Although I like to think of myself as a minimalist, I have to admit I can also be a bit of a hoarder and I find it very difficult to let go of certain belongings that hold special memories.
Therefore, I made a sensible decision to seek help from Mari Kondo’s world-wide acclaimed book, Spark Joy, and through reading it I discovered an entirely new way of looking at what I was keeping around me, how I thought or felt about it and exactly why I was cluttering up my life.
To explain how effective this style of organizing is, Kondo is so popular she even has her own cult-like following who call themselves “Konverts.” They post their images all over the Internet of the before and after scenes and I’m now such a fan, I’m almost tempted to call myself one too!
Ultimately, the newfound perspective I found not only changed the rooms in my home, but also totally transformed how I perceive my home and everything in it too.
Kondo, who is a Japanese organizing expert, explains how each time she enters her house she declares, “I’m home!” to show her appreciation for the environment in which she lives. When I first tried this, at first, I felt a little strange talking to an empty place in this way, although, I very quickly realized that by doing this, the vibration in my voice altered the atmosphere around me and created a positive setting in which I immediately felt warmly welcomed back into.
Not only does Kondo suggest talking to our home, she also describes how she gives thanks to each piece of clothing as she takes it off. Her shoes are shown gratitude for the hard work they have done during the day and her clothes are lovingly thanked as they are either carefully hung or folded away while saying, “Have a good rest.” Or, they are placed in the laundry bin and she tenderly says to them: “Thanks for all that you did for me today.”
I know that this may sound strange, but before disbelieving this philosophy, try it! It magically works and instantly makes the house a home and gives meaning to everything within it.
Before I embarked on Kondo’s slightly unusual methods I felt as though I was constantly tidying up, cleaning, reshuffling, organizing and moving things quite ridiculously from one room to another or even one shelf to another to create space while making it all look neater. Those days are thankfully, finally far off in the distance and I’ve never looked back.
I used to think I was a professional at tidying up as I had so much experience due to the amount of time I had spent rearranging the unnecessary and unwanted items I stored all around my home. Like with most things, when we have practiced something so many times we believe we have found the quickest and easiest way to success, but no, I was doing it all very wrong. Basically, I was tidying, cleaning and restructuring a whole host of things on a daily basis, much of which I either didn’t like or didn’t want. Now, I see that it actually made very little sense!
I was astounded to see that there was an easier more simplified way and I never thought it was possible but tidying up has now become a sacred, tranquil practice, which in some ways is very similar to meditating while releasing anything that has been emotionally or mentally holding me back.
It started with turning my music off, as previously, while tidying up, I had played music on high volume, believing that it motivated me to move while keeping my mind occupied so that boredom wouldn’t creep in.
Although it may be common to listen to music or for the television to be buzzing in the background, Kondo recommends that decluttering should always be carried out in silence so that we can listen to our intuition and pay attention to how we really feel about each item, without any distractions. Candles can also be lit to create an ambience and a small affirmation or prayer chanted beforehand to set a calm and clear mindset, for example, “I am creating a beautiful space for my belongings that provide joy and harmony.”
When approaching a decluttering exercise the method recommended in Kondo’s book is to touch or hold each belonging to see if they “spark joy” within. This signals if the item is truly loved, cherished and appreciated. If it does make us feel joyful then we can keep and organize it. If we have to think about it, or if it does not bring joy, we can thank it for its service and either discard if it is no longer useful to anyone or we can reroute it to someone or somewhere else who might receive benefit or joy from it. It really is that simple.
To prevent ourselves from feeling guilty about restructuring what we own we can remind ourselves that the item already provided us with joy at the time of purchase or at some other point in our lives and now that time has passed and we can allow it to give someone else a spark of joy.
Once we have separated the items we would like to keep (that spark joy), they should be placed in a visible place, neatly organized, where they are easy to reach and placed tidily back. The key to remember is that it should be just as easy to locate an item, as it is to reach for it or put it away. Therefore, we should not hide or box away items in fancy stackable storage containers, unless the items are seasonal. Storage containers should be kept to an absolute minimum.
One of the first rules of Kondo’s clutter-free techniques is to concentrate on sorting out items by category, rather than focusing on one room at a time. For example, clothes, books, paperwork, jewelry, cosmetics should each be sorted on their own. We should collect all items together from the same category and sort them all out in one go before moving on to the next category.
The first place to begin is with clothing as these are often the items with the least emotional attachments. Once all of the clothing has been gathered from all rooms it should all be placed in a huge pile and then sorted through and put away neatly, or placed in a pile to rehome.
Kondo believes that clothes should be treated with care and gratitude and when we are organizing them, they should be stored respectfully. She explains that clothing is far happier when folded neatly rather than hung up. If items are hung up they should all face the same way with a little breathing space between each hanger and they should flow in an asymmetrical line with the longest items at the left side of the closet and the shorter items on the right side.
One unexpected side effect of decluttering is that decision-making becomes far easier. Not only will we find we are far more careful before adding new items to our collection, we will also discover we are more assertive in other areas of our life due to the amount of practice we have had with letting go of things that are no longer pleasurable or that serve any purpose. This extra little added strength assists us in many areas of our life where we once found a difficulty in saying no, as we work out ways to effectively manage our time better as well as saving vast amounts of money on items or events that we do not find enjoyable or feel aligned to.
The only part of my home that is entirely unaltered and I think may stay that way for some time to come is my bookshelves. Every single book I touched gave me huge amounts of tingly joy, so I made the decision that they are all staying. I can’t see anything changing with that any time soon, but other than books, my home was effortlessly transformed and I can genuinely say, I adored every minute of it.
Once I had started the declutter process it was a little addictive and I did get a little carried away and ruthless, although on the plus side, everything I let go of went to new homes or was donated to charity. Everything I now own has a great feeling to it and I now rarely spend any time at all tidying up, rearranging or organizing.
Although, I did feel a little emotional saying goodbye to some of my items, once I did I instantly felt lighter, freer and no longer tied down or overwhelmed by messiness and unnecessary objects (some of which held quite unhappy memories and negative vibes). When I cleared out items, I not only let go of clutter, I also released the emotional baggage I had been holding on to that I hadn’t realized many of my items energetically carried.
Another huge plus is that it is so easy to choose what to wear each day as, not only can I see all of my clothing at a glance, but everything I own has a feel-good vibe to it, fits me perfectly and when I put it on I remind myself that it was specifically chosen because it makes me smile and sends out a spark of joy.
As strange as this sounds, I now have a special closeness to my clothing as well as all my other belongings and it is one I had never noticed before. It may be my imagination but my clothes all seem to look and feel better now that I know they were the “chosen ones” and also now that they are all stored with respect and consideration.
One other thing that is suggested is that we don’t ask for other people’s advice or to show others what items of ours we are letting go of. We should trust our intuitive feelings and allow ourselves to decide what feels good to us and if we no longer want it we can make a firm decision to pay it forward and allow it to bring the same amount of joy it once gave us, to someone else’s life.
The folding methods that are described in the Kondo’s book sound a little complex at first, similar to creating origami shapes, although, once practiced once or twice they are so common sense and simple that it made me wonder how I’d managed my life without knowing this information!
To explain the methods here would take at least another few articles, so here are the short and simple YouTube videos for underwear, socks and t-shirts. Enjoy!
BONUS: 10 Basic Salves for Burn-Out & Everyday Depression.
Author: Alex Myles
Editor: Travis May