This last weekend was a BIG weekend for Ms. B. She’s making some great changes in her life and needed a fresh space to help motivate. So she came to me – fresh space worker. She told me that she felt like she was surrounded by a ton of stuff and felt very unorganized. She lives in an apartment-condo type space with two room mates in a beautiful spot located near Seattle. Unfortunately, roommate living leads to whole-life-in-room situations and that can get cluttered and messy FAST! Bring in the Nikki with her love of organizing and THIS BOOK!
This is The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up my favorite tidying book. I took Ms. B’s situation as a perfect opportunity to implement some KonMari style declutter and organization tips. I cannot get enough of this method and how well it works with my clients and friends who have tried using Marie Kondo’s techniques in their lives. If you have not read the book PLEASE read it before trying to use it especially if you do not have assistance from someone who has experience and understanding of this method. The reason I say this is: this style is pretty complicated for some people to grasp at first, it seems simple but it is actually very hard for people to determine the meaning of “spark joy” so it’s nice to have help from a friend to talk you through it at first and work your way through the madness together!
Here are the basics.
- FIND YOUR INSPIRATION
Even before I knew of Marie Kondo and her gift for tidying, I always asked people before starting, “What do you imagine your life to be like, what is the perfect situation?” Some people say they want it to feel like they have nothing, the bare minimum. Others say chic, like a Tiffany’s store. Some people describe a friend who’s style is fabulous and how they hope to be more like them.
I asked Ms. B to go on pinterest and find a few photos of what she wanted her end result to look like. Also, to think on how that would affect her happiness. When the process of decluttering gets stressful and overwhelming I bring up the inspiration and it definitely helps keep the ball rolling. Here are some pics we looked at.
2. START WITH DE-CLUTTER
I cannot tell you how important it is to declutter first. If all I did was help people with storage solutions I would be a Professional Clutter Organizer and I do NOT want that on my business card. Nuh-uh. And you don’t want that in your house. Organized messes just lead to messes again. You have to get down to what YOU can manage to live with and have a specific place for every item so that when you need to put things away or locate them again they have a specific home. That’s the secret.
Here is what we started with, it actually wasn’t even messy necessarily. The problem with not tidying (declutter and organizing) is you have so much you never remember what you have or where the things you do remember are. We like to find that shirt right away and if it takes longer than a glance we think, “Oh man, it’s so messy.”
Ouch. This is the shock moment. EVERY TIME I go through this process, and get every single article of clothing, bags and shoes in one spot, people stare for a minute and say, “Wow, I have A LOT of clothes.” Every time. And a lot of times they can start to pick out even before we begin, the items that they don’t love anymore. (The Before photos are great motivators half-way through when people feel overwhelmed, show them their progress!)
MOST IMPORTANTLY START WITH CLOTHES, THEN BOOKS, PAPERS, (KOMONO) MISCELLANEOUS AND LASTLY SENTIMENTAL. IN THAT ORDER – KONMARI METHOD
While we still have a really strong attachment to clothes we have the easiest time going through them and knowing what we can say goodbye to. Some items are harder than others but this is definitely the easiest category to dive into. It’s also nice because sometimes you can throw on the item and really get a feel for how it makes you …well …feel. You can then use these “spark joy” moments as examples of how an item should feel when keeping it later. For instance that half used notebook does not “spark joy” like that little black dress.
Hello, shoes. (Don’t mind my foot).
There is no specific number of items you should be left with. Some people have 40 articles of clothing including underwear and essentials, others have over 100 or 200! Some people have 3 pairs of shoes by the end and others have 38 pairs. It doesn’t matter what you start with or end with, different strokes and here is why…
3. DOES IT “SPARK JOY?”
Does the item you are holding in your hands truly “spark joy”? We all have subconscious reactions to our environment, memories or feelings attached to items. The things that we truly love and cherish will make us feel good when we hold them. Keep in mind things that used to make you happy are different from the items which make you happy now. When you have the confidence to know yourself and discern what you choose to keep based on what truly makes you happy, that is life changing. The principle applies to all aspects of our lives, not just what we own.
I will never judge what a client chooses to keep or not. Some people have kept items that make me tilt my head in interest but those things REALLY make people happy and those should most definitely stay!
These are the piles as clothing was underway. Left is the “Maybe” pile, Middle two piles are “Keep” and Right is “Donate“.
I encourage starting a “Maybe” pile at first. However, it will be revisited several times through out the tidy process and by the end there is no maybe pile left. You have to make a decision on these items and if you are still unsure at the end, keep it with confidence and move on. I don’t like the 3 month in a bag rule and get rid of it later. Keeping a bag on that space on the floor or the “backwards hanger rule” takes up wanted space and will either cause you to forget or never to actually address it. Get the process done. In the future if you finally decide you have fallen out of love with an item and you can donate it with confidence. Usually at the end most of the maybe pile is put to donate but sometimes and item clings to it’s owner and they happily place it in the Keep pile.
Here is what we ended with for keep
Shirts in the bottom bin, Sweaters in the middle, folded scarves and additional shirts on the top right and some skirts on the left.
We also had a stack of pants we didn’t have a bin for but it was about 12 pairs of pants and shorts.
And this is what we donated!
Just think! These are the clothes she had in her closet that no longer made her happy. They were choking up the space in her closet that could be used for items that she loved and made it hard for her to locate her favorites more easily.
Now she finds her clothes are more accessible and has told me that she loves the feeling of looking in her closet and choosing from all of these items that “spark joy”.
We also addressed the rest of the categories in her room, we have a ways to go in the rest of the house with miscellaneous category and eventually we will also address the items that are sentimental (these are last because by then you will have honed your spark joy meter and be able to face these things with confidence).
Here are the before and afters of her papers and miscellaneous art supplies.
Ms. B went through her books, journals, art journals and sketches, her papers like bills, hospital info, warranties, manuals and old artwork, etc. We finished with the following:
* Plastic case with important documents, a plastic sleeve with her lifetime documents and current bills to be addressed immediately
* A folder with current design work
* A Magazine bin holding sketchbooks and some lesson books for piano
* Reference books she uses for design
* Two bibles and a couple of design and prayer journals
Besides paper on her desk
* Space for her printer and laptop on the right, she designs all the time and needs those easily accessible and ready.
* The desk lamp base holds art pens decoratively in a mason jar and a smaller jar from the dollar store with her gold binder clips.
* A couple of slate coasters and this desk is ready for action!!
Under the desk are extra art frames and art books in a fabric bin and to the right of the desk tucked neat are her portfolio cases where she can add more art as she creates it at her desk.
AT THE END OF THE DAY
GOODBYE PLASTIC HANGERS (When this process happens with me I WILL BUY you new hangers just to donate the plastic. The big thing in closet design for me is matching wood hangers they are pleasing to the eye. Plastic gives a sense of wobbliness and cheapness to the closet that your clothes don’t deserve! Look at that beautiful new closet with pride in all of it’s non plastic hanger glory!)
We donated a trunk full of things that no longer sparked joy including 3 containers of clothes, a bag of shoes, several old purses and other random items that she no longer used. We had a large paper bag of shred and two paper bags of recycle besides. We also had two bags of trash, wrappers, containers for items she chose to keep that no longer needed their case, extra boxes, broken items, etc. It was a good day!!
We still have to get to organizing and designing the space, I never leave a job unfinished but the process of going through her room took about 10 hours including a couple of breaks for snacks and sanity. So this is a two part order for her room. Stay tuned for the final show of how the space is transformed!!
A few questions I am asked during this process —
THE BIGGEST THING I GET : “What if I need it later?”
Here’s the thing about keeping stuff “just in case”. Think of it like scotch tape at Christmas, you never know where that tape went you only use it once a year, 5 years later you have a TON of half used tape dispensers. The reason this happens is because these items are not consistently serving a purpose, they don’t spark joy and they are never put in a designated area where you can always come back to use them. These things are tiny bucks for expensive real estate that should be used for things you love instead.
NEVER KEEP ITEMS OUT OF GUILT OR FEAR
People like to keep things that a family member or friend passed on that they don’t really like, especially heirlooms. OR items that they used ALL the time but no longer have the need for and again the “What if I need this later?”
Negative emotions in your home are a big no-no. If your friend or family member gave you a gift, they gave it to you with the intention of making you happy, not guilty. They want you to be happy, it’s OK to say I don’t want this item anymore and donate or even give it back if you think they would want it. And the “What if I need it later?” This is a fear based sentiment. Something that you are afraid of parting with for fear of the future is the reason we are doing this. This process helps people come to realize you don’t need the negative attachments in your life, surrounding yourself with items that spark joy INSPIRES you to seek out happiness in all aspects of your life and to let go of the fear of the unknown and just make things happen. Thank the items that served a purpose once for doing their job and donate them guilt and fear free because the worst thing that could happen is you hop over to the dollar store and get another box of crayons.
I DON’T LOVE IT, BUT I NEED IT!
I hear a lot of : “I don’t love my toilet brush and I would love to get rid of my vacuum because it doesn’t spark joy” there is a special clause for these items. They serve a purpose, some everyday, some once a week, but without them there are tasks in your life that couldn’t be fulfilled. They help you get the job done, and in that way it’s good to appreciate their purpose. They bring joy by making your life a little easier. “Thank you, toilet brush for making my toilet clean and guests not afraid to use it.”