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High School | Home of the Spartans

Cleaning Up My Act

Posted 03/11/2019 by Erin Maloof

Marie Kondo’s two books on the art of tidying. photo by Mia Harsh

Inspired by the new Netflix show, “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo,” I decided to embark on my own tidying journey following the KonMari Method in order to spark more joy in my life.

Marie Kondo is a world-renowned professional tidier. She has written two books on the subject of how to clean and even has her own trademarked style of tidying called the KonMari Method. Kondo’s unique process clearly lays out the exact steps on how to effectively clean and tidy. By following her steps and tidying up, anyone and everyone can live a better, less stressful life.

The KonMari Method emphasizes keeping only items that “spark joy” within you. Her method is comprised of a few rules and five steps. Her rules are: commit yourself to tidying up, imagine your ideal lifestyle, finish discarding first, tidy by category, not by location, follow the right order, and ask yourself if the item sparks joy. Following those rules throughout the cleaning process will help people stay focused and productive when tidying. Most importantly, the KonMari Method lists five essential steps for how to tidy. Begin with clothes, move on to books, papers, komono (meaning ‘miscellaneous items’ in Japanese), and finally, sentimental items. Marie Kondo advises to: “Keep only those things that speak to the heart, and discard items that no longer spark joy. Thank them for their service – then let them go.”

Usually used to tidy entire households at once, I decided to start small and simply tackle my room. Armed with the KonMari Method and plenty of time and ambition, I set out to tidy.

Step One: Clothes. I was quite confident that this process would take me a few days because I have got quite a bit of clutter. I came home after school one day and got to work. I started by washing my clothes. Once they were fresh out of the dryer, I emptied the entirety of my closest and my dresser onto my bed. Once I had my clothes all laid out, I went piece by piece, held each one up, and thought to myself: “Does this garment spark joy in my heart?” When the answer was yes, I folded it neatly and placed it to the side. When the answer was no, I thanked the piece for its service, folded it, and placed it in a bag to donate. The whole process took a few hours, but as I reached the end I looked around and noticed about half of my closet was in the donate pile. Useless clothes no longer cluttered up my drawers and hangers. I then began putting all the clothes I decided to keep back into my closet and it left me feeling incredibly content! Each piece that I put away was one that I truly liked and was eager to wear. I followed the KonMari Method of folding which makes each piece of clothing a small little rectangle to be placed upright in the drawer. You start by folding the item into a third vertically, and then folding it down into a third horizontally. Once in this form, the clothes are easy to store and it allows for each piece of clothing to remain smooth and visible in the drawer. Protip: Bringing some of your best items to thrift stores like Plato’s Closet or Buffalo Exchange could help you make a little cash out of your old closet. Otherwise, Arcs, Goodwills, and homeless shelters are always grateful and looking for donations!

Step Two: Books. I am an extremely avid reader, loving books of every genre and style and never going anywhere without one. Because of this literature addiction, my room was drowning in novels. Every surface had at least a few lying on top.  Again, I started by collecting all the books in my room and piling them in the middle on the floor. I slowly went through the sorting process once more. My favorite books, the ones with well worn covers and creased pages, were placed in a pile to remain in my room so I could have easy access to them for rereading purposes. Books that I loved but did not necessarily need were placed in a pile to go into the basement bookshelf. Titles that I had yet to read were sorted into books I was going to keep and read in the near future, and books that I could give away because I had no interest in reading them. The final pile was my donation pile which was filled with books that I did not like, titles that were boring or just ‘meh’, and doubles of my favorite books that I did not need. By the end of the sorting process, a significant amount of books laid in my donate pile. I recommended family and friends to go through the pile and take any books that they were interested in, and then I donated the rest. Putting each book back on my shelf, I recognized that now my library was catered to my interests and made it easy to locate the books that were previously buried under the others in my room. I could not be happier with the results.

Step 3: Papers. Whilst I recognize many adults probably have far more documents than I, important and unimportant, my room was nonetheless flooded with papers. My desk drawers were full of pages dating back to second grade. For this part of the KonMari Method, I again grabbed every single paper in my room and threw them into the middle of my floor to begin the sorting. With a recycling bin close at hand, I sorted based on four categories. Supplies (clean paper ready for use), sentimental pieces (a picture I drew in first grade or the first essay I ever got an A on), relevant papers (readings for class or worksheets to turn in), and useless. For the supply papers I kept one type of lined and one type of printer paper. This way I had what I needed and nothing more. For the papers that were sentimental to me, I set aside a small box so that if I ever wanted to reminisce or show off my fourth grade art skills, I would know where to find those memories. That being said, I did not keep every essay or drawing – I only kept the ones that truly sparked joy for me or reminded me of something important or specific. For my relevant papers, I had emptied my binder and drawers and then refilled them with only things I knew would be significant for classes I am currently taking. A story we read for English last semester was not needed and thus recycled, but a rhetorical analysis reference sheet definitely went back into my binder. Everything else, I recycled. By the end, my backpack was lighter, my desk was cleaner, and my recycling bin was filled to the brim.

Step Four: Komono, or miscellaneous items. This step is one of the hardest simply because it covers a lot of ground. This included items in my vanity like makeup and hair products as well as various knick-knacks and dishes lying around my room. Instead of piling everything in the middle of my floor, I went section by section and piled things on their relative storage space. For example, I took out the myriad of writing utensils I keep within my desk and sorted through those, keeping my favorites and discarding old or unusable ones. Then, with my vanity, I took out all of my hair and beauty items. I piled them all on top of my vanity and sorted out the lotions and hair clips that I no longer used or needed. I went through the small amount of makeup I had and kept the items that I utilize daily as well as a few unique and fun products that I knew I would use for Halloween or special occasions. The KonMari Method suggests organizing bathrooms, kitchens, and garages in this step as well, but since I was only organizing my room, those steps did not apply to me.

Step Five: Sentimental items. This was one of the hardest, but also most rewarding parts of the entire KonMari process. For this part, I grabbed all the objects in my room that I keep for sentimental value: trinkets from my brother, stones from various countries I have traveled to, and a few random sticks and flowers reminding me of fun times with my friends. While all of these trinkets and items had significant sentimental value to me, I realized that I only needed the ones that truly sparked joy in my heart. After honing my joy judging abilities in the past four steps, the difficult task of tidying my sentimental items was made a little easier. There were trinkets from my childhood that I liked, but they did not remind me of anyone or anything in particular. Therefore, I put it in a donation pile to bring to Goodwill. The items that truly made me happy like the yellow blanket I have had since I was three or a shell from my favorite beach on Cape Cod were the ones I made a point to keep. When I was done, I was left with only a few items that all bring me a different unique joy every time I look at them. Finally, I gingerly placed them in various locations around my room so that there is a little bit of joy and nostalgia all over the place.

All in all, the KonMari Method was truly life changing for me. From start to finish, I learned a lot about myself, what truly matters, and what sparks joy for me. Not to mention, my room looks absolutely beautiful now. It feels clean and relaxed and now I know exactly what is in my room and where to find it. I cannot recommend this process enough. Anyone from the avid cleaner to the total slob can learn something from following the KonMari Method and I can confidently say that I have felt lighter and more joyful since completing it. For all those inspired to go on their own cleaning journey, happy tidying.