It’s been over a month since I began the big, once-and-for-all cleanup of my house using the Konmari Method described in Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. The book promised an epiphany, a complete shift in attitude towards tidying, your remaining possessions and life in general.
The discarding phase will have taken me two months by the time I get around to dropping the last things off at Good Sammy’s and shifting the last few items of value on Gumtree. That sounds like a long time, even when fitting around a busy schedule, but the process is thorough, time-consuming, and occasionally quite intense (as odd as that might sound). Kondo suggests that the complete process can take about six months, so I feel like my efforts are actually not too shabby. I’ve roughly organised each category as I went so it should be fairly smooth sailing from here, and I think I can now offer a bit more of a personal perspective than my initial review of Konmari.
I started out pretty strong with the first category: clothing. Having already done a bit of a wardrobe rehab, Project 333 capsule wardrobes and living out of a carry-on suitcase before, I was surprised to find there were still things I no longer loved hanging around. I did feel like there had to be a few exceptions to the ‘does it spark joy?’ rule though – whilst perhaps a slightly greying pair of socks or ugly-but-warm polar fleece jumper might not spark joy per say, they are useful and necessary. And whilst I could perhaps replace these with newer, better versions that do spark joy, I have neither the spare money nor the time to spend on them.
I usually go through the process of discarding things and tidying up my closet every few months, with only a week or so passing by before it turns into a mess again. Magically, this time it seems to have stuck – almost two months down the track my wardrobe is still looking neat and organised, and I’m struggling to remember my discarded clothing, let alone missing it.
Shoes, accessories and beauty products followed a similar path – they weren’t too bad, but cutting them back a bit and actually defining a proper space for everything has made all the difference for keeping them there.
I anticipated books to be difficult as I said before, but after taking them all off the shelves and picking them up one by one it wasn’t too hard to let go. A handful of classic novels, some art and design reference books and several beloved recipe books made the cut, with the rest going to Elizabeth’s Bookshop.
The nebulous category of komono consists of pretty much everything else that doesn’t classify as a sentimental item. By this point I was like a machine, making quick decisions and tossing aside things that had bugged me forever. After the discarding was done I was able to finally arrange everything in my kitchen to better suit me – that is, with almost everything within short-person grabbing height. I also got a bit of a shock looking at some of the use-by dates on bottles of sauces and medication – some were almost a decade old! I’m told that soya sauce will remain good forever, but I wasn’t game to try a bottle that had been ‘aged’ in the back of my pantry for 10 years – would you?
Someone mentioned to me that decluttering felt like saying goodbye to all those extra versions of yourself, and no category felt more like this than with my vast collection of art, craft and hobby stuff. I sometimes joke that I collect hobbies, and have over the years accumulated the materials for:
- Painting (acrylics)
- Painting (watercolour)
- Dip pen calligraphy
- Brush calligraphy
- General sketching
- Sewing (garments)
- Sewing (plushies)
- Clay thingies
- Jewellery making
- Knitting & crochet
- Needle felting
- Riso screen printing
- Food styling
- Card making
- Paper crafts
I don’t do all of those things anymore, and there are quite a few I’m pretty sure I won’t be returning to. There are still some things I’m not yet ready to let go of despite being largely unused lately – like my sewing and food styling stuff – but it’s now a far more manageable collection, to the point that I can now get rid of the IKEA shelves that housed them. I’m looking forward to having more space and clarity to work on the things I actually want to focus on, like my calligraphy.
Sentimental items weren’t difficult for me as I’m generally not very sentimental about the past. Once I got past the fact that I don’t have to keep every card, letter and photograph, things ran quite smoothly – admittedly with a few trips down memory lane (oh teenage heartache!).
But where does it all go?
For a good few weeks most of my discarded items clustered about my front door, which is probably the most maddening thing about konmari – what to do with all the discarded stuff? I can only imagine this is more difficult in Japan, where rules around garbage is strict. If you’re not fussed about making money then it mostly isn’t too bad. Here’s where my stuff went:
The bin. Because some stuff really is just straight up junk. I filled up our wheely bin every week for a month.
Friends and family. Kondo says this is not an acceptable solution, but if the recipient doesn’t feel any pressure to take the discarded items then I don’t see the harm. Some books, DVDs and other bits and pieces have found new homes this way.
Charity bins. Pretty much all the clothes I liberated from my closet would be worth nothing if I tried to sell them at the market, so anything that wasn’t crummy enough to throw out went into the charity bins across the street.
Elizabeth’s Bookstore. Our collection of books took a pretty massive hit, and I thought that they might be worth something to a secondhand book store. As it turns out it wasn’t worth much ($50 for a few boxes of books), but better than nothing!
Gumtree. For the odd bits and pieces that might actually be worth selling. Still working on listing a few bigger items.
Good Sammy’s. Everything else was donated to the local charity shop – I hope they manage to get some good stuff out of it.
I still haven’t finished the complete process so it’s a bit early to say, but for the categories that I’ve successfully culled down and defined spaces for I’ve managed to keep things much more neat. The areas that get noticeably messy are the ones I haven’t finished organising yet (like my craft and hobby gear), but even then having less stuff to mess with in general makes tidying a more maintainable process. On the whole it all feels more calm and manageable instead of threatening to bury me.
I feel that there’s also been a shift in my attitude to new things that enter my home – whether I need to keep it, where it will go, whether it’s necessary in the first place. Where other decluttering phases have relapsed back into mess and more consumption, so far konmari has kept me on the minimalist path – I hope it stays that way!