In case you haven’t been online much this month, almost everybody has watched the new Marie Kondo series on Netflix and has a renewed fervor for decluttering. I read her book back when it came out a couple of years ago and I have had mediocre success with it. Further down I write about what she describes as a success, and how I’m living by her Konmari method still.
Marie Kondo 101
Here are the basics of Marie Kondo’s approach:
Declutter by category, not by room.
Start with the easiest items so you can develop your skill for knowing if an item “sparks joy”. She says to start with clothes.
Take all the items out of their place so you can see everything piled together, then hold each item to see if it sparks joy.
If the item sparks joy, then you keep it. If it doesn’t, then you discard (donate/recycle/trash/whatever).
The order of categories is: Clothing, Books, Papers, Kimono, Sentimental
Marie Kondo Definition of Success
Like the rest of the world, I watched Tidying Up with Marie Kondo recently and have fallen back in love with her. I read her first book a couple years ago when it came out and then also bought her second book about Joy which wasn’t quite as life-changing but still good.
I’m not a Konmari success story because I feel like I’m always decluttering, but her ideas on “tidiness” have definitely influenced how I take care of my possessions and how I purchase new ones. There was a long period of my life where I did not take care of the items I owned and was fine with getting cheap replacements for items instead of investing in quality items I could repair.
I didn’t grow up in a tidy house and have been trying to learn how to keep one for most of my adult life. The Konmari method had definitely helped me get a handle on all my stuff, but her version of success is to never need to declutter again. I don’t agree that never having to declutter is a success, as life changes so the things you need in your house changes. I can only hope that I grow and change and need different things in my house than I need now.
In the show, Marie Kondo asks one of the people if they want to bring an item into their future. Is this item for the Sarah I want to be? This is an important question to ask not only when you’re decluttering but when you’re purchasing new items as well. Is buying brownie mix for my pantry supporting the healthy Sarah that I want to be? Is buying quality work pants that fit well supporting the successful career Sarah I want to be?
The dark side of this question is that people keep items for this future self they want to be, and then never actually use them. Miss Minimalist aka Francine Joy talks about this “Fantasy Self” that people hoard items for. I think through decluttering, and maybe some soul searching, you can find what really sparks joy to you and what items you should surround yourself with at home.
I like to try new things all the time, which leads to a lot of items that I don’t actually need to have at home. If you’re like me and don’t want to clutter your home with “fantasy self” items that actually demotivate you, I have had pretty good success with renting or borrowing. I know being able to borrow an item is a privilege not everyone has, so renting or buying used is probably your best option. If you want to try out snowboarding, you can rent a snowboard and helmet your first time to see if you actually like it. You can buy used crafting supplies online all the time, especially now when it seems like everyone is decluttering their house. I recently tried out embroidery by taking a hoop from someone who had tried it and didn’t like it and buying cheap floss and cheap embroidery fabric at Michaels. As it turns out, I’m not great at it and I don’t enjoy it so I’m glad I didn’t go all out and buy a starter kit because then there would have been a lot of guilt for not liking it.
Buying New Things After Decluttering
Marie Kondo mostly focuses on the tidying process and only briefly mentions how to handle new purchases; which I feel like is a major part of how I have been able to keep a tidy house. Reigning in on what sparks joy during the decluttering process has helped me decide what future items I buy and store in my house. I used to see an item that I liked on clearance at Target and think “I like it, I’ll buy it” (the middle-class version of Ariana’s 7 rings).
Since learning about decluttering properly, I now am VERY picky about the items I purchase. I am acutely aware of how much stuff I gave away because I didn’t like it anymore, or it broke after one use, or its use was so limited that I didn’t use it and shouldn’t have purchased it in the first place. The guilt I feel about giving stuff away or throwing it away is real; because I feel that I could have better used my money and made better choices for the environment.
After or during decluttering your house, it could be useful to do a “no spend month” or week or whatever you can personally handle. You could keep a list of the items you wanted to buy during your time of no spending, and then assess why you wanted to buy those items. I go to Target sometimes when I’m stressed and end up buying random stuff I didn’t need. I also shop online during work when I’m feeling self-conscious because I anticipate this new purchase will make me feel better (spoiler: it only sometimes does).
Marie Kondo has many good ideas in regards to decluttering and the joy of a home, but as with every one of the self-help sensations you should take what works for you and discard the rest.