To truly cherish the things that are important to you, you must first discard those that have outlived their purpose – Marie Kondo
You don’t need to hold onto something just because someone gave it to you.
For many people it’s hard to let go of stuff, period. But gifts are a special category. Oftentimes I can tell that someone doesn’t really like the thing. But they say with resignation, “Oh, I can’t get rid of that, Aunt Martha gave it to me.” Well, I’m here to tell you: You CAN let it go!
Marie Kondo, whose methods started a tidying revolution, says in her book that once a gift is given, its job is done. The gift is meant to give the giver the pleasure of giving. So once Aunt Martha has given you that pine-scented potpourri candle, she’s gotten her joy. You’re not doing yourself or her any favors by burying it in a box and letting it decompose. In fact, the candle likely has a better life out there somewhere, once you release it by donating or giving it away.
Point being, if you are only holding onto something out of a sense of duty or guilt, you’re better off losing the negative vibe by letting it go. And it’s likely better off too when it finds its highest and best use.
While we’re on the subject of gifts – I believe consumables are the best gifts because they’re the least imposing. Chocolate, wine, coffee — even movie tickets, lottery tickets, or plane tickets. These don’t hang around making anyone feel obligated, guilty or annoyed for not liking the thing.
This book has been around for a while but the wisdom and practice that Marie Kondo shares has been foundational for me with home organizing. Here are a few of my favorite takeaways from the book.
A dramatic reorg of the home causes dramatic changes in lifestyle and perspective. According to Kondo, tidying up is a one-time affair. You don’t want to be organizing and decluttering for the rest of your life. You do it big, everything within a fairly short amount of time (say, a few months or half a year). Make it transformational and you’ll be living a new life with fresh clarity and purpose. After that, you maintain.
The true goal should be to establish the lifestyle you want most once your house is in order. Visualize what you hope to gain through tidying. What’s your ideal lifestyle? One of her clients said, “A more feminine lifestyle,” which included more baths, essential oils, classical piano, yoga and tea. Identify WHY you want to live like that. Keep asking why until you get to the root (to be happy?). It’s easier to get rid of things when there is an obvious reason to do so.
Tidying starts with discarding. Sort by category, not by room! In this order: clothes, books/papers, komono (miscellany), mementos. Review all of your clothes, not just the stuff in your closet. Bring everything to the same place so you can really see what you have and identify redundancies. Next, books, and so on.
All you need to do is look at each item, one at a time, and decide whether or not to keep it and where to put it. It’s simple, but it’s not necessarily easy.
You are choosing what you want to KEEP, not focused solely on throwing things away.
Everything must have a place. Existence of an item without a home increases the chance for clutter.
Don’t get rid of other people’s things without their permission. You’ll lose their trust when you get caught (speaking from experience — you will likely get caught!). The best way to deal with an untidy family member is to start with yourself.
People often hold onto unnecessary items because they’re afraid to let go of the past, or else have a fear of the future.
It’s easier to find things when you’re purposeful about what you own. You’ll know what you have and won’t have to dig through clutter to find it.
Things that are cherished shine. The things you keep should “spark joy” and make you feel happy.
People might say Marie Kondo’s way is drastic, but that’s the point. If you have courage for such an undertaking, good things will happen in the process. Letting go of what’s not needed and keeping only what makes you happy can truly buy freedom, new perspective, and make space for what you really want to do.
I convinced my husband to “Kondo” our clothes. He was reluctant, even dismissive at first, but he saw that I was doing it too, which was at least fair. And our office drawers reorg had gone fairly well. We got everything out from our regular closet plus the spare closets downstairs and laid it all out on the bedroom floor. Piece by piece, we decided if it deserved a place in our home. We both found clothes that we hadn’t seen in a long time, that we had missed, and have moved back into regular rotation. He kept some nice suits from his lobbying days, but we still managed to let go of about 10 bags of stuff!
Now our main closet holds nearly all of our clothes, and we have so much more room in the closets downstairs. It’s much nicer for guests when they come to have a place to hang their belongings. It has also allowed some reallocation from the under stairs closet, which was jam packed. More breathing space, less dust, easier to find things. Win-win-win.
We have a cute Ikea office hack for a dual workspace desk, consisting of three Ikea 5-drawer units with a long walnut kitchen counter set atop them. It’s a stylish and affordable solution for my husband and I to each have our own desk space in the upstairs office.
Each drawer unit has five drawers, which seemed like a heavenly amount of storage… but we quickly ran into trouble. Without any guidelines, things got placed in the drawers willy nilly. Every drawer became a repository for anything, and with 15 drawers no one ever knew where anything was. We’d have to bang open and shut about 10 drawers, if we were lucky, before finding what we were looking for.
What were we missing? Labels. I wouldn’t’ normally love the idea of labels all over my furniture, but the Ikea drawer units are designed so that you can pop a label on the top edge of the drawer and it doesn’t stand out like a sore thumb.
Each drawer is a designated home for its item — calculators, tape, hole punches, cords, manuals, etc. It looks so sleek and organized, and I couldn’t be happier with how it’s turned out. Now that we have the labels, that is.