By now, everyone’s heard about Marie Kondo, the Japanese organization sensation. If not, look her up. She’s been studying tidying since she was young. And in her book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, she claims that her KonMari method (a combination of her first and last names) will not only change the way you organize and clean, but will actually teach you “to put your space in a way that will change your life forever.” (italics mine)
Major publications have written about her from a psychological perspective (her method would help those with OCD) to a behavioural economic perspective, applying Sunk Cost principles (you’ll never get your money back, so throw it away) and Status Quo Bias (you can’t think of a good reason o get rid of it). I’m going to write about this from a plain shopper’s perspective, and how it worked for me.
I recently (finally) read her book. This woman taught me so much about organizing the home, but most importantly I learned key nuggets of wisdom at the heart of every decision you have to make. What she’s selling you is a laser-sharp method of how to remove junk from your home, but you’ll soon find yourself applying it to how you spend your time or who you want to surround yourself with.
The KonMari Method (edited)
1. Don’t clean by Space, clean by Category
The biggest rule of thumb is that you cannot look at a dedicated space and clean within it (i.e. a drawer or your living room). You must judge ALL your clothes at the SAME time! Take your clothes from the coat closet, laundry basket, sock drawer, husband’s closet… everywhere! Sort everything all at once except for special categories like swimwear.
2. Lay everything out on the ground
This sounds insane but it breaks up your attachment to the object’s real estate. Like literally breaking boundaries so you can clearly judge that item’s worth.
3. Physically touch it to decide if you want to keep it
It’s like you have to be one with your clothes first. Touch it, feel it, give it your full attention, and even try it on again. Ask yourself: Does it bring you joy? If so, keep it and place it in a YES pile, if not NO pile. Afterwards, put the YES things back in place.
4. Fold everything into standing squares
Think of it as turning your clothes into hardcover books that can stand up on their own (that don’t need book ends!) Trust me, it’s the most genius thing ever, and you can use it to fold shirts, pants, leggings, tank tops, and socks all the same. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll wonder why this folding method hasn’t been in your life earlier! You’ll be able to SEE ever shirt/pant/panty all at once (unless you have a lot of black clothes like me heh) and you’ll know exactly where to get it. No more picking the t-shirt at the bottom of the pile (like you do at a retail store. C’mon, admit it).
5. Leave your NO pile around for two weeks
This isn’t part of her training, but something I’ve amended. As a child of a hoarder, I couldn’t bear to go cold turkey. It would’ve killed me. So I came up with a temporary hold solution. During the two weeks if I felt the need to actually wear something, I would wear it for the day and then decide whether I wanted to keep it. I’d say 80% of the time it still ended up in the NO pile. But at least I had certainty.
6. Sort your NO pile: Consignment, Hand-Me-Downs, Donation Bin, Trash
This last added practice really helped. If I didn’t evaluate the trash, something would have been off for me, especially having a soft spot for sustainability. I loved seeing a pile of ‘nicer’ clothes that could potentially make me some money (basically I felt less guilty about removing these from my closet). And it made me feel equally good that some items were going to the trash, y’know those bras that fit weird yet they’re still kicking around in your drawer. This last piece was good practice for closure, I highly recommend adding it to your KonMari cleanse.
Watch this video, it taught me everything I need to know about KonMari folding.
Does it spark joy?
The whole book hinges on this question: Does the item at hand bring you joy? If every single object in your house makes you happy, then you’ll have a happy house and forever be happy. It sounds great, but I found I ran into a really small wardrobe that was too much form and not enough function. I kept quite a few functional items, but fear not, I do not see this as a failure; I’m now hyper aware of things that don’t entirely bring me joy so I won’t feel guilty replacing it with something that does.
Things serve a purpose for only so long
Remember low rider jeans + thongs, velour track suits (gross even when they were on trend), and anything from your teenage years? Yeah, even if they fit they’ve served its purpose. I felt like I kept a lot of things just because I couldn’t find a reason to get rid of them (status quo bias!)
You don’t need a lot (in life)
“Really important things are not that great in number,” including friends. You’ve got a ton of ______ in your closet, whether it’s denim, black tank tops or Nike sneakers. The more you have, the less use each item gets. Sure, that makes it great so it’ll last longer, but the fewer wears you accumulate each year, the higher cost per wear it becomes. A very non-economical way to run the “inventory” of your closet.
Don’t leave the tags on
I have this horrible habit of leaving the tags on, even after three wears, just so I’d be 100% clear that I want to keep the item. The problem with that is the longer you have the tag on, the more anxiety you give yourself of whether you should keep it. Studies have shown that if a decision has already been made (for you), you’ll find a way to rationalize it and end up happier.
Take everything out of its packaging
If you’re like me, you’ll tend to leave socks, especially nylons, in the packaging. No right person would take it out and ruin the joy of ‘newness’, right? Wrong! I had a hard time trying this out, but it paid off. Not only does packaging take up a lot more space than you think, you’re more likely to grab it when you need it, rather than complain about how you have no time to open the package because you’re already late for work.
Remember the person, not the product
This lady is tough on sentimental items like the sweater your mom knit for Christmas or handwritten birthday cards or even photos (yikes!). This was a hard one to learn, but surprisingly once you understand the logic, it’s not that difficult to do, although I haven’t attempted my photos yet.
Photos: The joy was in the moment of taking the photo, once you take it, it’s pretty useless. Keep up to 5 per day of travel.
Gifts: The joy of cards and gifts is with the person who gives it, so you really shouldn’t feel bad about regifting or throwing away cards.
Sentimental Items: For the other two categories in this section, but especially with this one, you need to cherish the person, the memories you created with them, however long or short your paths crossed. Don’t get stuck not the sentimental item. Friends, family come and go. It’s a fact of life that people move on, and this seems like an honest way of dealing with the objects they leave behind.
How Marie Kondo Changed My Life
By learning to physically sort my clothes in order, remove the junk, keep the valuable, I have applied the philosophy to how I spend my time, which relationships I want to nurture, keeping guilt of all sorts at bay, and even in business.
Believe it or not, the weekend after I finished reading the book, I brought up her philosophy at a web design meeting and it worked at convincing my manager!
I’ve seen a few fashion bloggers talk about Marie Kondo too, so please try out her method! Her book may help but you can find the basics online (including on this blog post, ahem) and try your hand at it.