I Marie Kondo -ed My Wardrobe Yesterday
We returned from holiday and I opened the front door after a fortnight away to discover… exactly what I had left behind.
While the apartment may have been the same as in December, I was clearly not. The mess in the living room made my skin crawl and the overflowing cupboards upstairs had me wondering how I was ever going to find my underwear in the utter darkness that characterizes the British morning.
(Note that I cannot turn on the bright lights in the hallway for fear of waking my daughter up before time. I use electric lighting, I’m frugal – not a caveman).
As I sought to find a square centimetre of space in which to squeeze my wearable Christmas gifts, I felt a growing frustration. A sense of “I’m fed up and it’s all too much” that had probably been creeping up on my since the middle of last year.
I needed to… something… I was struggling for a half-remembered temporary obsession from a few years back. There’s a writer who talks about this. Super-nice Japanese lady… If I can just remember her name…
Ah. There it is.
Marie Kondo. My wife owns the book: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying
I needed to Kondify my storage. That would be a decent starting point.
Of Course It Doesn’t Spark Any Bloody Joy
I was not in the right frame of mind for this.
Marie Kondo suggests getting rid of anything that doesn’t spark joy in your life, leaving less for you to organize in the first place. In fact, she named her second book after this very concept: Spark Joy .
I just wanted the closet door to close properly.
Our goals were perhaps not all that aligned.
Nevertheless, a few videos into my YouTube
motivational session, I found it very difficult to dislike her advice because she herself is so very difficult to dislike. Therefore, not wanting to let down this nice Japanese lady (whom I have never met), I resolved to figure out the joy-spark-thing at a later date. For now, I would allow myself to merely rearrange my clothing so that I could find my socks in the dark.
I started by refolding a few socks and underwear that are stored in a small corner of the closet.
A few minutes later, I needed to fetch a bin liner because I’d decided to throw about half of them all away.
Stuff Kind Of Throws Itself Away
It caught me by surprise, but my own interpretation of Kondo-fucianism gradually emerged. I realized as I picked up each item to fold it that, were I to be picking clothes to wear, I would in many cases put this item back and reach for another one.
What’s the point of keeping something that is so very obviously a third, fourth or emergency option?
It seems to devalue all the other items in the closet.
Every so often, I’d think – Oh! I bought this twelve years ago when I still lived in Paris. But then reality would interject: It’s an old, worn, deformed T-shirt. Why am I hanging onto this? Onto the discard pile it would go.
Two hours later I’d refolded all my shirts, jeans, T-shirts, shorts, trousers (pants for those of you on the western shore) and other bits and pieces and stored them in about a third the place they had originally occupied. About a quarter of the clothes were in the trash.
It hadn’t been that hard. It was like the items themselves had decided, more or less, that they’d had enough. There are a few extra items that will need to go in there in due course, but they’ve been given an extra summer to wear themselves out before they’re thanked for their service.
A Good Start. Not Much More Than That. So Far
So the inside of my closet looks a lot neater. I haven’t really achieved any more than that. Marie Kondo would be nice about it, but she wouldn’t give me a gold star.
Nevertheless, the therapeutic effects of this first intervention have created a simmering desire to go further.
I can only do so much here. The apartment’s furniture and decorations are, for the most part, not my own.
That said, there’s an awful lot I can do, and I expect I will be getting to it in due course, now that I have taken the first step and proven that items don’t have to be stored, they can also be released.
I’ll start by reviewing what other items I’m hanging onto that don’t deserve the disrespect of being left lying around. These too will be gently relieved of their duties.
In this way, gradually larger areas of my apartment will be Kondified, until I am left with something in-between my starting point and the zen-like calm of the background in her videos, which we assume is (but is probably not), her home.
One Thing Leads To Another
I’ve always looked with suspicion at the minimalist movement. There’s a certain competitiveness to it which I find unsettling.
When they’re not competing over having less stuff, they’re competing over how chill they are living with so little stuff. They have so little stuff it frees them up to write ever more minimalist search-engine-optimized phrases about how wonderful life is when there’s no stuff in it. Except for the important stuff, which is the stuff that’s left when all the other stuff is taken away.
I prefer the Marie Kondo approach, focusing on order and clarity. It speaks more clearly to me than an effort to own less things.
I actually have never doubted the benefits of a more minimalist (or shall we say, less cluttered) lifestyle, because I’m the first to agree that being crowded by your belongings makes you distracted and miserable, for a wide variety of well documented reasons.
I think, however, that paring down your belonging and enjoying the items you have is something you have to do when it feels right. Not because you’re miserable and you suddenly decide, based on a blog you read, that this will make you happy. Down that road lies disappointment.
It feels right this January to make an effort to reduce the clutter and spend time organizing what is left. We’ll see if it makes me feel any better.
Where this goes next is: Minimizing and bringing clarity to my organization, the logistics of my life and the personal habits that make up my daily routines. If you can declutter those, you’re onto something big. Does Marie Kondo talk about that, I wonder?
I expect this trend to continue as 2019 advances. I seem to have a new appetite for order. Sign up for updates to see where this goes…