Just in time to motivate me across the finish line of the Great Purge came this book.
Another organizing book you say? I know, but when it merits coverage in the Wall Street Journal, it must be better than the average clutter-buster. Although I wish I had read this book before beginning my Fresh Start this year, I am grateful to author Marie Kondo for providing insight into a few of my bugaboos that will help me complete the mammoth task. This intriguing publishing phenomenon is for anyone who thinks she might want to change her life through the magic of tidying up.
Purge before Organizing
Eliminating unwanted items from your home requires evaluating everything in it, a daunting prospect. However, once the purge is finished, you will have an undeniable picture of how you live and what’s important to you. Then the process of organizing becomes quite simple compared to the purge.
Ms. Kondo says to purge all at once: a tidying marathon. Seriously? I began my purge a year ago and am still at it, but I see the logic of her thought process:
If you use the right method and concentrate your efforts on eliminating clutter thoroughly and completely within a short span of time, you’ll see instant results that will empower you to keep your space in order ever after.
Purge by Category, not Location
Herewith is the first epiphany she offered me: Purge by category, not location. In other words, don’t say I’m going to tackle my kitchen first. She says, tidy your clothes first. Pull all of your clothes — wherever they are stored, and determine the disposition (throw away, keep, donate, sell) of each. Because we store the same category of items in multiple places all over the home, we cannot evaluate what to discard in toto unless we see the full picture of what we own.
Ms. Kondo has a single criterion for holding onto a belonging that doesn’t have an obvious reason to be discarded (like a broken appliance): Does it spark joy? This is not a new concept; many professional organizers employ it. What differentiates her is her admonition that you should hold the item, as if it gives off a measurable seismic aura. Keep only the things that put a spring in your step.
The frugal nature of my depression-era parents rubbed off on me. I hold on to far too much stuff because I might use it down the road, and I will save money not having to repurchase it. Plus, my Think Pink Live Green mindset hates to just throw things away in a landfill.
Shipping boxes, gift bags and wrapping paper, fabric remnants, handbags, videos, CD’s, books, assorted nails and screws, craft items and PAPERS all inhabit a place in my home, creating a toxic environment. After reading the section on Learning What You Can Do Without, I realized that I could part company with a profound amount of stuff I’d been holding onto just in case. What was the worst that could happen? After years of holding, just in case rarely came to be.
Order for Purging by Category
Another revelation in the book: purge the easy categories first, clothing, and end with the hardest, sentimental items. This recommendation enables you to refine your ability to discern what brings you joy so you don’t get bogged down right off the bat looking at baby pictures, children’s art, mementos of accomplishments or photos. Ms. Kondo suggests the following order as the best to accomplish a huge purge in the shortest amount of time, along with an accompanying helpful nugget.
- clothes — don’t hold on to buying mistakes. As you bid them farewell, thank them for teaching you a valuable lesson on what NOT to buy.
- books — don’t hold on to unread books because you might read them sometime. Sometime equals never.
- papers — discard everything that doesn’t fit into one of these categories: currently in use, needed for a limited period of time, or must be kept indefinitely.
- miscellany — about gifts you haven’t used or used once: thank it for the joy it gave you when you first received it. Presents are not things but a means for conveying someone’s feelings.
- mementos — the thought of disposing of them makes us afraid that we’ll forget the good times. According to Ms. Kondo, By handling each sentimental item and deciding what to discard, you process your past. Mementos are reminders of a time when these items gave us joy. Why not try taking pictures of some of your treasures and then discard them?
Two-thirds of Ms. Kondo’s book is devoted to her unique methodology and psychology for discarding items. Once you have fewer things to store, it isn’t difficult to figure out how to organize and store them best.
Much of Ms. Kondo’s storage advice isn’t new (store like things together, keep it simple, don’t use fancy organizing containers — they only mask the problem of having too much stuff). However, she offers two compelling ideas that I couldn’t wait to try.
Store Clothes Standing Up Rather Than Laid Flat
Again, seriously? This concept really had me scratching my head. The author claims that after teaching her clients to fold clothes into small rectangles so that they will stand up on the fold, they all end up exclaiming Folding is Fun! As I despise folding clothes and only do so grudgingly, this skeptic couldn’t wait to get to my sweater drawer.
The book details how to fold the items into rectangles to find the sweet spot, where it fits into your drawer and stands on its fold. My Georgia sweatshirt was the test case.
By folding this way, you can see all of your clothes at one glance in the drawer, rather than just the item on top, while minimizing wrinkles. Stacking clothes on top of each other creates pressure that causes the wrinkles, but the folds will not. After finishing the sweatshirt, I moved on to the rest of the drawer’s contents
and found that not only did I have room to spare, but I also could see everything in one glance. I really became a believer when I attempted the drawer containing my workout clothes.
I truly didn’t mind folding the clothes because I knew the result would be visually pleasing and practical.
Minimize the “Noise” of Stored Items
The concept of noisy storage caused by the printed words on labels is also appealing. No wonder I love to look at images that show a pantry full of neatly stored goods without labels.
Ms. Kondo describes one of her advanced clients, whose house was tidy but who complained, I just don’t feel settled. When Kondo opened the woman’s main closet:
Everywhere I looked, words, words and more words leaped out at me. Here was the last “step” my client was seeking. A deluge of information whenever you open a closet door makes a room feel “noisy” . . . . they jump into your line of vision, and your brain treats them as information to be sorted. This creates commotion in your mind.
You don’t have to use special containers. Glass mason jars work magic for me. I pour rice, beans and pasta into them and affix cooking instructions on the lid or back of the jar, then discard the noisy plastic wrapper. With this understanding, I plan to decant even more items into silent containers.
I look forward to achieving my version of life-changing magic — improving how I spend my time –through decluttering and organizing. I’m almost done!
Throughout the Purge I have designated items to be sold in a yard sale. Alison and I and a few other persistent purgers are combining our items that no longer bring us joy to sell on Saturday, April 18. We’ll be selling all kinds of home accessories, sports equipment, kitchen gadgets, costume jewelry . . . everything but clothing. Why don’t you stop by to see if something catches your eye? After all, one gal’s trash is another gal’s treasure!
April 10, 2015