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.
"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.
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!