How I Finally Won the Fight Against Clutter and Learned to Love Housework: Part 1

Kon Mari method to organizing your home

Right off the bat, I wanted to let you know I was not paid or perked for writing this post in any way. I asked me to write about it and bought the book myself. I just wanted to share my adventures with anyone who’ll listen since I feel completely changed by this process. I think some of you will find it helpful, too.

As I am sitting here writing this, there are two bits of laundry waiting on me. Yes, I said two. I don’t mean two weeks or two baskets’ worth of laundry; I mean two actual items–the pajamas that my two sons each wore to bed last night. Every item of clothing belonging to my household’s members is currently washed, dried, folded and put away.

Whaaa?

I realize this sounds sort of braggy and if you are sitting there with seven baskets of unwashed/unfolded/yet to be put clothing on your laundry room, then you hating me a little bit right now. I don’t blame you because three weeks ago, I was you.

In reality, let me show you a tiny bit of what my “before” life seemed like if you don’t believe me.  I am not exaggerating when I say I was absolutely done with housework.

It had reached the point where I couldn’t keep on top of the mess, the laundry, the cleaning, and the chores. Every available surface in our house was used as a dumping ground for our clutter: invoices, toys, dishes, keys, recycling, and dirty clothes; our possessions were piled and stacked absolutely all over.

To remain on top of this growing problem, I purchased bins and baskets for high traffic areas into which I had heard items like stray toys and dirty laundry to keep them off the floors, tables, chairs, and countertops. The bins I purchased were full immediately.

Piles started forming alongside them. I told my husband that I could not keep it up. I just have an hour or two a day to myself, and I had been spending it all cleaning up, only for it to be undone moments later. It was not worth my time and energy, so I went to quit trying, and I did.

I let the dishes pile up higher than usual. I vacuum the carpeting or didn’t wash the floors. I washed what items of clothing that I needed and left the rest. Our household was like the fish tank in Finding Nemo when the fish attempt to create it as dirty as possible, so the dentist is going to need to clean it.

We were living in our own filth, and it was everywhere. Does this sound like you? Continue reading.

I grew up in an immaculately clean home, so it is hard for me to allow things to spin out of control like that for long. It can avoid it for a while, but finally, I go on a rampage and deal with everything at once usually while sighing loudly for all to hear.

The problem was that one cleaning session was never going to address the issue.

Our Clutter

One of my friends had told me a month or two before this about a decluttering program she had done with her family. She talked about how life-changing it had been for them and how much happier they were since they finished.

At the moment, I was finishing my book and not in the ideal spot to get on such a massive undertaking, so I told her how happy I was for her and then immediately forgot about what she had said.

Organize your home using the KonMari Method

A few weeks later, I visited with a friend who had done the decluttering program in her residence. Although I’d never been to her house before, once I walked in, I instantly felt calm. Everything was in excellent order; no shoes or stray toes or granola bars anywhere.

At first, I figured it was because she knew they were having us, all the beautiful, orderly spaces of the home that were visible were only part of the story. I assumed that, like me, she probably wiped down the countertops, vacuumed the floors and pushed all of the random clutter into drawers and cabinets ten minutes before we arrived.

That is what everybody does, right?

Many times during our visit she casually referred to the KonMari Method; just as part of daily conversation, not as a way to get me on board. I began to consider it when I got home.

Was it really possible that how her house looked when we were seeing is how it seems all of the time? If this was indeed the case, I had to have that book, and I wanted it.

I Got The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up:

The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing on a Wednesday completed it by Friday and was already implementing the program that night. As I was reading, I got this feeling like I was going to jump out of my skin if I did not begin right that minute–that is how much sense the entire thing made to me.

However, I knew I needed to complete the whole book before I started anything, so I devoured the remainder of it and set to work.  If you haven’t heard about the Konkani Method, the book is all about, I will provide you the summary of it here.

The notion is that, unlike decluttering programs that teach you what to avoid, this booklet you concentrate on what to keep. Here is the exciting part: you keep the things that bring joy.

My buddy who suggested this is a bit of a hippie. She has a yard full of chickens and uses cloth diapers, and I think she may create her own yogurt. So when she explained the crux of the entire, large operation was based on the notion of joy, I was highly skeptical.

It looked a little too crunchy, even for my tastes (and I lived in New Hampshire for ages.) But after I read the book and learned about how reliable the writer’s home and life were as a consequence, I was prepared to put aside my disbelief and move all in.

I was in urgent need of a solution and in no position to turn down any potentially good suggestion.

That Friday night, I grabbed garbage bags and began in on my clothing, that’s the category of things to declutter. The writer, Marie Kondo says that individuals who go room by room rather than category by category are doomed to re-clutter.

I knew I needed to do it I’d certainly be a repeat offender. As she suggests, I gathered together each and every item of clothing I have from my drawers and cabinets, bins in the loft, hooks at the entryway, underneath the seats in my car, etc. etc. and brought it all to my bedroom floor.

One by one I help each item in my hand, I determined whether it sparked joy and held everything. I realize you are probably not sold on this job thing, and that is OK. I was not either. But it took just a few items to find my groove.

As I went, I started to realize precisely how many things of clothing I don’t wear at all, since I hate how they look or make me feel or just wear because they are functional (although I hate how they look or make me think.) These things cost me, and I hated 90 percent of them.

Throughout a weekend, I tackled shoes, clothing, purses, belts, jewelry, scarves, hats, mittens, coats, lingerie, socks and bathing suits and ended up filling six garbage bags with things I no longer like, never mind love and look forward to wearing. How mad is that??

All those garments just sat in my drawer’s taking up space when I loathed most of these. This might seem frightening to those of you who are on a budget like I am.

How do you eliminate the things that you don’t have the money to replace? For one, you can consign your clothing to generate some money to purchase new items. It is also possible to save up and buy things that you feel and love are worth the cost.

Earlier, I had been in the habit of visiting inexpensive stores such as Old Navy or Kohl’s and stocking up on three or four plain, dull long-sleeved shirts in a variety of colors just because it was fast and straightforward. Although I didn’t really like any of them, I could have bought one shirt which I wished to wear.

For now, I just own things I love, I will be more discerning in the future about what I allow to join my wardrobe. (Come winter, I will be in trouble, however, because I got rid of each and every sweater I own. That is not an exaggeration.)

Notice: Mari Kondo has a particular style of clothing that I will admit I have not done yet. Not because it does not make sense to me (it completely does) but since a number of my drawers actually have four shirts left in them and that I can easily see everything available to me.

I would suggest using her cloth-folding system if you have a lot of clothes leftover. Search on YouTube for videos of people folding using the KonMari Method if you end up unsure how to do it after reading her description.

Next up was the collection of all our books. I thought I would have a hard time with this one because as a writer, I am a book lover. Kondo warns that keeping books which you re-read or may read is a snare.

She urges readers to think hard about which books from their collections they’ll truly read in the future or read again and eliminate the rest. I wish I had counted, I’d guess that my novel count totaled in the 150 range, although. Everything you see on this shelf is all I kept.

I donated six bins of books, and my husband got rid of 3 containers of his own. I’ve read every book I discarded and, at once, the majority of them brought a fantastic quantity of joy to me.

But would I re-read them? I knew I would not. The names I retained are ones I have read a few times and know I will revisit again or are novels which have proven practical for my writing career. As Kondo states, if I realize that I’d really love to re-read a publication I lost, I will hunt for it on Amazon and download it in 13 minutes. It’s that easy.

Now on the third phase, I found things becoming markedly easier. My husband is the earning person in our family, so he and I went through the papers together. He is all about saving things merely because they may be useful someday.

So I urged him to take Kondo’s advice into consideration when he was deciding what to keep: hang onto just what will be required in the short term (in the event of a receipt for a product that has to be returned within 90 days), or what is absolutely imperative to keep long time (in the case of the deed to your home or your auto loan paperwork.)

He chucked old manuals we could now find online, died receipts, taxes from our school years, bank statements we could also find online and many, many other newspapers that we’d never have to refer again.

What we stored is organized into labeled folders and fits in a file box. Now when I want to get a birth certificate or the contract for our rental property, I will locate them quickly and efficiently rather than sifting through a vast pile of unrelated documents to find the one I want.

Since the next category was komono, which is Japanese for miscellaneous, I decided to deal with office stuff initially because we were already in there doing the papers. We’ve got a small home office, but for the first year we lived in this home, it was merely used as a dumping ground for all manner of items, some associated with office work and some not.

I had a giant bag bin full of office items from our very first home’s much bigger office which never fit into our office. In my early 20s, I had gone through an experimental crafting stage and had held onto all manner of card-making supplies, rubber stamps, adhesive dots, ribbon and a million other things I have not utilized in the last five decades.

All but two rolls of tape with that bin were trashed. Fighting my impulse to arrange (Kondo is obvious that organizing must come AFTER decluttering,) I herded all of the remaining items into our one little pair of drawers and left it to deal with afterward.

Do not mind my note to me. I am practicing placing my intentions. Or something like that.

I decided to tackle kitchen things next, beginning with the pantry. Since we are constantly replenishing the things kept there, I figured I would have very few items that were extraneous to throw.

I Was Wrong

I pulled out a garbage bag’s worth of expired food, teas I do not drink, rotting onions which were lost behind bags and boxes and large boxes of disposable utensils which we buy for each and every party, forget we have and purchase more of the next time. I didn’t discard many kitchen appliances but did find that there were plenty of duplicate items I’d never need some of at a time.

As an example, I found that I had six pie plates. I kept two and figured if I ever have a reason to create more than two concurrently, I will cross that bridge when I get to it. Same with bread pans, pizza pans, cheesecake pans and skewers (of which I had 36.)

I did the same with my formal dishes and serving pieces from the dining area and realized there were some things I never utilized in there, despite hosting parties frequently. With more room in the drawers, cabinets, and pantry, I had room for things that I often use but always keep buried behind less-used items.

Everything is so accessible now and unloading the dishwasher is a breeze since each, and everything has a place to go.

After this, I moved onto items in our bathrooms. This included cosmetics, medicines, lotions and sunscreens, linens, hair care products, and other grooming products. There’s nothing emotional about bathroom products. Therefore the shedding was effortless and quick.

  • Expired medicine? Gone.
  • Nail polish, dried up? Gone.
  • Makeup I don’t wear? Gone.

I won’t say that my husband’s contact solution brings me pleasure, but I am happy he can see, so we did keep the sensible stuff in there.

Linens were quick and straightforward. We had plenty of sheet sets we never used, towels from old sets we never liked, and much more tablecloths than a family could need. I put all their stuff together and segregated from our material. In both bathrooms, the more significant part of the drawers and cabinet space below the sink are vacant since we got rid of so much and only kept what we really require and use.

Next was cleaning supplies. I have always been good at keeping those stored in one place (a small coat closet near our kitchen), so that was also painless. I threw bottles out of things we do not use, uncluttered the cupboard of different items that are not associated with cleaning and freed up space for each our brooms, dustpans, mops and the central vacuum hose. Now the cupboard houses all of our cleaning products and everything is wholly accessible for easy use.

Planning to get a pair of hooks to hang the mops and brooms on!

The final of Kosovo before handling garage, the loft and basement was the kids’ stuff. I keep on hold way until the end because I was dreading it. They both have a lot of toys they do not utilize, clothing that neither of them will wear again and only huge amounts of stuff everywhere in our home and cars.

We’ve got a playroom where the vast majority of books and the toys are kept, so I decided to start there. I realized just how many they never even play with, I’m discussing the small throwaway toys people give kids for casual occasions that they never truly need in the first place.

My son likes trucks and is presented them often by family and friends (we rarely buy the kids anything because they get so much from other people), so I donated/consigned some of the little ones he never plays with and kept several bins full of ones I know he actually loves.

I eliminated things like LEGOs that he isn’t quite old enough for yet and retired some stuff to the attic, that he is not old enough to use. They have what I would think about plenty of toys, but everything has a place to go and get this: they are really playing with their toys now.

Before the decluttering, my son would go into the playroom, would throw a whole lot of things on the ground and leave 30 seconds later. For the last several weeks, he has been playing in his playroom for hours every day. I had no idea that this could be due to the decluttering since Kondo does not touch on handling kids’ stuff, but I have been thrilled with this fringe benefit.

I did their garments next and, I agree entirely, that was a bitch. We are not sure whether we are going to have a third kid someday, so I had been saving these clothes for a possible third member of our household that could realistically be a girl and never wear any of those boy clothing we currently have. I didn’t want to eliminate everything, so I went through every bin and donated or consigned whatever I thought was past its prime (we purchase nearly all our garments used, so a number of those items were worn before both kids wore them) or I just plain did not like and knew I would never dress the children in.

Then whatever was left I organized by season and size so that when my son or a third child is moving into a grown size, I will check and see if I have it, then donate whatever is in the bin if these clothes are not needed.

Since I had been up there getting the boys’ clothes, I started on everything in the loft. We moved to our current house about a year and a half ago and got rid of a ton of storage things then, so we did not have a ton up there. Still, there were lots of cluttered holiday decorations, outgrown kids toys and sentimental items that had to be weeded through.

Kondo is particular that whatever sentimental (notes, pictures, cards, etc.) have to go last because they take so much time, so I set that things aside for another day. The rest was reasonably fast but did need me to take everything downstairs, assess what we possessed, discard and re-organize. It ended up being a full day job just since of all the steps necessary to finish.

Last before the sentimental matter was the basement and garage, which I was dreading. I did all the different regions of the home by myself while hubby took good care of the children or did other home projects, but I knew I wanted him to handle the remaining two areas as the majority of the things there were his: tools, lawn maintenance products, car maintenance products, etc. We live in the home I grew up in after my parents moved away and we moved back many years later, so we had some of the things to contend with. (I pulled a bottle of Armor All in the year I was born. I wish I had taken a photo of that one.)

The garage went surprisingly fast. It was really cluttered and not the least bit practical before, but there was not that much real stuff in there. We tossed a couple of bags of things but mostly organized what we had to keep with a new shelving system and a few wall hooks.

The basement was also quite fast as we decluttered that few months ago. However, I found myself negotiating with hubby about things he’s owned for years I genuinely don’t know anything about, so I decided to leave him to weed through his own things in peace without me breathing down his neck. Generally, the basement is functional, although he still needs to arrange his tools.

Last came the sentimental stuff. I knew this one would be hard because I’m an admitted hoarder of emotional things. I keep every card, note, and photographs given to me by anybody and that I had the bins upon bins of the stuff to prove it.

Since I was done with everything else and my parents were watching the children for the day, I let myself take my time with all the sentimental things. I laughed as I read every note and cried a couple of times and bid farewell to a lot of it.  We have a lot of memories that I wanted to preserve for our children to look through someday.

I kept that almost all. What I did not keep were cards where individuals quietly signed their names and let Hallmark perform the rest of the speaking, duplicate photos, old Christmas cards and notes from those that are no longer in our lives for any reason.

What I ended up with is one medium sized box split into lovey stuff from my husband and me, photographs, cards and one pile of Christmas cards from last year when lots of my readers sent cards to me via the email. For those, I took the advice of one and punched a hole in each one and then put them on a ring so I could keep them all together.

Now that I have weeded through all those sentimental items and kept them in an accessible place, I can grab the box when I wish to find a picture or just have a trip down memory lane. It feels like I am doing a service to notes and all those photographs with the most special ones saved in one location where they can be relived rather than stashed out of sight.

All that was done over two weeks, my parents came to see the boys both weekends, so we had four full days to dedicate to just decluttering. During those two weeks, I did little else with my free time: I slept, ate and breathed KonMari.

I realize for a lot of individuals, this is not possible and it could take (much) longer to do. I am also only 28 so that I don’t have decades of stuff to wade through. I figured so that I give an idea of the timeframe on my decluttering so you can determine what’s realistic for your loved ones.

This is only the first part of the book. The second part actually tackles the organization of your home once the joyless things are gone. As this post is already super long (if you have stuck with me this way, I give you major high five!).  I’m going to deal with the organizing part later this month.

Below is a summary of what I will cover in my next post:

  • Suggestions for maintaining your newly decluttered house
  • How KonMari makes housework a breeze
  • Fringe advantages of KonMari-ing
  • Setting Up a manageable cleaning schedule

Hop over and have a look at the next post here (Part 2 -because that’s really where the good stuff is.)

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