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
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