I’ve recently taken up the KonMari tidying method. This is my third attempt at following Marie Kondo’s system, and this time I’m finally getting it!
Here’s something I’ve learned: If you’re having a hard time sorting out what sparks joy and what needs to go, it’s probably because you’re having a hard time letting go of stuff in other areas of your life.
Kondo insists that tidying your house leads to changing your life, which sounds great. But if you’ve tried that and it hasn’t worked, I suggest doing it in reverse: change your life, then tidy up.
In my previous tidying attempts, it was incredibly hard for me to let go of things, even though I didn’t want or need them. I’ve realized this is because I wasn’t listening to myself about what I was doing with my life. My inner voice was saying “Something is not right,” (about the state of my life at the time) but I kept squashing it down and ignoring it. So of course I couldn’t get rid of clothes I didn’t want—I couldn’t get rid of a life I didn’t want!
Now that I’m doing what I want to do with my life (well, mostly), it’s sooo much easier to let go of all those clothes. Those non-joy-sparking clothes aren’t for me; they’re for my past self, or someone my past self thought I might become. Now that I’ve acknowledged who I am, I can finally close the door on all those other possible versions of me.
Kondo thinks that if you get rid of things that don’t spark joy, and look at what’s left, you’ll probably have an epiphany. You might see that you should go in a direction you’ve never consciously thought of before.
But I’m not one to take orders from my clothes. I wouldn’t just get rid of all my “successful student” clothes and then think “Hmm, since I tossed out all my blazers and pencil skirts, but kept my shorts and sneakers, I guess I should give up on law school and go backpacking instead!” That would feel irrational.
I thought “Why should what remains in my closet dictate what I’m doing my life? I give the orders around here.” (And I decree that I will remain mired in stuff I don’t want, on the off chance that I beat my long-workhours-averse self into submission enough to pursue law school!)
I also thought “I’m not just going to get rid of clothes I might need because they don’t spark joy. Then where would I be? I’d have to go out and buy more clothes that don’t spark joy to replace them.”
Eventually, instead of following through with the KonMari method, I went backpacking and left all my dry-clean-only clothes at home (shoutout to my mom and dad for preserving my childhood bedroom). And this, I think, was the best thing I could have done. Now that I’ve spent six months free of these items, it’s much easier for me to get rid of them. I’m finally able to tidy up.
I highly recommend The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. But if you’ve tried it and can’t seem to make it work, ask yourself “What do I want?” and listen to the answer. Then try changing your life first. Your clothes can wait.