Five or so years ago, I was sitting down for coffee with a girlfriend and she told me about how her older sister was spending the entire weekend decluttering and organizing her home. She sent her two young kids to stay with her parents for the weekend and her and her husband confronted the chaotic clutter that had begun to overrun their lives. She told me that over the course of a weekend,MAIRE they were going to go through every single item that they own. Take everything out of every closet, every drawer, every corner and tackle it head on. She said it was something called Konmari.
At the time, I was about 23 years old. I lived alone in a one-bedroom apartment and I considered myself a meticulously neat and organized person. I didn’t keep things I didn’t use or need, I cleaned out my closet quarterly, I owned three Tupperware containers, max! I almost felt sorry for my friend’s sister who had to spend an entire weekend getting rid of junk.
Fast forward to 2019, and I am a young mother with three kids and sometimes I throw out leftover food just because I can’t stand the thought of opening my Tupperware drawer.
The clutter struggle is real.
As a society, it’s obvious that we are in a consumption epidemic. We just think of something we might want to buy, and within moments an ad for it is popping up on our screen. We click the “buy now” option on Amazon Prime without thinking twice and mindlessly wander the aisles of Target searching for answers. Everyday we are sold a new fad or product that will solve all our problems, saying yes to it all, unaware that it’s feeding the underlying issue. We are stuffed to the brim with…stuff. And that stuff is spreading from the corners of our homes and closets and junk drawers and into our brains and our bodies and our relationships. We’re cramming our closets and calendars and cerebellums with STUFF. And we’re suffering for it.
That is why as soon as the clock struck 12 on January 1, 2019, everyone was ready to rip all the clothes out of their closets and pile them onto their beds, taking severe inventory on what does and doesn’t “spark joy”. It makes sense. This whole #tidyingup frenzy is catching like wildfire for a reason. There is a reason Marie Kondo’s books have been published in 41 regions and countries, with over 5 million copies sold worldwide.
I never questioned whether the Konmari method would work. It was obvious it would work because I had seen it work for countless people. From my best friend’s sister to strangers on the internet, people’s lives were being changed by the magic of tidying up. And I wanted in.
Like I said, I never questioned whether it would work, rather I questioned whether I could successfully work through this specific process. And the answer was a resounding, “NO”.
It’s just not a realistic option for me. I’m not suddenly going to have this undivided attention to put toward this task. I have a family. I’m home alone with a baby all day, I have two young boys in school and a husband who runs a business and comes home tired and wanting to spend time with us. Our weekends are for our family and we want to do as much fun stuff as we can to make up for all the fun we aren’t having during the week. I wasn’t going to be able to round everyone up and get them on board for this de-cluttering show down.
For months I’ve been telling myself I would clean out, de-clutter, organize and systemize when we move. But as anyone who has lived through a remodel knows, our move-in date keeps getting pushed back and the mess is multiplying (along with my stress headaches). I finally decided I needed to optimize my current living situation and bring those systems with us into the new house, whenever we actually get to move into it.
The goal was to de-clutter, deep clean and organize every square inch of the house. The obstacle was that my family lives here. And the creative solution became what I refer to as “microdosing the Konmari method”.
I figured if I could just tackle one little square inch at a time, eventually the tidying would be complete. I don’t have that many long stretches of uninterrupted time. I maybe have ten minutes while baby eats or an hour and a half while she naps. Maybe one day I’ll have enough energy after the kids go to bed (that hasn’t happened yet, but I’ll keep you posted).
My idea was to take a picture of what I was going to tidy in that moment. Konmari the hell out of that one spot. Then when I was done, I’d take an “after” shot to revel in my accomplishment. Because what’s more satisfying than a good before & after?
I started with my kitchen sink and the surrounding counter area (just imagine a sink filled to capacity with dirty dishes and general chaos beyond that). I took a picture of the mess, cleaned everything visible in that one picture, then took a picture when I was finished. It felt great!
So far I have Konmari-ed all of my clothes, most of the kitchen, the baby’s room and even got the boys to clean out their room! I have been microdosing for about a week now, but I can already see and feel the results. A few main takeaways being,
- It’s enjoyable. Maybe because it’s distracting me from less enjoyable stuff (ie: the stress of a never-ending remodel). But I look forward to tidying up. I make sure to put my clothes away rather than throwing them around the room, because I took so much time to create these orderly systems that I feel obligated to stick to them.
- With that, my kids are seemingly experiencing the same thing. They’re two young boys, they aren’t going to like tidying. But they did feel an enormous sense of accomplishment after cleaning out their room and they want it to stay looking neat. I’m also reminding them relentlessly to keep it neat. So, it could just be that.
- The process put things into perspective and really forced me to understand and trust that little by little it will all get done. We CAN do it all, but we can’t do it all at once. And this microdosing version of tidying up really showed me that even taking small steps forward toward something you want will help you get there. It doesn’t have to be quick, it just has to get done.
- This one took me most by surprise, but the tidying up process has forced me to re-evaluate my life and de-clutter everything. Not just my clothes or tchotchkes, but my calendar and my relationships and my habits and my neurosis. It’s all being tidied up. Just like Marie Kondo encourages us to hold each ratty old college sweatshirt and determine whether or not it “sparks joy”, I have found myself doing the same with everything else in my life.
I’m realizing that we aren’t just cluttered in a physical sense. We’re cluttered in a spiritual sense, as goofy as that sounds. We’re all just trying to keep our head above water, drowning in to-do lists and activities and busyness, trying to do as much as everyone else says they’re doing.
I get what sparks joy in my life now. It’s silly that cleaning out my closet brought me that understanding, but I’m not too worried about how I got here I’m just glad I got here. And while I’m organizing our junk drawer and throwing out that wad of tangled cords to cellphones no one owns anymore, I’ll also be taking a clear inventory of everything else I allow into my life and judging whether or not it really needs to be there. And if it doesn’t, then I just don’t have the time or space for it.
Lauren has been documenting this entire process on her Instagram, @perfckedmom. She invites you to follow along and if you try out this microdosing method of tidying up yourself, make sure to use the hashtag #perfckedlytidy to share it with her!