I’m a little late to the cultural phenomenon that is Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. It’s been popping up on my internet radar since January. I added it to my Amazon wishlist in March, put myself on a library wait-list for it in June, and just kept missing it somehow.
Then, a little over a week ago, I took myself on a mom-cation. That’s when you turn going grocery shopping into a long and fulfilling retreat by also going to the bookstore and Ulta Beauty, where I tried on a full face of makeup and bought absolutely nothing. (Sorry, Ulta employees.) There it was, right on the front shelf in the bookstore, along with The Girl on The Train, which I have also had on my wishlist for about six months. So I bought both of them and had the best weekend ever.
Kondo writes that she has been obsessed with homekeeping since she was five, and that once she realized that cleanliness and organization were more important to a peaceful and functional home than cooking or sewing skills, she switched her focus and devoted herself to tidying. As a soon-to-be FACS teacher, that struck home. Is organization and “tidying” something that we can teach our students? Studies have shown that the level of cleanliness and organization in a home has a correlation to children’s IQs. If I could give my students a guide to creating a clean, functional, and well-loved space, would I also be giving them a guide to parenting, to environmentalism (by way of avoiding over-consumption,) and to saving money (by investing only in loved items rather than storage systems to hold all the rest)?
Reading over some online reviews of Kondo’s book, I found some points of contention that seem weird to me. For one, a lot of people had trouble with the idea of talking to your belongings, thanking them for their service, and thinking about their comfort as well as your own. Maybe it’s just a lonely middle child thing, but that actually taps into something pretty deep for me. I’ve definitely felt the sadness of an abandoned t-shirt or a pair of shoes that sat, forgotten, in the trunk of my car. Even if you’re not into literal animism, I think that we could all agree that if we treated our things with respect, rather than as disposable and meaningless, we would take better care of them and amass fewer piles of crap.
For another, many reviewers seemed upset about the idea of getting rid of so much. And it is scary. But man, once you start filling those bags for Goodwill, you feel so free.
This weekend we Kondo-ed our clothes. Putting every article of clothing in one pile looked terrifying. Like this:
You see how shaky that photo is? That’s because I was literally shaking. With fear. Of what we would find.
While our children slid down Clothes Mountain, my husband and I got to work, picking up each item and asking ourselves if we loved it. For my husband, this meant getting rid of some shirts and ties he’s had since high school (!?!?). For me, it meant digging deep, even deeper than my closet purge took me in April.
It took two days, but when we were done all of our closets looked like a million freaking bucks. And then still do. I’m down to about 40 total pieces of clothing, excluding lounge wear and gym clothes. That’s for all four seasons, but when I look at my closet, I don’t feel deprived. I feel like I have even more to wear than ever, because everything there is something that I truly love and feel great wearing.
Dat closet floor.
Rather than a dresser covered in laundry, we have four empty drawers, and I got to take over a drawer for my jewelry and makeup and everything else I don’t want the kids to touch. Yes, that is a Tarot deck. I’m the child of 70’s hippies.
Drawers filled with only the best t-shirts.
This drawer has no handle, so you can only open it by removing the drawer next to it and pushing it from the back. That’s what I call “child-proofing.”
It’s changed the feel of our whole house. Our bedroom is now peaceful. I’m no longer overwhelmed by laundry, and the girls have shown some respect for their dresser drawers for once and resisted the urge to empty them onto the floor of their room. I was able to see what they needed (how does that baby have no pajamas? Where did they go?) and I took them shopping for school clothes today with a list and a purpose.
On Saturday we’re going to do our books, as per the KonMari Method. Clothes first, then books, then papers, komono (miscellany), and mementos. Books and papers are both big categories for us, as we are book hoarders and we like to file things and then forget all about them, so those are going to make significant dents in our household junk.
So far, I would agree with the millions of people that have already bought Kondo’s book and applied her Method: she knows what she’s doing. And I already have a few ideas about how to incorporate lessons in tidying into my lesson plans.