What would it take to get my life uncluttered and organized? This was the question that started me on this path to become a minimalist. I was fed up with the vicious cycle of cleaning and organizing the endless clutter of stuff in my house and in my life.
One day, I realized I had enough of the unintentional, thoughtless cycle of buying and accumulating stuff. I was equally tired of telling my 4 year old daughter to clean up the mound of toys and kid stuff that are clearly overwhelming the both of us.
“Look at this mess! I would say, my voice sounding shrill and angry, even to my own ears”. This was not the mom I had hoped to be. I was fed up with the mess and I was done with telling her to help mommy clean up. She was clearly overwhelmed with the pile of toys and art materials before her. How quickly I forget how overwhelmed I also feel when clutter is staring at me in the face. It was not her fault, not really. We had allowed too much stuff to creep into our lives. Clearly, things had to change. My sweet girl needed a mom that isn’t so stressed and I needed a little girl who didn’t feel defeated before she even began.
I first felt the deep urge to declutter and live a simpler life back in May of last year while I attempted to spring-clean the growing pile of stuff we’ve slowly accumulated since moving to our current home 3 years ago. However, that impulse remained just that—an impulse; and like other good intentions I had, got buried under the “busyness” of life.
Recently, I felt that urge again, and armed with the decluttering knowledge I’ve learned from reading Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up; I began to tackle our growing clutter. This is an ongoing quest for me– this goal to eliminate everything that is unnecessary from my life. I decided to begin with my own, personal belongings and solely focus on that. After all, I have no right to force my family, especially my husband into this new lifestyle I am hoping to adopt. I figured, living a minimalist lifestyle by example is a whole lot better than any explanation of what minimalism is.
On my last blog post, I promised I would share a bit of my de-cluttering and de-owning process. I began, a few days after Christmas. I remember looking around and feeling absolutely overwhelmed by the amount of stuff around me: new toys and clothes gifted by generous, well-meaning family and friends , junk and all sorts of knicknacks in the drawers, clutter in the living room, overflowing closets packed with clothes I never wear anymore—just too much stuff, suffocating and stifling me.
In the past, I cleaned and de-cluttered by going room to room in our house. Somehow, that didn’t work out, and the clutter somehow found its way back into our home. I realized it’s because I never really took the time to edit my belongings. Marie Kondo said before you organize and store your belongings, you must begin by discarding. Armed with a sudden resolve to tackle the clutter once and for all, I decided to adapt Marie Kondo’s way of decluttering– which is decluttering by category. The KonMari way of decluttering is very specific about the order that you declutter. I will now attempt to provide a quick guideline of her method– for those of you who haven’t read the book. But I truly recommend that you read it.
- Step 1- Clothing. Gather all your clothes (including shoes, belts, bags, scarves, accessories) and sort by category, as in tops, bottoms, etc. Lay them all out on the bare floor. Pick up and handle each item in your hands and ask yourself this question: “Does this spark Joy”? If yes- keep, if not– place in the discard or donate pile. Rinse, lather and repeat for each item you have. Do not pause or linger over “someday I could wear this” items. Be ruthless and keep only the clothes that you love and actually fit. Absolutely, do not demote a previously- loved piece of clothing to “lounge-wear”. Marie Kondo says if you don’t watch it, you will have a mound of loungewear and end up keeping most of your clothing
- Step 2- Books. Gather all your books in the house. Lay them all out on the floor. Pick up each book you own in your hand. Ask yourself the same question “Does it Spark Joy?” You get the idea. Create three separate piles- to keep, to donate or sell, and discard. Whatever you do, DO NOT, I repeat, do not open that book or read the first page/back cover. Before you realize it, you’ve changed your mind and convinced yourself to keep said book. Also, say goodbye to books you bought years ago and promised yourself you would eventually read. Be honest with yourself. You will never find the time or inclination to finish that copy of Ana Karenina. Let it go and find a new owner that would appreciate and actually read it.
- STEP 3. Papers. Gather all your papers and documents in the house. Have garbage bags available. Use clear, expandable plastic envelopes (no need to categorize). Sort by this category: to discard, to shred (those with sensitive, personal info) and to keep (recent tax documents, passports and frequently-used documents). Discard old receipts, bank statements, utility bills. Place all frequently used papers e.g. passport etc.) in a single, expandable plastic envelope. Do the same for all warranties that are still active and store them in one single, clear, plastic manila envelope. Finally keep all infrequently used documents that are necessary in one single envelope (e.g. tax documents).
- Step 4. Miscellany or Komono. Marie Kondo says the key to fast and efficient komono tidying is to know your categories. After doing so, follow the three basic steps for each one:
some komono decluttering
*Gather all items in that category in one place.
*Choose only that spark Joy
* Store by Category
She then recommends the following category (and order):
- CD’S and DVD’s
- Stationery supplies
- Electrical komono
- Relaxation goods
- Sewing Kits
- Hobby komono
- Things you kept just because
- Recreational items
- Seasonal items
- Emergency supplies
- Rain gear
- Kitchen komono
- Cleaning supplies
- Laundry supplies
- Bathroom supplies
Whew! If this looks suspiciously like a LOT of work, it is because it really IS. Most of us have a lot of komono. But don’t get discouraged. Nobody said you have to do it all in one day. My suggestion is to begin with clothing and work your way down the list. Marie Kondo said: “the key to success is to tidy up quickly and completely, all in one go.”In a perfect world, you should do this while you have the house to yourself and nobody could bother you (yeah, good luck with that!). No offense meant to Miss Kondo but no one living with children can do this method in one day. Although, I honestly don’t think she meant do it all in one day. The important thing is to just begin, and to keep at it until you are done (eventually!). It may take you a few days or weeks but at least you are making small, consistent steps to finally get rid of that clutter. Block off a couple of hours or so each day (maybe while your child is in school or at the grandparents’ house (if you’re lucky) or have your spouse/partner get them out of the house. I know this is easier said than done but it can be done. Just think about the result. Envision a clutter-free home only filled with belongings that are truly useful and possessions that you truly love to be surrounded with. It can be done.
Step 5. Mementos or Sentimental Items. At last, you have reached the final stage of your tidying process. Leave this for last because you will find that this is the most difficult to let go of. Anybody who had to sort through family pictures, love letters and journals and artwork made by their kids will tell you that this is the most difficult part. Personally, I have just begun decluttering my mementos and I am not yet done. No matter. It’s fun to look at old pictures and love letters and journals. It’s like taking a trip down memory lane. I will keep you posted on how this last bit goes.
Two weeks into the process, I am far from being done but I could say I have made some progress. To date, I have donated/discarded about 15 bags of clothing and books, a few bags of toys and small household items.My family thinks I’m obsessed but I don’t mind what people say. Because I am happier with less. Already, my home is starting to feel more calm and peaceful. Admittedly, in the beginning it was hard to let go of the stuff. But as time went by, I realized that less is actually more. I realized I could be happy and content with less.
So there you have it: a shortened version of tidying the KonMari way. Stay tuned every Tuesday here on the blog for new posts on decluttering and minimalism, which I’ll call “Tidy Up Tuesdays”.
This post is long enough but I can’t resist leaving you with this inspiring quote by Hans Hoffman: “The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak”.
Happy decluttering! Simplify, simplify.