Whatever Sparks Joy

In January, I stumbled upon an audiobook of Marie Kondo’s “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” while searching for de-cluttering videos.  Once I started listening, I couldn’t stop.  I knew this experience needed to make it on my adventure list.  So here it is – Number 139 – Simplify My Life using the Konmari Method.  After I finished the book, I started my own tidying journey.

The Konmari Method divides tidying into several categories.  Rather than organizing one room at a time, you organize by type of item.  This does require a little more effort up front to sort everything, but it is an effective way to get the job done.  How many times have you started an organizing project only to never finish it, or to have the space become cluttered again within a few weeks or months?  If you complete Konmari from start to finish, this won’t happen.  It’s been about 3 months since I finished the last category, and my home is still organized and tidy.  It really works.

Category 1: Clothing

The first category is meant to be the easiest, to help give you a jump-start and more of an idea of what “sparks joy”, which is Kondo’s criteria for whether something stays or goes.  The process of tidying up according to the Konmari Method is simple.  You pick up each item and if it sparks joy, you keep it.  If it doesn’t, you thank the item and discard it.

I was shocked by how much clothing I had.  Yikes.  When you put every item into one giant pile, it really puts things into perspective.  I was able to check this category off in one day.

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Look how much I got rid of!  Three bags and one shoe organizer filled with shoes (cat not included).

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And here’s my closet and dresser drawers now…

Category 2: Books

I had A LOT of books.  I refer to the downstairs living area as the “library”.  Since moving into this house, I felt that I needed to fill the shelves with books.  To be honest, though, some of these books I knew I would never actually read.  I wanted to want to read them, but during Konmari I realized that there were some I just wasn’t ever going to pick up.

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I thought it would be hard to get rid my books – I have been collecting them for years!  But it actually felt very freeing to let go.  I was able to thank each item and pass it on to Goodwill where hopefully it will spark joy for someone else.

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Bye bye books

After finishing this category, I was left with the books that truly spark joy – my favorites that can be enjoyed again and again.  I also kept the books that I know I want to read, and then after I do I will either keep them if they still spark joy, or donate them.  The Konmari Method does not mean that you get rid of everything you own or things that you truly love.

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Went from three book shelves full of books to one

Category 3: Papers

I dreaded this category.  Papers, how boring!  But, it had to be done so I could move on to the next category.  I doggedly collected every paper I could find…bills, receipts, bank statements, warranties, manuals, etc.

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Almost all the papers.

I thought the collecting and sorting process would take longer than it actually did.  The Konmari method for paper is pretty simple – you get to throw away/shred almost everything.  You only keep what is truly essential.

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Shred and trash pile.

Whenever I need a document now, I know exactly where to find it.  There has not been anything that I have gotten rid of that I needed later on or wished I still had.

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I love the 3 folder system Marie Kondo has for organizing papers going forward.  One folder for “Needs Attention”, like bills or invitations.  One folder for “Save for Now”, for things you need in the near future and that you can then discard.  And one folder for “File”, for papers that you want to put away in your long-term file folders.

Category 4: Komono (Miscellaneous)

This one took the longest, because it is sub-divided into lots of smaller categories (DVDs, electronics, kitchen, office, cleaning, decor, personal care, etc).  It was during this category that I was able to really start seeing some differences in our home.  I tried to complete one category (or at least start it) each day when I got home from work.  Here are a few of the bigger komono categories I tackled.

Personal Care

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A good portion of it went to the trash.  Lots of expired items or just things I never use.

Kitchen

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From this…

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…to this.

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Trash and recycling now fit neatly under the sink, out of sight, which frees up more space in our kitchen.

Category 5: Sentimental Items

The last category was the hardest, of course.  If you know me at all, you know I am an extremely sentimental person.  I hang onto things.  Some may say I am a packrat.  Notes from a friend in high school?  You bet I still had some.  A picture my first grade boyfriend drew for me?  Yep, had that too.  My planners from every year of college?  Check.  An 8×10 group picture of me with the mean girls who bullied me at camp when I was a kid?  Still had that, too.  I had SO MUCH STUFF, and some of it didn’t even hold a positive memory for me.

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Sentimental stuff before tidying.  The trunk on the right was also full of more sentimental stuff.

An important lesson from Konmari is that you don’t need the physical item to have the memory.  There were so many things that I was able to finally let go of, and it felt good. Yes, I trashed the old planners because do I really need to know what I did or what projects I had due on October 20th, 2012?  No, obviously not.  And you bet I ripped up that group photo from camp…it was about time.  There were other things, like some letters or cards, that I chose to take a picture of before I discarded them.  Digital photos are a great way to reduce physical clutter while still hanging onto the item in some way.

I may have kept more sentimental items than Marie Kondo would have, but as they still “spark joy” for me, I am happy with my decision.  I kept my dolls from when I was a kid, and now they are packed away with a few other beloved toys in a wooden chest downstairs.  Someday I hope they will have a second life when my kids play with them.

I found that I was unable to part with nearly anything given to me by my Grandpa JB, even just old birthday cards in his handwriting, but I am okay with that right now.  The loss is still too fresh and I’m not ready to let go of those things.

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Childhood toys and some sentimental items of my grandpa’s

In addition to having some special items in this chest, I also have a shelf upstairs in my office for my photo/memory albums.

Post Konmari

Since finishing Konmari, I have added some things to my home that belonged to my grandpa.  My family has been cleaning out his house over the past few months, and there were several items that sparked joy for me.  But that is one great thing about Konmari.  It is not a limiting or punishing form of de-cluttering.  You don’t have to get rid of a certain number of things, or never get anything new.  You keep what brings you joy, and pass on what doesn’t.  It’s that simple.

It took about 2 months to completely finish the Konmari process, and it truly was life-changing, for several reasons.

  1. I feel at peace in my home.  The items that I have in my house have meaning and they “spark joy” for me, as Marie Kondo says.  Special treasures now have places of honor where I can enjoy them every day, instead of being hidden away in boxes or closets.

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    Quilts from my Grandma C are now displayed in an old trunk from my Grandpa JB.  The beautiful dresser also belonged to my Grandpa JB.

  2. I know where to find everything.  The Konmari Method states that all things in a category should be stored together.  All your shoes are in one place, all your electronics in one place, all your clothes in one place, etc.  Before Konmari, it sometimes took me forever to locate a missing item.  It could literally be anywhere in my house.  But now, I know exactly where to look, because everything has a place.

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    Need a bag?  Check in the travel closet!

  3. It is easier to clean.  With less clutter, of course it makes it easier to clean.  However, life does happen and the house still gets messy sometimes.  What is great about completing the Konmari process, though, is that it doesn’t take long at all to tidy up.  Once again, there is less stuff to move around, and since everything has a specific place to go, it is easy to just put that item where it belongs.  I don’t have to move things from one pile to another, or think about where I am going to store something.

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    Looks neat and tidy….that’s because it is!

  4. I appreciate what I have more.  By only keeping the things that I love, I now have a deeper appreciation for what is in my house.  Less stuff means that I can see what I have more clearly, which means that I use things I love more frequently.  And that makes me happy.

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    China cabinet from my Grandpa JB, filled with treasures that spark joy.

Have you ever heard of Konmari or thought about trying it?  What items do you need to get rid of?  What items in your home truly spark joy for you?

-A

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One thought on “Whatever Sparks Joy

  1. At least you won’t have as much stuff as I had when we moved to the new house, I’m trying to keep down the clutter in new house.

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