Photo by Dustin Lee @ Unsplash
De-cluttering, getting rid of stuff, tidying up… minimalism is very trendy these days. There are countless lifestyle blogs and articles about keeping unnecessary, unwanted and unused possessions to a minimum. This minimalist approach has also been extended to money and finances, with bloggers such as Cait Flanders writing about shopping bans and saving money by rejecting consumerism. Because, after all, you need money to acquire the stuff and experiences you actually want.
On Saturday morning, I started clearing out. Inspired by Marie Kondo’s New York Times best-selling book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying, I spent the whole day focusing on tidying up my bedroom. Despite having a fairly ruthless (or so I thought) sort-out when I moved house a few years ago, I found clothes I’ve owned for 10 years or more. My drawers held clothes that, I kid you not, I wore to my first teenage job as a waitress. Time for them to move on.
Marie Kondo’s all-or-nothing method is effective because, she claims, it’s much easier to maintain future tidiness. If you tidy a little bit every day, you’ll be tidying forever, she says. It’s far more effective to do it all in one go and then simply make sure you put things back in the right place and in good condition once you’ve finished using them.
So that’s what I did. I took every single piece of clothing out and systematically sorted through the clothes I like and want to keep; the pieces from my past that I’ll never wear again; the clothes that I wore a lot and are now showing signs of wear; and the pieces I bought new and didn’t wear. I rarely buy clothes that I don’t wear, so this last group only had two items in it.
When I added up the items of clothing relegated to bags ready to schlep to the charity shop, I had more than 30 unwanted pieces which were taking up storage space. Marie Kondo’s belief is to only keep things which ‘spark joy’. Obviously you can’t apply that to everything in your home — a toilet brush that sparks joy, anyone? And perhaps if you have to wear a uniform to a job you hate, your uniform probably doesn’t spark joy but you’d be in trouble if you binned it.
Photo by Sarah Dorweiler @ Unsplash
Marie Kondo’s book has been translated from Japanese into English — Kondo herself doesn’t speak English — and I wondered whether some of the translations reflect a cultural approach that is unusual in the West. Thinking of clothes as if they’re animate objects, for example — every day after she gets home from work, Marie Kondo says ‘thank you’ to her shoes for doing a hard day’s work on her feet.
Another of Kondo’s exercises is to get her readers to draw one arrow pointing up to the right and one pointing down. We prefer the upward motion, she says, and so she suggests hanging heavy items, like coats, on the left and progressively moving toward lighter items on the right. I organized my wardrobe like this, although I’m not sure it will make much difference!
Kondo teaches that you must begin with clothes, and then move on to books, papers and komono (miscellaneous objects like DVDs, CDs and make-up). Following this approach worked well for me — sorting clothes was the most time-consuming, but books and papers only took a couple of hours. As for komono, that’s one area I haven’t tackled yet…
What have I learned from this tidying session?
- Getting rid of stuff is immensely satisfying. Many of us live with stuff we’ve accumulated that we no longer need or want. Passing it on to someone who genuinely does need it (via thrift stores/charity shops/Goodwill) is much better. I tried to find an organization who could ship clothes to refugees — there are 75,000 refugees living in camps in Greece, and more in Calais — but I struggled to find one.
- Marie Kondo’s book is really motivating, even if I won’t be adopting all of her methods (talking to my clothes? Nope).
- Living with a tidy, easy-to-clean space frees up time for other activities and is easier to keep together. Much easier to clean, too — a place for everything and everything in its place.
- The best way of tidying is to do it all in one go, as Kondo says. It seems like a lot of work and you need to set aside an uninterrupted block of time, but the end results are worth it.
- I wouldn’t say that it has changed my life (yet), but it is calming and relaxing to have a tidy space — tidying and living without clutter has benefits for mental well-being.