This winter, I started reading “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo, and started reading some of the sections out loud to my husband. One of the areas where we struggle is definitely living in a small space and trying to stay organized. Marie Kondo’s method struck a nerve with me because it is the exact opposite of every other organization method I have ever found, which is that you don’t look around for things to give away or throw away, you look at every item you own and decide if you love it (asking ‘Does this spark joy?’) and then consciously keeping only the items that you like or must absolutely keep (like old tax documents).
A drawer before KonMari.
The method also appealed to my husband. Marie Kondo is Japanese, and as such, some of the components of the method sound like craziness, but are rooted in Shinto religion or other Japanese cultural customs. My husband studied abroad in Japan for two semesters in college, and understood the roots of these ritualistic approaches to objects. One such method is helpful when examining items that you feel you should keep, because of their essential utility or joy-giving at a previous point in time (for example, a beloved sweater that no longer fits, so you feel badly about not being able to wear it). Marie says to thank your items for helping you, treat them gently (you can even pat them or hug them goodbye), and then acknowledge that they have served their purpose, and tell them goodbye. “Thank you, dear sweater, for keeping me warm for many winters. You no longer fit me, so you will go to a new home and be loved there. Thank you, and goodbye!” I know, sounds bizarre, right? Well, I have to say, it does a better job of acknowledging what my husband would call that cognitive dissonance of parting with objects when you feel guilty about getting rid of items that are still in good condition. If softens the blow of shoving them into a garbage bag to donate to Goodwill.
A drawer after KonMari.
The other crucial component of KonMari is the order in which you tackle your objects. Going out of order can set you up to give up, or never finish, the method. The broad categories are clothing, books, komono (or miscellaneous), and very lastly, sentimental items like pictures, scrapbooks, letters or other mementos. We started our KonMari journey with clothing, and found this list of all the categories especially helpful, as well as referring to both the original book, and Marie Kondo’s second book “Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Tidying Up”, as she describes not only how to decide if something sparks joy, but with clothing (or anything that can be folded), she tells you how to properly fold items.
My husband’s t-shirts before, during, after.
Now, I am sure that in most marriages, there are subjects that cause minor irritation. In ours, it is the folding of clothes to be put away into drawers or on shelves. Because I do the laundry, but like to have my husband’s help in putting it away, a difference in folding strategies matters. Things do not fit well in our drawers if folded in different shapes/sizes. The KonMari method solves this by having only one way to fold things–into rectangles that can stand up on their own, to the depth of the drawer or shelf that they will fill. My husband and I can now both fold either of our clothing, and know where it belongs. And best of all, the method of folding incorporated both of our styles of folding, so we both feel that we were almost right.
My filing ottoman, half done (the right side was full, but was pared down to approximately half of its previous density–the left side is to be be completed).
We are nearly done with our paperwork/filing, but the project has temporarily stalled as my husband is very busy with graduate school comprehensive exams, final projects, finishing up internship hours, and looking to graduation in early May. We hope to pick up the KonMari method again very soon.
My closet after a major tidying project complete (clothing category).
I believe that this method is brilliant for a variety of reasons that have already been discussed by people smarter than me, but I have to say that this method solves a lot of the issues with just organizing all of your stuff–it’s much easier to sacrifice space, time/energy, and money to house and keep organized only items that you truly love or need to keep (and those that I know spark joy for my husband–even if they spark no joy for me, to see him happy makes me happy). And, if we ever buy a house, I believe that this method will allow us to be more realistic about our true needs and the type of house that would spark joy for us. For me, I cannot be happy if I feel I have overpaid for something expensive, so getting a ‘good deal’ is part of what helps a luxury item spark joy for me, that private joy of the bargain. Lastly, when shopping, I can analyze potential purposes by asking myself if the item will truly make me happier (‘Does this spark joy?’), or I can leave it in the store, and my money in my bank account (which I know already sparks joy).