“Keep only those things that speak to your heart. Then take the plunge and discard all the rest.”
I am constantly editing my closet, getting rid of things that aren’t working and strategizing how to wear what I have. I’m also good at editing clutter in other parts of my house, like the kids’ rooms and our game room. But this winter, I started to feel like our stuff was taking over our space and I decided to do something drastic.
On Rita’s recommendation, I bought Marie Kondo’s book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.” The book was a pleasant read, well written and straightforward, but I was a little skeptical about Kondo’s system — some of her advice was a little bit woo woo for me, like the whole section on how your socks deserve to rest between wearings, and the bit about thanking each thing before you give it away. But the basic premise — that instead of focusing on what to get rid of, we should think about what to keep — made sense. And by the time I got to the injunction to keep only things that give you joy, I was totally persuaded.
(Although when I told Wade about that part he said, “Welp, I guess we’re getting rid of the kids.” Ha! So funny. He also insisted on referring to the entire process as the “Mace Windu” approach to tidying, which is only funny if you have a child who is obsessed with All Things Star Wars. Which we do.)
I started, as Kondo recommends, by cleaning out my closet. Kondo’s instructions are to pile all your clothes on the floor — every single piece from every closet and drawer and box (I cheated a little bit and left things in the closet, because piling them on the floor seemed crazy). Once everything is in a big pile, Kondo instructs you to touch each item and decide if it speaks to your heart.
In case the notion of speaking to your heart is too vague, she frames this idea in practical questions like “Do you want to see this again next season?” which is completely different from the questions I usually ask. I tend to focus on what I can wear an item with, rather than getting to a basic do I really love this sweater/t-shirt/pair of pants? When I used Kondo’s approach, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I own a nice collection of pieces that really speak to my heart, and that I had a fairly large pile of things that were honestly just kind of meh. In the end, it was super easy to get rid of those pieces.
Once I had gone through my closet, I decided it was time to Mace Windu our kitchen. Our cabinets were crammed full of…stuff, most of which we weren’t using, ever. So we took everything — every single item — out of all the cabinets and the drawers and the pantry and piled everything on the counters and the bar and the kitchen table and started sorting out what we loved and what we didn’t. We gave away dishes and cookbooks and the few remaining pieces of our wedding crystal and a set of concrete chargers that we inherited from Wade’s mother and I don’t even know what all else. And at the end, we were able to reorganize what was left in a way that made the kitchen more user-friendly and less cluttered.
It was the best feeling, getting rid of all those things.
I feel like I need to take a second pass at my closet now, and do it the
Mace Windu KonMari way (although I’m not going to pile my clothes on the floor — the bed will have to do). There really is something to be said for having to touch each thing that you own and make a decision about its intrinsic value, without reference to practical considerations or price or anyone else’s opinion. Kondo doesn’t get bogged down with worries like will you use it? or was it expensive? She goes right for the jugular: Do you love it? If so, then keep it. If not, let it go.
Kondo’s process isn’t just about getting rid of clutter; she tells her clients to begin by”visualizing the lifestyle you dream of.” She shares the story of a client who wanted to come home at night to a room that was “as tidy as a hotel suite,” decorated with a pink bedspread and a white antique-style lamp, where she could listen to classical music and practice yoga.
I will admit to engaging in some eye rolling at this point. I didn’t get the connection between some idealized picture of my perfect life and all the junk in our closets. My life is certainly not ideal right now, but I didn’t see how emptying my closets was going to make things any better.
And yet, it did.
It’s easy to forget that our things, at some level, represent who we are, or who we would like to be — if I hold on to all those dishes, for example, I will magically become the kind of person who hosts dinner parties, or if I keep that complicated and impractical dress I will become someone who goes to black tie functions on a whim. The truth is that I am not that person, nor do I want to be, and getting rid of those things was liberating in a way I had not expected. It sounds kind of woo woo to say that giving away the things freed me from the expectations, but that’s precisely what happened.
Mace Windu to the rescue.