If you haven’t been living under a rock for the past few years, you’ve likely heard of the cultish book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. Ms. Kondo–a feng shui goddess who has been obsessed with decluttering her home since childhood–provides detailed, lofty instructions on how to declutter your apartment, for good. The starting premise is that most of us tidy up our homes on a regular basis, but we can never seem to have a permanently tidy home. In other words, shit gets out of place and our apartments always end up looking messy. Cluttered living spaces make us stressed and unhappy, and while my apartment is generally on the neat side, I find myself often getting frustrated because a certain someone doesn’t put items back in their place (my bf) and another certain someone may have too much cookware (me).
KonMarie Method: The SparkNotes
For those of you unlearned in the KonMarie Method (as she affectionally calls it), I’ve outlined some of her key principles (and my initial responses to them) for creating an uncluttered space and keeping it that way.
Clean everything all at once in a dramatic event, which should take no longer than six months. Even the smallest NYC apartments will require at least a few days to do a full purge. I feel bad for anyone who owns a big ass mansion. Just kidding, no, I don’t. They live in a god damn mansion. Screw them.
Discard everything first, then store things in their given place. You mean, I’m supposed to throw every item in my apartment onto the floor, spend a week discarding like a mad woman, and only after this hellish week do I get to put my shit away? How am I living in my apartment during this week with all of my shit on the floor?
Take each item in your hand and ask yourself, “does this spark joy?” If it does. keep it. If it does not, dispose of it. Keep only items that speak to your heart. Ain’t nobody got time for this ish. Also, there are plenty of things in my apartment that don’t “spark joy” but that I nevertheless need. Granny panties, vitamins, and Scotch tape come to mind.
Follow your intuition and all will be well.Right, okay. Useless.
Don’t start collecting items and discarding them by location (i.e., bathroom, living room). Instead, collect everything that falls within the same category at one time (i.e., skin care products, electronics, books) and lay it all on the floor. This seems cool, I can dig it.
When you come across something that’s hard for you to discard, consider why you have that item in the first place. Has it filled the function that you bought it for? If a piece of clothing has already completed its role in your life, you are free to say, “thank you for giving me joy when I bought you.” This some real weird shit talking to your clothes and personifying them.
Once the discard process is over, designate a storage place for every item and store all items of the same type in one place.This makes intuitive sense. We’ll see how easy it is.
The way you store items should reduce the effort needed to put things away, not the effort to get them out. How are these two different things? If I get a mug out of the bottom shelf of my cupboard, there is equally little effort to take it out and to put it back. Am I missing something here?
My Marie Kondo Experiment
I spent a good four days over my holiday break decluttering our apartment. The bf was involved for the first day, which consisted primarily of wardrobe decluttering. He had to work the next three days, so I had the luxury of discarding mutually owned items. I say “luxury” because I genuinely love to throw shit away. It’s just one of my many self-indulgent, wasteful traits so typical of a first-world Millennial. I know, I’m the worst.
When we quit our corporate jobs in 2014 and headed on a backpacking trip, I donated most of my stuffy business profesh clothes. And when I returned to New York City after having lived out of a single backpack for over six months, I was deeply turned off by material possessions. It wasn’t that I had undergone a dramatic spiritual transformation and was now a better person. I simply didn’t like having a lot of things around. So, when we unpacked our dusty boxes, I got rid of even more clothes.
It was only after I began working and living full-time as a real adult that I realized I had very few clothes left and had to spend unnecessary money buying new clothes yet again. And in the ensuing year and a half, I managed to collect a lot more clothes than I had intended.
For the first third of my cleaning session, I did hold each item in my hand and asked myself whether it sparked joy. Max thought I was ridiculous but I was trying to take the KonMarie method earnestly. I even verbally thanked a few pieces of clothing for serving their purpose (i.e., thank you, hideous cargo pants for clothing me for six months while I was backpacking; thank you cropped tube top for helping me party in my early 20s).
When we moved onto books, our decluttering sesh took a whole 30 minutes. We’re not really book people. Just kidding, I love to read, but my dislike of physical objects means I download books to my kindle. Except for cookbooks. I love flipping through a cookbook and gazing at the photos. Surprised?
One of the most satisfying parts of the cleanup was purging all the various papers in our house. We used to have random bills, checkbooks, warranties, medical documents, and journals in various parts of our apartment, including the kitchen (tacky, I know). Thanks to my diligence, though, we know have just one (large) folder containing all important documents along with a small stack of journals. I may have shredded some very important tax documents, but I’m sure the IRS has bigger fish to fry (I’m looking at you, Donald).
The hardest category to declutter was the miscellaneous category, given the amorphous nature of this category. I spent hours in a face-off with two large bags of unidentified electric cords and chargers. The true treasure was finding a digital camera from the early 2000s with photos of my then-adolescent boyfriend (so much fun!).
The next hardest category was kitchen items. As a food lover who cooks and photographs food constantly, I was reluctant to part with anything in my kitchen. I parted haphazardly with random items–an ugly coffee mug, a set of ugly wooden forks, an ugly blue plate. You get the picture. I did, however, radically reorganize every cabinet and drawer and gave each item a particular resting place, which has made cooking much more stress-free.
Ms. Kondo recommends that mementos be your last category. Being a very unsentimental person, I suggested to Max that we get rid of old photo albums and cutesy homemade presents I had made in the past. He called me a monster (fair) and found a cute storage place for them.
One Month Later
It’s been a month since I finished our Marie Kondo experiment, and I have to admit that I am a bit disappointed for a few reasons. One, my apartment will never look like Ms. Kondo’s pristine apartment. I live in a quirky apartment building that was built in the 1860s and hasn’t been updated since the 1960s. To give you a picture, our ceilings are a whopping 8 feet tall, our doorways look like they were designed by a hobbit, and our kitchen floor can only be described as linoleum tortoise shell. No matter how neat my apartment is, it will never look feng shui or modern. And therefore I resent Ms. Kondo for instilling a sense of false hope in me.
Two, I live with someone else, unlike Ms. Kondo. While I love my bf, he’s not the best at putting items back in their “resting place.” Maybe he hates the term “resting place,” maybe he hates me. We’ll never know.
Three, putting things back in their resting place takes time and energy. When you work 10-12 hours a day, enjoy lots of hobbies, and have a busy social life (I’m popular, just fyi), every minute counts. And when every minute counts, I can’t spend all those extra minutes putting every item away. Well, I could, but I would sleep less, and I’m not signing up for that shit.
I’m not entirely disappointed with our foray into the KonMarie method, however. My wardrobe now has breathing room and is color coordinated, making it much easier to find clothes. We now have several entirely empty drawers and cabinets in our apartment, which is a pretty amazing feat when you live in a one-bedroom apartment in NYC. Our linen closet is very neat, and I smile whenever I open it. I always take my shoes off as soon as I enter our apartment and put them away immediately. And even if every item doesn’t alway get put away, every item does have its own resting place, which provides a sense of relief.
Have you tried the Marie Kondo method on your home? Has it been life changing for you? I’d love to hear from you!