January 25, 2016

The Konmari Method - Sparking Joy

Hello and welcome back!

Before I start this post, I should probably preface it by explaining that I'm a pretty OCD person and I dislike clutter - it mentally irritates me, which is why I always have to tidy up my work desk at the end of the day's lessons before I can concentrate on planning for the next day.  So when I recently stumbled across Marie Kondo's book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Orangizing, I was immediately interested.

Ironically, I've always had a history of keeping things and having difficulty letting go of things, even as a child.  But as I've gotten older, I've gotten better at letting go.  In fact, I remember when I moved into my current flat and had barely any possessions (or furniture), it was a very freeing feeling.  And while I now have many possessions that I enjoy, I have felt a sad nostalgia for that time when I had much, much less.  I go through phases of decluttering - for several years now, I make a point of keeping my wardrobe in check by removing and donating the same number of clothing articles that I buy new (so if I buy 4 new tops, I donate 4 old pieces of clothes) and I usually have one or two annual clean-out binges, which always leave me feeling very therapeutic.  So needless to say, I was pretty hooked as soon as I saw the title and started checking out the reviews and comments.

I won't get too into the details because I really think that if this is something you want/need to explore yourself in your own life, you should definitely read the book yourself.  There are also a tonne of resources about the Konmari Method on YouTube, too.  But here is the nuts and bolts of the system:

1. Declutter quickly in a short time-frame.  Marie recommends anywhere between a week or month or if you have a full-time job, up to a 6-month period.  While six months may not feel like a short amount of time, compare it to the length of an average lifetime.  She rationalises that decluttering quickly will make an immediate and dramatic impact (which is true) and this will help to re-inforce your vision and pleasure at the change.

2. Declutter by category, not location.  One of the big differences with the Konmari Method is that you should declutter by type of object, not by room.  This immediately makes sense when you consider that often people keep the same types of objects in multiple rooms - think books, I have books in my living room, bedroom and kitchen.  It's better to just go through all the books in one fell swoop and be done with them, then move on to the next category of object.  She also has a list of the best order of categories to start with so that you start with the easier things to let go of and work up to the more sentimental items last.

3. Hold the object and ask yourself, "Does this spark joy?"  And here is the heart of the Konmari Method - does it spark joy?  The difference here is that you're not focused on throwing out stuff that you don't like or haven't used in X-years.  It's a positive approach where you're focusing on which possessions give you joy, that you love and want to be surrounded by every day.  Marie says that it's important to hold the objects, because you will feel in your body/soul which ones make you happy (spark joy), because you will feel your heart lift.

Okay, so enough theory.  I had started reading the book a couple of weeks ago and eager to put it into action, I got started one weekend on the first category: clothing > tops.  Knowing I had one final box of old clothes up in the attic, I dragged that down and then went through the box and all of my closets and pulled out every top I own and set them out on the bed:

Before: 113 tops

Now, I'm not the type of person who owns a lot of clothes - really.  And yet this was pretty shocking; which is exactly why Marie says to gather up all of the same type of object before you start decluttering - so you can see just how much you have (which you don't really need).  Truer words were never written!

After: 61 tops

Well, it took a fair amount of time but I held every single top and asked myself, "Do you spark joy?" and I whittled it down to 61 tops.  I know the photos don't seem as dramatic as they should but there are in fact fewer piles there and they are much shorter than in the original photo.  And most importantly, I'm happy with those that are remaining; I'm pleased with the idea of wearing these tops.

Folded the Konmari Way

Then I got started on folding and re-organising my closets.  If you're familiar with any Shinto teachings, you may have already heard that you're not suppose to stack items into piles because it crushes the souls of the items on the bottom so it wasn't surprising to me that Marie also recommends a folding and sorting approach without the use of piles.  It also makes sense if you're using drawers, because then you can see all the articles and not just those on the top and you're more likely to use all pieces equally.  Plus, doesn't it look tidy?!  My heart sings with joy!

My hanging closet is nearly bare.  I could have easily hung up my fine-weight summer tops in there (as Marie recommends doing) but for the moment I'd rather have them in my seasonal storage box until I get the rest sorted.  Now I can't wait to move on to the bottoms!