On the morning of my 21st birthday, my mother handed me The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, an organizational guide by Marie Kondo that has sparked a worldwide movement of purging unnecessary material items.
I’m guessing my mother had decided now was a great time for me to change.
I was the reigning champion of organizational fraud, with a sprinkle of hoarding tendencies. I crammed things into cupboards, stashed sweaters that were too small for me in the back of my closet, affectionately stored class notes in plastic bins “just in case.”
From the outside, my childhood bedroom looked like something straight out of a PB Teen catalogue. But within the depths of my desk drawers and in the underworld beneath my bed, it was truly a disaster.
And a massive source of anxiety.
After ignoring the lectures and New York Times articles my mother had forwarded me in the past as feeble attempts to get my life in order, I decided to hate-read Marie Kondo’s book. I admittedly rolled my eyes at a couple of her statements at the beginning (one of her opening anecdotes is how a client of hers cleaned her closet using Kondo’s method and then suddenly realized she wanted a divorce), but then as I skimmed along, I was suddenly overcome with the urge to throw out every single item I owned.
I strolled up stairs, randomly on a Sunday afternoon, and robotically filled 11 garbage bags of excess. And it changed everything.
Although you cannot visually tell the difference from before (I’m serious about it looking like PB Teen threw up in there), there is a definite airiness to my room that leaves me feeling significantly more relaxed upon entering it. A spaciousness that had never existed.
Simply put, this movement of minimalism and purging is a straightforward means of coping with different variations of anxiety, stress, and even depression.
Here are 5 of the main steps Kondo insists on following if you really want to make a change:
1. Purge first, and purge everything.
Kondo is not fucking around when she says this. Why do you have 57 different shades of “Rose” lipgloss? Do you even wear anything other than Burt’s Bees? And why do you own a single-hole puncher? When has that ever benefitted you? Do you even own a binder?
Throw it all away. Unless it’s something you use on almost a regular basis, you don’t need it. Kondo insists on contemplating whether certain items give you a “spark of joy.”
So, think: does that participant ribbon from the summer of 2005 when you went away to sleep-away camp spark joy into the inner most depths of your soul? Nuh-uh.
2. The Container Store is a back-stabbing bitch.
“Smart storage solutions” are a lie. They don’t exist. The more complex and intricate your storage is, the more items you want to fill up those trendy plastic bins with.
It may look clean, but it isn’t. Storage containers are a way for you to figure out how to store stuff better rather than figuring out what you genuinely need.
Putting that participant ribbon in a woven basket labeled ~camp memories~ is not a solution.
3. Purge by category, not by room.
By purging by category, you will easily be able to find duplicates of items scattered about your living space. It’s significantly more effective than bopping around to each room.
Start with clothes. How many grey t-shirts do you own? If you’re counting on your hands, this is already a disaster. Say goodbye.
Move onto books. Guess what? You do not need all 800 of The Clique books in your adult life. You should not be reading about Massie Block when you’re over the age of 13.
Next, papers and miscellanies. If you have ever had some variation of the thought: “What if I go on a job interview and they ask me if I can speak French? I should keep my Introductory French notes just in case…” you are toeing the dangerous, blurred line of becoming a hoarder. Toss it. Toss it all.
Finally, mementos. Never go out of order and start with mementos. You will get too attached to items and have difficulty in other areas. By the time you’ve thrown out all your grey shirts and French notes, you will be emotionally detached enough to seriously mull over little treasures and physical memories that you’ve collected over the years and consider which ones you truly need to keep.
4. Stop stacking.
When you finally have a reasonable amount of grey t-shirts, don’t stack them in your closet.
Instead, Kondo suggests folding clothes neatly and standing them up vertically—particularly for drawers. When you stack in drawers, it’s hard to remember what’s at the bottom, but propping up items vertically will give you an equal view of everything you have.
5. Delete Words With Friends.
Kondo didn’t explicitly target this gaming app, but since technology runs our lives at this point, the argument is that our phones are another area that we need to tidy up in order to obtain a larger sense of peace for our day-to-day.
Deleting apps you never use is such a small task that requires almost zero effort and could be done when you’re half-asleep, but the effects are staggering.
Minimizing your iPhone content changes the way you see your phone. At its most basic level, your phone is now a task-oriented tool, fully powered and controlled by only what you want. If you truly don’t think this impacts you, think about how often you ignore notifications from various applications that you never even look at (specifically targeting this to MyFitnessPal who has harassed me everyday for seven months for not updating my food diary) or how often you skim over subscription emails in your inbox.
It may not seem like it has an immediate impact, but organization is a function of our personalities. To you want to live a more fulfilling, relaxed, and happy lifestyle, you need to consider tailoring your environment to appease that.
And the first step: throwing everything out.