Friday, 17 July 2015

Decluttering: The Magic of Tidying

After visiting the baby market I started to put my newly acquired tidying skills to use. I admit it was out of necessity since I needed to make space for the secondhand winter clothes that I had bought for Turtle.

A tidy drawer is a thing of beauty

My "tidying" phase of decluttering is inspired by Marie Kondo's The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying. I am not the kind of person who can usually sit through a non-fiction book (about tidying no less!) but this one had me hooked. This may reflect my dedication to decluttering. I found the book was easy to read and quite humorous with a down to earth approach to tidying and managing belongings.

KonMari (her nickname and the name of her tidying method) is a self professed tidying fanatic who started her tidying hobby as a child. She became obsessed with storage options as a teenager, trying fads of containers, shelves, and hanging space to try and resolve mess (or clutter) in her families home. Eventually she decided that storage was not the solution. It was the amount of "stuff" that was the problem.

By focusing on her families things KonMari realised that she was avoiding the responsibility of addressing her own clutter problems. She ruthlessly began to throw out her own belongings. The way that she did this was quite different to the processes that she had previously used, as per recommendations in home magazines from decluttering or storage experts. KonMari held every item individually, focused her attention on it and asked herself, "does this spark joy?". If the answer was yes then it was kept. If the answer was no it was discarded after being thanked for its service to her.

The concept behind this method is that you should surround yourself with things that you love. As you change your belongings also need to change. This ensures they reflect who you are and where you see your life going. I love the idea of only being surrounded by things that bring me joy.

The other appeal of KonMari's method is being free to let go of the things that you no longer use or need, no matter why you don't want them. It allows you to distance yourself from the guilt that often stops you from letting things go. The spontaneous expensive purchase that you have never gotten around to using. The lovely gift that didn't really suit your style. Things that are in perfect condition but never get used in your home. It's time to say goodbye!

This is, of course, easier said than done. KonMari has a strict method that she recommends for "tidying" and discarding things. Clothing is the first group to go through, then books, papers, miscellaneous items, and lastly sentimental items. This style of decluttering (or tidying) is by category of item. Every single item in that category needs to be touched to determine if it sparks joy. The idea is that you learn to discard with items that are less likely to make you feel bad about throwing them away. Then you work your way up to the more difficult stuff.

One thing that I didn't support throughout the book was the idea of throwing things away without regard for waste. I totally support the idea of sending things on their way if you don't need or want them. I do believe, however, that they should be discarded responsibly with the best opportunity for reuse. This may mean dropping them off at an opportunity shop. Or selling them on Gumtree. Or distributing them through Freecycle. You might think of a way to repurpose or upcycle some of the things too. Whatever the method, it is important to do your best to make sure those items are able to find a new home where they will be loved and needed.

Having said this I agree with KonMari when she advises not to pass on your problem. This could be by giving your unwanted items to family members. As KonMari aptly observes, your unwanted items are quite likely to be a similar problem for the recipient of your "gift". Passing on your problem is not respectful or helpful. Why burden loved ones with your unwanted things?

KonMari found that her clients who are younger sisters often have the largest amount of unwanted things in their wardrobe. She knows the average amount of clothes people discard and younger sisters always have a much higher amount. This is because they have been so accustomed to receiving hand me down clothing that they don't find out what their individual style is. What kind of image they want to have.

As a middle child I am familiar with this problem. It was quite enlightening to find an explanation about why I struggle to decide on clothing and why I don't enjoy shopping. I am now determined to go out and find clothes to create a style that reflects me.

This has taken a weight off my shoulders since I always felt guilty spending money on myself. Now I am confident that if I really like something and will get a lot of wear out of it, because it "sparks joy", then I should buy it and feel good about myself. If I don't really love it then I won't buy it. Hence it is a shopping experience that won't get out of control.

"The amount of storage space you have in your room is actually just right. I can't count how many times people have complained to me that they don't have enough room but I have yet to see a house that lacked sufficient storage. The real problem is that we have far more than we need or want. Once you learn to choose your belongings properly, you will be left only with the amount that fits perfectly in the space you currently own. That is the true magic of tidying. It may seem incredible but my method of keeping only what sparks joy in the heart is really that precise."  
p155 The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying, Marie Kondo

The last thing I want to share about the KonMari method (clearly there is a lot more in her book - I recommend reading it if you are inspired by what I have shared here) is instructions about how to fold. You will have noticed the photograph I took of Turtle's drawer after it was tidied (above). All of the items are standing up in the drawer. KonMari is totally right - you can fit so much more in by stacking clothes this way. You can also see each item and don't need to dig through layers of stacks (see the mess this creates when dressing Turtle below). I am a complete convert. It truly works!

The usual mess we were dealing with each day

Starting with Turtle's things, unfortunately, means that decluttering my own wardrobe has been postponed yet again. Typical decluttering procrastination. Despite my previous post encouraging everyone to declutter I acknowledge you need both time and motivation to get it all done.

I am slowly starting on my things though. I will keep you posted on my progress. In the meantime I encourage you to start your own tidying.

Are you a KonMari convert too? Is it time to start tidying?

Linking up with With Some Grace today for FYBF

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