Decluttering update: The joy version
Somewhat against my will, I have been swept up in the enthusiasm for Marie Kondo’s bestselling book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I picked up both the ebook and audio versions and listened to/read a bit, but then I got sidetracked. When Marilyn reviewed it at her blog a couple of months ago, though, I was sucked back in. I listened to the whole thing on audio (the narrator is quite good), and while parts of the approach seemed a bit much, the overall idea was intriguing and made sense to me.
I wrote a quick post about my experience over at Booklikes, and I’ll probably write a proper review of the book at some point. Here I’m going to talk about my experience following one part of the plan: tidying up my clothes. A couple of years ago I did a big purge of clothes and shoes with the help of a friend. I did another, smaller one in my main closet this past winter and I found it very useful.
Kondo’s method is drastic and potentially overwhelming: you take everything in a category (clothes, books, papers, etc.), pile all of the items on the floor, and then pick each piece up individually and ask yourself, does this give me joy? If it does, you keep it to one side. If it doesn’t, into the bin it goes.
The joy requirement sounds odd at first, at least it did to me. But it turns out to make a lot of sense. We all buy things on impulse, or because someone told us we look good in that particular color, or because we needed a particular item for an event. And then there are the things that we used to love and don’t anymore, or that is well past its prime but we can’t give up.
I should note that right now I’m in the place where we spend the summer and make shorter trips throughout the year. I keep a much smaller set of clothes out here so that I don’t have to cart a checked bag every time I visit. But they still add up, not least because there’s enough room that I don’t have to make decisions about storage. So while there’s still a lot of stuff once I get absolutely everything out in the open, it’s not as overwhelming as my main stash:
The coats are off-camera to the left, on a chair.
Kondo advises sorting clothes into sub-categories, but I just piled everything on the bed, including all my underwear and socks, and started picking things up, one by one, asking myself whether I felt joy. Joy is a complex emotion, so I mentally translated that as “warm fuzzy feeling.” Is this pair of jeans a pair I reach for when I want to look good? Feel comfortable? When I pick up that blouse, am I glad I have it in my closet? That shirt I loved for years, do I still love it or does it no longer look the way it used to (or do I not look the way I used to)?
It turns out that I do have socks that give me joy (I was skeptical). I got rid of some kurtis (Indian tunics) that I wore for a while but never really felt all that great in (and some I had never worn although buying them seem like a great idea at the time). I dumped a couple of pairs of jeans that I looked frumpy in when they were new. Out went the workout tops that bunched up and tugged in the wrong places (there’s a reason they were on sale, it turns out). There were items that were harder to part with, usually gifts: a lovely dark green padded vest that never fit right, even when it wasn’t too small (TheH has a touching faith in my ability to wear dresses in a size smaller than is actually the case). But it will look fabulous on the right person.
I also chose to keep things that I initially thought I’d get rid of. There were any number of things I forgot I had, some of which I like quite a bit. So that was refreshing to discover.
Kondo says that if you’re unsure, bin it. I did that for some things, but for others I held on. It’s a learning process; I’ll come back in 6 months and reconsider. But for the most part the decisions weren’t difficult. I’m pretty sure part of the reason for that is that clothes are easier for me than shoes or bags. I’ve given away shoes that have come back into fashion, and right now I have a few pair here that feel like they’re in that category. And I don’t have dozens of pairs of shoes here, so the unworn/disliked number is pretty low (in my Great Purge a couple of years ago I got rid of a LOT of shoes). Here’s the result:
The big box is what I got rid of today; the bags are from earlier in the summer, when I took a non-joy-determined crack at decluttering. Clearly the joy method had added utility for the process.
After I finished sorting, I put all my clothes away using her techniques of folding, rolling and standing vertically. There is definitely more room in my dresser drawers. Some of that is because there is less to put away, but I also think the fold & roll system provides more room. And everything is much easier to see. It turns out I have a lot of leggings, which I did not really realize, and I wear almost all of them. I have fewer t-shirts than I was afraid I had.
Kondo’s method of arranging clothes in the closet didn’t work for me. You organize from heavy to light clothes, left to right on the rod. But I don’t store my outdoor coats in my bedroom closet, and unlike Kondo I wear jeans a lot. So I’ve modified that system a bit. I’ve always organized my hanging items by category, so that’s less of a change than the drawers, but it’s an improvement nonetheless.
The whole process took about 2 hours, and I was tired when I finished. But I don’t feel as owned by my stuff! I’m guessing my main clothing purge will take at least twice that long, maybe more, but the results should be even better.
There is definitely something relaxing about opening a drawer and seeing only things you’ve consciously decided you like to wear. The joy method requires us to confront a lot of things about ourselves, some of which are not that easy. But the result was worth it for me.
Oh, this sounds absolutely lovely! I’ve read different articles about only owning 6 pieces of clothing etc and those seemed rather extreme for me, but to approach clothing from an emotional perspective — joy! — sounds much more appealing and appropriate for me!
My weight has fluctuated really impressively over the last couple of years, meaning some things I own are too small and some I own are too big. I’ve been leery about doing full purges because of the what-ifs — what if I gain weight again? What if I lose weight again? I believe it was mostly medication related, and since both my meds (and weight) have been pretty stable for the last 6 months I think I’d like to start sorting some things out.
I wear a lot of t-shirts. A lot. They bring me tremendous joy (they’re all bright colours and geeky/nerdy/cute/animal-y/pop-culture-y) and are also uh office dress-code, but not only have I found better ways of storing them (vertical folding in a nice deep drawer so I can see the graphics) I’ve made my peace with the ones I’m never going to be able to wear again and have started working on a quilt made of old t-shirts. It’ll still bring me joy because they’re old friends or still make me smile or celebrate major benchmarks in my life, but they don’t have to be worn to still add that joy.
I totally have socks that bring me joy, but they’re pink and covered in bears. I absolutely need to cull my winter clothes, because it’s in storage half the year so I don’t see it and get to make that joy assessment. Hmm.
I definitely would like to give this book a read! I followed the UnFuck Your Habitat blog for several years and it took me 6 months before I even started making my bed (which is like, their step zero), but once I started things started to really work for me and a tidier space honestly makes me happier.
I’ve read all those 6-pieces, same-uniform-every-day, capsule wardrobe articles too. I realized I couldn’t possibly do 6 pieces, or 33 pieces for a quarter, or whatever. But consciously pruning my wardrobe has really helped; the first time I needed my OhHoneyNo friend to guide me, but since then I’ve done it on my own.
Kondo’s approach has an important psychological element to it, because thinking about whether it makes you happy *now* makes you think about why you have it and whether there are good reasons for holding on to it. When there are, you know immediately.
I’ve kept some things that don’t fit, but only because I really love them and would like to be able to wear them again. I’ll give them a cycle or two before I admit defeat!
I really enjoyed this book and put it to work on my vast T-shirt collection.(I’m retired and that’s as dressed up as I get during the summer). I found it quite easy to let go of most of them–especially the souvenir ones that I never really wore more than once or twice.
Reading it also made it much easier to pull the plug on a goodly number of old books (mostly paperbacks). I had truly reached the point where their mere presence had begun to annoy me! No joy there at all. So bye-bye, with no regrets, to several hundred books. I did thank them for entertaining me back in the day (else I would not have kept them), then set them free.
I think the author’s idea to pull out all of your whichever category items from all around the house and gather it in one place has a lot of merit. We have lived in the same house for 30 years and we have stuff stashed all over the place. A lot of which has gone invisible–we look past stuff so often we become blind to its existence.
I’m dreading doing the books, but I’m going to. We don’t have too many in this house, but in STL we have quite a few bookcases plus of course I have boxes in the garage, under the bed, etc. A colleague helps run a huge book fair every year, and we get rid of books that way, but this is going to be more than that. But like you, I have books I’ll never read again, as well as those I don’t really need to look (apart from never reading them again). I’m just not sure how I can put all the books in one place! I think I’ll have to do a room at a time. If that doesn’t work, then I’ll take what’s left and spend a day piling them all in one place. *shudder*
First of all, I like this new look. And the font’s a good size, too. Speaking of which, I can’t seem to increase the font size of the post without increasing it for all the links. Have to dig around the code a bit more.
Next I want to say, I love this post. (I’m nosy like that. I enjoyed your purse/bag post, too, earlier this year.) I liked Marilyn’s advice in her post, “If you don’t love it, throw it out.”
This fall, my plan is to go through every room and look at All Things to be sure I love them enough or they’re useful enough to house them.
What’s going to be hardest is pruning my book collection. But I must! ::sob::
Where my clothes are concerned, the everyday clothes I keep fairly well-tuned. It’s the occasional stuff that collects. That’s what I want to focus on.
I hang my clothes by category, too. We installed a California Closet system, so this is easy. My pants are in one section. My winter clothes are in one section with the inner layers all together and outer layers all together. My coats are in our hall closet. My summer clothes are in another section. And in the winter, I put a thin plastic hanging closet cuboid thing–KWIM?– around them.
“I don’t feel as owned by my stuff!”
This is it. Exactly!
Glad you like it! I was reading to change things up, and I want to write more short posts (and more often). I want something with multiple columns, more a magazine format, and make the columns different categories, but I haven’t figured that out yet. Playing around with different themes is fun, though.
I’m pretty ignorant about coding (make that completely ignorant except for some html commands), so I can’t help you on the font size. But I know you are *not* ignorant so you’ll figure it out. 😉
The “does it give you joy” question is surprisingly powerful. TheHusband was looking around the living room the other night and he was categorizing things that way. Our furnishing is pretty sparse, but we still had stuff we didn’t care about but that we see past, as Barb observed.
Sunita, the nesting of the comments isn’t done as well in this theme.
Thanks, Keira, you’re right. I re-entered the maximum number of nested comments and un-enable and re-enabled; let’s see if that helps. They seem to be nesting better on the “aside” post.
ETA: They do nest, it’s just a much smaller indentation.