The Quest to Tidy (Week One): Diving Into the Mountain

The KonMari method has a lot to say about cleaning house, but there are two things that struck me the most when reading:

1) Stop tidying room to room. It’s endless. Tidy by category.

2) If it doesn’t spark joy, throw it out.
— I would add in that those things which are absolutely necessary and frequently used that do not spark joy are allowable, because I feel confident that is what Marie meant anyway. My toothbrush does not particularly spark joy, but it does give me nice clean teeth, which… kind of… does… so I suppose at least the result sparks joy? Now that I think about it, all of my ‘necessaries’ that don’t spark joy DO something that DOES. So. Well. Darn. Spark joy. Period.

tidyingIn “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up”, Marie Kondo talks a lot about joy (and all the ways we clean in which joy is never even considered). This completely changed the way I looked at tidying my house. I will talk about this more throughout these posts.

The KonMari method also gives specific categories to tidy, and the order in which to do them. There are a few times I haven’t (and probably won’t, seeing as how I’m still in the middle of this project) follow this… but I will give my personal reasons for doing so when we hit those points.

I’ll be honest. After I read this book, I was surprisingly jazzed up to clean house. I figured it would encourage me a little. I had no idea how much. So I spent the better part of a week waiting for the weekend so I could tackle step one. (I don’t have as much time in the evenings, so my ‘weeks’ in this project are, for the most part, weekends.)

So why is week one titled “Diving Into the Mountain”?

pile of clothes on a bedThis. This is why. Category One is CLOTHES, and this is only SOME of the shirts that I owned.

Good heavens. How many people did I think I was clothing?

I am not a minimalist. Never have been, never will be. I’m a regular girl who likes her stuff and has no issue with abundance (if, as I’m learning, it actually makes me happy).

But wow.

The KonMari method breaks the category of “clothing” down further into subcategories, listing types of clothes and the order in which we should sort them. Tops of all kinds (shirts, sweaters, blouses, etc.) are first.

This was after about 3 previous run-throughs in the past year of throwing out clothes I straight-up didn’t like or couldn’t wear anymore. Some went into a garage sale last year, but most went to the local thrift store as a donation. In case you didn’t catch that, this is what was left over.

In her book, Marie says one of the most important steps in determining joy is handling each item. Individually. So I quietly asked each shirt I picked up if it sparked joy in my heart right at this very moment, and I ended up with three categories:

1) “No, not anymore.”
– With this category I followed her suggestion of thanking the item, often out loud, even though the idea sounded silly on paper.
+ “Thank you for being my favorite dress when I was two sizes smaller.”
+ “Thank you for reminding me of that amazing rock concert and the joy I had that night.”
+ “Thank you for fitting me so well, even though you aren’t the best color for me.”
+ “Thank you for being a kind gift and expressing that person’s feelings toward me, even if you weren’t my style.”
+ “Thank you for teaching me my style, by directing me closer toward it.”

2) “You do still bring me some happiness.”
– Ah, but do these items really spark JOY? These were set aside for second, third, and fourth go-throughs in which I really questioned the reason I was holding onto them. Was it just because they fit? Was it because I had a certain memory while wearing them? Was I afraid I wouldn’t have enough clothes left over? (Honestly, yes… yes I was afraid of that.) If I could not give myself a solid reason WHY the item in question gave me happiness, no matter how badly I wanted to hold onto it… out it went.

3) “Yes! Yes yes yes! I love you!”
– You’re probably laughing, but there are some pieces of clothing I have that make me extremely happy and I positively LOVE wearing them. These things clearly sparked joy. I thanked them for the happiness they bring and asked them for continued joy before setting them aside to be put away again properly.

Then I did this with the rest of my clothes. Pants and skirts and dresses and socks and everything. Bit by bit.

I did keep a running tally, out of sheer curiosity, of the percentage of clothes I discarded. (Not counting such things as intimates and accessories.) Marie had several examples of helping her clients through this process, and I saw many times she suggested a large amount of things discarded. Half of a person’s closet… even more.

Remember how I had already been through my closet at least a few times in just the last year? I only had hopes to make a little more progress. I didn’t expect grand results.

43%. That’s how much of my closet I emptied in one day.

I ab-so-lute-ly dithered over if I had made the right choices. If I had gotten rid of too much. But I didn’t let myself reach back into the discard piles.

Now, a month later after having taken that first step, I can truly say I regret a grand total of 0% of my decisions. The things left in my closet, while fewer than what I am accustomed to seeing, make me happy. I enjoy picking my clothes every day. I know I will always be wearing something that puts a smile on my face and makes me comfortable.

clothes hanging in closetThis is my closet now. (Or about 3/4 of it. The other 1/4 consists of more shirts.)

I even hung things up in the order the KonMari method suggested. I can always rearrange my closet if I don’t like it, right? But I do. So much more than the organization I had had before.

Now is the time to mention that not only had things been completely crammed into this closet before, I had used up more than HALF of the closet in the laundry room, as well as 4 drawers in the dresser, 1 drawer in my nightstand, both drawers at the foot of the bed (all of these drawers crammed to capacity), and there were usually clean clothes in stacks on top of the dryer and the dining room table too. Hard to have a tidy house when there is an infestation of fabric mucking things up.

I now have my 1 closet, 3 drawers in the dresser, 1 in the nightstand, and the 2 at the foot of the bed (NONE of them crammed and all are organized. Some even still have… *gasp* SPACE.) And clothes no longer live elsewhere in the house unless I’ve just been too lazy to get to them.

I don’t have a giant stack of “out of season” items anymore either! They are all put away in one of those locations.

(Hubby even went through his closet and drawers! He was far more ruthless. It’s easy for him to get rid of things he doesn’t like or want. Apparently he had been holding onto things because he figured I would want him to. When I told him there was no point in keeping things he wouldn’t use and enjoy, fabric went flying. This was a good thing for us BOTH.)


Success. For this week. I am amazed at how much I accomplished, I am pleased at how much lighter I feel without that particular set of clutter, and I no longer think questioning joy or verbally thanking items in my house is weird.


Other ‘Quest to Tidy’ posts:


6 thoughts on “The Quest to Tidy (Week One): Diving Into the Mountain

  1. I just went through this with my shoes. Why I thought one human being needed so many shoes, I’ll never know. I bagged up the barely worn pairs for charity and threw out the falling apart pairs.

    • Great! I actually justified all of my remaining shoes. I have quite a few, but it’s not completely out of hand. I still wear all of them at this point. I’ll evaluate this again next year. haha

      Everything I am getting rid of is going into a garage sale soon and whatever doesn’t sell is being taken off to the local charity thrift too. =)

  2. Pingback: Life after KonMari | Lens by Sarah

  3. Pingback: The Quest to Tidy: Clothes Closet, Part 2 |

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