How to Declutter Your Life Part One

Kon MariAs part of a new series this year, I wanted to share with you how I am decluttering my life. This is a five month series.  For those who want to take the steps to begin decluttering your life, count on this being a six month life plan to commit to this year.  You’ll need the extra month to truly put this plan into effect.

ESSENTIAL MATERIALS: Make sure to pick up a copy of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.  This is one of the most important books in understanding the points we’ll be covering over these next five months.  Also make sure to have a journal to record your progress.

Step 1. Tackle Your Wardrobe

One of my resolutions is to be more of a minimalist.  To have fewer, but better things.  I started to embrace this change back in November.  So where does one begin?

I decided I needed a change after realizing that the reason why I was not able to do the things I wanted to do was because I found myself so overwhelmed at home doing project after project, cleaning one room after the other with no end in sight, that I was spending most of my time cleaning rather than doing the things I wanted to do.  I made excuses on why I couldn’t do X, Y and Z because I just felt so overwhelmed.  I was drowning and I needed to find a way out of it.

I had heard about the Japanese art of decluttering.  There were numerous bloggers posting up how they had not only minimized their closets, but were able to find a new way to organize their things.  The decluttering bible they were using as their guidebook was The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.

My closet was overflowing.  Clothes were piled up sky high on the dresser.  I was running out of space to put my clothes, so I ordered a new wardrobe unit, thinking that would get a handle on things.  I ordered storage boxes, thinking I could get some sort of handle on the off-season clothing.

No matter what I did, I couldn’t get a handle on my wardrobe.

I ordered Marie Kondo’s book and absorbed it within a couple of days.  I set forth and started to put her methods to work.

So it begins…

As you read through the book, make sure you have a journal.

  1.  Ask yourself how you envision your perfect home.  Is it light and airy?  Is it calm and peaceful?  Feminine?  Modern?  Clutter-free?  Everything in its place?

    When you answer this question, make sure you are very descriptive with your vision.

Now that you have an ideal of what you ultimately want, let’s start decluttering by going through your wardrobe.  Have trash bags and boxes handy.  For the items you are tossing, you’re going to need three categories: TRASH, TO DONATE, and TO SELL.

  1. Marie Kondo suggests that you go through each item by category.  Tops are all in one pile.  Pants in another pile.  Coats in another pile.  And so on.
  2. After you have separated each item into their respective categories, go through each pile by touching each item, looking at each item and deciding if this item brings you joy.  If not, throw it into either one of the three toss piles.  It’s easy to decipher if an item brings you joy or not.  If it does not bring you joy, it goes.  If it doesn’t fit well, it goes.  If it’s too tight, toss it.  If it’s too big, toss it.  If it’s got a hole in it or it’s pilling, toss it.  If you don’t feel good wearing it, toss it.  Only keep the items that make you feel confident in yourself when you wear it.
  3. When you toss, items like underwear, seriously damaged clothing, etc. should be thrown in the trash.  Items that someone can use again, but are not re-sellable, should go in the donate pile.  For those that you can resell, place in the sell pile.

These are the basic rules to decluttering your wardrobe.

Does it bring you joy?  Keep only the things that fit well.  Keep only the things that make you feel amazing.  Get rid of the stuff that doesn’t make you feel great when you wear it.  Underwear that rides up, make sure you toss it.  Do not downgrade items to your ‘lazy days’ pile.  Nothing should be downgraded to keep.

I have been guilty of downgrading clothing to the lazy days pile.  Those drawers couldn’t hold all of the downgraded tshirts, tank tops and pants anymore.  One thing Marie Kondo said in her book that really stuck with me is that in our well-groomed dream homes, we should also be well-groomed to show respect to ourselves.  We shouldn’t downgrade ourselves to wearing tossed clothing that wasn’t good enough to wear out. We should upgrade our lounge wear so that we still look amazing when we answer the surprise knock at the door.

That doesn’t mean sacrificing your comfort.  There’s plenty of lounge wear out there that will not only look amazing on you, but you will feel completely comfortable in.

Since going through your entire wardrobe might be a little daunting at first, give yourself a week to go through each category of your wardrobe.  Start with the off-season clothing first.  That, in itself, can be a category.

If you are short on time, and you separate your clothing by drawers already, make it a point to go through one drawer at a time.  I started off by going through my main closet first, then each night after that for a month, I went through each drawer, box, cabinet, etc. by category.

I ended up donating five large bags of clothing, two large bags went into the trash.  Another 3 boxes were for resale.

If you are like most fashionistas, you may have a certain type of collection, whether they be purses, shoes, belts, sunglasses, etc.  Leave going through your collection for the last category to declutter in your wardrobe.  You want to start with items that you are not 100% attached to.

For me, I have a purse collection.  I have 2 large bookshelves, along with another two three cubby cases filled with handbags.  I saved this collection for the very last when I decluttered my wardrobe for one simple reason…it’s difficult to part with a collection you take pride in.

I went through every single bag and tried to decide whether they gave me joy or not.  By the time I was done, I had pared my collection down to 75 hand bags.  This may seem like a lot, but to me, it isn’t.  This is a collection, after all.  Kondo says that you need to keep paring down until you get to that point where you feel like what you have is exactly the amount you feel happy with.  After all, the whole point in the Japanese art of decluttering is to surround yourself with the things that bring you joy.  Handbags bring me joy.  75 bags were the right amount.  76 bags was too much.  75 is the right fit for me.

I ended up donating two garbage bags worth of handbags. I ended up having one trash bag of handbags that I could resell.

By the time I was done, I was happy with the amount I kept and with the ones I decided to keep.  I did buy two new handbags after I decluttered.  I asked myself what was missing from this collection.  I was missing Chanel from the collection, so I ordered two new Chanel handbags (one for the evening, one for the day) to complete the collection.  I have a few bags designed like the Celine Luggage bags. I decided that this year, I would make it a goal tied in with my resolution to read 52+ books this year, the reward would be a Celine Luggage bag.  I wanted to make it a goal instead of just going out and buying it.  I wanted to earn that bag this year, because I’m trying to rid myself of a bad habit of buying what I want when I want it.  That mentality is what got me buried underneath so much stuff I was drowning in it.  This was my first step in creating change.

After I complete my goal, I’ll buy the bag and then part with all the other bags that are similar to the Luggage.  It will be an upgrade of a design I love, so there’s no reason to keep the downgraded versions.  It will also help keep me under that 75 bag maximum.

The reason why I mention how I’m adding to the colleciton is because in the art of decluttering and using Marie Kondo’s method called “KonMari” (a play on her name), you are trying to minimize everything.  You’re not trying to declutter and then go back to those bad habits again.  I know that in the past when I decluttered my wardrobe, I’d end up looking at it and going, “Oh, I’m missing X.”  So I’d go out and buy three times more stuff than what I just got rid of. It’s a dangerous cycle.  KonMari has been the only thing I’ve come across that doesn’t just declutter but it stops you from falling back into those traps again.

When I decluttered my wardrobe there are a few things that happened that I didn’t expect.  I had pared everything down to only those items that were perfect.  They fit perfectly, looked great, and made me feel amazing when I wore them.  I thought…ok, this is great.  I decluttered.

What I didn’t expect is that I would finally discover my wardrobe.  I now know everything that is in it.  I can now play around with so many different looks based on what I kept.  I actually have fun with everything knowing that no matter what I pull out of my closet, it fits perfectly.  I don’t have to wear a tunic with these pants because they are too tight in the leg.  I don’t have to wear a long shirt because the pants made my middle look funny.  I don’t have to fix or hide the blemish in the outfit I was wearing because there were no blemishes.  Every single item was perfect…and it looked perfect on me.

I found my style after sifting through so many articles of clothing.  I discovered that I prefer wide leg trousers to regular trousers.  I realized that I preferred to keep blouses instead of just random tops.  I ended up curating a wardrobe from all of the mismatches mixed in with the rest of the wardrobe.  I found my own true style.

I have a lot of things that I do that require different types of garments.  From red carpet premieres to hockey games to hockey practice to the office to the opera.  I need something different for each event I go to.  Because of that, I know I need a wardrobe from casual wear to formal wear and everything in between.  I was able to cut my wardrobe down to those items that fit perfectly every time, no matter what I had to attend.  I can now find exactly what I’m looking for instead of freaking out when I have a red carpet event and need to find the perfect outfit.  I own every single item I could possibly need for any life event that comes up.  That’s what I was able to create…a curated wardrobe for my life and everything that happens in it.

It took Marie Kondo’s book to help me find my own style by getting rid of all the wrong things and keeping only the right things.  I am not buried under my closet anymore.  Everything is in its place.

I have to say that it is fun knowing what you have and trying to invent so many different looks based on the items you keep.  This is the kind of wardrobe that should last a very long time.  There’s no need to add anymore of the wrong things to it.  Knowing what it is that you want out of your wardrobe also helps in deciding what to add and what not to add.  You’re not going to want to go on a shopping spree anymore.  Why?  Because in this process you’ll learn that the less things you have, the less things you have to take care of.  That’s the kind of life you want to live.  You want to have fewer, but better things.

You’ll only keep the things that bring you joy.  If it doesn’t fit right, that won’t bring you joy.  If it doesn’t look good on you, it’s not going to bring you joy.  If the handbag is a fake, it’s not going to bring you joy because you know the real thing would make you feel better.  If the shoes hurt your feet, how is that bringing you joy?  Resolve to only wear the shoes you love that actually feel good on your feet.

When you go to put things back in your closet/drawers:

  1. Learn to fold.  When you put things away in the drawer, everything should be standing up.  There are plenty of Youtube videos that can show you how to fold.
  2. Use all of the same kind of hangers.  Upgrade and buy thin hangers all in the same color.  You can get a set of 50 for $19.99 at Kohl’s all in the same color.  I bought 4 boxes over the years.  Since I started decluttering, I’m only using 2 boxes.
  3. When you put things back, the longest items should go on the left, the shortest items to the right.  Also, have the darkest items to lightest items going from left (dark) to right (light).  This actually makes your closet look clean and neat. (i.e. PERFECT)

For those who are new to taking care of your clothes, I learned how to do things the Martha Stewart way a long time ago.  It’s 15 years later and I’ve adopted a new method.  I outsource.  What I mean by that is that I have a local laundromat pick up, wash, fold, hang, and deliver my clothes.  This costs me about $30-$40 every two weeks, but I find that it’s worthwhile for a few reasons: 1) I get 4-6 hours back in my life to do what I want on the weekends, 2) when they return the clothes, it’s already folded exactly the way they need to be folded in the KonMari fashion, 3) they actually wash the clothes better than I ever could, and 4) they actually iron a lot of my clothes.

Sure, there are those items that are dry cleaned and mended.  Those go out to the dry cleaners to take care of for me.

The reason why I don’t mind outsourcing like this is because I’m not buying clothes anymore.  I’d rather professionals take care to launder, clean and iron them (I hate ironing, I’d rather wear it wrinkled) so I don’t have to.  It gives me back so much precious time I was wasting on taking care of my things.  Now I have someone else doing it for me.  All I have to do is just put the items away when they arrive.

This is a wardrobe I’ve curated and invested in.  I don’t want to throw out anymore clothes just because I don’t like them or because they don’t fit.  I want to take care of the items that fit perfectly.  If someone can do a better job than I can in its care, I’d rather they do it for me.  Outsourcing has given me back so much of my life to do the things I want to do, instead of wasting all this time trying to take care of them.

Decluttering your wardrobe is the first step in getting out from under the life that you are drowning in.  It helps you not only find and keep the things that bring you joy, but it also helps you discover your own style.  Do you know how much time you save each morning knowing that every single item you pull out of your closet will fit perfectly? Do you know how much time and money you save when you know what exactly is in your closet? If you know you already have the perfect white blouse, why do you need to buy another?

The KonMari method has helped me curate the PERFECT wardrobe for myself.  I find that I don’t need to buy any new clothes because I have everything I need and it is perfect.  If I add anything to it, I know exactly what would complement it to make it even better.  Gone are the days of buying a lot of different things only to find a few things that would bring me joy (if any).  Now that I know what my style is and what I love, I know exactly what to buy when I buy.  I know what the right thing is to add.  I don’t need 10 different things of the same item.  I know exactly what I’m looking for and will only buy that item.

If it wasn’t for the KonMari method, I never would have discovered my own style.  I now have a wardrobe that brings me joy.  I’ve scaled it down to a place where I’m happy with what I have.  I don’t feel like I’m drowning or overwhelmed.  I have exactly what I need.  Sure, I still go through and question if I can make the wardrobe better.  If I can reduce the wardrobe even more, I will.  I want to make sure this is exactly the wardrobe I want.

I have a goal of calling the donation center once a month to do a pickup of all of the items I’m getting rid of.  I make sure that each week, I throw out the things I don’t need.  Recyclables are thrown out weekly instead of monthly.  I make sure to always declutter one spot in the house each day.

The KonMari process isn’t a one weekend thing.  It takes six months to complete this project, no matter what size home you live in.  Keep that journal handy, because the one thing I never expected were the emotions you go through when you declutter.  I found that when I’d take a resale item to the post office or take a bag of items in to sell, I had some emotional conflict.  It’s good to write down what’s going on in your journal so that you can better understand how you got to be so bogged down with so much stuff.

Writing things down in the journal will help you work through why you are cluttering up your life.  Writing it down is a way to see the monster hidden within you so that you can face it, and then make the decision you’d rather be happy.  Happiness isn’t in the accumulation of things.  Happiness is having fewer, but better things…the things that bring you joy.  Your goal is to surround yourself in the things that bring you joy.  You have to work through each and every object to discover what brings you joy.  Once you discover what brings you joy, you’re only going to want to keep that joy in your life.

NEXT UP…Decluttering your entertainment.