De Clutter

I thought I was a tidy person living a minimalist dream. Then I walked into our bedroom after asking Mr C to get my summer wardrobe from the loft and I was greeted with a scene from Homes From Hell – boxes piled on top of each other, overspilling with clothes I have never worn. That’s it! I decided. I need to declutter.

I’d heard about Marie Kondo, a Japanese organising consultant, from friends who spoke evangelically about her methods and how they’d transformed their lives. In case you haven’t, here’s the gist: with her little turquoise book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organising, Kondo set off a decluttering craze across the globe.

First, put your hands on everything you own, ask yourself if it sparks joy, and if it doesn’t, thank it for its service and get rid of it. Second, once only your most joy-giving belongings remain, put every item in a place where it’s visible, accessible, and easy to grab and then put back. Only then, Kondo says, will you have reached the nirvana of housekeeping, and never have to clean again.

All of this sounded wonderful. But as a working mother I can barely keep up with the demands of daily life. But once I read Kondo’s book, I got totally sucked in. It turns out, tidying really may be the way to bliss. Here’s what I learned.

Lesson #1: Tackle Categories, Not Rooms

I’d always tackled clutter by room—take on the office first, the bedroom next. Instead, Kondo’s first rule is to tidy by category—deal with every single one of your books at once, for example, otherwise they’ll continue to creep from room to room, and you’ll never rein in the clutter. She advises beginning with clothing, since it’s the least emotionally loaded of one’s things (books come next, old photographs are much later), so as soon as I found a free afternoon, that’s exactly what I did.

Lesson #2: Respect Your Belongings

With my eyes now open, I realised my wardrobe had hit rock bottom. Everything had succumbed to a mixed-up messiness. Kondo asks that you consider your clothing’s feelings: Are they happy being squashed in a corner shelf or crowded onto hangers? Are your hardworking socks really thrilled to be balled up? It had sounded out there when I read it, but suddenly my clothes looked totally miserable.

Lesson #3: Purging Feels Good

From then on, I followed Kondo’s advice to a T. I gathered every piece of my clothing and put it in one giant pile. While I normally tidy my clothes only when I’m on a long phone call—distracted from the task at hand—today I wasn’t even supposed to listen to music. Channeling Kondo, who says a prayer upon entering a client’s home, I lit a candle, said a little prayer, and started digging through the mountain of clothes.

Once I got to work, it was so much easier and more fun than I’d thought. This question of joy gives you permission to let go of bright shirts bought on sale, dresses past their prime, skirts that always clung uncomfortably. I realised I had many things that seemed great in theory but weren’t actually my style (or size anymore!)

Six hours later, I’d filled 12 bags with non-joy-giving clothes. Instead of panic, I felt relief—12 times lighter. It also felt like good karma: off to the charity shop to see a new, hopefully better life.

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