Books on the Nightstand: Taming Your Stuff

When The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up made the New York Times best seller list, I  checked it out from the library, read a chapter or two, turned it in again. My closets were overcrowded, disorganized, dusty, and a little depressing; but Kondo’s recommendations weren’t for me. Too strange, dense and time-consuming.

This year Kondo published a new comic book version for young adults, which got rave reviews from some of my favorite publications. Parents reported teens cleaning out closets!

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Who knows why I bit? Maybe I was pretending this might be helpful for our adult children. Anyway, I bought it. Read it in one sitting. Where the adult version seemed drawn out and dense, this was whittled to step-by-step basics. It was inspiring.

I headed to the closet.

Here’s Kondo’s method in a nutshell:

Work by category, and only sort one category at a time. Clothes. Books. Jewelry. Tools.

Pile up everything you own in one category. All of it. If it’s clothes, that means every scarf, winter coat, underwear, stockings, everything.

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I piled up every bit of clothing I owned. 

Pick up each piece. Hold it close. Does it make you feel good? “Spark joy”? If not, set it aside for the Goodwill, St. Vincent de Paul or your local used clothing store. Someone would like to have that piece of clothing, and you are keeping them from wearing it.

There were clothes in my closet I was hanging on to because they rocked in 1999. There was stuff I made myself wear because it was in my closet, even though it didn’t fit and wasn’t comfortable.

There was one moment when a scarf I’d never worn was hovering over the discard pile, and I teared up. It belonged to my Mom. It smelled like her. Save.

Most of what you keep can be folded. Properly folded clothes stand up on their own:

Hang only things that should obviously be hung, long to short, left to right. There won’t be much.

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Wow. Is this my closet?? Yes, it is.

Thank the things you’re giving away for their service. Seriously. You’ll feel better, and it makes it easy to let go.

It is tempting here to pontificate about the success of our society being measured by the amount of stuff we buy, and how important it is to see our romance with consumerism with clear eyes — but I won’t. I’ll just say: this is simple, powerful and fun. If you don’t mind reading young adult comic books and if your closet, jewelry box, tool box or bookshelf is tottering/towering/haunting you — I highly recommend.

Marie Kondo’s books are available on her website and on Amazon. 

Thank you Ray for the header photo.

 

 

18 comments

  • We downsized last year, and I got rid of a lot of stuff from my close, but I didn’t say good bye to it or thank it for its service. Oops. Maybe that’s why things are already starting to reaccumulate. 😬

    Liked by 1 person

  • Bit of a minimalist, myself, when it comes to stuff. Paintings, ceramics, books, I can stockpile, the rest (what there is of it) gets discarded. Still, I’m damned if I could ever read a whole book on getting organised with my stuff (even if I needed to), so I can understand your preference for the comic book version. I’m frankly amazed that a book on tidying-up can be a best seller — how the hell does that happen! 🙄

    Liked by 1 person

    • The author writes that she got so obsessed with tidying she had to seek help, and found redemption by essentially anthropomorphizing her stuff. Maybe it’s not about tidying at all, but about people who want more control in their lives.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Actually, I can get the anthropomorphising bit, or rather, the affection for, and showing of the same to, inanimate objects. You’ve probably got a point about the control thing. Is there a 12-step group available — Folders Anonymous?

        Liked by 1 person

        • Funny!

          She’s got something though, put her finger on something important. Brilliance often goes hand in hand with obsession. I’m not a hoarder and I’m tidy dang it! But her book helped me face the uneasiness I feel when confronting possessions that have accumulated over the years. I might have fallen for her book because I’m also reading Frank Trentmann’s Empire of Things, tracing the history of how people came to define themselves by the things they own. Long and dense. Will take me months to finish, but really good.

          Liked by 1 person

  • I’m listening to Kondo’s book on YouTube these past couple of weeks. I’m on the minimalist side, but my guy wants to undertake a big tidying of his house, so I figured I’d give her book a go. At times, the detail floors me, and I’m admittedly a neat freak!

    Liked by 1 person

  • Here was my four step program for reducing clutter in my life.
    1. Get divorced. Your stuff gets cut in half right there. In fact, you may not even have a house!
    2. Move overseas and work for a couple years. Rent out your house. While gone fit all your stuff into a 10’x15′ storage unit. Give away big stuff to young friends and relatives. They’ll appreciate for now, but wonder later how their life got so full of stuff.
    3. Return to the USA, but buy a van and live in it for 7 months.
    4. Move into a small house. Ours is 550 sq ft. Constantly winnow through what you still have and get rid of it if you are not using it.

    Steps 1-3 may be a bit extreme for most people. (I like Jim, so keep him around, OK Julie?) But everyone should seriously consider step #4. Not only do you have less stuff, but a small house is so much quicker and easier to clean and maintain. Which gives you more time to enjoy your cherished items that you still own.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re right. Kazahkstan is probably beyond most people’s adventure threshold. And yeah, I got lucky with Jim. The house keeps him busy these days, so as long as we can manage stairs, not downsizing yet. That leaves number 4. I love that word. Winnow. Much more inspiring than declutter.

      Liked by 1 person

  • I felt the same after reading about her method… too weird for me. But now you’ve inspired me to get the graphic version of her book for the same reason you mentioned (to give to my nearly grown children). But perhaps I’ll end up reading it instead!.

    Liked by 1 person

  • I’m glad you posted the vid. I wished she had photos along with the description of folding clothes. The editor should’ve blipped the “Up” in the title (will read more stylistically) but other than that, this is a must-read. My husband – and I – could not believe I could actually DO THIS!! Just as she predicted, he was motivated to clear out his own junk, without a word from me. The manga version is brilliant delivery for that niche market.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Hi Julie! Thanks for this wonderful post and for introducing me to Mari Kondo. I happened to be shopping at Barnes and Noble on Monday and noticed that Anne and Anna are still critiquing along with at least three male writers. They were so engrossed in what they were reading I didn’t bother them but it was nice to see.

    Liked by 1 person

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