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Do you dream of getting organized? Do you own a stack of books on organizing? Have you made attempts to declutter, only to be frustrated? Did you jump for joy when Netflix announced the Tidying Up with Marie Kondo series?
Marie Kondo has made a huge contribution to home organizing, and her concepts can be helpful to people trying to declutter.
Everyone needs to be responsible for their own space and things
This principle doesn’t need adapting. It’s just what the doctor ordered for many households and for the women of the house who take on so much responsibility that planning, purchasing, storing, maintaining cleaning and disposal of all things belongs to her — whether or not she works outside the home. This Kondo rule means everyone learns how to do tasks like folding clothes and putting them away. Ideally, everyone in the household will be happier, having new life skills and an uncluttered house.
Keep only items that spark joy
This one often causes eye rolling and jokes, such as what about my husband?
Kondo recommends actually holding or touching each item, be it a pair of jeans or a book, and noticing if you have a zing of positive energy. If you have trouble applying this concept, find a few items that you recognize as joyful. Maybe it’s the rocking horse your father made you when you were a tiny child. The tail might be knotted and your teething marks on the ears, but you’ll never part with this.
Remember: No judgment and no guilt. If the item you are conserving is high on joy, hooray! You have a keeper. If it feels like the opposite of joy, put it in one of these piles: donate, gift, recycle, trash and maybe sell.
Organize by category, not by area
There is much merit to this concept. You can see all that you have in that category at once, and you are making progress toward storing like things in one place where you can find them (as opposed to all over the house).
Take on areas that cause you the most angst. Does it take hours to get ready for work? Take on your dressing area. Are your kitchen counters so cluttered you are forced to clear a space to chop veggies? Take on the food prep area. Think of areas as the place where you do something, whether it’s office work or relaxing. Make the space work for that purpose.
Kondo directs all household members to make a pile of their clothing — all of it. Empty every closet, dresser and storage bin. Kondo wants each of you to be “shocked” at how much clothing you have. Then sort each item of clothing into piles, keepers first, then the other options.
The goal is to have clothes together by type. All your shirts are hung together. All your socks are in the same drawer. Do you really need all 18 pairs of black slacks?
I agree, by the way, with focusing more on the keepers and less on the things you are getting rid of. I like to use the word editing instead of purging. Purging feels like a loss; editing feels like enjoying your favorite things more.
You say you don’t have a day or two (or more) to focus entirely on clothing? Instead, try taking on one storage place at a time, such as the coat closet or the kid’s closet. If you’ve only an hour or so, take a smaller storage area, such as one dresser drawer, and sort it.
Fold clothes in drawers so you can see them
The beauty of this method is that when you open a drawer, you can see everything, and you can remove one item without messing up the others.
Fold items in thirds lengthwise, then fold the bottom end up about one-third, then roll it up. Place in the appropriate drawer standing on end.
Place small boxes inside drawers
Sorry, Marie, but for dividing up the space in drawers, dividers are the way to go. They leave no unused space and don’t slide around. On shelves, clear plastic bins that you can see into work better.
Thank discards for their service
This one also gets eye rolling and jokes, like, Okay, I’m thanking these old, dirty socks with holes in them.
Yet there is logic to it. It can help people with emotional attachment to let go of items. It also helps to teach respect for things.
Kondo, who is Japanese, believes things have life energy, just as plants and animals do. You don’t need to believe this to understand that we all have a responsibility to only purchase things that we really like, need and use. Once we have them in our homes, we should care for them, storing them properly. Once the item is no longer useful or wanted, we should let it go. It does no good to purchase clothing that hangs in the closet, unworn, tags still on, year after year.
Thank your home
To me, the message is to have gratitude, be mindful of what your home does for you and have a vision what your home could be. Work with your home so it supports you in what you want to become and so you are not held back or weighted down by things from your past.
Professional organizer Beth Dumesco has no choice but to live by these principles. She lives aboard her boat, M.Y. Compass Rose, in Tracy’s Landing.