Solo Lisa Tries: Spring Cleaning With The KonMari Method

I've always been a little OCD when it comes to organization and I thought that the boy and I were doing a pretty good job living as "minimalists" in a 1 bedroom plus den condo because, well, there's just not a lot of room for stuff. But that was before I read The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up, the bestselling tome by Japanese organizational consultant Marie Kondo, and started applying her much-buzzed-about KonMari method to our humble abode.

If you haven't heard of the KonMari method, here's a basic rundown. Kondo—who has a months-long waiting list of clients in Japan—claims she can get even the most hopeless hoarders to tidy once and never have to tidy again in their lives. To do so, you discard all belongings that don't "spark joy" and keep the possessions that do. When you're surrounded by things you love and each of them has its proper place in your home, Kondo contends, you'll find it much easier to keep your place neat and you won't feel the urge to acquire meaningless stuff.

Kondo's book lays out a detailed methodology to follow for the discarding, but it basically involves gathering one type of object—whether it's clothes, books, papers, or kitchenware—into a big pile on the floor. Then you hold each item in your hand, asking yourself each time "Does this spark joy?" If the answer's no, into the discard pile it goes. This explains the big piles of books in our living room last week.

The books before

"Does it spark joy?" seems like an odd question to ask oneself, but I found that it forced me to be brutally honest about what I do cherish. In the face of joylessness, I couldn't justify hanging onto painful shoes and too-tight dresses with excuses like "It cost so much," or "I might need this someday to go with something else for an outfit post." Nor could I defend hanging onto books I hadn't read in years, a printer I hadn't used since we moved in, boxes and wires for now-defunct gadgets, dead AA batteries, a small mountain of reusable totes from media events.

The process of discarding joyless belongings and only keeping joyful ones reveals a clearer picture of one's own identity, Kondo says. I don't know if I've learned any really profound truths about myself, but I did have one minor revelation. I had a lot of joyless clothing, shoes, and accessories—empty filler in the walk-in closet stifling the items I love—merely because I thought I might need it for an outfit post. And deep down—well, I don't enjoy shooting outfit posts that much. Some weekends it's fine, but other times it's an anxiety-inducing, uphill battle against lousy weather, bad lighting, and over-scheduling. So going forward, there will still be sporadic outfit posts on this blog to show off my (now much more streamlined) style, but it's not going to be a weekly feature anymore. (Sorry if that was your favourite part of the blog, but there's other good stuff too, promise.)

For so-called minimalists, the boy and I managed to produce 4 bags of clothes, 4 of trash, 6 of recycling, a box full of old electronics and batteries, and 4 boxes of books. We haven't finished yet (still the kitchen stuff left to do), but the effect of the KonMari method on the rest of the condo is a breath of fresh air. Instead of being crammed together and suffocated, our coats and shirts look happy hanging in the closets. The bookcase isn't overflowing with books and DVDs anymore, and we can actually see what we own. And (surprise!) I've found myself re-reading Harry Potter and The Bell Jar now that they're visible and within reach, and not hidden behind stacks of dusty things.

The books after

I didn't apply everything from the KonMari method, like thank my socks before throwing them out or fold my clothes into small rectangles and stand them vertically. Nonetheless, I've been so inspired by the idea of only surrounding myself with things that spark joy and appreciating what I already have that I've quelled my usual spring shopping urges. If you're even the slightest bit curious about the KonMari method, do check out Kondo's book or this New York Times article for further reading. Happy spring cleaning!

8 comments

  1. Lar has totally gotten into the KonMari method. In fact, I think she's about to write her second post on her experience this week. You two are totally inspiring me - although now that I have a house - albeit small - it seems like such a huge undertaking!

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    1. So apropos that you're the first to comment on this, Cath, as Lar's post was the first time I'd heard about the KonMari method. :)

      It is a big undertaking, but I found that if you follow the order of categories she lays out (clothes, books, and so forth), you pick up momentum and adrenaline as you go along. I've been cleaning one category at a time during the evenings, and some evenings when I finish a category I've got so much energy I wish I could tackle another, but I have to go to bed.

      I look forward to reading about your experience if you KonMari-ify your new house (congrats btw!).

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  2. Glad to see your review of this finally! I was BOMBARDED with this book at Chapters and didn't know about it-I think I'm tempted to pick it up after I get back from vacation. I think I do a pretty good job of purging but there's a lot hiding in our drawers that needs to be rifled through.

    My biggest challenge is my wardrobe-I really struggle to make my personal style work in an office environment, so my closet is full of pieces that, to be honest, I don't LOVE (and definitely don't spark joy) but make up the majority of my wardrobe. I'm really hoping to find a way to make my style work better in the office.

    Would love to see more photos of the apartment once your purge is totally done!

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    1. It's amazing what you find when you go through EVERYTHING. The differences in our place are really subtle TBH (the boy doesn't notice it), but everything just feels airier—like instead of all our stuff being crammed onto shelves or in drawers, the things left on or in them can breathe.

      Let me know if you decide to pick it up, and enjoy your vacation!

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  3. That is so awesome that you're using her book- we just posted about her too and we love her method! I really love the emphasis on keeping only what brings you joy. Before applying her method, I had so much clutter and it was surprising to see that it was causing me so much anxiety.
    Anyways, I love how orderly your bookshelf is now!

    xx Nina

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    1. Thanks Nina! I'm interested in reading about your experience with KonMari now.

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  5. I'll definitely have to try this myself - that is, if I can ever get myself to stop procrastinating my spring cleaning for the year!

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