Full disclosure here, I DO KonMari fold my underwear every wash day. But that’s only because I’ve chosen to store them all in one tiny drawer, in my tiny, minimal-ish apartment.
Marie Kondo’s method was originally designed for decluttering compact homes with minimal storage, and that makes a lot of sense. If you live in a tiny house you can easily become overwhelmed with all The Things you acquire in this extremely consumption driven society of ours.
In bigger houses, with lots of storage it’s easier to hide it all. It’s still there, but we can pretend it’s all useful, or will be, and if it’s out of sight, it’s out of mind. Until it just becomes all too much. We all know what that’s like… when you can’t find things, you give up and just buy another one or you just can’t close your cupboards and drawers anymore.
A few years ago when I separated from my former partner, I decided I wanted a low maintenance, small, easy care home. When I was planning my move from our large suburban home to my Almost-Inner-City apartment I knew I’d have to downsize my personal belongings and only choose the essentials for my new home.
I have always been a very Tidy Person but when younger I also lived the life of a consumer, recreational shopping was a hobby, clothes, handbags and shoes were my passion. I had filled two large wardrobes, one in my bedroom with my current and transitional seasonal clothes and the other full of my off season clothes.
My bookshelves were stuffed full of carefully organised books I’d read once or I was going to read one day. My kitchen was full of Things-That-Might-Come-In-Handy (how many casserole dishes, sets of china and huge platters does one actually need!).
No Storage!! My new apartment had exactly 2 one meter wide bedroom closets when I moved in, a closet sized laundry cupboard and a very petite kitchen. That’s all. No linen cupboards, no hall cupboards, no Harry Potter cupboards, nothing. But I didn’t immediately start installing All-The-Storage I could lay my hands on.
Does It Spark Joy?
Part of my planning to move was the selection and packing of only the things I needed for a functional home. Being a pretty practical person (P.P.P.!) I decided to treat my move as an opportunity to start afresh, shed an old skin and try and live a simpler life. I was determined from then on to only shop for things I actually needed, to only bring into my home things that were practical or I simply could not live without. But I needed to start with an almost-blank slate. The KonMari method seemed to fit my needs perfectly.
My first failure was not applying the “Does It Spark Joy” concept correctly. I decided to skip this step and just bring basic, sensible things with me, that may not spark joy but were necessary, and replace them over time with things that DID spark joy. But you know what? It turns out that the things I bought with me serve their purpose very well. I found myself disinclined to replace my simple things unless they broke. When I bought them, they were what I needed. Simple and functional.
I had refined and decluttered my belongings by a system of practical simplicity. I discovered that I no longer needed more or “better” Things to make me happy. The joy was in the practicality of each item. My next step was to find a place for everything that I brought with me.
The KonMari method prescribes fitting your belongings to the storage space you have. I recommend this to my clients too, who mostly live in normal homes with average or even extensive storage that is overflowing. However, the shell of an apartment that I moved into did not serve my needs for storage space. My intention was to live a minimal-ISH life, I wasn’t quite ready to live a Spartan existence.
For the first few weeks I lived out of plastic drawers from Storage Box and big wheeled Sistema bins. I assigned places for things where I could, and thought carefully about what I needed, got rid of what I discovered I didn’t really need and thought about how I could use the space I had. I also thought about the future use of my apartment.
There are three rooms – a bedroom and ensuite downstairs with an exterior door, a sitting, dining, kitchen area with a balcony. Upstairs is a bedroom with ensuite and a tiny hall with the front door.
I assigned a new role to the ground floor bedroom which became the Hallway and Storage area. The first storage items I bought were two white flat-pack cupboards from Mitre Ten. One has drawers at the bottom and open spaces at the top, the other is shelving with four cupboard doors, two up and two down. They are placed in such a way that a king-single or double bed could easily be moved in, converting it back to a bedroom, with plenty of storage already in place.
Next was the upstairs bedroom. The queen size bed took up a lot of floor space, only very small narrow cupboards could be installed. However, what the room did have was lots of blank wall space. After a bit of research I found a cabinet maker who could make me wall hung cupboards and matching bedside drawers for a reasonable price, to my exact specifications.
Apart from popping up some Elfa shelving in the laundry the last major storage I had installed was additional cupboard and shelving space above the sink in the kitchen, creating space to keep cooking essentials off the bench and easily to hand and room to store my chocolate and coffee stash. Crucial!
I’m so glad I decided to invest in this storage all those years ago, it has improved these rooms immensely, making them far more attractive and increasing the practical functionality of the apartment 100%.
The Chosen Few… It took a few sessions, but I reduced my clothes, shoes and bags right down to what I actually wore and used. I broke it down into short sessions of purging. From the blindingly obvious – it didn’t fit, look good or was worn out – to the but-I-might-wear-it-one-day items, I went through the same process that I take my clients through when decluttering and organising their wardrobes.
And I did use a variation of the KonMari Method! When my priorities changed simply due to space restrictions it changed how I felt about my clothes. It had to SERIOUSLY spark joy or be essential. After the first sessions of removing the easier things, I was still left with way more than I could fit in my new closet. So I followed these eliminate or keep steps:
- Does it fit me right now?
- Do I feel good in it?
- Does it work with one or more other items?
- Does it reflect how I see my new life, who I want to be?
- Did I wear it in the last year?
- Is it the best one of it’s kind?
If the answer was YES to those questions, it came with me. In the end I hung and folded about one quarter of my original clothing in the small wardrobe and temporary plastic drawers in my new apartment. But it took several sessions of trying on and thinking about how I felt about each piece.
The decluttering process never stops and I still look in my wardrobe occasionally and wonder if I have something appropriate for the next occasion, but I always do. It’s a small creative challenge and a good reminder that for me it’s the experience that counts, not what I’m wearing as long as I’m comfortable.
All my cupboards are standard sizes. My pantry is a cupboard. Just a standard cupboard that could hold probably 4 stacked pillows. One of the most useful little gadgets I’ve used is the extendable extra shelf, I store things on top and underneath them at the back of my china and pantry cupboards.
In the far dark corner of the corner cabinet, where little used things disappear from sight and memory, I’ve fitted a large low sided plastic box which can be pulled towards the light if need be and slid right back into place after I’ve retrieved the thing I need.
My multipurpose items are a godsend in my mini kitchen. I chose baking and casserole dishes that can be used to serve, nesting bowls that are my mixing and serving bowls and just a few airtight Sistema boxes that can be used for leftovers and for transporting lunches.
In addition to the over-sink cupboards and shelves, I had to replace the ancient dishwasher. I chose a large dish drawer because the size just made sense AND my partner could install a drawer underneath. We have put the four most used pots & pans and our favourite salad bowl in this drawer. It’s close to both the dishwasher and the hob (actually everything in my kitchen is close to the dishwasher and hob…) and frees up space in the other cupboards.
Where did the KonMari Method come into this part of my move? This was the least KonMari-ed space in my home. I gave up some things for the greater good when I moved, and strictly stuck to the practical needs of setting up a home. It’s worked out just fine, I P.P.P.’d my kitchen (see Does It Spark Joy? above) and the results are exactly what I wanted. Simple and functional.
In my wall-hung bedroom cupboards I have put carefully-measured-to-fit clear plastic boxes. They’re actually large shoe boxes with lids, which I have removed. They’re sturdy and light and easy to lift down. When I started to use them I folded the contents Konmari style and I continued to do so for quite a while. However… because I can’t see the contents of the cupboards when they’re closed, and my life became busier and busier I became a little less disciplined.
And it annoyed me! I’m a Professional Organiser for goodness sakes, I teach my clients to store their clothes to fit their space and to be quickly identified and easily put back. I kept trying and failing to maintain the Konmari Fold. I was just too busy doing other things that I needed and wanted to do, to prioritise the time to do this.
Then I just chilled, I gave myself a break. I often suggest this method to my clients, but I was tougher on myself. I had maintained my Chosen Few, even reduced them a bit. And here’s the most important part. All my clothes were contained and the same kinds of things were kept together. I could see what was in the clear plastic boxes when I opened each eye-level cupboard, but the less than orderly manner in which I stored them actually didn’t bother me, because I could shut the cupboard door.
My sweaters were still rolled up neatly into fat wooly sausages in their space and my underwear was Konmari-ed into their little drawer every wash day. My simple set of white bed linen is folded beautifully because they are kept on a shelf in a multipurpose cupboard I access almost every day and it makes my eyes happy. And so are my towels. It’s just a habit to fold them a certain way so they look good on the shelf. It’s always interesting to see where our time and folding priorities lay!
Finally, the most important and also my all time favourite Golden Rule of a simple, clutter free life is to pay close attention to the things I bring into my home. It’s an intentional habit I consciously put into place when I moved into this little home and loving the simple, clutter-free life, it has become second nature.
Thoughtless shopping, the acquisition of Things to make me happy stopped. This has been the biggest change in my personal habits from my 20’s and 30’s. I hadn’t realised at the time that this was one of the KonMari Method instructions, so I accidentally got this bit right!
Defending my home from the clutter monster! If it’s coming through my door, it has to be useful and needed. If something comes into my house that might duplicate what I already have, something has to go out. I make regular decluttering trips to my local charity shops in addition to delivering my clients donations.
Clutter comes and goes, that’s life. As long as I keep up the habit of thinking about what’s coming into my home and regularly do decluttering sessions, however small, I can keep it at bay.
My partner who is a sentimentalist, respects my minimalist leanings too. A generous gift giver, he has converted to a gifter of experiences. Tranquility (mostly) reigns.
So did I fail at following the KonMari Method? Not really. The method is purely a system to help us keep our belongings under control, using emotional decluttering combined with practical storage ideas for compact spaces. Everything is optional. Like every piece of advice, system or method, we can and should pick and choose the parts that work best for us.
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learnt from living a minimal-ish life is that it’s important to prioritise where we invest our time and energy. It’s best if we design our homes to fit our particular needs, likes and dislikes because no-one is exactly the same as anyone else. There is no cookie-cutter lifestyle template that fits all.
Messy is subjective, and so is clutter. I chose to live more simply, to live with less stress, spending less energy and brain space on managing the Things in my home and my life. I still occasionally find myself keeping things just-in-case, or because they’re pretty. But that’s ok, because I know I can let them go when I need to and they’re not causing me to feel stressed.
It’s not hard to find methods that helps us create and maintain a simpler home. But it’s important to remember why we want this, and to not beat ourselves up if we can’t stick to the rules. It’s more important to follow the spirit of the method you choose and create your own version that suits you.
The goal is an orderly home that does not cause stress. I’ve achieved that by tweaking the basic concepts of decluttering and organising, and continue to follow my personalised, flexible approach to maintain my simpler home to protect and preserve my precious energy.