We visited Japan a few years ago for a family holiday and I was struck by the compact nature of Japanese dwellings. It’s all about minimalism. While I was there, I heard about a book written by Tokyo-based organiser Marie Kondo called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying. She advises people on how to declutter and organise their home. Her theory dubbed the KonMari Method advises that you should surround yourself with things that you love – things that “spark joy” and get rid of the rest. The book is a sensation in Japan with over 1.5 million copies sold.
Intrigued, I managed to get my hands on an English language copy and read it while travelling around Japan. The book just struck a nerve with me. For a while now, I’ve been feeling like I have too much stuff in my house. Reading this book helped me understand my relationship with my belongings.
I have to admit that some parts of the book are a bit out there like greeting your home every time you come in or thanking your possessions for the services they perform but it offers some sage advice about our possessions. The author explains how we hold onto things due to the memories that we associate with them or the fear that we might need it in the future. I’m guilty on both accounts.
She advises that you first need to go through your things, not room by room but by categories. Start with clothes, then move onto other sections such as your books, music and lastly photos and sentimental items. Pick up things one by one and see if they spark joy or bring happiness to you. If they don’t, thank them for their service and set them free to be enjoyed by someone else. As I mentioned, it’s a bit New Age! Then you designate a place for everything so that you return it to the place when not in use thus reducing clutter.
I decided to put the book to the test and spent a weekend decluttering. I started with sorting out my clothes. As advised, I pulled out all of my clothes out of my closet and drawers and placed them on my bed. I then picked them up one by one to see if they sparked joy. I soon noticed that I was picking up the clothes that I loved and hanging them up. (Kondo is a massive fan of folding but I actually prefer hanging them up). Soon I was left with the dregs – a pile of clothes that I felt ho-hum about. Sure, I could put them back in my closet but if I was never going to wear them, what was the point?
There was the dress that my late mother-in-law had given me which I never liked but felt guilty about giving away. There were a few pairs of jeans that were slightly too small but I had convinced myself that I could slim down to wear at some point. And of course, the dress on which I spent way too much money on but really just didn’t suit me. I quickly bagged them up. Out of sight, out of mind. I estimated I eliminated half of my wardrobe suddenly having much more room. By seeing all of my clothes, I was able to see exactly what was in there and realising that I have an excess of black tops. Note to self: do not buy any more black tops. I also loved the fact that by eliminating the “Maybe” clothes, I was left with an entire wardrobe of clothes that I really wanted to wear.
Next it was onto my CD collection, most of which I collected in my twenties. This was harder than the clothes as it really was about the memories. I found myself surrounded by dozens and dozens of CDs that I didn’t want to listen to but didn’t want to throw away due to the memories associated with the music. Just handling different CDs like the Smashing Pumpkins, Fiona Apple, Pearl Jam, Bjork, Nirvana and a ridiculous amount of movie soundtracks transported me back to parties, summer concerts, road trips and a time of no responsibilities. I carefully went through the discs and selected certain tracks to import to my iTunes before placing them on the Op Shop pile. I have to admit there was a certain rightness and finality in discarding these CDs. I was saying goodbye to the physical discs but I wasn’t disposing of the memories. They would stay with me. And besides if I needed a particular song or album, I could purchase it on the iTunes store or listen to it on Spotify and save the space.
I finished off the weekend decluttering my books. This might be considered sacrilege to some people but I needed to reduce my library. My bookshelves were literally groaning under the weight of the books. As suggested, I took the books off my shelf and handled them one by one. This was time-consuming and messy but it worked. There are books that you read once and will never read again and there are others that I love to re-read and lend to friends. And of course, there’s an assortment of books given as gifts that I never got round to reading. By going through them, I was able to judge whether they needed to be in my library. Confession – I did get rid of loads of classics like Jane Austen, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Shakespeare left over from my studies as well as some much enjoyed Chick Lit titles knowing that I could always find them in a library if I felt the need to read them. (Who am I kidding? I’m more likely to have time to watch the movie adaptation!) I still have over a hundred books on my shelves but now the remaining books are ones that I treasure or look forward to reading.
At the end of the weekend, I had oodles of bags that I donated to op shops. It was a tiring experience but it was also very liberating. My house feels lighter like it doesn’t have as much stuff and I feel lighter. I don’t feel as weighed down with my possessions as I did before. I’ve found designated areas for the remaining items and as of now, there is less clutter and less cleaning up – a definite bonus for this busy mum. I feel much more orderly and ready to tackle more projects, without distractions. (Since my original weekend of decluttering, I’ve organised my linen cabinet, shoe collection and beauty and makeup supplies any my child’s clothes. And I’ve found I don’t have any regrets about things that I’ve donated or thrown away).
“I am convinced that putting your house in order will help you find the mission that speaks to your heart. Life truly begins after you have put your house in order.” – Marie Kondo
Have you tried the KonMari method? Or any other decluttering method? What works for you?
In 2012, Reena founded Newy with Kids to share information about family-friendly Newcastle. Originally from Canada, she had no idea about what to do with her toddler and after searching unsuccessfully for a family guide, decided to start her own. Since that time, both the toddler and Newy with Kids have grown keeping Reena busy. If you see her out and about, say hi.