I grew up in a family that LOVES to hold on to everything. I can’t begin to explain the amount of artwork I created in second grade that is collecting dust in my parent’s basement or the countless souvenirs I’ve brought back from trips that are shoved into every corner of the house. I am by no means a hoarder but I do have a history of holding onto things – especially those with sentimental value. I mean, can you really blame me for holding onto a CVS brand valentines day card that my crush wrote to me (and most likely the rest of my 20 classmates) in the 6th grade? Yeah, I didn’t think so.
I recently finished reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering & Organizing by Marie Kando, a New York Times #1 Best Seller. It was recommended to me by a few members of the Simplicity and Minimalist group I am a part of here in Seattle. A topic that we frequently discuss is how to eliminate excess “stuff” so that we can focus on living more intentional lives. Having fallen victim to American consumerism like so many of us, I decided that I could learn a thing or two from Marie Kando, also known by her fans as “The Beyoncé of Organizing.” I highly recommend this book for anyone looking to declutter their lives. For those of you short on time, I’ve summarized her simple formula for tidying, more formally known as the KonMari method.
- Always sort and purge by category, not by room. Begin with clothes and then move onto books, papers, miscellaneous and sentimental items.
- Take each item in your hand and ask yourself “Does this spark joy?” Does that particular item speak to you? Does it fill you with excitement and send good vibes through your body? If the answer is “yes”, keep it. If the answer is “no”, then discard it.
- Accept the item that you are discarding has fulfilled it’s purpose. Whether it was a shirt that you wore for a couple of seasons or a birthday card you received from your favorite aunt, know that it served its purpose and brought you joy at that time. To be successful in this process, you absolutely need to learn how to let go of nostalgia!
One of my main goals for the new year is to declutter my life in as many ways possible. I’d like to pare down on the amount of items I own, reduce the amount of time I spend on social media, and learn to let go of the mental clutter that causes unwanted stress and anxiety. On January 1st, 2016, I woke up feeling inspired to begin my new year’s resolution and after a biiiiiig mug of coffee (and a few advil), I took on my first project: purging my closet – KonMari style.
I gathered every single article of clothing that I owned in my house and threw it in a pile on the living room floor. It was daunting to see how many clothes I actually owned and to think about all the times I whined about not having anything to wear. Feelings of overwhelmingness consumed me but I knew if I let those feelings define me, I would never move forward with this project. So one by one, I picked up each article of clothing, held it for a few moments and noticed using all of my senses, whether or not it brought me joy. I know this might sound cuckoo to some of you but you have to trust that this process really works. I repeated this hundreds of times with jackets, swimsuits, sweaters, tanks, pants and scarfs alike. After about 5 hours of talking and feeling my clothes, I had filled 5 large trash bags and had pared down my closet by close to 75%. As I looked at the clothes (representing all 4 seasons) laid out in front of me, my immediate instinct was to feel panic. But instead, I felt relief – like a huge weight had just been lifted off my shoulders.
As I reflect on this process, the one word that comes to mind is liberating. I feel liberated that everything that surrounds me is meaningful in some way; that all of the clothes in my closet are there for a reason.While I might not have nearly as much as I used to, I’m always able to find something to wear. Gone are the days of trying on different outfits, only to find that nothing really feels or looks right. I’ve re-fallen in my love with my clothes and feel excitement when I open my closet each morning. Part of the reason I loved this process is because it allowed me to give back to the community and provide clothes to people who will hopefully find joy in them like I once did. I donated most of the clothes to Goodwill and the rest I gave to a non-profit called Dress for Success. They provide low-income women with professional attire to help them secure employment opportunities. A win-win situation for all!
Let’s not forget that decluttering our lives is an ongoing process. We need to be patient with ourselves and realize that we won’t and can’t purge all of our clutter overnight. When we think of decluttering as a process and not just a one-time event, it will lead us to live more intentionally. We’ll spend more time focusing on the people and things that matter the most and less time absorbed in materialistic goods.