Marie Kondo is everywhere. Her name has filled our social media feeds, our Netflix watchlists, bookstores, and local news reports on the influx of goods donation centers are receiving. I literally can’t go one day without hearing her name. Her organizing techniques, calm and happy mannerisms, and her desire to “tidy” have seeped into our mom lives in every way possible. I’m no professional organizer, but I love a good closet purge. I also spent the majority of my maternity leave dreaming of the day I could rid myself of clothes I knew I’d never get back into. But something about Marie Kondo’s approach of “joy” has bothered me since the first day I heard it uttered by Emily Gilmore as I binge-watched the Gilmore Girls reboot two years ago. She has been able to help thousands and spark joy with her process of tidying up, but is that reality?
If you haven’t seen her new show or heard anything about her techniques, her organizing hinges around one central question: hold each item and ask yourself if it brings you joy. If not, get rid of it. There’s more to it than that, but that’s the gist. I laughed aloud at the scene of normally-in-a-suit Emily Gilmore wearing a white tee ranting that everything needs to go, but the reality is, it’s a pretty extreme approach to purging. I tend to side with the internet memes on this one. Things like “so far I’ve thrown out my phone bill, the dirty dishes, and all my laundry” or “I can only have 30 books? She means on the nightstand right?” really resonate with me.
All kidding aside, I think there is some method to her “joyness,” but it seems unrealistic as a single approach. Do these cleaned out closets stay cleaned out? Do people regret throwing out things afterward? What about necessities? We can’t all afford to go run out and buy new because we accidentally KonMari-ed our kitchen away. And while having less means there is less to tidy, how does that help me keep up with laundry and dishes? In fact, fewer clothes means more frequent washing doesn’t it? And maybe spending less time tidying means I have more time to do the laundry and dishes, but how does that spark joy? More time to spend cleaning? (Not) yay!
So what is realistic in cleaning out the old cabinets, closets, and cobwebs? How can we move towards organization in a way that is approachable, sparks joy, and is actually easy to maintain? Well, the time has come for me to put it to the test, ladies. I’ve returned to work, returned to my pre-pregnancy jeans, and I hit the closet head-on (still to come is the kitchen junk drawer). I haven’t solved the dish dilemma yet, but here are a few additional questions to ask yourself that may help you realistically conquer that clutter and maintain your sense of peace. I also included a handy flow chart because, why not?
- Marie asks: Does it spark joy?
- Instead ask:
- Does it spark joy? – Come on, have you been paying attention? I’m not a complete hater, it’s a great first step.
- Does it fit? – This helps get rid of things you shouldn’t be wearing or have been lazy to replace.
- Have you worn this in the last 12 months? (If you were recently pregnant, give yourself 24 months). – This helps get rid of things that are out of style, don’t actually fit, or that you’re only keeping around because of guilt (it was expensive, a gift, etc.). Stop telling yourself, “but I’ll wear it once *fill in the blank.*.” No you won’t, and keeping it in your closet is making you feel sad and guilty, and no one wants to start the day that way as you get dressed (remember, we’re still sparking joy here).
- Should you / is it ok to wear? – Sigh. This one hit me hard this time around. Some of your clothes just don’t fit your stage of life anymore – I’m talking to you 4-inch stilettos and college formal dresses. If these made it past number 3 (even though they shouldn’t have), they need to go. Be honest with yourself. You can do it. Set them free, it will help. See my note on guilt in number 3.
- Is it a necessity? – This. One. Seriously. This is my number 1 issue with only asking about JOY. Ladies, we all know what I’m talking about. There are just some undergarments, tank tops, basic t’s, etc. that are anything but joyful. However, my most joyful outfits could not be made possible without them. I’ll leave it at that.
- Marie asks: Does it spark joy?
- Instead, ask:
- Does it spark joy? – Because we all have that one awesome spatula…
- Is it necessary? – If I get rid of all my dishes am I able to cook dinner tonight?
- Is it useful? Does it make my life easier? – Can openers unite!
- Is it expired? – Seems random, but seriously, check those dates people. Salad dressings don’t last forever.
You’re going to shop. You’re going to buy things. So before you do, just think through it.
- Is it necessary? – See a trend here? Lots of essential things don’t spark joy.
- Is it useful? Does it make my life easier?
- Does it get me closer to my goal of a simple/organized/ minimalist lifestyle?
Hopefully, this helps you the way it helped us organize our things (and keep them that way). In fact, just writing this post has re-inspired me. Things I will be purging immediately after I get up: my cold cup of coffee, Marie Kondo’s show from my Netflix queue, and my workout plan for today (neither necessary or joy sparking).