The lessons in tidying.

So you guys know that tidying was what kick started an avalanche of change in my life. It taught me to discern value and take action on my priorities. Tidying was invaluable in my life for all of those reasons, but it was also an adventure in it’s own right.

Here’s how I got rid of over half my “stuff”

This is the story of how I went from pack-rat chaos to peaceful oasis in around 9 months. I went from a “have you seen my keys?” life to a “everything is at my fingertips” life. I used to move my clothes-pile (because that’s a normal term) from my chair to my bed in the morning and back to my chair at night. If you have ever lived like I lived, then you know exactly what I’m talking about. These days, there is no clothes pile. Guys, I ain’t never going back.

This whole process started with two coinciding events.

The first was that I was packing up to move from a row house I shared with a roommate into a cozy little one bedroom apartment. At the same time, a friend emphatically recommended that I read Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.

This recommendation was incredibly well-timed. I had two rooms to myself where I was living, not to mention the furniture and belongings spread all over the house. My poor roommate owned the home and by the time I finished packing up it looked like he hadn’t moved in yet. I had so much stuff. When the movers moved my belongings into the new space they lined wall after wall with boxes stacked over my head. This was literally the day my book arrived in the mail. Needless to say, I started reading.

Process Review

Marie Kondo’s methods are simple and powerful. She asks you to make a gut-level value judgement on every single item, and set a high bar for what stays. Does this shirt/book/mug bring me joy? I know this sounds corny, but this is the part of the process that’s invaluable. She teaches you to ask this question over and over, and as you do, you actually get better at it. If I had a muscle used for discerning value, it was weak and flabby. With each step in the KonMari tidying process my flabby “choosing” muscle was getting stronger. Soon I was quick and decisive. I knew instinctively how I viewed each item. I didn’t have to think so much about it. This is the all-important skill.

In one section I found particularly helpful, Marie Kondo carefully addresses many of the reasons people keep things that don’t bring them joy. This would include gifted items, clothes you spent money on and never wore, objects passed down from relatives no longer with us, etc. These types of situations can pose a real obstacle as you’re trying to declutter and KonMari gives you great tools for framing these decisions.

That shirt you bought and never wore? Tags still on? It’s purpose was to bring you joy in the act of purchasing. Now it’s purpose is fulfilled, and it can move on to new hands. This is one of many reframing techniques she teaches that helped me tremendously.

Before & After

Step 1: What is worth keeping?

If you’re anything like me, you love a great before and after photo. I’m excited to give you a birds-eye-view of what my process looked like, but this is no substitute for reading the book. Kondo gives you a step-by-step guide for how to go through your whole space.

It’s systematic. So naturally when I first read it I thought, “well, I’ll do it my way.” Don’t. Turns out, she was right. Give her system a real shot. I’m so glad I did.

The beginning place for the KonMari process is clothes. Her systematic process includes taking every single item from a certain category and putting it all in a pile. Then you physically touch each item and consider it. The item needs to have a reason to stay in your space, not a reason to go. So what did my clothes sorting look like?

It’s hard to tell here, but I actually donated more clothes than I kept. All the items in this “doesn’t bring me joy” pile got donated to my neighborhood thrift store. They filled 3 kitchen-size trash bags. I breathed a huge breath of relief.

Step 2: How do I organize it?

Once you decide which items are worth keeping in any given category it’s time to find them a place in your home. Marie Kondo goes into detail on some amazing tips for how to organize your space.  I followed her advice right down to her methods of folding. It’s been two years since I did my clothes tidy, and to this day my drawers are folded in the KonMari method and completely organized. I can see each item of clothing I own. Nothing is buried, nothing is smushed. Everything has a place. See for yourself.

I was so pumped while I was sorting my clothes, I convinced myself that I was going to finish books that night as well. I laughed in the face of the KonMari timeline and thought I’d complete the entire project inside a month. My timeline laughed back.

By the time I packed up the donate items, folded everything to keep, found a home for each freshly valued piece of clothing… I was done. Like, lay-down-and-take-a-nap done.

This is work guys, but it’s worth it! It’s changed my life, my thinking, even more than it’s changed my apartment.

I’ll throw a few more “before and after” shots at the end of this post, since that’s always my favorite part of a transformation story. For the moment though, here’s my experience with this process.

In the end KonMari took me 9 months, which if I’m not mistaken falls in line with KonMari’s predictions. The majority of the large volume categories (clothes, books, toiletries, kitchen ware) all happened pretty quickly, probably within 3 months. Getting into photos, notebooks and memorabilia was a harder, slower process.

When everything was said and done, the changes to my space were obvious.

Today, it’s clear and peaceful. Cleaning up takes only moments because everything already has a home. There are no piles of clothes or paperwork to shift around. I can have company over at a moments notice because this space really doesn’t get messy anymore. The biggest surprise for me is that I don’t waste time trying to track down lost objects anymore. I never used to be able to find my keys, purse, checkbook, etc. Now everything is where it belongs.

The change in my thought process is less obvious but far more profound. I stopped accepting the status quo in my life. Everything I spent time on, paid for, kept in my house, got called into question. I no longer let my habits sweep me along in their tide. I chose what to keep. I chose what to buy. I chose based on high criteria.

I started this project when I turned 30. In the 2 years that followed I lost 20 lbs and overhauled my finances. That was no coincidence. The skills I learned tidying were invaluable to my life as a whole.

I learned to decide what matters and get rid of what doesn’t.

Did these changes bring me joy? Oh yes.

Alright friends, here’s the goods.

previous arrow
next arrow

Comments (4)

  1. I need to do this! I don’t feel like I have that much stuff, but I have piles everywhere and I have three sets of keys and am lucky if I can ever find one!

    1. Ha, Heather– I’m sorry to hear about your key problem. I can relate.😂 I didn’t feel like I had that much stuff either until I started the process. I guarantee if you put all those piles into one big pile, you’ll be shocked. I can’t recommend this process enough!

  2. Loved hearing about your experience with the KonMari process for decluttering! This is something I’ve heard about, but I have not yet read the book. Now I want to ! My biggest problem is piles of paperwork everywhere.

  3. This process started for me after reading and implemenying ideas from Jen Hatmaker’s book 7. That coupled with a trip to Honduras where people live on so much less and are just as happy. At the time I owned a 3 bedroom house and had filled the whole thing. It was already tidy and organized, but the amount of stuff I had for one person was ridiculous! I had tons of clothes to donate after going through them all and still felt my closet was too full. I went through my whole house and had a garage sale. Then about 1.5 years later decided to move and down size. I was still amazed at how much stuff I had to sell/donate. Currently all my things (enough for a one bedroom apartment…well and probably a bit more if I’m honest) are in storage while moved back home to finish my degree and am now travelling doing some seasonal work. Every month when that storage bill comes due I think about just selling it all. They way we get attached to so much and think we can’t have a “good” life without it is baffling!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *