Recently I was inspired (like everyone else) by Marie Kondo's book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (in case you live under a rock: This is that crazy popular book about the happiness that comes from getting rid of unnecessary possessions) and did my best to adopt its principles to clean my messy house. And yes, I have a full time job and am a parent. Spoiler alert: It was (mostly) FANTASTIC.
I started with my clothing. I got rid of that suit I bought in the '90s (with massive shoulder pads) and all the tank tops with holes in them and socks that didn't have pairs. I quickly touched every piece of clothing I owned, decided if it brought me joy, and if it didn't — off to Goodwill it went. Most of the decisions were easy — but some triggered unexpected swells of emotion– like if the outfit was tied to bad memories (a bad date, reminded me of a person I had a falling out with, or harkened back to my pre-divorce days). But eventually out it went: Off to find new life and purpose.
My wedding dress was challenging, too — I wanted to keep it for my daughter, but I had mixed feelings since it was related to a marriage that ended. So after talking to my mom (who bought it for me) and my daughter (who told me she'd never wear it anyway), I opted to take the giant sealed box from the dry cleaner that I'd been moving around since 1998 and open it up. I let my 9-year-old daughter try it on. I took a bunch of pictures of her wearing it (she asked to keep the veil for dress up). Then wrapped it back up and sent it off to be donated. The donation site was THRILLED to get a wedding dress, which in turn made me so happy to think about some less fortunate bride rocking that gown.
After carefully folding all my shirts into little KonMari approved squares (so cute, I LOVE and highly recommend her folding method) my closet was beautiful. So empty and lovely. It definitely brought me joy. I just stared at it for two days. All my sneakers in a cute bin. My handbags lovingly stored in a colorful plastic tote. Delightful.
After my closet success I made quick work of the kitchen, craft area, office junk (does anyone else hold on to a year's worth of junk mail?), books and linen closet. It all went so smoothly. Every time a room or project was completed, I took an appreciative pause.
My daughter saw what I was doing and knew her disastrous room was inching higher on my list. She was worried I'd do it without her — armed with giant black trash bags, but instead I shared the principals of the method and together we went through her clothes, stuffed animals and dolls, and she was happy to know they were going to a good home for someone less fortunate. As a bonus, the cat was now permitted in her room, since I hadn't allowed him in there before, fearing the small kitten would get swallowed up by her hoarder piles never to be found again. It was a nice reward for her.
But then came the problems. I had a few fancy events come up where I had to wear a cute cocktail dress… and now I had none. None! I got rid of them all in my purge because they were itchy, or I didn't like having to pull up the straps all night, or they were a tiny bit too big, or too small or involved wearing a bra that tortured me all night. I had to go shopping for a new dress (and I hate clothes shopping). I love my new dress. It's cute and sexy and makes me happy. But it was money I didn't really have to spend, when I could have made due with something in the closet… if I still had it.
And worse — somehow over the course of three months my house looks worse than it did before. How is this possible? I'm still neatly folding all my clothes. I haven't gone out and bought a ton of stuff. But post-holidays and a birthday, we had to find room for a lot of new stuff. And while the gifts are appreciated, they take up space and need permanent homes, which means getting rid of something else. Plus, keeping up with it all takes time. . There's still a big pile of sweaters and coats that need to be stored for the winter just looming in a corner taunting me.
So while the initial purging from Kondo is liberating and spectacular, (and really makes you aware of how much stuff you have), the day-to-day maintenance is tough. Harder than it seems on paper. Put things back in their spots after you use them, get rid of what you don't need, right? But the reality is a challenge with kids and for anyone who has a busy schedule. After a long day at work, the last thing I want to think about is where exactly I'm supposed to put my shoes, or how to properly store my socks instead of rolling them up in balls lest the socks feel unhappy (all part of the method). Last night, I took all my newly washed underwear, opened the drawer and just dumped them in there. Somehow I just can’t buy that my undies are “unhappy” about their current not folded state, (they look perfectly happy to me) and I was just happy they were clean.
I don't consider this whole KonMari thing a failure, as it really did help me get rid of a lot of things that don't need to be in my small apartment. And I'd advise those considering it to give her initial cleansing a try. But keeping up with it long-term is proving more difficult and less glamorous than I bargained for.
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