can still see the mountain of clutter in the shot. This was the room on a reasonably ‘tidy’ day, which shows how bad I was at my worst!).
I can honestly say that doing the KonMari method has changed my life. I feel so much happier and less stressed now our house isn’t crammed full of stuff. It’s so much easier to clean, and tidying up takes just a few minutes now. Our house feels so much bigger, and because I made so much space my husband was able to re-decorate our bedroom and living room last year so everywhere is much brighter now. In our bedroom we even have shelves with NOTHING on them and it feels so calming and peaceful! The old me would have seen an empty shelf and immediately put boxes full of stuff on them but not any more!
What was really lovely for me, and a moment when I knew I’d cracked my clutter issues, was after we’d taken a load of stuff to a local charity shop we were back in town and happened to pass this particular shop. The window display was predominantly my old belongings – there was a gorgeous skirt that I’d only worn once (because it was too hard for me to fasten it as my hands no longer work very well), a lovely dress (that I’d bought and worn to my mum’s funeral and then couldn’t bear to wear it again). There were shoes that I got rid of because I can only wear flat shoes that fit over my leg brace now. And some of my jewellery. My reaction to seeing it all in the window was genuinely that I knew someone was going to get a great bargain and a gorgeous item to wear, and the money would go to a charity close to my heart. There was no desire to go and buy all my stuff back, I was glad it was gone.
Marie Kondo’s method for tidying really has honestly changed my life and I am so grateful for it. It’s given me a new mindset and allowed me to let myself have a home I can enjoy. I’ve noticed that since completing the method that I approach everything from the standpoint of whether it makes me happy. My life generally has so much more joy in it now I’m not weighed down by stuff and guilt. I appreciate what I have so much more now and my home is a lovely place to be.
Have you watched Tidying Up with Marie Kondo? Or read her books? What did you think? Are you tempted to start decluttering? I’d love to know what you think. 🙂