Clutter is anything that you do not want, need, enjoy, or have the space to appreciate. As a Professional Organizer, I do not claim to be perfect, but clearing clutter is one of my favorite things to do and I have had a lot of practice over the years.
When I read a book that helps me de-clutter more effectively I am compelled to share it with others. What follows is the most important insight I gained from Marie Kondo’s renowned work.
Japanese cleaning consultant, Marie Kondo, is the author of the New York Times bestselling book, the life-changing magic of tidying up: the japanese art of decluttering and organizing. Her book discusses the mind-frame one should be in to get organized, the amount of time to spend on the project as a whole, the specific order for organizing categories of items, and smart storage solutions.
Despite all of the interesting subjects in the book, the part that stood out to me was the criteria provided for de-cluttering. As Kondo well knows, most people have trouble discarding things that they can still use, that contain helpful information, or that have sentimental ties. To combat the difficulties of letting go, the author says that you should stop focusing on the things that you want to get rid of and start concentrating on the things you want to keep. As the voice in Kondo’s head once said to her, we must look more closely at what is there.
The key to Kondo’s method is to hold each individual possession in your hands and ask yourself if it sparks joy. According to the consultant, an item that sparks joy speaks directly to your heart and only these special items should be kept. Everything else should go.
I put Kondo’s theory into practice in my own closet where I regularly de-clutter. I often go through my wardrobe and pull out the things that I do not like, or wear or that has been worn-out over time. Everything I have kept thus far has managed to make it through multiple rounds of inspections.
This time around I was armed with Kondo’s advice, so I considered each article of clothing and judged whether or not it gave me joy to look at it, wear it, or own it. Flipping that small switch in my head made a significant difference because I could not lie to myself about loving an item. Either I did or I did not, as simple as that.
To give an example, I found a few articles of clothing that were high quality that I had been saving because I was hoping to drop down to a smaller size so I could wear them again. The funny part is that looking at these items just made me feel bad that I had gained weight in the first place and annoyed that I was wasting such nice clothing by not working harder on my diet. When I realized that these articles of clothing had no positive effect on me at all, I added them to the donate pile with a smile. Take-away: If I do drop a size in the future I will buy some new clothes to celebrate!
As I searched through my closet, I found a few things that were handed down from family and friends that never actually fit my personal style for various reasons. Despite not being obsessed with these items at any point in the past, I had still held onto them thinking that they were perfectly good so that I should coerce myself into wearing them.
This time Kondo gave me a reason to say goodbye without any guilt because I had never felt a spark of joy looking at these things (and probably never would). Sure the preppy jacket that my cousin handed down would look great if I needed traditional office attire, but I don’t. So I gave it away to someone who might actually wear it. Take-away: Just because something was free does not mean that I should judge it any differently from all of my other clothes.
I also looked at several items that I had loved in the past and stopped wearing at some point with no real reason as to why. I used to save them thinking I would somehow start liking them again, but this time I decided it was not worth waiting to find out if I ever changed my mind. At this point in my life, they do not spark joy in my heart so I thanked them for the “good times” and let them go. Take-away: Sometimes an item serves a purpose and then wears out its welcome over time. It is probably best to let go and move on.
At the end of the de-cluttering project I was surprised to see that I had filled two garbage bags of clothing from the very closet I thought I had already paired down to the absolute minimum in the past. I think if I can have a break-through with de-cluttering, then you can too!
I recommend you read Kondo’s book to see if her ideas strike a chord with you as they did with me and start discovering what sparks joy in your heart so that you can gain control of your clutter for good.