In yesterday’s post about the KonMari Method, as told by Marie Kondo in The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, I talked about embarking on a decluttering program that finally got my chaotic house in order once and for all. In case you missed it, here’s a recap:
- Focus on what to keep, not what to get rid of
- Keep only things that bring you joy (unless it’s something like a toaster, because untoasted bread is pretty joyless too)
- Work category by category, not room by room
- Don’t get hung up on saving things for future use because chances are you’ll never actually use it in the future
- Discard first then organize
- Tackle sentimental items last
Because the post was super long, I didn’t spend much time talking about how truly and unbelievably changed my life has become since doing this program. That’s what this post is for, as well as to give you some insight into organizing your newly decluttered home and learning to embrace housework.
So, onto organizing. The way I tackled it was to organize directly after I finished decluttering a certain category. Since you’re supposed to bring all the items from a category to one specific location and go through each one, I figured it was easiest to then organize while it was all there. I also didn’t want it to just sit in piles all over my house while I finished the rest of the decluttering since I knew it could take weeks.
One of the things Kondo cautions against is running out and buying fancy storage systems for your remaining items. She stresses that these are not only unnecessary, but they cost extra money and, a lot of times, end up complicating organization more. As I discarded, I found that I had tons of little boxes, bins and baskets that were suddenly empty and could be repurposed elsewhere in my house. I did buy a few new baskets and other organization tools, but for the most part, everything I needed was already in our house.
My clothes were easy to organize because I’m fortunate enough to have a walk-in closet as well as a chest of drawers just for my clothing. That means my stuff is segregated from Adam’s and I can keep mine neat and tidy even if he doesn’t do the same. I followed Kondo’s advice to keep all clothing out instead of packing away whatever is not in season and found I had plenty of space because I’d gotten rid of so much.
Fringe Benefit: Now that we have less clothing overall and there is plenty of space in our drawers and closets, laundry is such a breeze. I fold one load immediately after waking up in the morning then put it all away as soon as the boys are awake. Once they take off their pajamas from the night before, I add those to the washing machine with anything we wore after the previous morning’s load was folded and start it before going downstairs for the day. I switch that over to the dryer right after it’s done, then add clothes right to the washer that are taken off throughout the day/night. Adam does his laundry separately (always has) so I make sure the washer is free for him to use overnight. I used to have ungodly amounts of laundry piled up and never put the clothes away once they were folded so this is one of the most drastic changes I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing post-KonMari.
I stored my earrings in a cheap but cute divided organizer from TJMaxx I’ve always had on my dresser and plan to hang necklaces on a new set of wall-mounted decorative hooks once I find the perfect one. (We’re in the process of trying to spruce up our very boring bedroom right now.) Belts and small purses hang on a set of hooks inside my closet and shoes are on a designated rack below my clothes. Underwear, socks, tights/leggings and bras are all in separate drawers in my dresser. Bathing suits are in a little basket on the shelf in my closet.
I wish I had taken a before picture, but the closet in our upstairs hallway was completely non-functional before I discarded 98% of the items stored there. It was a repository for anything and everything that needed to be out of sight but didn’t have a place to go and it was a huge waste of space. Since I have a lot of trouble with rounding up all the million various items needed to travel with a family of four, I decided to dedicate that entire closet to anything we’d need to bring on a trip. I hung front packs, large duffels and cooler bags from coat hangers, stored both kids’ Play and Plays as well as the travel highchair, added sleeping bags and the air mattress to the top shelf and found a home for our luggage. There’s very little in there now but it’s a functional and practical use of the space. I also used it to store the vacuum we use upstairs (we have central vac downstairs for the hardwood/tile so the hose is stored separately.)
Fringe Benefit: I now know where every single thing we need to travel is in our house. I’ve yet to pack for a major trip since finishing KonMari, but I’d be willing to bet that it will be infinitely easier the next time.
We use a hanging shoe organizer in our bathroom to house all our various toiletries and medicines, which has always worked well for us. With the exception of a few little items like toothpaste and a bin full of sunscreen/bugspray that we wanted locked up under the sink away from the kids, our vanity drawers are almost completely empty now.
I have a separate vanity area with a sink and its own drawers, so that’s where I keep all my makeup (I’m a huge makeup lover and even though there’s a ton here, I got rid of probably ¾ of my collection.) I was given a Birchbox subscription for my birthday last summer and I had a bunch of those decorative little boxes taking up space under the sink with no purpose earmarked for them. I ended up using the boxes and even the lids to store my makeup plus some items in the office. Even if it looks disorganized, I grouped them by category so I know exactly where all the eye makeup, hair products, makeup brushes, etc. go when I put them back after using them. The white plastic media storage containers were 97 cents for a pack of 3 at Walmart. All that’s below my vanity sink now is my hairdryer and straightener.
We added a shoe organizer to the door in the boys’ bathroom as well. The one in our bathroom was getting ridiculously full since we had all four family members’ items in one place. Dividing up our bathroom stuff and theirs has proven to be much more practical.
Fringe Benefit: Our countertops and shower were always filthy in each of our three bathrooms. Now that we don’t have a million things stored on the countertops, it takes two seconds to wipe them down. Everything in the shower fits into one organizer that hangs on the showerhead, so I don’t have to move anything in order to clean the shower either. I literally cleaned the shower once every 6 weeks maybe. Now I do it weekly.
The pantry is my crowning KonMari achievement. This space used to be a freakin disaster. I never knew what groceries we had because everything was hastily stuffed in there and stacked in front of or on top of each other. I often bought duplicate items because I didn’t know we already had them at home. I got these little baskets at Target for around $7 apiece and divided them into categories:
- Oils and dressings
- Large baking items (flour, sugar, etc.)
- Small baking items (vanilla extract, sprinkles cupcake liners, etc.)
- Rice, pasta and other starches
- Canned goods
- Sam’s baby food
I also used our old fruit bowl to store onions and potatoes and bought a clear container at Walmart for our spices so I can take the whole thing out and look for what I need. Meal planning is infinitely easier now because I can make a meal centered around the items left in there at the end of the previous week or easily consult the correct basket to see if I have rice or diced tomatoes for a particular recipe I want to make the upcoming week.
The rest of the kitchen was very easy to organize. A couple utensil holders, more of those small media bins and a few Birchbox lids went a long way. I added a basket from another part of the house for hand towels and face cloths for the kids and made sure all of the items in the drawers/cabinets were very easily accessible. As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, emptying the dishwasher now takes literally five minutes. Everything has a place to go and I’m not shoving things into spaces where they don’t belong.
Fringe Benefit: Oddly enough, my sink is almost always empty now. I’m sure it’s a psychological thing, but the fact that everything has a place to go makes it so that I don’t mind handwashing a dish or cup after it’s used and immediately putting it away. I used to run the dishwasher daily and now it sits for most of the week only half-full. Since the sink being empty or full was usually my gauge of whether our house was on the verge of disaster or not, I feel so at ease seeing an empty sink all the time now.
We’ve used the shoe organizer for many years for cleaning products (thank you, Pinterest!) and have had great luck with that. We kept that solution and just decluttered the rest of the closet so it’s used solely for cleaning and paper products. We plan to get some kind of hanging organizer from Home Depot on which we can hang all the various mops and brooms to get those off the floor too.
Fringe Benefit: I used to HATE vacuuming the floor in our house because the central vac hose is really long and used to knock over a million other things in the closet every time I took it out. Now that we’ve moved all the coats into the upstairs hall closet and taken folding chairs, the extra dining room table leaf and a bunch of other unrelated things and moved them to separate areas of the house, there’s nothing in the way when I need to take out the vacuum. I have no problem vacuuming or even just sweeping daily now. In addition, I am mopping the floors MUCH more often (my personal Everest) because the sink is free of dishes and I can use it to wash off the mop while I’m cleaning. All of these little things seem so simple, but it’s totally changed my this-is-too-hard-so-I’m-not-going-to-bother approach to cleaning.
As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, we have a small home office next to our living room. It used to be just a dumping ground for random things from the rest of the house, but now is a very functional space I use for writing and office work related to blogging. It has a desk, small chest of drawers and a bookshelf plus a file box and the box where I keep my sentimental items like photos and cards. All office items are stored in the chest of drawers now, with the exception of the scissors, which I keep in a Mason jar on my desk so they’re out of Chase’s reach.
I found an old receipt organizer in my decluttering which I’ve been using to keep receipts that are needed immediately. It’s divided by month so I’ll go through at the end of each month and clean out whatever is no longer necessary to hold onto. As per Kondo’s suggestion, we also have exactly one file folder for items that must be taken care of immediately (right now it contains an invitation I need for which I need to RSVP, a lab slip from Chase’s pediatrician and a check for the septic company that is coming to pump our tank tomorrow.) I’ll check it weekly to make sure I’ve done everything that needs to be accomplished and leave or handle whatever is still outstanding.
I also have a box on my desk (I used a pretty decorative one that my Erin Condren Life Planner came in) for pens, stamps and notecards because I’ve always wanted to be the kind of woman who sends cards to family and friends often. We’ll see if this helps motivate me!
Fringe Benefit: I haven’t actually worked at my desk in years. This is forcing me to sit and write at my actual desk instead of on the couch, in the dining room, or my former favorite workspace: my bed. I’ve been so much more productive and organized with my daily tasks now that I have a space to call my own.
Our kids’ stuff used to be allll over our house. Like everywhere. Now pretty much everything is housed in the playroom, with the exception of the books in the kids’ rooms. If you don’t have a playroom, the bulk of your kids’ stuff is best kept in their individual rooms with not more than they’ll reasonably use. If you need to, put out only certain toys to cut down on clutter and switch them out every couple months or so when they get bored with what’s there. (I have a whole shelf in the basement for toys to swap out.)
We have a large toy organizer for wrangling stray toys in our playroom and it used to just be a place to dump any toy, regardless of what other pieces belonged with it. Now, I try to keep them fairly organized, with separate bins for things like small cars, play kitchen food and utensils, stuffed toys, baby toys for Sam, Chase’s play tools, etc. That way, he can take out a whole bin, bring it to his table and play with it there. I’m also encouraging him to start cleaning up his own toys, so categorizing them helps.
I’d like to print out some pictures of what each bin contains so Chase can start associating the bins with whatever goes inside when he’s cleaning up. Same for the bins we keep on the other shelving unit. I store puzzles in an organizer from Melissa and Doug and craft stuff I don’t want them getting into unassisted is kept on a high shelf. It’s not a perfect system, but it’s miles better than what we had before.
The kids’ rooms are very bare bones now in terms of storing things. Each of their closets has a big box of diapers, some blankets and their hanging clothes. Everything else was moved to appropriate places in the house. I no longer keep any toys in the boys’ rooms because, at this point in their lives, all they do is sleep there. If they want to play with their toys, they have a whole playroom where they can do that. I moved most of the books from the playroom to the shelves in their room because we typically read upstairs before bed. I will be adding a couple low shelves to the playroom for beloved books we read all the time so the boys can get/put back their own.
Fringe Benefit: Chase is actually playing with his toys now. He used to play with something for 30 seconds, throw it on the floor then run off to grab something else. It’s the weirdest thing—as soon as I finished getting rid of all the other stuff he didn’t use, he suddenly started playing with his toys in the playroom for hours each day. I absolutely did not expect that, but I’m so happy it worked out that way.
So How Do I Keep from Re-Cluttering?
Kondo states in the book that her clients who follow the KonMari method to the letter have a 100% success rate with not re-cluttering. When I read that, I was pretty happy about my odds. Which is why I decided with the exception of two small things (taking things out of the shower each day and removing items from my purse each day) that I would follow her method exactly as she laid it out. It doesn’t mean I bow to my house when I arrive home or thank my shoes for their service when I take them off every day (she’s into some real crunchy stuff that you’d never catch me doing in a million years) but I did follow the decluttering/organizing exactly as prescribed.
Important rules to follow once your stuff is decluttered/organized:
- Keep all items from one category in the same place so you know exactly what you have available and you’ll know if you run out
- Return things to their designated place immediately after use
- Think carefully about each item you buy post-KonMari and only purchase that which you really need, can fit in your home and brings you joy
- Make a habit of keeping your house clean and not just uncluttered
I truly believe if you stick with this set of rules, you’ll be able to successfully avoid recluttering.
The biggest benefit of KonMari by far is that I suddenly enjoy cleaning. This is hugely shocking to me because I loathed cleaning before. I’m sure the excitement will wear off after awhile, but I’m finding that I’m truly motivated to clean our house because I want to keep it exactly the way it is now. I’m probably going a little overboard at the moment in an effort to keep from returning to our former state and I’m sure that’ll settle down as I come to realize that this is here to stay. But I’ve found that keeping our home clean is a result of actually valuing and respecting our space; I love our house now, so I’m making the upkeep of it a daily priority instead of a joyless burden that I drag out for weeks on end.
I’ve been using a version of this cleaning checklist I found on Pinterest, but you can do whatever works for you. I make sure that no matter what I do these things daily:
- Fold/put away one load of laundry and wash/dry another
- Wipe down the countertops and kitchen table
- Do all dishes or put them in the dishwasher
- Vacuum or sweep, if it’s necessary
These few things take me very little time now because the house is so functional (I don’t have to clean up all the clutter on the floors before I vacuum or remove all the old dishes from the table before I wipe it down) and I can easily fit them into my daily schedule. I’m finding that not having to clean and re-clean all day long is also leaving a lot more time for my weekly cleaning tasks like deep-cleaning the bathrooms or wiping down appliances.
Even you never truly learn to enjoy cleaning, I can almost guarantee you’ll find it MUCH easier once you’re finished with KonMari.
So that’s it, in a very big nutshell. I know I was long-winded, but I’m so thrilled with how functional my life feels right now and I want to spread this good feeling to anyone who is willing to try it. If you do try it, please PLEASE let me know! I’d really love to hear everyone’s results.