You may have seen the compact book with the turquoise tones sitting on the shelf at your favorite store. If you’ve done any casual searching for organizational tips, you have definitely come across it. The book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing written by Marie Kondo, has become something of an organizing bible taking the internet by storm. Kondo, a Japanese organizing consultant with a cult-like following, outlines some traditional advice clearing out clutter but with one big twist: You don’t go room to room with your organizing plan. Instead, you work through categories and do every single item of that category during your purge and organization. It’s not about stuff, it’s about your relationship to it.
Her logic for category purges as opposed to room purges is straightforward: Your belongings don’t always live in just one room because you don’t live in just one room. Think about your own spaces for a moment. Do you have books only in one place? How about clothes? Most people have some items in different places so going room by room doesn’t actually organize all the items. By sectioning the purge process into items instead of spaces you are able to completely organize in one sweep. That sweep is a pretty straightforward process: Take every item of the category and put it on the floor. With no distractions (and that means no music, no television, no texting) you lay hands on every item and ask yourself if it sparks joy in you. If it does? Fantastic! It gets to stay, but if it doesn’t you have to thank it for serving its purpose in your life and discard it. Following these fairly simply presented steps you should have many bags of things to remove from your home and be left with only the things you truly love creating a space that encourages you maintain the space.
Kondo also gives advice for what to do once you’ve done the purge. She champions eschewing complicated small storage solutions and instead suggests that you use what you have by changing how you store things. Her biggest trick is a vertical folding method that allows you to stand items such as t-shirts, socks, and pants on their ends in drawers, allowing more items to be stored in one space and make them visually appealing.
Last week I decided to begin implementing the principles of the book, the “KonMariMethod.” One of my biggest organization challenges has always been my clothing, and since that is the first major category in the method, it seemed like a great place to test things out. Kondo says that you must have every item in the category to start, so that is exactly what I did. I went into the basement and got out the tubs of out-of-seasonal clothing and things that I moved out of the closet due to space constraints. I chucked all of those items onto my bed (not the floor because I have cats) and went through every item, even the socks. Four hours later, I had 10 giant garbage bags full of clothes to donate and a transformed closet. I had gone from my clothing over-filling two closets to the point that there were storage tubs in the basement and drawers stuffed beyond ability to close to having all of my clothes in one closet, I could see all of my shoes, and I suddenly had an empty drawer. Mind blown.
Having lived with the newly downsized and tidied space for a week, I’ve been able to reflect on it. One week in, my closet and dresser are still perfectly organized. Usually my efforts to stay organized begin to deteriorate within a week, but not this time. There is just something about how visually appealing it is that keeps me maintaining the space, but more than that it’s easier to use. That vertical fold and standing things on end in drawers? This is truly magic. All of my collected concert t-shirts live together and I can see them all in one glance. The vertical fold and stand method allows me to see the art on the front of the shirt easily so I can make choices quickly and visually. It saves me so much time when I get dressed. Also saving me time is that I no longer have to iron most of my clothes because I’m motivated to get them out of the dryer and into their tidy home instead of just leaving them to wrinkle.
The method truly is life-changing, but it’s also not without some little flaws. The biggest one for me was the unrealistic expectation of doing a lot of purging and tidying over the course of a short amount of time. It took four hours for me to simply get one category done. That doesn’t count the time it took to load up the bags and get them out of my house or the various other cleaning up (mostly clearing away trash). I can’t even imagine how long it is going to take me to work through books and papers. Doing the whole method in a single day or weekend is not practical. Going through clothes was an emotional experience and clothing is probably my least emotional category. Tackling some of the others, especially photos and personal things, is going to be rough and will require recovery time. I also didn’t completely feel like the way she divides categories was logical for my life. Kondo includes scarves, shoes, handbags, and other accessories in with clothing. I excluded them from my purge of clothing because those items occupy a different place in my life as Kondo is emphasizing minimalism and in part of my professional life I have legitimate need for the wide variety of accessories I use. Those will need to be looked at separately, adding more time to my overall purge.
Organization is ultimately a deeply personal and individual undertaking which is where people often have issues and find their efforts failing. By creating an opportunity for hands-on interaction with one’s items in contained categories, Kondo understands this and creates not just organization, but a sense of relationship with our belongings—and that may just be magic.
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The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing is now available in-stores and online. For more information on Marie Kondo, check out her official website and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.
Have you tried the Marie Kondo method? What do you think of it? Let us know in the comments below.