A Minimalist Tidying Up With Mari Kondo

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Despite reading similar or related information from many other sources, reading the life-changing magic of tidying up first hand was a whole new experience. 

The night before this project began, I had cracked open the life-changing magic of tidying up by Mari Kondo. 

After reading the first 55 pages that Friday night — like all the cool kids do — I knew I had to start then and there.

That, and I had gotten an email indicating the book was due back to the library on the Tuesday and I couldn’t renew it…

I decided to embark on the challenge: to apply the KonMari method of tidying to my entire space in a single weekend.

If you’re not familiar with the KonMari method, it is the Japanese style of tidying up. The idea is to tidy everything in your home, in totality, and your mess will never relapse. It’s become more widely read thanks to the popular Netflix show, Tidying Up With Mari Kondo.

Starting off as someone who already considered themselves a minimalist, I wasn’t sure there was much for me to take away from this book that I hadn’t read somewhere else already. Everyone in the community references Kondo and I figured I knew it all by proxy.

I have been down-sizing since 2015 and I was at first apprehensive about whether this idea was a good one. Was this project even worth my time?

Does the KonMari method actually work? Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash
Does the KonMari method actually work? Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash

I was open to learning more about the lifestyle I had adopted, but I didn’t think there was anything left for me to get rid of… I was very much wrong.

Clothes are always first in the KonMari method, and the most fun in the tidying process.

30-day minimalist wardrobe challenges are the most popular minimalist content in mainstream media (other than this book). As fun as those are, they’re ineffective and contrary to the KonMari method.

I spend much of my time taking care of my house, entertaining friends weekly, and host clubs and workshops out of my home. After establishing this vision, I awoke that Saturday morning feeling far more excited than I anticipated.

My first goal was to fit all my off-season wardrobe into a single carry-on bag to free up my closet space to create more breathing room in my closets. I was sick of struggling to find properly-fitting linens and hanging guests’ coats on the armchair because the closet is overflowing with the households’ Canadian winter gear. My hats, scarves, flip-flops, swim trunks… Everything scattering amongst 2 closets, as well as a full-size suitcase and 2 carry-on bags. My partner seemed unconvinced when I first revealed my plan, but they were then bewildered when I met my first goal.

Transform your home in only one weekend using this method!
Learn the top tips I used to transform my home in a single weekend!

My second goal was to fit my entire wardrobe (underwear, socks, hats — everything) onto a rolling clothing rack. I’ve had this goal for more than 3 years.

During my first big clothing-cull in 2016 I got rid of over 6 113L [24 Gal.] garbage bags of clothes. In 2017 I let go of about three more. Each time, this task took me over 2 days and I never accomplished my goal to only have one clothing rack of items to choose from every day.

This year, following the KonMari method outlined in her book, I still filled an entire 113L [24 Gal.] garbage bag — I had clothes I loved that were three sizes too big for me, and a size I never wanted to be again! The amount of baggage that went with those clothes lifted a weight I didn’t know was there, thanks to following this book.

This time around, it only took me 5 hours to fully sort my entire wardrobe and I finally met my first minimalist goal ever!

Saturday night, I went through my books. 

The next day I didn’t get to start working on my KonMari project until about 3pm, which was a huge set back. How could I finish the rest of my project in only 7 hours?!

On top of that, I still had the most difficult categories left to organize: papers, komono, and sentimental items. Kondo defines komono as miscellaneous items Pg 106.

As someone who takes great pride in their home — especially my office-space — I gazed bewildered by my desk overflowing with papers. I watched as they spilled onto the floor in a comical fashion.

Papers spilling off my desk, onto the floor in a comical fashion.

My desk with all of my papers, before sorting (and my dog). I would of been too embarrassed if anyone knew how many more filing systems I thought I needed for all this meaningless “stuff”.

Where I determined to keep my papers.

It took all day Sunday to go through my papers. I ended up with another garbage bag in the hall, 4 vacant storage devices, and a half-dozen empty folders. I now finally have 3 portfolios filled with work I’m proud of rather than a pile of binders and folders of sketches and prints I “have to go through one day”.

My desk with all of my papers, after sorting. 4 full portfolios and an empty filing box sit under my desk (until sorting them away).

Despite my many successes and visual results with this project I’m disappointed I didn’t finish in the time-line I set, even if I felt I had completed it.

I asked ,“Does this spark joy?”, throughout the entirety of cleaning out my late-grandmother’s house in spring 2017. This question helped me only keep valuable essentials I would use throughout my life. It turned a burden into a process of closure and acceptance. The things I ended up keeping out of guilt left shortly after they arrived.

A minimalist in 1 weekend Pinterest card
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After going through all my miscellaneous items in summer 2018, we ended up moving only about a third of our belongings to our new home.

I’m sure Kondo would think going through the same process again with the same items would be redundant — especially timeless, important things after already deciding they “spark joy”. I will consider it for the future, but I’m more than satisfied with the single Rubbermaid tote of photo albums, scrapbooks, and other komono that still bring me joy as I flip through them. I’m curious, do you think this counts? 

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10 Key things I took away from the life-changing magic of tidying up by Mari Kondo:

  1. We should be choosing what we wish to keep, not what we want to be rid of. Pg 41
  2. Vertical storage is key; stacking is a spell for clutter . Kondo mentions this throughout the book (folding shirts, storing papers, etc.)
  3. Do not over-categorize as this complicates things and results in keeping more than you need. Simplicity is key. Pg 84
  4. The moment you first encounter a particular book is the right time to read it. Pg 95
  5. Presents are not things, but convey someone’s feelings at the time the gift was given. If you don’t use or enjoy what they picked out for you, the gift-giver wouldn’t want to burden you with it and it has served its’ purpose (of being received and conveying one’s feelings).
  6. Have a defined location for everything you own. I’m already a master at this, but it’s information you must know!
  7. Pursue ultimate simplicity in storage and do not scatter storage spaces. I was guilty of this one, but it was an easy fix.
  8. Don’t underestimate the “noise” of written information, especially in your native language. It can feel like some is whispering cleaning instructions to you whenever you open a closet.
  9. Letting go is more important that adding healthy habits. Letting go, in itself, is a healthy habit of its’ own.
  10. At last, thank your belongings. They support you in some way, sometimes the entire day. Practicing gratitude for your possessions will help reinforce what is important to you. You might also see what is unessential to you.

Overjoyed Sunday evening, I was rid of the two dozen sketchbooks I had been standing knee-deep in. I was taken aback at my car trunk full of baggage I didn’t know I had.

The most important thing to me was shaking off my minimalist Imposter syndrome. I did what I set out to do in only a single weekend, accomplished many of my personal goals, and am eager to see the ongoing impact of tidying up. I’ve also just finished reading through and practicing Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport, another fantastic book I plan on covering soon.

Finding Minimalism in one weekend
Transform your space into a peaceful place in only 2 days!

If you’re interested in how I manage my artwork archives or even my wardrobe, let me know. I’m always curious about what you’re curious about!

Whether you’re new to minimalism or you think it’s a dumb trend, let me know that as well! I’m always open to interesting dialogue from different backgrounds. You can find me active on Facebook and posting more blog content on my personal Patreon page, I respond to all comments and questions!

Until next time,

-Joey @ The A/J

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joey Dean, painter & Designer
About Joey.

My Creative Journey: Why I’m Here For You

In the beginning…

I was a stable and reliable worker my entire educational career. I went to school full time, volunteered 15 hours per week on campus, and had two separate tutoring gigs going while never missing an appointment.

These days, it can take all my effort to be on time for a single meeting with a client and I’m sure you can relate to this.

My art career started when I was a college drop-out and totally unemployed for almost 7 weeks. I had spent the previous 8 months jumping from job-to-job. Whether it be seasonal work for months or my single day working at a call centre (which is a whole other story), nothing was working.

I couldn’t believe I was an unemployed college drop-out struggling to pay my bills every month.

Why can’t I commit to my work? How do I learn to love what I do? Do these questions sound familiar to you?

I didn’t seem to be the only one with this problem. When I first began looking at self-employment in 2016, my generation had the highest unemployment rate in recent history (at a whopping 53%).

The real cause was what I was working on. I realized there wasn’t a way to change how to think and feel about work fast enough to start paying my bills for the long-term.

Photo by DJ Johnson on Unsplash

The first step I took was to change my work, not my attitude.

Repeating my mistakes was the problem. Mistakes I didn’t know I was making. I wasn’t playing to my strengths. Rather, I was fighting to overcome my weaknesses every day because “that’s just how it is”.

I began to shift the scope of my job searches and limiting the side hustles I was investing my time in.

Confused about what I wanted for so long, I had never had a focus. I never figured out how to apply my strengths to my work. That’s why I kept disappointing myself and decided it needed to stop.

I’m here for you.

Helping empower other creators is my passion. 

I focus on helping people find their passion and the courage to support their passion by providing quality and accessible tools, information, and resources.

I work to dispel common myths of our generation, like laziness and lack of initiative. I want to prove the new generations have more to offer than we get credit for. I’m here to make your life start working for you.

I write for single-person operations and online stores or anyone looking to start selling their goods and services. If you’re of another nature, please let me know in the comments your job title/why you’re here!

Welcome to The Artist Journal,

-Joey @ The A/J

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How I Opened My Online Store and (Accidentally) Started A Brand!

"How I opened my own online store and started a brand" Crafting desk with a cutting board, scissors and rulers.
How I Opened My Own Online Store And Started A Brand

Before writing more great advice about creating content, I wanted to give you a run-down of my background, what I make, and how I got started. I’ve been really excited to share this story, as I feel it’s a great learning experience to share with other creators, whether you’re just starting out, or stuck in a career-rut.

Toadstool Illustrates is the online apparel and print shop I run. I use it to facilitate creative conversation around LGBTQ+ and its’ expression. Toadstool has evolved with me as an artist, being the brand’s third iteration it has become exactly what I set out to do when I first officially opened up shop in October 2016.

But back when I started, that wasn’t my plan or even my intention. I actually had no idea of what I wanted other than “I want to make stuff and make an impact”. In the beginning I mistook that for something else…

How I got started.

The patches all started in 2015.

I was in college for Environmental Technology and found there weren’t any active environmentalists or other activists among my peers. I additionally found that even working for the government I couldn’t make in impact. It was extremely disheartening.

While in college I worked for a summer at a popular craft store, and was doing a lot of sewing and clothing alterations. I had piles of scraps piling up because I just couldn’t bear to throw it all in the trash. 

Weeks go by and I’m still wondering what to do with all of these scraps. They appeared to be nothing but a pile of shredded denim and bleached t-shirt arms. I decided I would cut them into squares, as large as I could, and noticed they were all coming out at similar sizes. I still couldn’t figure out a use for them.

Table covered in scattered bobbins of thread, yarn, and other sewing supplies in a green cutting board.
Photo by Vladimir Proskurovskiy on Unsplash

I am suddenly struck with these questions: can I make an impact by spreading messages? Can messages spread via the things you wear? Of course, that’s what brand logos and tattoos are for, but wouldn’t it be better if you could spread multiple messages at the same time? This and many similar thoughts led me to do some brainstorming.

After doing a little research, I decided hand-made punk patches were the perfect way to start. Even better, this idea allowed me to recycle over 90% of my scrap fabric that was piling up around my workspace! My patches are now all hand-painted on recycled scrap fabric.

I’m inspired by LGBTQ+ issues, and Transgender rights specifically, as well as other humanitarian ideals and sex-positive humour. I try not to take myself too seriously when it come to my patches and pins; they’re meant to be conscientious, but still fun.

"How I Got Started Selling My Art Online" and hands typing on a keyboard
How I Got Started Selling My Art Online And Established A Brand

About my pins.

I started collecting pins and buttons when I was a child. It was the early 2000’s, but my bags and lanyards were totally decked out like it was 1988. 

Fast-forward 15 years and I’m making my own buttons.

After the success of my patches in mid-2016, I was able to invest in new merchandise: buttons! I was so excited to take this next big step into new territory. 

I found the ideas and motivations behind my patches — that were too colourful and complex for fabric painting — easily translated into these tiny buttons. In the beginning I couldn’t afford a press and had to outsource production to other local makers.

After about 2 years I was finally able to buy my own button press!

Since then, I have been having fun helping other artists and creative businesses with custom button pressing and design services.

I include the first 20 buttons in the base fee to do my best to help out; I know starting off can be tough and buttons are great way to dabble into new merchandise.

Text "DO MORE" on an iMac screen on top of a minimalist office desk.
Photo by Carl Heyerdahl on Unsplash

I personally started with handing mine out for free at in-person events, which I feel really helped my online performance. I began working small craft fairs and art shows with them in about April 2017. By October people remembered me and were coming back to buy again!

Artists use them to experiment with turning their art into a physical medium. I’ve been told they’re also great when you want to expand your price range as a seller. 

My latest and biggest project so far would be my Sword & Shield Enamel pin set.

My LGBTQ enamel pin set was in the works for over a year. I still remember thinking — over 2 years ago at my first Hamilton Pride festival — about how I wanted to contribute to my community and how I didn’t think I could.

I definitely didn’t know at the time it would be with my designs. Giving people a unique way of showing their transgender identity was not the initial intention, but with a more neutral-masculine design and colour pallet my pin was a stark contrast to most of the other all-black geometric designs flooding the search results.

My main concern was that I love our flags’ colours, but didn’t feel comfortable being decked out in pastel garb (and got the consensus that other trans-masculine folx out there felt the same way). That’s what inspired me to begin sketching.

These enamel pins were meant to help bridge the gap between the Transgender pride flag colours and the use of original neutral/masculine design.


So, that’s my Etsy shop story.

"How I opened my own online store and started a brand" Crafting desk with a cutting board, scissors and rulers.
How I Opened My Own Online Store And Started A Brand

Don’t leave thinking this entire article a big flex. It’s not, it’s for you to know I speak from years of real experience and about a metric tonne of books. I will be creating a 2020 reading list to help you get in a more creative and productive mindset to start your year off right. Let me know if that’s something you would look forward to, or any book recommendations you may have for me!

Until then, I hope you read through my last article where I talk about How To Use Your Doubts and Fears To Build And Motivate Your Business Part 2. If you missed Part 1 of that series, it’s important you go there first!

Coffee mug reading "hustle" sitting on a desk with an iPad and Apple Pencil.
How to use your doubts and fears to build and motivate your business.

If you want to read some Etsy Shop tips I’ve gained through my experience go read How To Run Your Etsy Shop From Only Your iPhone And Increase Your Sales! Stay tuned for the next Artist Journal by following on Facebook or Instagram.

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Logo for The Artist Journal.

Joey @ The A/J

How To Run Your Etsy Shop From Only Your iPhone And Increase Your Sales!

Hands with a watch and manicure, holding a phone. Text reading “improve your etsy sales from your phone”. The artist journal .ca
How to run an Etsy shop with only a phone.

If you are:

  • Someone who has ever wanted to run a side hustle
  • A creator with too much physical merchandise
  • An artist with an overflowing archive
  • A crocheter or any other talented crafter with more creations than you can give away

My point is, if you make anything, one of my favourite ways for you to make an easy income is Etsy. I want to be transparent that this is not a sponsored post, I’m just a long-time user of their platform.

I use Etsy as my online business platform for the following reasons;

  • I found it the easiest to navigate; vs. Shopify, Ebay, Depop, or even Squarespace.
  • Everything is there if you need it, you just have to look for it. The Etsy Seller Handbook is a good place to start.
  • I didn’t have reliable access to a computer until 2018. For 2 years I used my iPad to run my business, and website designers do not take kindly to them.
  • I find the fees reasonable for the service and customizability, as well as the legal protections your business receives as a seller. My shop was paying for itself within my first financial quarter.

I have been using Etsy as the marketplace to sell my handcrafted goods and artwork since October 2016. In the beginning, I didn’t have many resources at my disposal. At the time I was running the shop and making all of my work from my iPad and a $70 printer…

Someone sitting on a step, using their phone in one hand and a denim jacket in the other. Text reads “the easiest passive income for artists”.
The easiest way for creators to earn from their phone.

My problems at the time were access to poor-quality cameras, rudimentary editing software, and having slower order turn-around times as a result. It would sometimes take me up to 5 business days to ship something out because using these poor quality tools took so long!

After switching to operating from my phone I was able to cut that time down to 1-2 business days, which is a huge advantage in regard to Etsy’s internal SEO.

The increase in quality lead to more sales, which I was able to use to buy a laser-printer for all my business printing needs!

Creating a listing using the Sell on Etsy mobile app is a breeze.

Esty’s app guides you through the first couple of tedious steps and then easily lays out all the other information your listing needs. You should be filling in as much as possible while also using all 13 hashtags. 

You must use the right hashtags. They should be more than one-word searches and not sweeping, broad categories. They should be as relevant and descriptive as possible. 

Try also using synonyms; buttons are to pins as paintings are to artwork. I use tags such as; punk patches, trans pride pins, pronoun enamel pins, etc. These are extremely specific to my niche market and relevant to my products.

I do all of my photography and editing on my phone.

vintage camera hanging from black strap against a white wall
Photo by Yoann Siloine on Unsplash

I use my iPhone 8 Plus to take all my photos. I only mention this because of the high quality camera with stabilization, so I don’t ever have to worry about my shaky artist hands. I’m sure many phones have this now, but I love the portrait function for taking photos of my apparel outdoors.

I edit my photos either using the in-camera editing function, or when I’m not happy with that I also use Photoshop Express. It’s a free Adobe mobile app; all you need is a Creative Cloud account!

After editing, they’re ready for uploading. I write up my item descriptions in either the Apple Pages or Notes app. Pages is great because it can give you a word count; you should be writing at least 250-500 words, this will additionally aid Etsy’s internal SEO.

Sales are clear and easy to manage.

After the listing is all set up, it’s time to address sales. When you make a sale, it will create an order for you in it’s own tab. Using the app I check the order contents and shipping info. This way I can pack my orders, still without touching another device.

Photo by Rohit Tandon on Unsplash

I write my shipping labels by hand. I have pre-printed business cards, return labels, and flyers to stuff in my orders. That way I don’t need to print things more often than once or twice a month. Since I designed these assets in Adobe Draw on my iPad, I can access all of my printing assets through Creative Cloud and print them from my phone! Thought there was a loophole, huh?

I have found the one thing the app is missing is you cannot mark multiple orders as shipped at the same time. You have to mark each listing as completed separately, but if you’re not shipping more than 5 orders per day it’s not a big deal.

I fill out my international customs forms from my phone, send the barcodes to my email, and save them as pictures to a new note on my phone.

All I have to do is present the barcodes at the post office counter and pay with tap using, you guessed it, my iPhone! I guess you could use your wallet for this step, but it’s not as futuristic and cool.

Someone sitting on a step, using their phone in one hand and a denim jacket in the other. Text reads “the easiest passive income for artists”.

And that’s how I increased my Etsy sales by reducing my administrative work and freeing me from my desk. I know adapting this workflow will benefit your small business practice and make you feel like the badass boss you are! 

I would love it if you let me know what your trends look like after fully filling out your listings, or if you have tips to share about your Etsy shop practices. Stay tuned for the next Artist Journal by following on Facebook or Instagram!

Until next time,

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The Artist Journal initials blog logo

Joey @ The A/J

About the author title card: Joey Dean
About Joey.