Infamous tidying expert Marie Kondo has introduced a popular decluttering method that focuses on whether or not one’s possessions “spark joy”.
With a #1 New York Times best-selling book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing”, and a new hit series on Netflix, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, it seems like the whole world is choosing joy by getting rid of their unnecessary things!
But while many find the KonMari method life-changing, there has also been a fair share of critics.
Would a tidying journey really bring more joy to my life? Curious to find out for myself, I took to my own closet to put Kondo’s philosophy to the test. At the very least, I felt confident I’d have a more organized closet.
The KonMari Closet Method
According to Marie Kondo, there are six basic rules of tidying that one must follow during this process:
- Commit yourself to tidying up.
- Imagine your ideal lifestyle.
- Finish discarding first.
- Tidy by category, not location.
- Follow the right order.
- Ask yourself if the item sparks joy.
What is ‘joy’?
How does one define ‘joy’? The dictionary describes it as ‘feeling, expressing, or causing great pleasure and happiness’. However, I knew this would be the toughest part of the KonMari method for me. (Especially when it comes to my clothes!)
In my closet, I have dozens of pieces that I wear, but I wouldn’t say they spark joy for me. If I threw away all my non-joy items, would I have nothing to wear? Would I possibly have to start doing laundry more frequently?!
While Kondo believes that the items that cause joy for a person are linked to intimate and personal reasons, it’s the “small details” about it that make you smile.
Ingrid Fetell Lee, author of “Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness”, has found through her research that there are actually ten universal things that seem to foster ‘joy’ for all:
- Energy — vibrant color and light
- Abundance — lushness, multiplicity and variety
- Freedom — nature, wilderness, open space
- Harmony — balance, symmetry and flow
- Play — circles, spheres, and bubbly forms
- Surprise — contrast and whimsy
- Transcendence — elevation and lightness
- Magic — invisible forces and illusions
- Celebration — synchrony, sparkle and bursting shapes
- Renewal — blossoming, expansion, and curves
For me, both ideologies bring valid points to consider when embarking on my ‘joy’ journey. However, when it comes to my closet, I already know Lee’s first universal element of joy—vibrant colors—are a definite no. I love wearing neutrals!
How to Declutter a Closet Using the KonMari Method
As I began my quest to decluttering my closet the Marie Kondo way, I found it helpful to break down the process into four simple steps:
1. Commit to the Process
To start my tidying journey, I blocked off an entire Sunday in my calendar weeks in advance. I was committed to this being the day that I would complete my ‘tidying’ mission. You may be on the fence about whether the KonMari method is the right decluttering strategy that will get results for you. Scheduling it weeks in advance and penciling it into a calendar will keep you accountable and committed to giving this process a try.
2. Imagine Your Ideal Life
Before you get started on any project, it’s always a good idea to have a picture in your mind of what you’re trying to achieve.
It feels like Pinterest has been helping me envision my ideal life (and style) for almost a decade now! I took a quick glance at a few vision boards I already had, and I was on my way to getting started with the KonMari closet method.
If you’re not already using Pinterest as a mood boarding tool, try it out! It’s great for generating ideas and capturing a certain theme, feeling or style.
3. Determine What Sparks Joy
As the KonMari rules suggest, I first gathered all my clothes throughout the house. Then, I created a heaping pile of them on my dressing room floor. After all the clothes were gathered together, I started sorting through them. I made sure to hold each item in my hands as carefully decided if the item sparked ‘joy’ for me.
For the pieces that instantly did, I put them in a separate pile to soon be folded or hung. For the other items I wasn’t certain of, off they went into a pile I would reassess. I knew I would need to try these pieces on again in order to give my final ‘joy’ assessment. For the clothes that ultimately didn’t spark joy, I said a final ‘thank you’ to each item. Then. I put them into trash bags for donating or set aside for reselling online.
The KonMari method believes we need to show our discarded items gratitude before departing. Only then are we freed to move on with our new, clutter-free lives. Even as an on-the-fence KonMari believer, the research on gratitude is hard to deny.
Studies have found that practicing gratitude (inwardly and outwardly) helps to improve a person’s overall well being. Being thankful has been found to stimulate two important regions of the human brain: the hypothalamus, which regulates stress, and the ventral tegmental area, which produces feelings of pleasure.
4. Tidy By Category
Now that I am only left with all my ‘joy’ items, I determined which would be best for folding. Marie Kondo has an easy ‘basic’ folding method that can be applied to most clothing items:
The rest of the clothes that weren’t appropriate for folding, I hung by weight in my closet. The heaviest to the left and lightest to the right — per the KonMari way.
What I Learned From Marie Kondo
As I completed my tidying mission and stood back looking at my freshly organized closet, I can confidently say . . . maybe the KonMari method has sparked ‘joy’ in my life! I am happier now that my closet feels super organized and that I have only kept the pieces I absolutely love wearing.
But is it truly the KonMari method that has spiked my happiness? Or has her process just capitalized how humans are naturally wired to feel after being more thankful and creating a more open space? Either way, a method that both organizes and promotes happiness is a win/win in my book!