Me and KonMari

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

"The process of assessing how you feel about the things you own,
identifying those that have fulfilled their purpose,
expressing your gratitude, and bidding them farewell,
is really about examining yours,
a rite of passage to a new life."
- Marie Kondo, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up
(Image via Urban Outfitters)

I have long fancied myself as someone detached from possessions. Between my big move from Manila to New York nine years ago, and my subsequent tour de Manhattan before settling in Brooklyn Heights, I was under the illusion that I was traveling light and constantly discarding the unnecessary. It took reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and following the steps laid out by Maria Kondo, guru of joy-sparking minimalism, for me to confront the uncomfortable truth: I had in fact dragged a tremendous amount of mostly useless excess baggage all across New York over the past 9 years.

Learning to Let Go

The basic premise of the method which has come to be known as KonMari is that you should only keep what sparks joy in your life. Kondo asks you to go through your possessions by category in a prescribed order, starting with clothes then books and so forth until you end with mementos. You must hold every piece in your hands and assess whether it brings you joy. If the answer is yes, it stays; if the answer is no, you must thank it for the purpose it served in your life (keeping in mind that the purpose could simply be to teach you what does not work for you), and then let it go.

The book includes testimonials from KonMari believers testifying how this exercise led to life changes as radical as quitting an unfulfilling job or even getting a divorce, which I at first thought was a hard sell. As I went through the exercise, however, I began to understand how such big life changes could come out of this process. KonMari is very much a paradigm-shift; the habit of letting go of what doesn't suit you can work just as easily for shoes as for men. Once you start thinking this way about your possessions, you just may start applying it to the rest of your life. After all, taking on the gargantuan task of tidying up your life is not really just about the things themselves ...

What kind of life do you envision?

At the beginning of the process, Kondo asks you to picture your endpoint—not just a clean closet, per se, but visualize what a joy-sparking life looks like to you. I remembered how happy I was when I first moved into my apartment; it was perfectly tidy and I was always ready to have guests over for a cocktail. But as work, graduate school and our long-distance relationship took over, my apartment became my very last priority. Things started piling up everywhere and before I knew it, it was a bonafide mess. Having a friend pop in to quickly use the bathroom became embarrassing; forget ever hosting a cocktail party again!

But with grad school finally done and dusted, and our relationship transitioning into a new phase, I could now re-examine my vision. Yes, I could bring my apartment back to pre-grad school, cocktail party-ready tidiness, but I also had to re-imagine it as our home. I dove into KonMari knowing that I needed to clear up the clutter of my past to make room for my future. That goal motivated me to discard clothes, shoes and accessories so ruthlessly that by the end of the process, the things that bring me joy fit neatly into one closet and two drawers, leaving my husband-to-be plenty of room to settle in.

Examining your choices

One of the things I learned from KonMari is that deciding what to keep and what to discard is ultimately about taking an honest look at the choices we have made. This tendency to avoid examining, learning from and accepting our bad choices is largely why we accumulate so many things we don't particularly like. Even though we know that something is not quite right, we still try to live by the choices we've made, ignoring what that ultimately costs us. For possessions, that could mean draining our bank accounts by purchasing more storage solutions, upgrading to bigger homes or renting extra storage units. Wouldn't it be so much cheaper to let go of those pretty but painful shoes that you never wear than to buy even more shoe racks for your unused quasi-treasures to gather dust in?

I realized that the same thinking applies to our personal lives, too. I sorted through my belongings while watching old episodes of Sex and the City, which is not Kondo-approved but nevertheless felt appropriate as going through my old things was akin to seeing reruns of my past life. Looking at my past through KonMari lenses, I couldn't help but think about the decisions I had made back then and how, had I stubbornly stuck with a choice that was not entirely right for me, there would not have been room for Johan to come in. Just as discarding a ho-hum pair of shoes will free up closet space for your dream pair of Louboutins, letting go of relationships that don't serve you well will leave space for the right person to come into your life.

You deserve better (not necessarily more)

We tend to think that having more will bring us more happiness, but KonMari taught me otherwise. Throughout the years, the things that brought me joy had gotten buried underneath an avalanche of "meh." I kept thinking that I needed more because I could never seem to find anything to wear despite having two overflowing closets. I grew to despise doing laundry because there was never any space to put the clean clothes away. Getting rid of all that excess allowed me to rediscover my favorite things, and having no so-so fallback items ensures that I use the things that I love much more frequently.

I guess that's one of the gifts of KonMari: it forces you to take stock of what you have and how much room you actually have in your life to enjoy any of it. When I was confronted with just how much I had, I realized that there was no way I could enjoy every single one of my possessions. And after I had pared everything down to the things I truly loved, I realized that I still have more than enough. People who have suffered a huge loss tend to say that it took losing everything for them to realize what truly mattered. In essence, that's what KonMari does, but in far less dramatic fashion. You have control over what you keep and what you let go. You don't have to lose it all to find out what truly matters to you—you just have to let go of the things that are weighing you down.


I'm halfway through my KonMari process, having sorted through my clothes, jewelry, books and cosmetics. The changes I've made have already improved my life considerably. Getting ready and doing laundry is a stress-free affair because everything has its place and I can see exactly just how much I have. Seeing my things displayed in a way that allows them to shine brings joy to my everyday routine (this jewelry organizer is pure joy). I gave away about 3/4 of what I owned but have not felt a moment of anxiety over the things I've discarded since I let them go. There's a lightness that comes with freeing oneself from guilt and bad choices. I'm motivated to continue the process of ensuring every part of my life sparks joy.

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  1. That's a very interesting thing to do. I'm trying to enter this year with a fresh mind and new goals, i might try it to have a better look at my life. Thanks for the idea.

    1. I highly recommend it! You are very welcome :)

  2. A clean and uncluttered living environment is great for our mental health. I try to throw away anything that I don't need.

  3. I read this book too! Decluttering changed my life. The author recommended to do it once. But I think we have to do it every once or twice a year. Things easily pile up. Btw, your closet really looks organized! (: