Can Tidying Magically Change My Life?

Life Changing Magic of Tidying

About a month ago, I jumped on a bandwagon of sorts and purchased the Japanese decluttering sensation book "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying," by expert cleaner and organizer Marie Kondo. The premise of the book is: Keep only those things that spark joy in your current life; get rid of the rest.

I'm not sure why that concept spoke to me, but I can certainly believe that decluttering my 'external' world can make space in my 'internal' world to create the life I want. I don't often think of the relationships I have with my possessions, but since I spend a huge amount of time surrounded by them, they may as well be things I love. So while it did take me a few weeks, and while some of it felt exceedingly difficult and emotional, I finally tackled the job.

Two things I'll say up front:

1) This book's method may not be for everyone. It's ruthless, merciless, and touchy-feely all at the same time. Kondo believes belongings have feelings too, so sample sentences include phrases like "you'll notice your socks breathing a sigh of relief at being untied." (I noticed no such thing, but I'm definitely keeping my ears open for sock-sighing.)

2) I kind of have an unfair advantage. See, before I moved into my London flat in August 2015, I'd spent the prior 33 months (since November 2012) living out of a couple of suitcases, first attending grad school in France and Singapore, and then rotating between different short-term arrangements in Switzerland, San Francisco, and London. So I've sort of naturally got fewer items than if I hadn't already moved so many times. For example, Kondo says the average number of tops her clients own (including blouses, sweaters, cardigans, etc.) is 160, while I only had 47 pre-decluttering.

Still, tackle I did. The basic idea behind Kondo's KonMari method is to sort by category, rather than by room. You first discard those items that don't 'spark joy,' and then designate a special place for what you've got left. Discard & designate, then repeat. Start with clothes, shoes, books, and so on, getting more and more miscellaneous as the categories go on.

Parts of this were honestly emotional. I had a hard time getting rid of the Diane van Furstenberg wrap dress that I always SAID I would wear and just didn't. Ditto the pretty Sandro dress that just wouldn't keep me covered no matter how many times I pulled it back into place. Or the Bally shoes I'd owned for nearly 10 years, but just didn't excite me anymore. Again and again, as advised by the author, I thanked those items for serving me, and released them.

Then came the designating part. And the folding! I found it hard to understand the written description of what she was saying (and it seems I'm not alone: the illustrated guide for the book comes out January 7th), but I did my best, and I have to admit my limited storage areas look much better now.

I've only done clothes, shoes, and books so far, and I have a feeling the upcoming 'papers and personal items' may be even more difficult.

For the coup de grâce, to prevent myself from changing my mind on the 21 items of clothing, 2 pairs of shoes, and 7 books I discarded (a decluttering rate of roughly 15%), I dragged out three big bags to my charming neighborhood FARA Charity Shop, whose proceeds go towards improving the lives of some of Romania's most marginalized children and young people. I hope my donation helps.

I did pick up a new book while I was there. So I guess there's still more decluttering in my future.