I’m about to go infomercial on you.
My boyfriend is very organized. I have been, historically speaking, epically disorganized. After my boyfriend moved in, I started thinking about organization a little bit more; I knew that I had to start making an effort, and I tried, I really, really did — but it never stuck. I’d clean the apartment, but by the end of the day, it was like an enraged burglar had wreaked havoc all over. And then, a few weeks ago I read a review of Marie Kondo’s new book, “Spark Joy,” in the Washington Post. I’d never heard of Marie Kondo and I’d pretty much resigned myself to a life of disorganization and mild chaos…but something immediately changed when I read about Marie Kondo’s method of decluttering: If an object sparks joy, keep it; if it doesn’t, sell it, donate it or toss it. This review — I haven’t actually read any of her books — sent me down a surprising path of organization and minimalism (I’ll get to minimalism in a later blog post) and now, just a couple weeks later, I find myself with a tidy apartment and full confidence that something shifted in me and I’ve actually changed my ways for good.
My grandmother and mother spent many years and tears trying to get me organized, and their advice was good: “Put things where they belong so you can find them; pick your clothes off the floor so they last longer; make your bed because it starts your day right,” and on and on. But while practical, none of this advice actually motivated me to tidy up or keep my things in any kind of mindful or aesthetically pleasing way. I didn’t see the point in making a bed you were just going to mess up night after night or picking up clothes that didn’t really look good on me. But Marie Kondo’s “spark joy” method immediately made sense to me; I guess it appeals to something child-like and imaginative in me; it’s a more artful solution to the somewhat tedious task of tidying up. And it’s so easy. I feel like it took me less than a second to decide if an item sparked joy in me or not. I’ve spent my entire life surrounded by a bunch of crap I feel ambivalent towards when I could be surrounded by things I really love, things that “spark joy.” After reading about Marie Kondo and minimalism, I didn’t want to be a mindless consumer anymore; If you think of your life as a work of art, it makes sense that all of the pieces, parts and brushstrokes should bring some kind of meaning, value, order or beauty to the picture — otherwise you just have a bunch of stuff on a canvas. A little cheesy, yes, but this idea makes complete sense to me in a way that practical organization and decluttering advice never has.
Even before I even started tidying up the apartment, it was like a switch had been flipped, and suddenly, being messy didn’t make sense anymore. I set out on the slow and deliberate process of going through all of my stuff. Before, tidying-up was an anxiety-filled process; I’d start out strong and fade quickly, usually right after I emptied the entire contents of my closet. And even when I did manage to clean up my entire space, I felt like it was a constant battle to keep things tidy and I knew deep down things wouldn’t stick, despite my best intentions. But this time around, I was tidying-up with you guessed it — joy; I couldn’t wait to get home and organize things! And rather than try and do it in one fell swoop, I organized for about two hours a day for about two weeks. And now, I actually love being home because it’s a mindfully curated space with only the things my boyfriend and I love, appreciate and use. The whole “spark joy” thing has given me a framework I believe in and buy into, and that has made organization a much happier and less anxiety-ridden activity for me.
I ended up getting rid of about 50% of my clothes. Don’t panic: I have a lot more than this — I just folded most of it. I donated or sold all of my aspirational clothing: Pants I’ve kept around for years with the hopes that one day they’ll fit again, jackets I thought a young professional woman should wear but which I never really liked (and therefore never really wore), shoes that made my feet hurt, ratty, faded t-shirts, socks and underwear with holes…you get the picture. I ended up with much less clothes, but I like every single item in my closet; everything is the right fit and looks decent. It takes me 30 seconds to pick out an outfit now because I don’t have to spend 10 minutes looking through and trying on a bunch of stuff I never actually intend to wear. I also feel like I got to the core of my style (I never thought I had a style): It turns out I like feminine, flowery patterns, lace, earthy tones and pastel pinks, greens and yellows. I think I would describe my style as CaBoFlamEast (California-Bohemian-Flamenco-Easter Egg).
I was able to get a few box tops from work and folded all my boyfriend’s t-shirts, jeans, exercise clothes and sweaters using the Kondo method. It saves a lot of space and I feel like it’s easier to keep things tidy because you don’t have to ruffle through all your t-shirts/sweaters/underwear to find what you’re looking for. You just pull one out and voila! Your closet looks just as good as before! My boyfriend even learned the folding technique!
I did have to buy a few containers to keep my sweaters, t-shirt, jeans and off-season clothing because I didn’t want the inside of my closet to be filled with old cardboard boxes. I ended up hanging up a few jeans that I wear frequently, but for the most part, I wanted my clothes out of sight to keep things simple. Now that I’ve gone through my closet and gotten rid of everything that isn’t right for me, I know exactly what I need to buy next time I go shopping: A pair of black pants, a pair of jeans, a couple nice tops and a couple flowery, feminine skirts. I think sales and free stuff tend to fill our closets with a bunch of crap we don’t need. From here on out, I’m only buying a handful of high quality clothing that will last at least two or three years rather than a bunch of low-quality clothes that feel like a “deal” but really only contribute to wastefulness. I’m sure I’ll end up spending much less in the long-run this way and I won’t feel so ambivalent towards the clothes I do have.
You cannot begin to imagine how many tweezers, nail clippers, mascaras and eyeliners I’ve bought over the years because I mindlessly put them away…never to be found again. Now, I have a bathroom closet that brings me, yes, you guessed again! Joy! My hairs stuff is in one bin, bathroom extras (hand soup, extra toothbrushes, toothpaste, etc.) in another, and all my makeup is in a bright, cheerful makeup bag. It’s amazing! I found about half a dozen eyeliners, mascara, tweezers and nail clippers of undetermined age during my tidying-up process. As I was tidying-up, I started feeling really guilty and uncomfortable thinking about how wasteful I’ve been throughout my life, and how little value I’ve put into my possessions, taking for granted that I could “just buy another one” if anything got lost or damaged. I feel like tidying up has made me both more and less materialistic; I like my stuff a lot more than I ever have before, but I’m also more mindful about buying stuff because I want to avoid being wasteful. I don’t want to fill my space with stuff I think I “should” have because I’m an adult, a young professional, a woman or a writer; I feel like all the mindless clutter has made it confusing for me to pinpoint who I am as a person, what I like and what I want. And with all that stuff that doesn’t reflect me gone, I feel like I’ve gained a lot of clarity into what kind of person I actually am and what kind of things I actually want — not just who I think I should be or what I think I should want. I know it sounds a little like I’ve joined a cult, but it’s very exciting to gain that kind of clarity of mind.
We got our shoe situation under control. No more shoes all over the apartment, thanks to this handy-dandy shoe organizer. While going through my shoes, I realized that I only have two pairs that give me joy: A pair of black pumps and my hiking boots. The rest of my shoes looked like they belonged to an eighty-year-old nurse or a misguided teenager. However, because I can’t wear black pumps and hiking boots everyday, I had to keep some shoes that made me feel less than joyful. I’m hoping to get a nice pair of sneakers and a pair of black wedges sometime in the future. And that beige box? Our gloves, winter hats and earmuffs go there to avoid random winter stuff everywhere. Another bonus of my big clean up was that I found three pairs of winter gloves…and I was about to buy a new pair because I thought I didn’t have any! I also discovered that I love browns and beige. After donating many of my unloved items, pretty much all the artwork, furniture and decorations that remain are warm earthy tones.
After happily cleaning out my closet, I moved on to my bookshelf. I was an English major in college and I love reading, but I’m not the kind of person who re-reads books very often. And if I want to re-read something, there’s always the library (communal resources is something else I’ll be discussing in my next blog post). I got rid of more than half of my books. I had a lot of aspirational literature on my book shelf; stuff I thought I should like and stuff I thought made me look smart. Turns out I like books and short stories with a very strong sense of place, which makes sense considering how much I like traveling and exploring small towns.
I even made a candle. At some point over the last five years I decided to buy wallpaper. Why, I don’t know. I don’t own a house and didn’t have any wallpapering project in mind. But this is just one example of one of my many impulsive, mindless purchases over the years. But finally, after being lugged around for years, I put the wallpaper to use and wallpapered my somewhat rustic but still joy-inducing DIY candle.
While I was decluttering my book shelf, I realized that I really do want to read more, but I don’t really have a cozy reading space at my place. So I moved a few things around and made myself a nice little reading corner. Before, this chair was facing the TV and surrounded by a bunch of containers and wires. We mostly used it as a place to discard our sweaters, jackets, scarves and other items not currently in use. It wasn’t conducive to reading at all and the chair wasn’t doing anything other than taking up space. But now I have a nice little earth-toned corner for all my reading needs!
My desk was my next big project. I’ve been living in my apartment for almost a year and a half, and I’ve never actually used my desk. Mostly, I use it as a dumping ground for stuff I don’t know what to do with. But I wanted to make my desk a more inspirational spot. I always list my hobbies as writing and drawing, but it’s been a long, long time since I’ve actually done any creative writing or drawing. I organized my colored pencils, prominently displayed a couple of my children’s stories and drawings and hung up a few photographs to make it the kind of place I’d actually want to create in. I still have a huge stack of writings to go through, but things are headed in the right direction.
My boyfriend and I used to keep our bikes near the entrance of our apartment. It was annoying and unsightly, but I never actually considered moving them. It’s winter and we won’t be using our bikes for at least a couple of months, so we finally decided that of course our bikes should be out of the way. They are now neatly tucked away in a far corner of the apartment.
I Kondofied the freezer and the refrigerator. We tend to let food go bad and buy stuff we already have because it’s just easier than looking through a cluttered refrigerator and pantry. I bought a few bins and put all the frozen meat in one and all our frozen fruit, vegetables and juices in another. I did the same thing with the refrigerator, putting dairy in one basket and sandwich stuff in another; that way, anytime we need to make a sandwich we can just pull out a bin and the bread, cheese, turkey, mayo, tomato and peanut butter and jelly is in one place. It’s made it a lot easier to keep track of what we have and avoid waste.
Things were still in progress here, but you can see how empty my apartment is. Even though it’s pretty empty, I don’t doesn’t feel sparse or lonely; it feels spacious and cozy. Plus, less stuff means less clutter and less chance of messiness.
Not exactly the fanciest container, but I didn’t want to spend money I don’t have right now. This is all the stuff we’ll need for dinner. I ended up putting a roll of paper towels in the middle as well.
I even decluttered my keys. I’ve been carrying around mystery keys for years. Why? All I need is my car key, my apartment key and a spare key to my mom’s and sister’s places.
Categories: Weird Stuff I've Tried