I mentioned previously that I read Marie Kondo’s book, Spark Joy. Since finishing it and starting the tidying marathon (as she calls it), I still had a few questions about how to make tidying decisions. With a desire for more direction, and simply because I enjoyed reading the book, I downloaded the first book in the two-book series, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.
It helped to read both, but I think it would have been best to read them in order, first Life-Changing and then Spark Joy. Life-Changing is more the ideas behind the method (great to get you in the right mindset), and Spark Joy answers more of the practical questions you might have.
Since it’s such a subjective process a few people have asked me about it, I thought I would give some of my thoughts on the method so far.
Note: You are supposed to complete the tidying process in a “marathon” form, aka do it all at once. Since you might have a lot of items to sort through (re: you will have tons of crap and you will have to touch all of it), you will probably need to use a few weekends in a row. However, I don’t have tons of spare time right now, so I have only completed a few of the steps (clothes, books, and part of miscellaneous). I’ll aim to do another post when I’ve completely finished the process.
When You Begin
It’s important to be committed to the process and trust the method. If you simply want to do some spring cleaning, this book is not for you. If you aren’t committed to a simplified lifestyle, the Kon-Mari method will not work. I started reading the book because I thought I was interested in finding out what it was all about, but deep down I already had a commitment to living clutter-free and not owning tons of stuff. I honestly didn’t think her method would be that revolutionary, but once I started reading I realized it was, and I was able to jump in and be all in.
Along with that, trust the author. Whenever I hear people talk about this book, they give a disclaimer about Marie’s animistic attitudes towards stuff. However, if you’re going to believe her method works, you need to, to some extent, believe her fully. The thing that most people think is weird is the idea of thanking your things because of the hard work they do. Okay, that may sound a little goofy, but let’s realize that you don’t have to believe that things are alive or have a spirit in order to appreciate that indeed your items do serve you.
The point of treating your belongings with care and respect is not as much because they themselves have intrinsic value, but to teach you to value your things. It’s good to value your things because God gave them to you and put them in your care; as a good steward you should treat your possessions well 1) because they have been entrusted to you and 2) to save money (don’t buy more than you need; and you won’t have to replace your items as frequently because they are in good condition).
From the method’s perspective, it’s important to treat your things with care 1) because you will be more tidy and organized, 2) you will be happier (the end result of the method is to bring joy into your life), and 3) it will help you not to relapse (aka it will help you continue following the method even after you finish the tidying marathon).
How to Discard?
Follow your heart. Could I have come up with a cheesier instruction? Let’s move past that. Or, maybe I could’ve called this one “Trust yourself.” When I was going through my clothes, I held up each item to my heart to see which ones sparked joy. Going into it, I thought I already knew which pieces I liked; I was thinking I would maybe want to get rid of one or two things, but because I generally stay on top of not having excess, I didn’t think there would be a lot I would be ready to get rid of.
Surprise! A lot of my clothes didn’t spark joy. This was difficult for me. For example, I have a nice sweater that I got two or three years ago from Loft. It’s pretty and flattering and in fine condition. But when I held it, it didn’t spark joy.
What does that even mean exactly? Well, it didn’t do anything for me – I didn’t feel anything. Like I said, it’s super subjective. But it does work. You HAVE to try it to know what it means. On the other hand, when I held my favorite striped shirt, I instantly felt brighter and happier. But when I picked up the old Loft sweater, I felt no change. Nothing “happened.” It can be hard to discern, which is exactly the reason Marie encourages you to start with clothes (they are easiest to determine whether or not they spark joy).
Back to the sweater – I thought it would be a keep, for sure, but when I didn’t feel a spark, I had to decide – should I really discard this, just because I didn’t feel anything? Isn’t it a fine sweater, so I should just keep it anyway? This is why you have to go back to numbers one and two – if you don’t fully believe in the method, following through on it is going to be too challenging. I’m not gonna lie, I had a number of items that I wasn’t sure about (mainly my off-season clothes – there were tons of them that didn’t spark joy!), so I kept them out for a little while to see if I could decide later on.
It is a bit of an art that you have to learn. The things that are definite no’s or definite yes’es are easy. For the in-between things, or surprising things, you need to listen to your heart. By the way, Marie suggests that you get rid of everything that’s a maybe or a no. She says that if you get rid of something and regret it later, those mistakes (will be few! and) will help you hone your discarding skills for the future.
I was able to gratefully discard my sweater (and other similar “maybe” items) when I realized that it was a bit worn, and I’d already gotten use out of it. It’s a little out of style now, and even though it was once flattering doesn’t mean I often reach for it day-to-day. Even though I paid money for it, and I could possibly wear it in the future, it’s not bringing me joy when I see it in my drawer because I think, “Oh maybe I should wear that, but for some reason I can’t put my finger on, I don’t really want to today.” Those thoughts are the negative, non-joy-sparking thoughts that this de-cluttering process will diminish, allowing more joy to fill your life and home. So, I thanked my sweater for being great for a time, and then sent it on its way to Goodwill.
Get rid of things that are old and don’t bring you joy. This one can be tricky too. When you come across things that are old and a little worn, that don’t bring you joy anymore, it’s tempting to want to keep them if they are also useful items. Whit was resistant to de-cluttering his clothes because he assumed that when he finished the project, he wouldn’t have any clothes left! I also have fewer clothes, but it’s completely fine! In fact, it makes me happier! With fewer shirts in my drawer, I have fewer to choose from, but here’s the thing – I only wore those same shirts to begin with. So, the few shirts that I have now are the shirts that I want to wear. I don’t have to go around shirts that keep staring me in the face (“wear me, wear me!” “ugh, no, I don’t want to… maybe I should… no, not today, maybe later…” later never comes.) to get to the ones I want.
For things that you need, but only have old, not-happy items for, just get rid of them! Make the decision, and just do it. Yes, you may have to spend a little money to replace the old with new items, but it will make you SO much happier that it will almost certainly be worth it. And, now that you know what makes you happy, you’ll choose new things that you like.
I’ll share an example. When I was tidying my clothes and came across my sock drawer, nothing I saw brought me any joy. All my socks were limp and worn out – I hadn’t bought any for a year or two because I didn’t want to own more than I needed. But after another year of wear, I now noticed that none of them were in good condition anymore. Certainly they were still wearable, but I knew at least some had to go. I hesitated because… I needed to keep some socks to wear, right?
I kept a few pairs and let the rest go. But every time I would wear a pair, I realized that they were DEFINITELY not bringing me any joy. Saggy, pilled, faded socks are just plain unattractive. So, I decided to get rid of every last pair! I did of course need to buy some new socks, but not too many, and socks aren’t expensive. I bought really fun pairs from J.Crew (on clearance with free shipping!), and every time I get them out and don’t have to pick through old yucky pairs, but I can grab any one of a number of new, colorful socks, I am SO happy! It has shocked me how much joy has come from owning socks!! Who would have known.
I did the same thing with camisoles, and I encouraged Whit to also purge all of his worn out undershirts. He was left with ONE for about a week until we bought him some new ones! But now every undershirt he owns is bright white and in terrific shape.
So, don’t be afraid to get rid of EVERYTHING in a category if none of them bring you joy! Having none will motivate you to replace worn out, blah things with items that really inspire you.Some possible categories that you might entirely refresh: socks, underwear/boxers, bras, flip flops, scarves, dish towels, sheets, bath towels, eye shadow, notebooks, etc. If it doesn’t spark joy, out it goes.
Of course, don’t feel bad about keeping the number of items you really need to last you until you make it to the store (please don’t go commando just because you want new underwear!). Just make sure that as soon as you get the new stuff, you throw out the old. Trust me, you’ll want to!
Alas, as I am too wordy, I am having to cut this into two posts. Sorry about that! Hope this is helpful for those of you who are interested in learning this method! See you soon!
[Photo by SC Stockshop]