Is “tidying up” actually life-changing? Can folding your clothes into tiny domino-like rectangles make you a happier person? Should you jump on the Marie Kondo bandwagon and shed all your belongings that don’t spark joy?
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If you haven’t heard of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by now, I don’t know where you’ve been hiding. From Marie Kondo’s best-selling book to the new Netflix series, the decluttering maven is making waves across America and the globe.
I’ve been flirting with minimalism for a while. When I decided to have my fourth child after a pretty large gap (8 years), I knew I’d be starting over with ALL the baby gear. Thinking about how our house used to be with all the baby stuff—constantly tripping over mountains of plastic—I just didn’t want to go back to that place.
We took a minimalist approach to stocking up for baby, and those careful decisions made me think about applying these principles to the rest of the house. Clutter definitely makes me feel anxious and can affect my mood over time.
I decided to give it a try and sat down with Marie Kondo’s book while on maternity leave. It was an easy read and clearly outlined her process. I was ready to start tidying up!
Getting Started With Marie Kondo
I thought I was pretty good about regularly going through my clothes to clean out unwanted items, but I found there was still quite a bit that could be purged in this category. There were items I’d hung onto because I’d only worn them a couple times, but when I thought about it, I didn’t want to wear them again. The fit or the print wasn’t quite right, and wearing them didn’t make me feel good or happy. I gave myself permission to let them go and filled up a trash bag.
I went through my fashion jewelry too, pulling things out that just weren’t my style anymore. It was surprisingly easy to tell which things excited me—they were my go-to everyday pieces or special items I always get compliments on. Others had served their purpose and were ready to be passed on.
From there, I decided to tackle the bathrooms in our house. It seemed like a manageable task for a postpartum mother—nothing too emotional or heavy. I sat on the bathroom floor and pulled out EVERYTHING from the cabinets and drawers (except my husband’s two small drawers, which I left to him). It became clear very quickly that this was a long-forgotten area of our house. I was shocked by the sheer amount of stuff.
We had so many partially filled bottles of similar types of cleaner. This showed me how our disorganization was costing us money. Whenever we returned from a trip, we’d haphazardly throw our travel items under the sink. It was a mess. I got rid of all the samples we never used and ditched all the expired medicines and beauty products. In total, I filled four large trash bags. I could hardly believe it.
Tidying Up Becomes Fun
Next, the fun part: I brought out my inner Marie Kondo and organized the remaining bathroom items in the drawers and cabinets using small boxes. The best part is, this cost me absolutely nothing.
Marie Kondo advocates for using found boxes from throughout your home. I trimmed empty oatmeal and snack boxes and filled them with like items such as nail polish or contact lenses. Now when the drawers opened and closed, everything didn’t muddle together in a big pile.
It. Was. Beautiful.
Seriously, so satisfying. I excitedly got my husband and made him open every drawer to admire my work. He probably thought I’d gone mental on mommy hormones.
I moved on to tackle my areas of the bedroom. Namely, my nightstand and the decorative surface of my dresser. I realized I’d gone a little wild at HomeGoods over time, and I didn’t need all the decorative tchotchkes.
Many of them did not bring me enough happiness to justify the need to continually dust them. I pared these down significantly.
Then I made my nightstand useful for the first time in years. It had been my dumping ground for random sentimental and utility items. Each drawer held a deep pile of stuff and could barely be closed.
When I was done, I had a drawer I could store things of daily use (my essential oils, headphones, book, etc.) and another drawer of organized sentimental and occasional use items. Now opening this daily gives me a real sense of pleasure and accomplishment.
In other areas of the house, I ended up getting rid of about 80% of my books (and trust me, I love books). I also eventually tackled the kids’ rooms with their help.
What Worked and What Didn’t?
I didn’t exactly follow the progression outlined in Marie Kondo’s book. I tackled areas opportunistically and in a way that made me feel I was making measured progress.
I still haven’t gone through all papers (eek), the kitchen, the garage, or our family arts & crafts area. While I would have loved to do the whole house in the span of a few crash-course days, that’s just not feasible with a family of six, including a baby.
I’ve seen recently in the Marie Kondo Netflix series that other families also take several weeks to work through this process. I’m taking on new spaces as I’m able and feeling good about my accomplishments over time.
While tedious, taking everything out and grouping like with like before making a decision on each item was actually helpful. It allows you to see duplicates and the sheer volume of your stuff.
I’m not yet convinced by the Konmari method of folding. I did two of my dresser drawers this way, but it took so much longer and was not balanced out by a dramatic benefit. You also seem to need just the right amount of items in order to get them to stand up properly.
I already spend plenty of time on laundry, and I can’t see Konmari folding adding enough value to justify the additional effort. Maybe others are more efficient at it? I may try again in the future, but with my streamlined wardrobe, finding things in my drawers is currently not a problem.
Marie Kondo’s way of thanking items before releasing them may seem silly, but it was actually helpful when parting with sentimental items in particular. I realized I was hanging onto some things because they were from family, but they did not bring me joy.
Using her method, I felt good about releasing them to a new owner where they could be cherished and perhaps displayed rather than sitting in the back of my closet or bottom of a drawer.
In Marie Kondo’s book, she takes this concept to the extreme by emptying the contents of her handbag each day and thanking every item for its service before storing them in miniature boxes. I cannot imagine going to this level.
Repurposing found household boxes as storage dividers is simply genius. I’m all about saving a penny, and organizational items are expensive. They made all the difference in putting the finishing touches in drawers and keeping items in their place.
This was one of my favorite parts about tidying up!
Bottom Line on the Konmari Method
Overall, what’s the verdict on The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up?
I’ll admit, it felt really good to get loads of stuff out of my house. Our place didn’t look like a hoarder’s when we started, but with six people, things have a way of accumulating.
Is my house still a mess? Quite often, yes. But I do feel that a weight was lifted in reducing the volume of our possessions, many of which were just taking up physical and mental space without giving any pleasure.
There’s still much to be done, and I’ve gotten a good taste for what’s possible. I would definitely recommend using Marie Kondo’s principles, while feeling free to adapt them to suit you.
The process also makes you really think about your purchases going forward and to be more intentional about what you bring into your home.
So, effective? Yes. Rewarding? Absolutely. Life-changing? Just maybe.
Have you gone through the Konmari decluttering process? What did you think?
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Ready to tackle your kid’s room? See How to Declutter Your Kid’s Room With Their Help!