Have you ever wanted to Konmari but you are living under “special circumstances”? I think that continually describes me so I’ve put off doing a full clean out and wondered why Marie Kondo didn’t address “special circumstances” in her nutty/popular/helpful book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up…and then I figured out it’s because most of her audience, and most people, aren’t living perpetually amongst house projects, interior design dabbles, and hobby furniture collections like I am. Compared to the lady who talks to possessions and lets her socks and handbags take a much deserved rest each night, I’m actually the weird one. I’m guessing other creative/DIY types can relate.
My most pressing “special circumstance” is this slow, drawn out do-it-ourself renovation (if you can even call it that at our pace). I feel like we are still on the tail end of the move-in phase and not quite settled, even though it’s been 3+ years. Our life has been a continual ebb and flow of furniture as projects get finished up and new ones start. It’s hard to know what objects will work in a room before you even get around to having a finished room for those objects to land.
My secondary special circumstance is wanting to be a minimalist so that I have a streamlined home life and time to actually do the things I love… BUT the things I love are collecting old furniture and interior design. Hobbies at direct odds with a streamlined home life. I’m drawn to minimalism but joy is honestly sparked in my heart by beautiful objects. I have a feeling that many people who gravitate towards a modern aesthetic experience this dichotomy, at least on some level, and it’s a tricky balance.
So, until this point, I’ve avoided a full on purge of our house. But it seemed like the time to Konmari was now. Life has been a lot lately. Stressful. Anxiety is floating around our house. I feel the need to simplify what I can. And I know that, however artificial it may sound, some of my immediate stress can be relieved by 1.) seeing less stuff everywhere and 2.) having less stuff to manage and care for and clean.
I would definitely describe myself as an organized person so organizing stuff isn’t new to me, but this was by far the biggest and easiest clean out and organization I have ever undertaken. I can’t describe how little time it actually took me compared with other approaches I’ve tried. I think it comes down to the genius but simple process: First, decide what to keep. Kondo’s spark joy method, as wacky as it sounds, actually completely works. Like fail-proof. Then, decide where to put it. So often I’ve approached organizing in the opposite manner: decide where to put stuff and then decide what to get rid of, a subtle difference with wildly different outcomes. As a result I’ve ended up hanging on to stuff just because I had the space. With Kondo’s process, you are only left putting away the things you truly want.
It follows that undoubtedly there is ample storage for the number of items you actually want in life. We don’t need more storage, we need less stuff. My closets, drawers, cupboards, etc all have so much breathing room right now and so do I. It’s amazing how much lightness that brings to everyday life. It hasn’t taken the whole load off, but it’s taken something and, at this point, I’ll take whatever I can get.
I started, as suggested, with my clothes. I’ve been slowly whittling my wardrobe down for at least a few years, which was already dramatically slashed by a series of huge moves, but I halved what remained and don’t regret anything I gave away. I don’t remember ever having so few clothes since like ever, and it feels wonderful. I’m 36 and at this point I know what I like, what works, and what my go-to “uniforms” are. There’s two: project slob or Peggy Bundy. Screw fads and trends, there is great freedom in identifying your uniform(s) and wearing/buying just that. I’m embracing it at this time in my life and shedding the baggage.
Proof of Kondo’s magic is in my shoe cabinet! (This house has a shoe cabinet!) Since we moved in, I’ve wondered what it would be like to fit every single pair I own in here. I used to be one of those shoe people had literally a hundred pairs of stupid shoes. I narrowed it down to my basics (wedges, flip flops, creepers, and tennis shoes), shed the junk shoes that never see action, even sentimental ones, and fit every single shoe in here, aside from pairs of tall snow and rain boots. Even my roller skates (infinite joy sparkers!) made it in and I feel like a pulled together adult. Who rollerskates.
I think Kondo suggests books next but ours underwent a ruthless sorting when I unpacked them at this house, letting go of burdensome college textbooks, etc. I continued to the embarrassing pileup of towels and linens. We somehow acquired so much, even since moving into this house, that our closets barely closed. Halving those too was such a relief. We’ve done quite a bit of bed shuffling since moving and the dust has finally settled to where I can see what size/quantity of beds we’ll have for the next few years, so my sheet goal of having only two sheet sets for each bed, cotton for summer and flannel for winter, has been realized! The doors now shut with ease and I can find what I’m looking for. Linen closet liberation! One of the most unintentional stress inducing clutters around our house is often the “project piles,” of which our master bedroom has bore the brunt of. If we completed house projects like reasonable people in reasonable timeframes, piles of materials wouldn’t be a huge deal. But sometimes I leave things out, just in case we spontaneously feel like hanging a ceiling fan this weekend or so that I can “live with” the material to decide if it will work out. All fine in week increments, but our bedroom has been a storage space for 2 fan boxes, a bathroom faucet box, bathroom light fixtures and various light bulbs for nearly a year! Why?! Our bathroom has piles of sample terrazzo that I’ve long stopped considering while I brush my teeth. So, I shuffled around a few things in the garage and made a dedicated project shelf for materials that need to be installed. Seems logical, but it went against my instincts to keep things in sight so they would happen faster – an approach that clearly isn’t working for me. I’m here to tell you that moving stray light fixtures out from under your bedroom dresser and into the garage is the right way to live with your projects. Kondo suggests cleaning out your entire life in one go (taking no more than 6 months). I’ve yet to tackle the kitchen and the garage. I may hold off on the kitchen until next year when we are planning to renovate because it isn’t cluttered to the point of stress in there. The garage, on the other hand, is insane and gives me a stomach ache. The amount of project/hobby/creative/tool stuff we have amassed is daunting and, while I think Marie Kondo is very creative, I’m guessing she isn’t involved in the regular production of stuff like some of us crazies are and her method definitely wasn’t made with us “makers” in mind. But I’m gonna do my best to apply her process in our garage/aka workshop so that projects can happen with limited frustration because of clean work surfaces and easily located supplies.
Bottom line is that I wish I would have done this sooner. Maybe me and my house weren’t ready until now, but I doubt that. I think it’s possible to (mostly) know what you want and what you don’t and free up your life, even if you’ve got a little extra something going on.
Has anyone else tackled their home? I’m curious to know the tidy retention rate so chime in especially if you took the plunge a few years ago!