Who knew that the simple fact of doing a clean-sweep of things in our cupboards could be so contentious? What’s more, who knew that letting go of our material possessions could actually make us happier? Marie Kondo, the inventor of the KonMari decluttering system, has uncovered this mystery and examines why it’s getting people talking. She shares her observations in her book,The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying up: the Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, published by Ten Speed Press. Here’s how you can make your home orderly in seven easy steps.
1. Tidy by category, not location
It may seem counter-intuitive, but, according to the author, this is the only way to make real change. Tidying one closet or drawer at a time is often a wasted effort, as these spaces never stay orderly for more than a week or a season, at best. Instead, the secret is to tackle a single category throughout the home over a period of several months, and to not leave any stone unturned. Sort by categories like clothing, dishware, shoes, sports equipment and electronic devices, and scour the home for all the respective items. No more cutting corners or stashing things away—bring everything out and make a giant pile of the items in each category.
2. Three piles to declutter effectively
Now imagine yourself in front of your massive pile of clothes. This is the crucial moment, when you’ll have to be disciplined and uncompromising. Letting go of things we are attached to is very difficult and can stir up emotions, but it’s a necessary step, nonetheless. Sort the large pile into three smaller piles: keep, donate or throw away.
3. Declutter solo
Kondo recommends tackling this step alone, without well-meaning friends or family who could inadvertently sabotage the process with comments like, “You want to give away those cushions? They’re practically brand new!” or, “Don’t give that to Dad, I’ll take it for my room.” Such remarks will result in the process being done to half measure, as some objects will just get moved to another room of the house or kept. In either case, this merely displaces the problem and minimizes the benefits of the decluttering exercise.
4. Cherish and thank each item
It’s hard to part with items of sentimental value or that belonged to someone dear. However, we must face the fact that the cast iron kitchenware will not bring back our beloved grandmother. These are tough decisions. But, before deciding whether to donate, discard or keep an item, take it in your hands and see if it sparks joy. If it does and can still be of use to you, keep it. Otherwise, offer the item as a gift to a family member who doesn’t live with you and who could use it. If the object is so worn out that it is no longer useful, thank if for making you think of your loved one, and acknowledge that its work is done and can now be given away. This is a lovely way to mourn someone or to relive a moment of nostalgia.
5. Fold instead of hang
According to the author, we hang way too many clothes on hangers, rather than folding them in dressers. Hangers tend to damage clothes, and they take up much more space. In Kondo’s view, the only items that should be hung are dresses, suits, skirts and delicate blouses.
6. Pile vertically
This tip is brilliant in is simplicity and is a true brainwave. Instead of piling pants and t-shirts on top of each other, line them up vertically. Kondo suggests this method for two reasons: first, it will make your clothes last longer as they won’t be crushed or compromised under the weight of the items on top of it; and secondly, because we tend to forget about the clothes at the bottom of the pile and almost never wear them. To make a perfect vertical pile, first fold the item lengthwise and then in three or four, depending on the drawer height. Your clothing will then be compact and easy to spot in your dresser.
7. Reuse your boxes and lids
Take the boxes of varying sizes lying around the house, along with their lids, and use them to organize the space inside your drawers and cupboards. This is very easy, costs nothing and is an ingenious way to manage small miscellaneous items. You’ll kill two birds with one stone, as these once space-hogging boxes will now become space-optimizers.
Passionate about colour, vintage decorative elements and hand-made items, Vanessa Sicotte celebrates décor in all its splendour. Vanessa is the mastermind behind the Damask & Dentelle blog—and author of a book in the same name—where she has been sharing her favourite décor discoveries since 2009. She is also the host of Sauvez les meubles and Marché Conclu on Canal Vie. Since fall 2015, viewers can reap Vanessa’s valuable advice by watching the Marina Orsini show on ICI Radio-Canada Télé, where she is featured as décor commentator.