I year ago I heard some buzz about the #KonMari method of decluttering. Marie Kondo wrote a book called “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” and I had a few friends that were raving about it. A little before the beginning of the year my friend Andrea brought it up and for some reason (fate…luck) I instantly pulled it up on Amazon and downloaded it to my kindle.
I read the first chapter, was amazed, and then read it to Troy and Annie. They looked at me, and both said “Let’s do it.” Troy does not buy things, he’s a self proclaimed minimalist. I, however am a maximalist, and so is Annie. We like our STUFF, but sometimes we make hasty decisions and accumulate stuff for the sake of it. We don’t have a large house, about 2,000 sq feet, and it’s not packed to the brim or anything, but there was lots of stuff just hanging about.
Also, wherever women go to learn about how to make a house pretty, I missed that lesson. Our home has always been 100% utilitarian, I'm afraid to paint walls, or buy nice things because I always feel like I don't know what I'm doing, and would rather spend my money on yet another airplane ticket somewhere fun. I'm not good with color, or fengshui or knowing what furniture goes where. Not my thing. But I do wish for joy, comfort, and tidiness. Clean tabletops, and things put away make me feel grounded.
Marie has you declutter your entire house in one fell swoop, as quickly as possible. You are not allowed to “put things away” until all the decluttering is complete. And there are a few simple rules. One, you declutter by category, not by room, and there is an order: clothes, books, papers, kimono (which has a ton of sub lists) and mementos. She suggests you declutter as quickly as possible and says it takes most families about 6 months (Yea….it took us three and a half weeks...not really surprising if you know me).
There is one rule you have for deciding whether to keep or toss and it’s to hold the item and ask “Does this item spark joy?” Now I know that your brain is coming up with all the “but what about taxes”…yes, you keep taxes, but the other 99.9% of stuff is subject to the joy constraint. When you decide to get rid of something you thank it for it’s service and send it along to its next life journey. The thanking part is really important, if you neglect this step you will feel hollow and empty at the end of the process.
After you finish decluttering your entire house, you find a home for each and every object, and you treat your objects like they have feelings. So you don’t put objects on top of each other (because the bottom ones would get squished and feel sad), you ask clothes if they prefer to be hung or folded, and you keep like things with their friends. Shoes with shoes, scissors with scissors, sheets with sheets.
So, as a family, we dove in! We don’t currently own a kitchen table so we cleaned out the kitchen area and used the floor as our collecting area. First clothes. That was fun, we were trying on things and asking the joy question. We got through those and felt a deep sigh. The clothes we actually put away via the KonMari method of folding (it’s a thing…and it’s amazing...google it). I took 16 bags to the goodwill of clothes and shoes. Our closets felt really spacious and we were smiling when we got dressed.
The after is quite amazing!! A full dresser with everything folded and upright!
Then it was on to books. We had books in every single room in the house. They were everywhere and there were a ton of them! Annie and I both went through the joy test pretty quickly and I ended up with I think 17 books and Annie about 25. Troy was another story. We had to read the chapter on books to Troy 3 times…outloud. At first they all brought joy to Troy, but then, when he really really looked at why he was hanging onto them, it was something else that he needed to face. He went from about 400 to 84 really joy inducing books. And now when I see him walk by his books, he smiles.
Bye Bye books! They filled up our entire car (before she went to car heaven)…
The purpose in life of a book is to be read. So if you read it and then put it on a shelf for the rest of it’s life, you essentially put it in prison, it can’t live it’s purpose ever again, sad book. It wants to be read, so we had to send most of them along on their life path, so they at least had a chance of being read again and fulfilling their purpose. It felt good to give them another chance at life!
We donated them to the library, and when I went to throw away an empty cup from our car in the library recycle dumpster do you know what it was filled with? BOOKS! I never thought about the fact that the library gets so many book donations that they throw away dumpsters full of books. I can't believe that a trash hauling service would do that! I tried to put that out of my brain when we drove away. Bye Books, good luck!
Troys books now, in the happy hallway!
After books is the category: PAPERS. It was impressive. We pulled every single piece of paper from the house and put it in the kitchen. It filled up the entire floor, boxes and boxes and bins and bins. And one by one, we went through every piece of it and asked the joy question, then asked the “required to keep” question. This was the most liberating step because really, there were only 2 pieces of paper in all of the papers that brought joy, our wedding certificate and Annie’s birth certificate. TWO! We now have one small box of papers that had to be kept, and we each have one small box for work. We also weren’t afraid to take photos of papers and store them in ibooks on our ipad. Things like hand written recipes and school calendars, but crazy enough there are only 32 papers that we felt needed photos on the iPad. Not many.
These are now all the papers in the house except a small box in each of our offices. Ahhh, it makes me so happy.
After those three categories are done you breathe this huge sigh, because you are getting the hang of things and your joy meter is getting honed (warning: if you are in a place of depression, Ie: having a tough time finding joy, you are going to throw out a lot of stuff, so be careful)
By this point we are in hook, line, and sinker! Next up is Kimono which there is some fancy definition but to me meant “all the other categories except the special stuff.” We tackled category by category: bathroom stuff, linens, toys, games, camping stuff, luggage and travel items, triathlon, and electronics.
This is the bathroom stuff. It’s ridiculous. We have two small bathrooms. Never again!!!
Then we each worked on our own personal stuff, but not the “special stuff”, that’s saved for last.
By now the neighbors were asking if we were moving because we had a HUGE pile of stuff outside the front porch. Troy kept telling them “My wife read a book!” He totally threw me under the bus. Stinker!
I got on Craigslist and called a man who calls himself “The Junk Guy” and asked if he could come take our stuff away. He said yes, for a price, and asked if he should bring his trailer. We shouted YES! We didn’t have enough stuff to need his trailer, so I looked at Troy and said “We have 5 hours to fill his trailer”
So…we attacked the garage. And by attack, I mean attack. We were thanking things left and right and out it was going. Five hours later, by the time The Junk Guy came we filled his truck, his trailer and still had an entire truckload left over. We had emptied our box of 56 black plastic giant trash bags I had purchased for the task. This was half way through the garage! This pile doubled before The Junk Guy came! Thank you swimming pool, thank you tag-a-long, thank you broken Christmas Tree. Thank you thank you thank you!
It felt good. The stuff that was left was really stuff that sparked joy and it was a cool process to go through and find all the treasures! Many things brought short term joy but when asked “have you served your purpose?” the answer was yes, so off it went to it’s next life, but only after a deep thank you.
From there it was time for the kitchen. Books to Troy was like kitchen items for me. So much attachment for me, but when I really held the items and asked if they had served their purpose and were ready for their next adventure, most of them said yes. I did have a long conversation with the skillet I make my eggs in every morning. I don’t like it, but if I tossed it I couldn’t make eggs. So I told it that it could stay, and I promptly ordered a new one on Amazon, and crazy enough, that’s the only new thing I bought through this process. When the new one came, the old one went along it’s way, Thank You Skillet!
Once the kitchen was done we pulled the mementos we had been saving and dealt with them licity-split. I was dreading that part, like Baby Annie clothing, and keepsakes from trips and what not. There were lots of great memories and many things were kept. It was actually a joyful process, and pretty much the exact opposite I thought it would be if we had started with these things. There is a reason you save the special stuff for last.
Photos were all put together into one bin and I still haven’t gone through them. There is a whole KonMari process for photos but I’m not emotionally ready for them, so they are staying in their box for a few more weeks. And yes, they aren’t happy about it.
Now it was time to find a home for everything. We had little piles of JOY all over the house and it was time to put everything in place. The funny part about this was that it took like 2 hours to put our entire house in place, and most of that time was spent repurposing some shelving that had to be removed and put up somewhere else. It was simple really. There was so much space, all the closets were empty, it was easy as cake to designate a category to a closet or a shelf, place what was left in there, and be done with it.
Annie turned her closet into her reading nook, she loves to hang out there now.
All in all, to do our entire house, from start to finish in the KonMari method, took us about 3.5 weeks. We were diligent and we worked every night on things and during our lunch hours, sometimes a little in the mornings too. The result is beyond words. For the last couple weeks we have just enjoyed with wonder our house, and the space that has been created. Literally every shirt we pull our of our closet and every cup off the shelf is a smile. There is space and so far, not a single thing is missed. There hasn’t been a single “If I only kept…”
Our belongings have taken on personalities. The other day Annie came into the living room and said “Mom, your snow boots are sad” and I was like “why?” and she said “they are in the bathroom all alone away from their friends.” I said….”ooh, that is sad” and moved them back with their friends.
Things that haven’t been put away immediately feel out of place and I feel this duty to them to put them back in their home. My purse gets unpacked every night and all the insides put back away. And you know what, our house is happier. I feel like the light shines a little brighter in it, and my clothes stay a little cleaner, and my food is a little tastier. Who knew?
I will say, that I would not consider myself a tidy person (duh). For 14 years Troy has had to get used to what he calls “Sonja piles” because I seem to like to make little piles of things all around the house. I didn’t grow up in a tidy house and I always felt that there are more adventurous ways to lead your life than to spend so much time “cleaning.” But now, I don’t clean. Things have a home, and I take them home at the end of the day, and when I see an area collecting some dirt or dust I feel sad for it, and I take care of it, so it’s happy. Dishes get done within a few hours because we only have a few now, not even enough to run a full load in the dishwasher anymore. Everyone has one coffee mug, and one water glass. There are a few spares for guests. That’s it. I have 6 cycling water bottles. 6 is 3 more than my bike fits!
It sounds silly, but this process has helped me tap into my emotions. I had to hold things and really decide how they made me feel. Lots of generally benign things brought up some heavy emotions based on who gave it to me or when/why I procured it. Some of the things I had been hanging onto because they were worth something went right out the door when I held it and felt it. Like a hot potato. Sometimes I cried! But many other times I laughed and nodded.
If you are looking for a space transformation, I suggest picking up her book and giving it a read. You will know right away whether this is something you are ready for, or not, and I would say, don’t force the issue if you aren’t. Pass the book on to a friend and see if it was meant for them! When I posted on Facebook there were lots of responses from others who were digging her method as well but not a single person said they had completed their whole house, so I just want to note something here. The feeling of completing the project is the best part. Knowing every single item has been handled and sorted, and thanked or recognized for it’s joy brings some pretty serious zen action. So if you have done a few categories and fallen off, I’m urging you to hop back on the train. The ending is divine!
**this was the post I published that flatlined my blog a few weeks back. Troy was able to save the words and I'm just now posting it again.
It's been a little over a month since we finished this project and I can't believe what a game changer it has been. Our house has not gotten dirty or junky a single time since. The things that weren't working really stuck out like a sore thumb. For example, our electronics got stored in this:
I thought it was pretty organized, each of us had our own shelf, I love this little shelving unit and I love all the electronics in it. But I hated the cords being everywhere. I had an idea, but didn't know if it would work. A few weeks ago I went for it. I bought a little set of drawers and I drilled holes in the back of all of them and mounted an electrical strip and a USB strip on the back of the set of drawers. Then I fished all the cords into the back of the drawers and now every electronic has a home and gets put to bed at night.
The fact that everyones iPads, iPhones, Computers, headphones, tablets, readers, goPros, you name it have a home and a bed to rest after a hards day work makes me really happy. I've also been trying to get electronics out of our bedroom and this project sealed the deal. They get put to bed like Annie does, like we do.
We also bought a kitchen table. It took us 5 hours in the store to make a decision. We sat at every one, many times, and finally decided on one with two benches and counter height. We all love it lots, it's a major joy sparker.
I would love to hear others experience with KonMari and her books. If anyone has been through the process for some time now, I would like to know if it all sticks? Do things stay this way forever or does the clutter creep back in?