“The question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life” – Marie Kondo
My obsession with decluttering began when I read Marie Kondo’s bestseller, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. No joke, it literally changed my life.
Kondo’s philosophy is that you should touch every single one of your belongings and only keep what ‘sparks joy’. This process of discarding should happen all at once and be done intensely and completely (it took me about three months). She believes that your home has all the storage you need and urges her readers to tidy first before deciding where to store your things.
Here are ten ways applying the Marie Kondo commandments to my home changed my life:
1. I KNOW WHERE EVERYTHING IS
When you only keep the things you love and designate a home for each thing, you know where all your crap is. Even when I lived in a much smaller apartment, I still didn’t know where everything was. I would spend way too much time searching through my stuff and it would drive me bonkers. Knowing exactly where every item is in your home helps you avoid buying unnecessary duplicates and saves you a ton of time.
2. MY BASEMENT IS NO LONGER A STORAGE UNIT
Luckily, I KonMari’d my shit within the first couple years of having my very own basement. Still, I accumulated quite a lot within that first year. I figured, what is the harm in keeping something I might want one day in the basement since I have so much space down there? Having the space is not reason enough to keep something! It is a slippery slope to having a bunch of crap that will take days and days to go through and will stress you out in the meantime.
You might not want to think about this, but eventually you are going to die and someone else is going to have to go through all of your stuff and that someone is most likely going to be a family member whom you love. You don’t want that for them, so make it a point not to use your basement as a storage unit.
If you are lucky enough to have a dry, normal smelling basement like me, then you can take full advantage of this space. I use mine to do laundry (no choice there), play pool (okay my husband is the one that does this, I am usually too tired at the end of the day to do anything involving standing), and play with my kids. We set up a playroom in the corner of my basement and it is quite possibly my kids’ favorite room in the house. My three year old often chooses to have her quiet time down there and my nine month old kicks in excitement when the door to the basement opens (weird, right?). So make the most out of your basement and don’t make the mistake of using it to store all of the shit you don’t actually need.
3. FOLDING LAUNDRY IS FUN
Dork alert! Kondo’s promise that you will love to fold your laundry doesn’t come to fruition for everyone, but it did for me. I usually spend a day getting all the laundry clean before diving into the big folding ceremony. I hesitate to say this, but I even save this ‘event’ for the evening when I can watch a show (or listen to a podcast) while folding it all in one fell swoop. I am a tad controlling of how my clothes get folded so I won’t even let my husband help when he offers. I love making the little piles and then neatly stacking them into the laundry basket to be distributed the next day. Seeing my clothes all standing at attention in their drawers just does it for me. When you only keep the clothes that “spark joy”, you learn to take better care of them which is evident in how you fold and store them.
4. ADDRESSING ISSUES WITH THE THINGS I LOVE
When going through my clothes, I was deciding if a knit sweater was worth keeping. I loved it but I never wore it because it had a snag that drove me crazy (type A people can relate). When I decided to keep it, I googled how to fix it (turn it inside out, pull snag through and tie a knot). Those Sperry shoes my husband bought me for Christmas a few years back, but they give me blisters so I never wear them? I googled that one too. (Believe it or not there were many articles on how to fix this problem. I went with wearing them with thick socks for a few hours and blow drying the heel. Supposedly soaking them in salt water and then wearing them until they are dry works wonders as well.) One of my favorite necklaces that broke? Sent an email to the designer who graciously fixed it and sent it back looking even better than when I first bought it. I used to feel shitty every time I saw those unworn shoes from my husband or that broken necklace but no longer my friends. Now, they fill me with delight because I took the time to bring them back to life.
5. I HAVE MORE CONFIDENCE WHEN I GET DRESSED
One of my favorite changes has been in my closet and drawers. If you have been to my house in the past year or so, it is very likely that I have offered to show you my t-shirt drawer and possibly even my underwear drawer (oh yeah baby!).
Before my KonMari purge when I would get dressed up (aka not wear my ‘active wear‘), I would try on a handful of outfits and end up feeling discouraged. My room would look like a tornado hit which ya’ll know is not great for post date night romance. If the outfit was snug in all the wrong places, I would be reminded that I should lose those fifteen pounds. If the style was a passing trend, I would question my personal style and wonder if my clothes were dated. If I recently bought a shirt but never wore it, then I would feel guilty about the money I wasted. Not a great way to get excited for a rare evening out.
Donating these clothes that caused me strife was incredibly freeing. That dress that was cute on the hanger but was way too girly for me. The jeans that fit fine but that I was never excited to wear. Those button up cardigans I bought because I thought they were a necessary wardrobe staple. That workout shirt that only ever fit for a few weeks after running a half marathon. I freed myself of all of those clothes that didn’t represent who I am today and the experience left me feeling confident and happy.
Now, I love every single one of my outfits and I am choosing between the things that make me feel great about myself. I have a better sense of my style and getting dressed takes just a few minutes.
6. GUILT FREE HOME
One of the most gratifying parts of the tidying up process is liberating yourself from objects whose only attachment to you is guilt. I had no idea my home was brimming with things that made me feel terrible. A gift that I no longer wanted but kept out of guilt. The fancy blazer I bought within a month of having my first baby because I was going though a new mommy identity crisis (I literally never wore the damn thing and it hung in my closet for years, laughing at me and my stay at home mom-ness).
Seeing these things every day was bringing me down without me even realizing it. Such freedom when I released these things back into the world where someone might actually use them and love them, and I could stop feeling shitty about their uselessness in my life.
7. GLORIOUS EMPTY SPACE
Oh how I love empty spaces! Never in my life have I not had to stuff my clothes into my drawers when putting away laundry. This alone is worth the effort of tidying up. Even better, an entire drawer being empty! I could hardly believe it was possible. Even my bathing suits have a dedicated drawer just for the fun of it.
Empty surfaces are my jam. I have a frame on my dresser and nothing else and this makes me happy every single morning. (It also makes it way easier to clean.) I cleared off my kitchen island entirely which thrills me every time I lay my eyes on it. I tidied up my kitchen counters by storing my microwave in my pantry and my toaster with my pots and pans. My clutter free kitchen makes cleaning a breeze, provides more space for cooking and creates an overall happier experience in the kitchen (which is great since I spend half my time there somedays).
My mind instantly relaxes when I am near these spaces. Filling every corner and stuffing every closet creates a sea of distractions where we can never just be in the moment or get one thing done to completion. (Need some help creating an empty space in your home? Check out this post.)
8. RIP THRIFT STORE OBSESSION
Oh thrift stores, I love you and hate you simultaneously. I was in the habit of going to my favorite thrift store weekly, sometimes with purpose, but mostly to get that jolt of energy from buying something to add to my home. A picture frame, a mirror, random glassware, whatever. I was also letting my kid pick out a new book (or five) every time and the piles of books were accumulating faster than I could read them. I thought I was being responsible because these things were used and therefore cheaper, but I was turning my home into a collection of random shit and was wasting hours of time in the process. Breaking up with my thrift store obsession has been liberating to say the least (although a few of the things I bought there made the cut and so it wasn’t ALL bad). Next up, break up with Target (gah, I don’t know if I’m ready!).
9. USING THE THINGS YOU KEEP
When you hold an object in your hand and you realize it does spark joy, it is like you reenergize that item that had been collecting dust. If the things you love are mixed up with all of your other belongings, it is hard to even notice them. After decluttering, I began drawing again which I hadn’t done in years. My CDs which had been dormant for years were transferred to my computer and then donated. All those songs I used to love are now on my phone and I can listen to them any time. I kept a handful of my daughter’s newborn clothes and decided to hang my two favorites in her room so I would see them every day (this is also helpful when your kid is driving you nuts and you need a reminder of how little they used to be… although even that doesn’t always help when the threenager is full throttle). It is like I have activated these things that had been forgotten, and now they are apart of my life in a meaningful way.
10. ROOM TO GROW
And now, the ultimate goal of decluttering – attaining a clear vision of how you want to spend your time and your life. What is working and what isn’t? What do you want your days to look like?
The things that haven’t been working in my life were much harder to ignore after going through this process. I knew what I needed to weed out next, even if I wasn’t ready to address it right away. My unhealthy habits were lining up, waiting for me to KonMari them next. This is where I am at now and it is even more life changing than donating half of my stuff. This is the meaty part of life. The self reflection. The bigger picture. Living with intentions instead of drifting through life. Decluttering your stuff is just the beginning and it sets you up perfectly to take the next step which you’ve subconsciously been longing for.