Day 39: KonMari-ing my Clothes

posted June 7, 2018

I want to say “Part One of a Five Part Series” so that I am forced to go through the whole entire process. For those who don’t know what I am talking about, Marie Kondo is a Japanese Organization consultant/writer/expert who has a very specific method for tidying up “once and for all.” She claims her customers have a relapse rate of zero (!!) and that if you go through with her method you will never deal with clutter again.


But it comes at a cost. You have to go through your belongings NOT room by room and NOT according to what you already know you won’t/don’t need anymore. Instead, you work methodically through a list of categories, which are:

  1. Clothes
  2. Books
  3. Papers
  4. Everying else except
  5. Sentimental items

I can already see why this order is genius. Clothes are easy (for some–not for me, which is why I’ve known about this method since 2011 and still haven’t done it.) Books are a challenge, but nothing compared to papers. The idea is that by the time you get through the first three categories, you’re on such a tear that by the fourth, knowing what to keep and what to toss seems like second nature, and you whoosh through your kitchen drawers with their five carrot peelers at lightning speed.

Then you hit the motherlode–the photos. The moldering dress that your grandmother wore to her high school prom. Your father’s army medals. Or, if you’re me, all the letters and birthday cards from every single friend who’s ever written me.

As I wrote last week, I have a strong motivation to do this now. I have become convinced that I will never successfully find the best version of my novel The Big Idea until I become comfortable with letting things go. In writing, Faulkner said we have to murder our darlings. How can I get rid a of a beautiful metaphor or chapter if I can’t let go of the ratty tee shirt Katryna gave me?

So how do you do this? You lug everything, every single thing that falls into this category, into one room. You make a giant pile.

You are amazed and horrified by the quantity you have accumulated over the years. You hold each and every piece of clothing (or carrot peeler) to your chest and you ask yourself, “Does this spark joy?” If not, even if it’s a useful item, you let it go. What happens when you need what you have donated to GoodWill? Creativity. Letting go of anything is always a leap of faith. Perhaps the item you cling to isn’t really needed–think outside the box. Maybe you can hammer that nail with the heel of your joy-sparking boot and toss the joyless hammer. Maybe you have been wearing that apricot sweater every spring out of a kind of duty. Maybe you hang onto too many “paint shirts”––only you never paint anymore. Maybe those sweatpants you hate could be replaced by layering two pairs of leggings you love. Maybe you can sell that expensive but unnecessary coat to the second hand store on commission, or give it to a refugee who arrived from a warmer climate. Who knows where letting go can take you?

By taking each item of clothing, one by one, and really considering it as a stand-alone, one hones the skill of knowing oneself. By asking not the mind but the body, “Does this make me happy or sad?” one gets the truth.

It’s evening, and I have almost finished my task. By the time this is posted, I will have a garbage bag of hangers, a giant box of give-aways plus four overflowing bags, and a smaller box of undecideds. The undecided box is probably cheating, but my idea is to mark the box with today’s date and take it to the attic and not open it for 2 years. If, after that period I never fantasize about or even remember any of its contents, I will give it away, sight unseen. Here is what I have learned:

-most of my clothes are cheap and ancient and not valuable
-most of my clothes I don’t really wear or care about
-I can fit all my clothes for both seasons in my bedroom closet and one chest of drawers.
-articles of clothing that have sentimental value (eg the jeans I bought in Paris, the Hamilton tee shirt that cost way too much, a tee shirt I got in high school) can live on in memory. I do not actually bring myself to those places by wearing them now.
-I won’t die if I have to touch my wool sweaters in summertime, so it’s perfectly OK for them to take up space in my drawers now

I have done the books already, last winter, except for the books in the attic, which are a mishmash of Tom’s psychology text books, my embarrassing self-help stuff, and an entire shelf of astrology text books. I will tackle these next, and then on to papers. Wish me luck!

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