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I decluttered my apartment like Marie Kondo

You must have heard of Marie Kondo by now. The Japanese organizing consultant and author wrote a book called “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up”, and one by one my fellow minimalists/decluttering enthusiasts have devoured it and sung its praises. Me, I was a KonMari skeptic. I had already read a few books on the subject (my favorite being “The Joy of Less” by Francine Jay), so what new could Marie Kondo’s book possibly bring to the table?

Can’t resist the cray

Inevitably, I cracked. It started when I watched her 42 minute long Google Talk a few months ago and realized what differentiates her from the similar authors that I have read: girl is cray. She has had an obsession with organizing and tidying up since she was 5, she wants you to roll your socks instead of balling them in order to give them rest, and she wants you to fold your t-shirts to make them stand up vertically. Fast forward a handful of weeks: it was the end of my summer holiday and I had a day to spare, so I bought the book for my Kindle and read it in one sitting.

Surely I can’t donate any more clothes?

If you have ever read a whole book on decluttering in one sitting then you know the unstoppable urge that follows: you want to throw away everything you own. I armed myself with a printable KonMari checklist, rolled up my sleeves and got started on my closet. This is where I want to remind you that I have several rounds of decluttering under my belt and that I’m not very sentimental. I have donated teddy bears and jewelry and I have recycled very old birthday cards. In short: this was not my first rodeo. I thought I had a pretty good grasp of what I owned, and that the things I own were things that I liked, but boy was I wrong.

In short, Marie Kondo’s schtick is that you collect all your similar items and pile them up in one place so that you get the full overview of everything you own within that category. This means everyday clothes, jammies, socks, jackets, coats, yoga pants, all of it. You then pick up each item one by one, hold it in your hands and ask yourself: does this spark joy? If yes, keep it. If no, out it goes. I decided to veer slightly from the rules and made separate piles for “yes”, “throw away”, “donate” and “undecided”. I worked quickly, and any garment that gave me the slightest feeling of “ehhh…” was banned from the “yes” pile. What I learned was:

  • I had a surprising amount of “ehhh…” garments.
  • Going through the “undecided” pile was easy once I could compare it to everything in my “yes” pile, and I kept very little of it.
  • My “yes” pile contained more than enough clothes once I was finished.

In the end I donated 5 plastic shopping bags full of clothes, and 2 weeks later I can barely remember what was in them.

How many box cutters?

After my closet I tackled our book shelf, then our bottomless drawer of spare cables, then the bathroom and my collection of cosmetics. Out went my samples, everything that had expired, and anything that I didn’t like. I discovered that I have an obsession with things that are travel sized, and marveled at my 4 complete sets of tiny shampoo and conditioner. Lastly I tackled the junk drawer, where I found a large collection of batteries, about 20 pens, and most curious of all: 15 tiny box cutters. Why so many box cutters? Where did they come from? I also found wrapping paper that I didn’t even know we owned and a bag of dog treats, all stuck in junk drawer limbo until I KonMari’ed them out in the open. I probably should have thanked all those box cutters for something before I let them go. You see, thanking things for their service before you throw them out is part of the KonMari code of conduct. Screw it, they’re only box cutters.

The kitchen mysteries

Lastly I was supposed to work my KonMari magic on the kitchen, but it was a mess and I put it off until the weekend. When Saturday came around I had to run some errands, but when I returned home The Boyfriend had already started working some KonMari magic of his own and was nearly finished. The kitchen looked tidy and wonderful and he told me he had thrown out 3 bags worth of stuff, which I still can’t wrap my head around. What the hell was even in those bags? Mystical pointless kitchen stuff, obviously, because I still can’t figure out what is missing. We also decided to donate a very fancy 36-piece set of cutlery that we had been gifted, only to discover that we also owned a different set of fancy cutlery that we had completely forgotten about that we loved.

The discoveries

When the whole process was over I came to several conclusions:

  • I always keep a running list on my phone over things I want to trash or donate. This was immensely helpful because it let me get rid of all of those things before even starting on the more difficult decluttering. This got me started on a positive vibe before I had to make decisions about the more difficult items.
  • I realized how unsentimental I have become regarding books. Now that I own a Kindle I really can’t think of a reason to keep the few hardcover books that I have left, but I still kept them in fear of regretting it later.
  • Say what you want about giving your clothes rest by folding them in weirdly specific ways, but Marie Kondo revolutionized my socks and tights drawers. By rolling them I know exactly how many pairs I own, and I will notice instantly if I lack hold-ins or wool socks or half-socks for the gym. Laugh at me all you want. I’m officially a sock-roller.
  • Once you’ve dealt with your own shit it is incredibly tempting to go declutter other people’s shit. Miss Kondo warns about this, letting us know that doing so would be incredibly disrespectful and that it is probably also a symptom of you knowing deep down that there is still something left of your own shit to declutter? Because if your own shit is in pristine order you will be all zen and no longer want to declutter other people’s shit? Who knows. Just don’t touch other people’s stuff.
  • Not owning a car is a problem when you want to get rid of things. Sure, we could rent a van, but I haven’t driven a car in 5 years and I never ever drove in Bergen, and The Boyfriend doesn’t have a driver’s license. Because of this we are stuck storing larger items until one of us makes a friend who owns a car.
  • I own a ridiculous amount of t-shirts and they all spark joy. Mmm, t-shirts.

In closing I will leave you with this fantastic one-star-review from Amazon.

This guy is not a fan of Marie Kondo


30 thoughts on “I decluttered my apartment like Marie Kondo

  1. Haha that review! I haven’t read it and I’ll probably keep it that way since I’m lazy. I’m good at throwing stuff out though and I hardly own any unnecessary stuff (makes it so easy to clean my house, I love it).

    • See, the easy cleaning is the biggest perk for me. It’s already boring enough to dust and vacuum and mop, I don’t want to spend a lot of time tidying up as well.

  2. sab says:

    lol at that review! :D
    i’m not diving into the kon mari cosmos… but last year i did the apartment’s therapy january cure and that was fab. i did it again this year and will participate next year.
    one day, i’ll end up in a completely decluttered house and will only own what i love and use regularly – without doing crazy things to my socks and t-shirts. :)))

  3. The book reminded me of my mother. Roll your socks. Fold the tshirts in the exact specific way …. Multiple rounds of take everything out, evaluate, fold and put back sessions per year. I immediately returned the book and went back to my usual life.

    Maybe someday, I will be ready to grow into my mother. Will give that book another chance.

    About the larger items : big cities have city trash services that come for a pick up based on their schedule. I recycled my mattress that way.

    • That’s so funny that your mother used to do this, because it is completely new territory for me. I’m not saying my family are hoarders, but the habit of actually evaluating possessions is something relatively new to me. We donated clothes, but everything else mostly got to stay “just because”.

      It is true that we have trash services, but as long as their stop is a ten minute walk away there’s no way I’ll be able to carry two book shelves and a TV table over there :)

  4. I’m really due for a clean-up, especially as I have access to so much free, damaged stuff due to my job that my flat is slowly turning into a hoarder’s den. I think I’ll stick to second-hand KonMari, meaning that I’ll go by hearsay and reviews rather than delve in the cray. So: thank you for reading it so I don’t have to! Also, how does one roll socks over balling them? I may be a KonMari philistine, but that all sounds the same to me…

  5. Kirsten says:

    I read parts of it too, so thank you for a full review :) I think there are some good points in the book, but honestly, I’m tired of reading about purging and decluttering all the things that are already bought and paid for.
    It’s much harder, and in my opinion more important, to change spending habits, which is why I really enjoyed your shopping fast. That was really helpful and interesting to me.

    • I completely agree. It’s a process though: you keep thinking you got rid of everything you can, but then you tweak your method or grow less attached to something and you end up filling a trash bag or two after all. I think I combination is pretty ideal.

  6. Ania says:

    I loved this book, seriously! Yes, it gets to serious levels of crazy sometimes, but let’s not forget that Marie Kondo is Japanese and that’s a rather different culture to the Western one = she was bound to put her thoughts in a way that may strike us as tiny bit odd. So I decided to be open minded about it :)

    I haven’t decluttered my apartment yet because I currently don’t live in it (temporarily living in a different city in Airbnb apartments), but I’m aching to do it—especially old papers, my, I can visualise even now the piles of that stuff lying around! And I can’t wait to have a dedicated place to put away every little thing I own—I know, I know she says no to think about organising before decluttering, but the sheer prospect of having things neatly tucked away in their “special places” is enough to make me smile :)

    Also, that Amazon review :D

    • I know, the culture clash is real and honestly you get over it about a chapter in. It’s odd, but also cute and eccentric. And who cares as long as the method works, right? :)

  7. Dette er SÅ noe for meg…Og sokkerulling høres deilig oversiktlig ut! Jeg ruller jo alltid når jeg pakker, men hvorfor stoppe der egentlig? (PS: Den anmeldelsen minner meg om da jeg i vanvare kom til å kaste noen av min kjæres uerstattelige barberhøvler for noen år siden – det brukes stadig mot meg….)

    • Hahahaha! Jeg har ikke kastet noe viktig heldigvis, men han gjør alltid narr av meg fordi jeg prøver å kaste takeaway-kaffekoppene hans før han har rukket å drikke dem opp…

  8. Eh… I read and tried some of her tips. Slightly too cray cray for me & the husband — t-shirt rolled up? Socks rolled up? Standing vertically? WTF. Ain’t nobody got time for that shit. I don’t know, I think part of the obsession with her is that (a) she’s Japanese (b) people have too much shit and need someone to tell them it’s time to toss things out. The (a) part is that the Japanese are known for being streamline and meticulous and the (b) part is well… people buy too much shizz.

    I mean, donate stuff you don’t need and don’t buy more crap to make up for that feeling inadequate/bored etc. That’s all there is to it. Vertical t-shirts never work for anyone because how the hell are you going to make it vertical for the rest of your life unless you buy more IKEA crap boxes to keep them in? And also as a working girl? WHO HAS TIME FOR THAT SHIZZZZZ?

    Anyway, I love you and Kannutten. And I am drunk. Peace out.

    • I still can’t wrap my head around the vertical t-shirts, but as I keep mine on a shelf and not in a drawer it wouldn’t be very practical for me anyway. I’m going to keep rolling my socks though. Magical wonderful sock rolls.

      Love you too, drunk Amanda <3

  9. Liesbeth says:

    I konmaried as well, and made no less than 50€ (:p) selling a bunch of my stuff on a flee market afterwards… In comparison with other methods I like the way she deals with hard feelings: it’s true that when you have difficulty letting go I often discovered an unnecessary attachement to the past or (more often) a fear for the future. Her method of thanking stuff for what they taught us also worked well for me. Too bad I didn’t have the stamina to do everything: I did clothes, books, ‘multimedia’, beauty and even sentimental stuff, but lacked the time and energy for papers and ‘komono’ (which seems to encompass a lot, like the kitchen). But still I can feel the positive effect on my simplification efforts: once you get to a certain level of ‘less’, the thought of going back to more stuff is so unappealing that it helps curb overshopping….

    • Exactly, you just don’t want to go back! I love the way she makes you decide what to keep instead of deciding what to get rid of. It makes it so hard to make excuses for those things you neither use nor like. Fifteen box cutters!

      And good job on the flea market! They aren’t that easy to find around here so I always just end up giving things away :)

  10. Oh my, the travel size items obsession! After 2 years in a European office and many business flights (airport sized heaven), I had quite the collection myself. It is quite sobering to face them all together in one place.

    I think Marie Kondo has reached a large audience now, even the Raptitude blog is talking about her book and, well, he is self help/growth oriented, but I don’t believe he really can count as a “minimalist crew” per se. And he’s a man. Somehow I thought only women would be interested in rolling their socks.

    It’s incredible how much clutter we accumulate without even noticing, isn’t it? We sold, donated and trashed a lot of things when we moved in together with le fiancé last May, yet most of our closets and shelves are full, but of what?
    Very funny article, I love that Amazon review :)

    • See, I’m kind of jealous of your move now, because it is so easy to spot the surplus when you have to box everything up and unbox it later on. I can imagine a lot of stuff going out the door!

      And god I love shopping minis in airports. And mini Sephora samples. You feel so clever when you get them, and then you get home and realize you already have five similar ones!

    • Xing says:

      I still don’t roll my socks *runs and hides* I ball them up and throw them in a ziploc bag that I leave unzipped and put them at the bottom of my wardrobe. There’s no space otherwise.

      Do you find yourself recluttering though? At every move, I throw away bags and bags or stuff only to buy more stuff later on. And it’s not always clothes (which is easy for me) but komono or kitchen appliances. It’s kind of ridiculous how much I can accumulate in a year.

  11. Xing says:

    I was resisting and resisting because I thought I was pretty neat already. All the videos I’ve seen are of suburban hoarder moms and I’m not like that. I’m not like them. I don’t need this cute Japanese woman teaching me how to tidy.

    But then I saw your part about her being cray and I changed my mind.

    I donated 3 shopping bags of clothes and got a neater wardrobe. It’s slightly addicting but also very tiring. I curious though, did you reclutter?

    • I don’t really reclutter, no, at least not generally. I’ve done enough shopping fasts to have my general shopping habits mostly under control. I do re-mess though, but it’s the kind of mess where the items are good, I’m just too lazy to put them back in their designated spot. Prime example: my makeup table. Sometimes a girl just has to run to work!

  12. Trajena says:

    My sister and I were shopping last week and she bought Marie Kondo’s second book “Spark Joy”. She oh so graciously and subtly is allowing me to read it first, as I’m moving at the end of May and should downsize and tidy first.

    I brought the book into work today, I’m now on page 38 and I’m getting twitchy in anticipation to get home and get started on achieving the home/lifestyle I want…

    I foresee a sleepless night. I’ll let you know how my journey goes

  13. Annette says:

    Thanks for re-freshing this post. Now that I’m sat in the new house with boxes of crap everywhere I feel this is a good excuse to really get rid and I’m not a hoarder by any means. I like the idea of holding something and asking if it brings you joy – so not getting rid of something for the sake of it but really understanding why you have it. What doesn’t bring me joy are the millions of cables we have from various electronic gadgets, phones, and our collection of internet routers over the years….. Thankfully there is a collection service for such things!

    • There is always a ton of stuff hiding in a corner that you forgot you even had, right? I thought I had a pretty good overview after my several rounds of decluttering, but I still ended up giving away 3 bags worth of stuff last week. Can’t wait until it’s out time to move so I can do it properly :)

  14. Norah says:

    I `ve heard a lot about the KonMari method – difficult to avoid if you read minimalist blogs :) – , but haven`t actually read the book yet. I think I am already pretty good at decluttering and thus won`t be needing reading this book. Plus, as you also said, reading something about decluttering always triggers the urge to throw more stuff out. As I tend to be a bit obsessive about it and want to clean out more, even though I haven`t got that much, I think it s not good for me reading too much about decluttering.
    I also wonder, isn`t it difficult applying the KonMari method in the kitchen or with bureau stuff as there are probably lots of things that don`t spark joy, yet one still needs? However, I think Annette put it nicely by saying that you don`t need to throw out stuff, but understand why you have it.

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