I stand in front of my closet and my eyes cross.
It gives me anxiety just looking at this square space stuffed to maximum capacity. This is my second closet in the house. Which begs the question—how did I acquire so many things that I need two closets? I’ve been at it for days, going through closet number two. At this point, my “keep” pile is practically mocking my wimpish “donate” pile.
A skirt catches my eye. Beige with embroidered flowers and patches. I’ve had it since 7th grade. I remember because it was one of the first things I bought to wear with my back brace. I slowly, almost shamefully, as if someone is going to scold me for doing so, move it back to the “keep” pile.
Clothes have these associations, these memories attached to them. Generally speaking, I’m not one to get attached to a material thing… Or at least I thought I wasn’t. A quick look back at my overflowing closet, and my ever-growing “keep” pile reveals a different truth.
I think back to the Gilmore Girls revival. Random, I know, but there’s a connection. Watching Emily Gilmore (semi-spoiler alert) dispose of items in her home gave me second-hand anxiety. Parts of a dining room set filled with memories of family dinners is being sent away because it no longer brings her joy. As I sat there clutching my 7th grade skirt—hovering in a keep-or-donate purgatory—I wondered, is any of this bringing me joy?
Certainly not the act of purging my closet, but that’s probably just because I need a snack break, and a little direction. I felt overwhelmed and stressed over the idea of letting go of the items in front of me, even if I hadn’t worn them in 10+ years.
Enter: Marie Kondo.
If the KonMari Method is good enough for Emily Gilmore, it’s certainly good enough for me.
In short, the KonMari Method offers a unique but simple guide for decluttering your personal space with a big promise—a happier life, and a space you’ll never have to declutter again.
In her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Marie Kondo says, of the inability to keep a space in order, “the root of the problem lies in the mind.” It’s a point that’s hard to argue as I sit here lost in memories of a sweater I forgot I even had until now.
There is, without question, a mindfulness aspect to this process, to the act of tidying up. Assessing what you have, and learning to differentiate between what you actually need versus what you think you can’t live without is essential. As is, according to Kondo, identifying what brings you joy.
The KonMari Method says that the possessions that spark joy are the things to keep. Everything else? To the donation pile (or to your next clothing swap!).
Finding Joy and Letting Go
It sounds like it should be a simple task, doesn’t it? Figuring out what in my closet brings me joy and what doesn’t did seem simple at first. My I-feel-powerful-and-pretty dress brings me joy—keep, my I-use-these-jeans-as-inspiration pants from high-school do not—toss. I got this! Or at least I did, until I happened upon a dress buried deep in the back of my closet.
I hadn’t seen this dress in years, there was a reason I pushed it so far back. Like most items of clothing, I remember exactly where I was, and exactly how I was feeling, the last time I wore it. Sitting next to my grandpa for the last time, I remember playing with the small hole on its hem. Shifting uncomfortably I was tempted to put it back in its place, out of sight. It doesn’t bring me joy, and it’s a memory I truly don’t want to recall, and yet I can’t get rid of it.
Playing with the small hole on the hem brought me back to that same meditative state I felt when I was sitting on the edge of my grandpa’s hospital bed. For a moment I removed myself from the situation I was in.
The memories seemed tangible—it was as though I’d forgotten that the memories could exist without said article of clothing. Letting go of that dress didn’t mean I was letting go of a memory of my grandpa. Instead it was, quite simply, letting go of a dress with a hole… Letting go of something that no longer sparked joy, and something I no longer needed.
Marie Kondo put it best: “A dramatic reorganization of the home causes correspondingly dramatic changes in lifestyle and perspective. It is life transforming.”
Declutter and Destress
As soon as I applied that fresh perspective to the rest of my closet, my “donate” pile quadrupled in size. Once the closet was finished I turned on my heels and tackled my desk, my chest filled with newspaper clippings and magazines from 2012, and the various tchotchkes that took up residence atop my night stand.
I felt lighter. My room finally had something it had long been lacking: space. While I imagined that I’d feel some sense of relief and destressing once this purge was complete, I hand’t quite anticipated the enormity of what that would feel like. The room, and I, had a clean slate. “When you put your house in order, you put your affairs and your past in order, too,” Kondo says. My past was now folded neatly in boxes ready for pick-up.
While I’m not certain I have “perfected the art of tidying,” as Kondo puts it—you’ll have to check back in a month or two—I do feel as though I have a new understanding of what I want, and need. That’s a promise that the KonMari Method certainly has delivered on, as Marie Kondo says, “As a result you can see quite clearly what you need in life and what you don’t.”
Maggie Peikon is a New York native, writer, and sufferer of insatiable wanderlust. An avid endorphin seeker she has a constant need to be moving, seeking adventure in all she does. She is a lover of travel, daydreaming, fitness, thunderstorms, and her dog, Finley. Despite the fact that she has to take medication daily due to a thyroidectomy, Maggie still believes that laughter will always be the best medicine. Follow her musings on Instagram and Twitter.