Tidying queen Marie Kondo is back in the news thanks to her new Netflix show, “Tidying Up With Marie Kondo.” In the show she says her mission is to “spark joy by tidying up.”
I have been a Konvert since I first read her book several years ago. I’ve also put her method into practice throughout my house. She is my Oprah. Yes, I even have my books coordinated by color. And, yes, I do have more than 30 books.
There has been some unfair criticism about her suggestion that one woman part with books that don’t spark joy or that she is unlikely to read. It was not advice to every living person, but to one woman who wanted to change her home and habits.
In fact, Kondo has an entire principle dedicated to keeping and storing sentimental items. In one episode she encouraged a man to keep a copy of “To Kill a Mockingbird” that he’s had since high school. Sarah Manavis of the New Statesman responded to Kondo critics:
Beyond the humble-bragging, these complaints were often underpinned by a healthy twinge of classism. Many of those announcing their grievances with Kondo’s methods simultaneously mocked and criticized the working-class families on the show for not having books in their house. The show didn’t fit their interests because they would never be able to part from a single book in their enormous, highbrow library.
Addressing this recent issue is my way of urging you not to throw out Kondo with the bathwater. If you don’t have time to read the book, this article is a good primer. Additionally, I’ve put together a couple tips to help with your 2019 goal of decluttering, regardless of whether you use Kondo’s method.
1. Make An Exit Plan For Your Stuff
Before you begin to declutter and organize any area, make a plan for the things you aren’t keeping. If this includes donating, find the most convenient way so that it actually gets done. This might include Goodwill, a local charity, a veterans’ hospital, or a women’s shelter. Many charities, like Vietnam Veterans of America, will pick up your donations.
For local charities, call and find out what they need. For example, a women’s shelter might have plenty of clothes, but not enough toiletries or bedding. Maybe they need things like Christmas decorations or books to make it a homier environment! Many years ago, when my father was recovering in a VA hospital after surgery, I learned that they needed movies on VHS because the rooms had VHS players rather than DVD players. By finding out what charities need, you’ll not only be making your home tidier but also giving things a new purpose where they are needed and appreciated.
For things like exercise equipment, clothes, and shoes, you can consign and get some extra cash. I prefer places that pay outright rather than as the items are sold. My favorite chain consignment store for clothes, shoes, handbags, and other accessories is Clothes Mentor. My favorite chain consignment store for books is 2nd And Charles.
If you’re wrestling with whether something “sparks joy” for you, also think of whether it might spark joy for someone in need. That may help with letting go. When I’m hesitant to part with a clothing item that hasn’t been worn in a year and still has the tags, I think about how this item might make a difference to a woman who is going on a job interview with the confidence of wearing something new.
Remember that not everything can go in the donation pile. Things that no longer work or aren’t in a condition to be reused or resold should be disposed or recycled in the proper way. Do your research ahead of time so you know exactly what to do once you’ve categorized your items.
2. Being Organized Doesn’t Give You a Pass
Clutter isn’t just a pile of clothes on the floor. It can also be neatly hanging up in your closet or folded in your dresser. Trust me and my drawer of 30 perfectly folded pairs of black leggings. You should still plan to go through every area of your home and make a decision on each item.
In the case of my black leggings, if I put on a pair that has a stretched-out waistband, I don’t put it back in the drawer. Instead, I put in my basket of things to go.
Another example is that perfectly organized spice rack set with matching labels. Do you use them? Are they expired? You don’t have to be a minimalist (although I do love the book “Cozy Minimalist Home”). Just be conscious of what you have in your home and what you still use.
3. Put It On Your Schedule
Putting “declutter the house” on your to-do list is too big of a task. I’ve recently started calendar blocking and it has helped me tremendously. There are a ton of YouTube videos about it (I like this one), but essentially it is scheduling tasks in your calendar as you would an appointment.
I scheduled myself to write this article at 11 a.m. on a Sunday. One way to approach decluttering is by area. This is a helpful checklist that I have been using as I declutter for 2019. Ignore that it’s a “30 Day Challenge”––if that seems overwhelming, just think of it as a list. Schedule areas to tackle in your calendar a week or two ahead of time and stick with it as you would a hair appointment.
4. Enjoy Your Tidying-Up Time
This shouldn’t be a time you dread, but a time you enjoy because of the enormous benefits it will bring to your life and home. If tidying up for tidying up’s sake doesn’t do it for you, make a playlist or listen to an audio book. I created a few Spotify playlists just for the occasion with high-energy songs like “Edge of Glory” by Lady Gaga and “Don’t Stop Me Now” by Queen.
I’m also an Audible subscriber and enjoy catching up on a book while tidying up or organizing. Kondo also suggests doing other things to make the area pleasant while your work, like lighting a candle or burning incense.
5. Group Likes With Likes
Have you ever pulled a pen out of the junk drawer, found it didn’t work, and then put it right back in the drawer? Tidying up is like banking time for later. You’ll get the time spent organizing your house and purging items you no longer use back in spades.
As you find yourself in the process, one easy principle for organizing and saving time in the long run is grouping likes with likes. For example, rather than store batteries in the junk drawer, a desk drawer, and closet, choose a place to store all batteries. You’ll save time knowing batteries of all sizes are in one area and when a particular size is needed you won’t have to search the house looking for it.
Grouping likes with likes also helps you see how much of something you have so you can decide what you want to keep. If you’re always rewashing “the good sheet pan” or “my comfortable bra,” get rid of the extras that go unused.
6. If A New Organizing System Doesn’t Work, Change It
When I originally folded my T-shirts the Kondo way, they looked perfect in the drawer. She folds vertically and in thirds so items can stand on their own and so an entire stack doesn’t have to be moved to reach one item. If only the color of the T-shirt matters to you, using her exact method is fine and is a lot more aesthetically pleasing. However, if you care about the print on the front, you might want to consider folding and storing so you can get a peek of the front and differentiate plain shirts from others.
7. Cancel Future Clutter In Your Home
In December, I wrote about avoiding giving clutter. Apply this to yourself, too! Cancel the subscription for magazines that continue to stack up before you can read them. If you’re into subscription boxes (I am) but find that many items in the box go unused, cancel them. You’ll save money and space.
Many people also practice the one in, one out principle. Every time you bring home a new item like a pair of shoes, get rid of another pair. Tidying up also helps you know what you have so that you aren’t buying things you already have.
One thing to avoid is dedicated storage areas and solutions that encourage you to avoid a problem rather than deal with it. Relegating everything to a garage or storage closet is not a solution. It is relocating a problem. If you don’t want to see it, you may not really want to keep it.
Finally, remember that the Kondo method and tidying up in general isn’t about cleaning or just getting rid of stuff. It’s about creating an environment that sparks joy and improves your life.