The Big 2020 KonMari House-Reset Event!

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The Big 2020 KonMari House-Reset Event!
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Considering it’s been roughly six years since�The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying
Up
 was released, and nearly two years since Tidying Up with Marie
Kondo
hit Netflix screens around the world, I’m guessing
you’ve been exposed to Marie
Kondo
in some context already. I remember becoming privy to her
around the time the book came out, when it felt like her signature
KonMari method took the internet by storm and it’s what all the
bloggers were talking about for like 6 months. I vaguely remember
approaching this period with the same contrarian attitude with
which I regard most new things. Thanks; I hate it.

And now, true to form, I’m very late to the party but will
bravely pretend I’m right on time and everyone else was just
early. That’s the kind of on-trend taste-making work you can
expect from this blog. Here we go.

One of the laziest but most accurate ways I can describe the
last 7+ years of owning this house is busy. I feel like I’ve just
been bouncing from project to project with very little time in
between for a long time, and control over my own home has gotten
away from me a bit. I love things, but the volume and lack of
organization had started to feel like a burden. A chaotic living
space is always draining, but worse with a house under renovation
because filling it with too much crap becomes an actual obstacle to
getting things done. A little while ago, it hit me that while this
house is pretty long on space, it’s actually really short on
functioning storage—kitchen cabinetry remains lacking, the only
closet on the first floor is completely gutted, the linen closet on
the second floor is far from optimized organizationally, and my
furniture generally offers very little in terms of space to stow
things away. Some efforts have been made
in the basement
and
the garage
, but are far from ideal. So maybe my real problem is
storage, not excess?

The trouble is, I couldn’t even really tell because I didn’t
have a great handle on what I owned, which makes planning any
storage-related projects feel difficult. Do I really need tons of
cabinetry in the laundry room, like I think I do? How should I fit
out the interior of the dining room closet if I don’t know
whether it needs to hold a vacuum cleaner or shelves of serving
ware? So it struck me that to proceed in any kind of orderly,
informed fashion, I needed to first really take stock of what I had
and open my mind to the possibility that, in fact, there are just
simply too many items in this home. Then I could worry about how to
store it. So after wrapping up
the Bluestone Cottage kitchen renovation
, I decided to put a
brief moratorium on new projects until I got my own house under
control. So I’ve been busy, but in a different way than
normal!

ENTER, STAGE LEFT: MARIE
KONDO
.

Let’s talk about Marie Kondo for a minute because there are
some things I feel inclined to say. First thing’s first: if you
haven’t actually read The
Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up
, you might think you know
what it’s about but it’s highly unlikely you actually do.
Because here’s what I think has happened: Kondo releases this
book at the ripe age of 27. She is a woman. She is extremely tiny.
She is Japanese. She has some cultural customs that factor into her
KonMari method that feel foreign and odd—laughable, even. The
book then gains traction particularly among American bloggers who
make it all about throwing away all their stuff, possibly including
their high school yearbooks. This sounds crazy! Extreme! So we
either dig further or tune out. And then Netflix releases a
show
wherein she brings her method into a series of American
households, and we watch as they, too, throw away all their stuff,
vanquish the clutter, and reclaim their wall-to-wall carpeting from
under the mounds of junk.

The lesson here is essentially that packrats need to get rid of
things in order to have fewer things, and doing so will make them
feel better. It’s easy to swallow but hardly groundbreaking. We
like the show because it provides a semi-satisfying
before-and-after, and some of the people they cast to be on it are
charming or relatable in some way. Through this lens, Marie Kondo
becomes a kind of poster child for minimalism, which is puzzling
because that’s not what her seminal work is about.

As a result of so many people being exposed to her work through
this watered-down television version, through this watered-down
blog version (definitely not what I’m in the process of doing
right now), through good old word-of-mouth, or some combination, my
impression is that Marie Kondo has, to many people, become kind of
a punchline. Like she’s just that cute little kooky Japanese lady
who wants you to throw away all your things and live in a white
box. I’ve been sharing bits and pieces of my “tidying
journey†over on
Instagram stories
, and I can’t tell you how many people have
sent me messages prefaced with some variation of “Marie Kondo is
not for me because I’m not a minimalist†(she never says you
have to be) or “I got through one room and gave up; the whole joy
thing just doesn’t work for me†(you’re doing it wrong,
it’s not a room-by-room approach) or “Kondo has clearly never
known clutter herself, so she has no business telling me how to
handle my own†(she has, and writes about it at length).

I truly believe that if Marie Kondo were older, taller, whiter,
a native English-speaker, and possibly male, this outright
dismissal wouldn’t be happening. It seems to me that Real Simple has been publishing
the same four ineffective cleaning/organizing/tidying tricks for
like twenty years, and yet for some mysterious reason we accept,
without question, that getting rid of a shirt every time you buy a
new shirt is an effective or sustainable path to a clean house. And
yet, when a person who has literally dedicated her entire
neurotic life to figuring this out for us so we don’t have
to
, makes a business out of it, and writes a best-selling book
describing it in detail so you can do it too—for free, no less,
even though people pay for her services—all we want to focus on
are those motherfucking yearbooks which, BY THE WAY, you are 1,000%
free to keep according to Marie Kondo. You are 1,000% allowed to
keep whatever the hell you want, as much as you want, according to
Marie Kondo. The point is that she is literally a self-made expert
in this very niche field that is populated by many voices but a
scant few experts. Her advice is qualified. We should listen to
her. Why in the world wouldn’t we?

I rest.

SO. WITH THAT. Because I hope that it’s legitimately helpful,
I’d like to get into what I took from the book, and how I
approached my KonMari whirlwind cleaning extravaganza! To me, it
rings true that the overall method really applies to anybody (and
could even apply to things other than physical clutter), but the
actual specifics and ways of thinking about it may differ between
people. So this is what helped me! I still highly recommend
just reading/listening to the
book
—I sat in bed and read it cover to cover in a few hours,
and I’m neither a regular nor fast reader. The text itself tends
to be fairly repetitive, but I’m guessing that’s on purpose to
take advantage of liminal thinking or something.

+ THE BASICS +

A few important things to understand, so listen carefully.

1. The Life-Changing Magic of
Tidying Up
is really like 90% about discarding, not organizing.
The idea here is that you need to know what you need to store
before you can think about how to store it, and the only way you
know what you need to store is to take inventory of what you have.
Often people find that the organization part mostly works itself
out once the tidying part is completed. You want to move through
the discarding as quickly as possible (which I took to mean a week
or two, but she mentions 6 months in the book—ha!), so getting
caught up in how you want to organize and store things mid-purge is
a roadblock to speedy progress.

2. Fundamental to the KonMari method is the idea of tidying by
CATEGORY and not by location. We often store the same type of thing
in various areas of the house, so a room-by-room approach simply
does not make sense. This is counter to the way most of us learned
or figured out how to approach a big clean-out (or whatever you
want to call it, pick whatever is least triggering!), but that
doesn’t mean you know better. You do not. Check yourself before
you wreck yourself, and listen to Marie.

3. The categories are specific, and come in a particular order.
FOLLOW THE DAMN ORDER. It goes: Clothes, Books, Paperwork, Komono
(Japanese for “small thingsâ€â€”i.e. a catch-all category
we’ll get back to), and lastly Keepsakes. The idea is to start
with what’s easiest to part with and will create the most volume
of discarded objects upfront, thereby creating the momentum and
sustained motivation that comes with experiencing quick results.
It’s called positive reinforcement. You know, the way human
brains are hardwired to find the drive to do anything at all.

It’s almost like this lady knows what the hell she’s talking
about.

+ THE BIG TAKEAWAYS +

I’m going to guess you’ve heard this idea that every item
must be held in your hand, individually, and that it must “spark
joy†in order to be kept. You may have also heard some stuff
about thanking your belongings as you put them into a trash bag. I
see you rolling your eyes over there—hear me out! I think the
particular language doesn’t resonate with everyone (how the hell
do I know if something “sparks joy�?? I’m dead inside!), but
the general concept is good. I found that reframing it slightly and
keeping a few things in mind throughout REALLY helped me. The fact
is that I really do like almost everything I own (I wouldn’t have
procured it if I didn’t!), so nearly all of my decision-making
came down to “like†vs. “LOVE,†and that line can feel
unclear. I think some people are more capable of this gut-level,
joy-based decision-making (or just don’t actually have much
attachment to a lot of their stuff), but I like a little rational
thinking thrown in there because I, too, am dead inside.

Anyway. I had the following list in the notes app on my phone,
and would review it before I began the day’s purge to psych
myself up and get myself in the right headspace.

  1. Before you start, really try to nail down with yourself WHY you
    want to do this, and visualize what life looks like on the
    other side
    . Hang onto that vision! If you’re questioning
    whether to keep or toss an item, check whether it’s part of that
    vision or not. Generally if you’re questioning, you already have
    your answer. It’s not.
  2. DO NOT GET DERAILED THINKING ABOUT STORAGE.
    How much space you have or don’t have is not relevant at this
    stage.
  3. Try to think of it as choosing what to keep rather than
    what to get rid of.
    If it helps, imagine choosing things
    at a store—just because you have it and like it doesn’t mean
    you’d necessarily choose to buy it again, especially compared to
    all these other fabulous items surrounding it. It doesn’t mean
    you hate it just because you’d leave it on the shelf. Make it
    more about selecting the things you absolutely love and would slap
    your best friend over if they saw it first at the thrift
    store.
  4. Has the item fulfilled its role in your life?
    The role could have started and ended the day you bought it and
    you’re really just holding onto that memory, or some time later.
    But is it something you want to bring into the future with you,
    too? Is it something that future-you derives pleasure, happiness,
    or value from? Because…
  5. Ultimately, where we live should be for the person we
    are becoming here and now, not for the person we were in the
    past.
    If I were writing this blog post for myself, I’d
    tell myself to go back and read that three times.
  6. “Someday†never comes when you’re waiting to put
    something in order.
    It just doesn’t. Do it now. Shit or
    get off the pot.
  7. Really important things are not that great in
    number.
    Really.
  8. Your surplus does not mean that you are taking good
    care of things
    (often, your surplus means that you
    are not taking good care of things…ask me how I know). Aim to
    revitalize your relationship with your things by pairing down to
    what you can actually handle.

Onwards.

+ THE SORTING PROCESS +

DO NOT SKIP THE PART ABOUT GATHERING EVERYTHING IN ONE SPOT. It
is absolutely essential. This means that as each category comes up,
you will likely have to run around the house and gather all the
things that belong to that category. Use the floor, the bed, the
dining room table—anywhere big enough to accommodate a big pile.
This has two very important and effective purposes. The first is
that seeing it ALL TOGETHER really drives home the volume of stuff.
You really can’t do that otherwise. The second is that it forces
you to actually pick up and consider each item and put it
somewhere. You may find that the most minuscule task of taking a
shirt and putting it back on a hanger barely feels worth the
effort, whereas just leaving it on that hanger—if you haven’t
pulled everything out of the closet—requires no action at all.
This comes into particular play with books, I think: I found that I
could scan a shelf and easily pull out 5 things I could lose, but
actually taking everything down and holding each book individually
brought that number way up. We’re good at just not seeing the
things that have been stagnant in our spaces for a long time.

A few helpful rules:

  1. If you neglect to gather something before you start sorting
    that category, it’s a pretty automatic toss. If you didn’t even
    remember its existence to include it in the category, it’s highly
    unlikely that it’s important enough to keep.
  2. Try to start early in the day. Clear head and such. Try, also,
    to be sober.
  3. Do not watch TV or listen to fun music or podcasts while you
    sort. This was hard for me because I find silence crushing and
    basically unbearable, but this is something that requires focus and
    some emotional investment to really commune with your shit and
    consider your life and all that. I basically listened to elevator
    music throughout this event because silence was too harsh. Lullatone
    is a great band to accompany a KonMari purge.
  4. Once it hits the donation/sale/recycling/trash bag, it’s
    gone.

Let’s get into the categories! I think this is where people
get tripped up and stuck during this process, and somehow I am
arrogant enough to believe I have something to offer here.

+ CLOTHING +

I’d recommend including shoes, belts, ties, scarves, and other
clothing-adjacent things in this section. If it makes sense to you,
add in watches, jewelry, glasses, and other such accessories. Some
things (like clothes that no longer fit but are around for
sentimental reasons) are OK to set aside for the Keepsake category.
A helpful KonMarie tip:

  1. You will never use spare buttons.

+ BOOKS +

You know what a book is. I know what a book is. BUT I found that
some books really felt more like keepsakes: yearbooks, books from
childhood, even some books from high school and college. I think
that’s OK—just set them aside and deal with them during the
keepsakes category. This is actually helpful, I think, because
doing so increases the volume of the Keepsake category and helps
put those other keepsakes into context—it’s easier to let go of
a text you read in college when it’s next to the pile of letters
from friends and loved ones you received during the same period.
Some helpful KonMari tips:

  1. Books are just paper with information printed in them, and
    their presence alone really doesn’t mean anything unless you’re
    reading them.
  2. If it’s unread (especially for a long time), you’re not
    likely to ever read it. Its purpose may have been to teach you that
    you didn’t need it, or started and ended when you bought it and
    felt good about supporting the local bookstore or the author or the
    publishing industry generally, or something other than actually
    reading the thing you’re not going to read. Let it go.
  3. Will you really ever “re-study†it? A book might have been
    completely fascinating but you already read it and got the value of
    the information, and most of us don’t need to do that more than
    once with any given text. And, let’s face it, even if you do want
    to dig up a piece of information, you’re more likely to google it
    than go searching through a book.

+ PAPERWORK +

Also a category where certain things make more sense to set
aside as keepsakes (for me, all my materials from school).
Otherwise, you’ll likely want to get rid of whatever you can,
because recycling a buttload of paper is super fun and freeing.
Keep what you absolutely need but remember that a lot of your paper
probably includes things you can find again online should the
situation ever arise (bills and bank statements, especially).
Manuals are another good example—you can find them all as PDFs
online, so just toss. If you must keep, at least reduce..

Source: FS – All – Real Estate News 1
The Big 2020 KonMari House-Reset Event!