My KonMari experience in 7 (life) lessons


capsule wardrobe, pink biker jacket, spring wardrobe, simple style, casual chic

The lessons I learned in 3 rounds of Tidying with the KonMari method have been manyfold. Most eye-opening has been my recent round 3, inspired by Netflix’s Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. Looking back on the process, I summarized my experience in the following 7 (life) lessons — from finding my own clicking point, to solving the mystery of my personal style and doing some incremental upgrading.

Personal clicking point

The first thing I noticed almost immediately after decluttering and only keeping what sparked joy was that I felt truly satisfied with the amount of stuff I owned. Sure, there have been a couple of areas where I still wanted to add something, e. g. athletic gear for the winter months or some pretty pieces for my spring wardrobe. But overall, looking around, I thought: yes, this is it, not more, not less.

In her books, Marie Kondo refers to this feeling as the personal clicking point that people reach when tidying up with her method. It is the point where you have exactly the right amount of stuff. For some, this might be more, others less. The best thing about the clicking point, to me, is that it stops the constant lookout for new stuff.

Let’s take books as an example: In the past, I felt like I needed this huge library of various genres, with many interesting new finds on the shelves to read someday. After tidying, I only kept a small amount of books that I either already read, enjoyed and just wanted to keep or was definitely going to read in the future. Now, browsing for new books, I don’t feel compelled to add a whole stack to my collection, but rather I feel like buying just one — if it speaks to me 100 %. I also stopped taking books from public bookcases in my neighborhood. Rarely did I actually read them and so they just added to the clutter around the house. Also, I don’t feel the need to go out and buy some decorative piece just to fill a space. Instead, I enjoy the airy feel of an open and uncluttered room or the (fewer) decorative/personal items I chose to keep on display.

The 70/30 rule of My personal style

As I was creating my capsule wardrobes for each season (as I have done for many years now) I mostly leaned to the minimalist side. It seemed easier, both in terms of wearability as well as personal confidence. But what always ended up happening was that after a while, I would get bored and start scrolling through the online shops for something fun and playful to add to the mix.

I went through my clothes and kept only what sparked joy. Seeing it all in one place, spread out before me, I finally figured out the mystery of my personal style: It’s all about that 70/30 rule. Meaning, I would enjoy having about 70 percent simple, minimalist pieces like grey sweaters and nude ankle boots. But those remaining 30 percent would have to be statement pieces (in terms of colour, pattern, style etc.), or else I would start to impulsively buy things over the course of the season that I maybe did not actually need or like that much.

This is by the way something I already picked up as I was reading Anuschka Rees’ blog about building a capsule wardrobe, but it kinda went over my head back then. Perhaps I was just so determined to have that minimalist/casual chic thing going on that I didn’t admit to myself that, yes, I want that soft pink suede biker jacket in my life (which actually can be part of a minimalist look, too).

Incremental upgrading

During the tidying process I developed a sense of quality of life, including the items in it. And as I was KonMari-ing away, I was suddenly wondering — why do I keep that sh*t mouse for my laptop which doesn’t work properly and that gets on my nerves when I should be working? So I through that out (recycled doesn’t sound dramatic enough) and got myself a new one. Why shouldn’t I have good tools to work with? And thinking of tools… why do we have this assortment of various crappy tools instead of one solid toolbox with all that we need on a regular basis, in good quality?

So basically, through the Tidying process, I discovered where I was living with things that were less than. Another great example are things like undershirts, underwear in general, things that don’t seem to matter, but do. Going back to that ideal life scenario developed in step one (see Part I of the KonMari series): What life do I want to lead — do I want to surround myself with great things or somewhat okay things?

As Marie Kondo says, sometimes you have to keep something that you may not 100 % like, but for now, it’s the best you have. It’s neither feasible nor sensible to replace all at once, but that’s what incremental upgrading is for. Tip: Make a list of stuff you would rather get rid of, but can’t right now, so you have an overview of what you want to consciously purchase and replace when the time comes. Having that list can help manage that in-between phase where you aren’t there yet but on your way, e. g. with your clothing.

Personal Taste VS. SOCIAL TASTE

When I moved on to the category of books, I was confused. I was standing before a pile of my books (I only took my own down and left my husband’s) and I was feeling very meh about almost all of them. I started sorting and re-sorting only to find that yes, I wanted to get rid of 90 %. And why not, most of them I either already read and they didn’t spark enough joy to keep or I knew in my heart I just wasn’t interested. So I packed a couple of donation boxes and put the remaining few ones back.

What I learned through that experience and especially from what I kept was that my taste in genres is definitely not as broad as I thought it was. Intrigued by #booktube and the goodreads community as well as various reading challenges, I had become acquainted with new genres, topics and styles. Some of them stuck, most didn’t. Thinking of my ideal life, I only want to read for either fun or a genuinely meaningful experience (for example, I loved Maus by Art Spiegelman).

So going forward, that’s that. I’m not going to feel bad for not caring about literature that is important to other people. I’m not going to make myself read something, just because everyone reads it or someone considers it a classic or it’s touted as a contemporary masterpiece. If I feel inclined to, sure, but if not, that’s fine, too. Everyone’s taste is different and reading/literature as well as other works of art serve different purposes for different people. Through the Tidying process, I accepted that and gave up on the need to appear cultured in someone else’s eyes — which brings me only closer to what I authentically enjoy in life.

Making space for activities

As soon as the Tidying process was over, I marveled at the spaces that opened up. New storage solutions appeared and things that didn’t have a home before magically fit some place new. The biggest change in this regard was finally being able to get my keyboard from the attic and put it into the wall closet we had decluttered. So now I am able to get my instrument out as soon as the mood strikes. Apart from that very tangible example, there was a lot of figurative space-making.

First of all, it’s true, having a decluttered and tidy home makes it easier to keep it that way. Cleaning is quicker and more enjoyable. Even after a chaotic weekend, with stuff lying around everywhere, it takes much less time to put everything back since every item has its designated place. In this way, you gain time you were spending otherwise.

Another key thing is the changed perception: In a tidy and clutter-free space, anything seems possible. Why not pull out the craft supplies? Why not do something fun? Bake some spur-of-the-moment cookies? Start that passion project of yours? Having tidy surroundings lets my imagination unfold where previously I was seeing a long to do list.

What Else Sparks Joy (Or DOESN’t)?

Now this one was really life-changing. Having that focus on joy throughout the Tidying process and seeing the changes in our home and our daily lives, we started to take other areas of life into consideration, too. What about the content we consume? The topics and people that surround us, the areas of interest we put time and energy into, the daily and weekly tasks, activities, commitments? Is that all still something we want to take with us into our future lives?

Talking to people about their Tidying experience, I noticed that this broadening of one’s perspective was quite common. As soon as your house is in order and you feel happy and refreshed in it, you want that feeling to spread to the rest of your life, too. For me, that meant going through the content I consume on a regular basis (social media accounts, podcasts, tv shows etc.) and comparing it to the image I have of my life going forward. It meant figuring out whether the things I spent time on still sparked joy or whether they were just remnants of past lives, so to speak.

What helped me through this process was constantly asking myself: Does this content/topic/activity/person fit into that vision I have of my ideal life? Also: Would my ideal self care about/spend time on/associate with …?

Your surroundings communicate

Lastly, I noticed something that had already surprised me when we painted our walls: It felt like my home was speaking to me in a different way. My surroundings presented me with a space for my life that seemed to be saying: Use me well. Be deliberate in your daily actions. Create that life you want.

When I get up in a tidy bedroom I am much more inclined to roll out that yoga mat. When my work space is organized I feel ready to attack that next chapter. When the kitchen is tidy I feel more in the mood to prepare myself a nice healthy snack. It’s like my home is constantly reminding me of what my ideal life looks like and motivates and encourages me to go forward.

In the next part of my KonMari series I am going to share with you my top 5 tips on starting and finishing the Tidying process.