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It was overwhelming, the task I needed to do of getting rid of clothing I never wear; of downsizing general “stuff,” and making sure there was a place for everything and everything in its place.
Since I have struggled for many, many years with this feeling of “it's just too much to tackle,” leaving me depressed and anxious, I was a bit dubious about the starting point for this method, as on the surface, it seems to actually make matters worse and even more overwhelming.
However, as I discovered, as stressed as I was, this caused only a minor uptick in my anxiety; and the end result was well worth it. I began with clothing; her suggested starting point.
What? Everything you have in the closet that is an article of clothing—OUT, and piled onto the bed. Next, the things in drawers. All of it—onto the bed!
At this point, it was at once intimidating and eye-opening. I knew I always had trouble fitting things into the closet, but how disorganized it all was turned out to be a large part of the problem. (And I took comfort in the fact that it was less than half the amount of one of Mari's clients on her Netflix show!)
Having lost my husband just 4-1/2 months prior, I had already (bravely, I thought) cleared out much of his closet apparel and donated it to charity. However, I realized I had forgotten all about the drawers. Ugh!
So, out it all came, and there wasn't even room for a cat between the piles. (Well, cats being cats, that didn't bother them: they just opted for the tops of the piles.)
Mari Kondo, for those unfamiliar with her or her method, is a very petite Japanese lady. She is just bubbling over with energy and good humor. As she speaks extremely little English, she travels to the families she helps with an interpreter.
Her main focus is joy. Everything you decide to keep she says, must “spark joy.” If it does not, it's on the go-away pile.
In a very Zen-like way, she asks that you thank each item you are getting rid of, for having provided joy or allowing you to wear it at some point. She even says to thank your house.
If you can't have her or one of her multi-national certified consultants come to your home, she's written a book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and there is also an 8-episode (as of this writing in January of 2019) series on Netflix, spun off from her book.
Once I got over the shock of how many clothes were on my bed, I pitched in to the process. For myself, I had to slightly rework the phrasing; not everything I wear “sparks joy,” but there are definitely things I like, and things I consistently pass over when choosing what to wear for the day.
First, it was my t-shirts. I knew there were a lot, but I was stunned by just how many there were. As I went through these, I realized a lot of the shirts I never, or very rarely wear, did “spark joy,” for they were souvenir shirts that reminded me of fun times we had.
Why, then, was I never wearing them? Fear. Simple fear of “messing them up,” and then not having them anymore. As I analyzed this, I thought to myself, “How stupid! Why buy a t-shirt as a souvenir if you're never going to wear it?!”
So, I made a decision right then and there that I will start wearing these shirts, and I hung them back up in a more organized fashion.
Mari's method for folding clothes is not something with which I was familiar, and it took a little trial and error, but I used that method for storing into drawers my summer t-shirts, as well as my less-nice ones that are just good for knocking around the house.
Shirts in drawer, folded Mari Kondo style
This will save me from the bi-annual task of gathering all the seasonal clothing and wrestling with those vacuum storage bags that never seem to work properly anyhow. I will simply trade closet for drawer and vice-versa. (Of course, this is also sad, because I only have that drawer space available due to now being alone.)
Her method for folding pants did not work for me; it left them too tall to fit in the drawers, as she shows. So, for my summer pants (shorts and capris), I fell back on my father's Navy sea bag method of rolling them instead of folding. Worked like a charm.
My cool-weather pants, jeans and sweats, I drape in half over hangers, as there is more room in the closet than I have drawer space (my drawers are all quite shallow).
I do have to admit, I didn't actually have every item out on the bed; I left my pajamas in their respective drawers. I'll tackle that next, along with a few other miscellaneous clothing items. But it won't be so daunting now that I know how the process works.
Mari's method is the same for other areas: kitchen, garage, miscellaneous items, and sentimental items. I'll be applying it next to my office, in the hopes of getting that finally put to rights.
Although I will be applying this method by locations, her actual philosophy is to de-clutter by categories, not locations. That said, my “locations” are actually also categories. Office stuff is office stuff, regardless of its location. The fact that I am lucky enough to have a home office gives me a location-based-category.
See below for the before and after photos of the first stage of the office project.
The disorganized mess--BEFORE
The garage/shop will be the supreme challenge; one I am not yet ready to tackle. We were self-employed for years, doing everything from woodworking to ceramics to handyman services; we have every tool you can imagine, and many duplicates as well.
As big as the shop is, it is also now very cluttered with all kinds of stuff that doesn't belong there, but has no other space in which it will fit while it awaits repair or sale. There just isn't room to move or work now, let alone drag everything out of boxes, cupboards and drawers for sorting.
Generally, I am very pleased with my first foray into the KonMari method of organizing. I now have the confidence that I will be able to deal with the other disorganized areas in my life.
I plan to watch other episodes on Netflix, and solidify the method in my mind. I do believe this is a very viable approach to what seems to be a national problem. As one comedian said, “We don't send our kids to college for an education; we just need their closet space.”
Can I do it? I must! This is vital, as I eventually need to downsize even more drastically if I am to reach my goal of becoming a nomad and touring the country in an RV, and having no “sticks and bricks” house anymore. Going from a combined total (house, shop, art/craft studio, and a couple of garden sheds) of just over 4,000 square feet down to a tenth of that will be a very serious challenge.
This is just one of many methods available to help us declutter and organize our lives. This is a semi-minimalist approach; but not fully, hard-core minimalist, as it allows you to keep things that give you joy...and for some of us, that's a lot of stuff, still.
She also goes into how to fold things, and in some areas, that does not work as a "one size fits all" approach. The linen closet is one such example. No two linen closets are created alike, and I found that the "correct" way to fold linens is whatever method you arrive at that allows things to fit neatly on the shelf space you have available in your particular closet.
Her method for towels, for instance, uses a lot of folds, with the towels then stood on the long folded edges. That takes up a lot of linear space, and did not work for me; my shelf space is very limited, so items need to be stacked up. That means not so many folds, for the more you fold things, the bulkier they become, and the harder to stack.
Like many different types of organizing, destressing, and other self-help methods, you need to choose what works for you; take a "delicatessen" approach: picking and choosing from many options to arrive at your personalized solution.
All photos by author.
© 2019 Liz Elias
Liz Elias (author) from Oakley, CA on January 14, 2019:
Hi Shauna--You can find a couple of sneak peeks on You Tube if you don't have Netflix; I only have it because my step-daughter cut us in on her subscription, otherwise, I wouldn't have it either.
Doris--Glad you got to get a preview on TV! She is such a bundle of energy; I don't know how she does it.
Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on January 14, 2019:
Wow, Liz, the washing machine box! Even my mom wasn't that bad, but Larry is. I have to make him recycle boxes.
I haven't had time to check out the Netflix version yet, but this morning my favorite local TV channel ran a special on it. I've been using her basic methods for years: spreading the clothes out on the bed to sort and sorting my wardrobe in the closet by color. I've heard some people say they sort their clothes by what goes with what, but I change mine around like one day a red blouse with the gray suit, the next week a pink or white one, so that didn't work for me. I feel so stupid! Look at all the money I could have made if I'd gone public with it first. LOL I'm still going to check it out though, to see if I've missed anything.
Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on January 14, 2019:
Liz, I hadn't heard about this method of tidying up until now (probably because I don't have Netflix). I really need to tackle all my closets, not just my bedroom closets. I've got so much stuff, I'm running out of room. Every now and then I'll go thru my clothes closets. They're about due again. I have, however, gone through my shoes and boots (I am one of those women who has lots of shoes and boots) and gave all my spiked heels to a friend of my son's who wears my size. She's in heaven and I've made some room on my closet floor.
Touring the country in an RV sounds like fun, but I don't think I'd ever be able to live in one. More power to you, Liz! Just think of the stories you can write once you get out on the road. Inspiration will be behind every corner!
Liz Elias (author) from Oakley, CA on January 13, 2019:
Hello again Carolyn--That sounds like a very reasonable idea. Now, if I can just get my brain to be reasonable! LOL
Hi there Doris--I'm delighted you found this article useful, I kind of know what you mean; my mom wasn't a hoarder, but there were still plenty of things that were dear to her, and which I inherited; quite a few of which I still have these 21 years later!! Somehow it felt like dishonoring her memory to give them away or sell them--even if I didn't particularly care for the piece.
And when my ex's parents died--oh, my stars and little fishes, did all the siblings ever have a massive task on hand! The old folks had never thrown away ANYthing--including, carefully broken down and folded in a corner of the basement--the shipping box for their very first wringer-style washing machine!!
I wish you all the best!
Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on January 12, 2019:
Liz, I'm so glad you've written this article. I must check out the KonMari method on Netflix. It started when my mom died. She'd lived alone for 23 years and never threw an article of clothing away, nor anything else except for my late dad's clothes. My brother and I had a whale of a time sorting through her things. We finally took the things we wanted and hired a lady to do an estate sale.
Fast forward 10 years and I retired. I realized then that I'm just as bad as mom was. I have closets stuff full of clothes because until I got my thyroid under control, I actually needed the three sizes in my wardrobes Now I think I can get rid of them. Then there's the problem of my husband, the pack rat (pack rat, my ass, the compulsive hoarder). He keeps saying we need to downsize and I agree. I want a new house, and he says we can live in a smaller one. So, I need to get packing and tossing. If this lady has been a big help to you, I'm willing to try her advice.
Carolyn Fields from South Dakota, USA on January 12, 2019:
Just an idea - regarding crafting. Pick two or three crafts that give you the most joy. Keep all of those supplies. Then find friends who enjoy the other crafts - and "gift" them to your friends. If, later down the line, you want to re-start that craft, you can. In the meantime, you have happy friends, and less clutter. Just a thought, based on what I did with my crochet supplies. I gave them all away. Now - I purchased new supplies for a new project, and it feels fresh. I guess everyone is different. Food for thought.
Liz Elias (author) from Oakley, CA on January 12, 2019:
Hi Bill--Thanks for stopping by. Have Bev watch a couple of the Netflix episodes; it gives a much more comprehensive view of how-to and what to expect in the way of results.
I'm not really that much of a 'clothes horse,' and I'm not one of those women who has umpteen pairs of shoes, so my pile wasn't actually horrid; it was just a matter of getting around to it. ;-)
Hi there, Carolyn--I have no doubt you are correct; I've needed to downsize a lot of 'crap' for many years. I've made half-hearted attempts in the past, but have never gotten very far. This time, I have a bigger motivation. My hardest things to part with will be crafting supplies; I love doing them all, and I don't have just one specific craft, either, I'm into jewelry making; scrapbooking; card-making; needlepoint; painting ceramics; small woodworking; and whatever else grabs my fancy as something new to try in the moment!
Thanks for your summary of your own experience!
HI, Liz--I am pleased you enjoyed the article. Best wishes in your process.
Liz Westwood from UK on January 12, 2019:
I have read your article with great interest as a declutter is well overdue for me.
Carolyn Fields from South Dakota, USA on January 12, 2019:
In the months leading up to our move from California to South Dakota, I spend literally hundreds of hours downsizing. I used a kitchen timer, and spent at least 30 minutes per day working on it. When the timer went off, I could stop, or keep going if I was on a roll. I donated boxes of books, clothing, household items, etc. I sold some furniture. I gave some very specific items to people I knew with specific interests (e.g., crochet items to a friend who was into crafts). When we moved, we still left some things behind due to lack of space.
This Spring, when the new house is finished, I will be reunited with stuff I haven't touched in over two years. I suspect that there will be more sales and donations in my future. For me, life has become more about experiences, travel, friends, and learning new things. The stuff I have must support that, or I shouldn't keep it.
Best wishes to you for your continued success with downsizing. It is well worth the effort.
Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on January 12, 2019:
Fascinating, Liz! We are in the process of downsizing, and it is a daunting task, especially for Bev. I'll pass this on to her and hopefully it will help her with her anxiety. Me? I need to pairs of jeans, seven t-shirt, socks, underwear, and a coat and I'm good to go. lol Good luck to you!
Liz Elias (author) from Oakley, CA on January 11, 2019:
LOL at gluing 20-year-old shoes. Well, why not, if they are otherwise still serviceable.
I am sort of caught between wishing I was a minimalist, and finding too many things that "give me joy."
I am also the product of Yankee parents; raised to "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without." So it is very hard for me to discard things--even t-shirts that have holes in them...
Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on January 11, 2019:
So interesting I am a minimalist. But that means regardless I keep and wear things until they a worn out or I should donate. My bride insists on throwing old out and buys me new. Our DAV and Amvets are the solution. My stuff is cool. I just glued 20 year old yard shoes.