KonMari: How to "develop the instinct for what really inspires joy"?
March 26, 2015 6:38 PM   Subscribe

Practitioners of Marie Kondo's tidying method, can you please help me understand the experience of an object under consideration "sparking joy"?

I'm halfway through Kondo's book, but am still stymied by the idea of an object sparking joy. What does that mean? What does that feel like? I found mono blanco's commentary helpful—maybe there's another idiom (along the lines of "useful or beautiful") that would resonate more with me? a translation issue?—but I am, despite being a crouton-petter about specific types of things, uh, not good at being led by my feelings. If you have tried this method, and it has worked for you, what kinds of thoughts or feelings led you to keep objects? What did you tell yourself in order to let things go? If "joy" is an insufficient metric (and I mean really, my Zip-It gives me no joy, but it is absolutely the necessary object to have on hand for a clogged sink), what other criteria did you use to make decisions?

I would also like specific advice about discarding clothing; I love the idea of a capsule wardrobe, but can't get my head around quite how to execute it. How do you connect with a piece of clothing/handbag/pair of shoes? How can you assess whether something suits you, especially when you are the only one looking at it? Part of why I don't particularly love clothes is that I tend to regard them as functional/non-functional, and the idea of how to feel good in an outfit escapes me.

Your experience with KonMari and advice, please? Thank you.
posted by MonkeyToes to Home & Garden (17 answers total) 93 users marked this as a favorite
I'm a big fan of Marie Kondo's book and the Konmari method, and I've been applying it to my own life in my own way. To me, "sparkling joy" means that I really like an item for whatever reason. For example, I have this one coat that I absolutely love because it has a beautiful pattern and looks chic on; I have another that I always get compliments in; I have one more that is super warm, which makes me happy on cold days. I have happy stories about the first two, both of which were purchased while traveling. I plan to keep all of them but other jackets? Eh, they're OK but don't make me feel so good when I wear them, think of them or touch them. I'd happily send the same amount -- double even -- to purchase them again, if necessary. And if they become worn, I'm happy to repair them myself or pay for the repair. Does that help? I could go on but that's a start.

Perhaps another helpful quote could be this by William Morris: "Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful." Those zippy bags may not be beautiful but, as you said, they're mighty useful! However, do you use them frequently enough to make having many worthwhile? Is storing extra boxes a pain? Do you prefer a different kind of container? Etc.
posted by smorgasbord at 6:53 PM on March 26, 2015 [9 favorites]

Aren't you glad that you're not stuck with a clogged sink and have to wait days to schedule a plumber? On the other hand, if it's only a few bucks, and you can pick it up at the store nearby easily, and you only use it maaaybe twice a year, are you really thankful? Or just "meh, that was convenient"

For clothes, I think about what clothes are usually clean once I run out of underwear. I'm a little gun shy, so rather than full KonMari, I'll put most of the laundered clothes in a large suitcase. I can reach into it for the next four weeks-three months, which is right around when I'd get around to donating it.

Keeping two weeks of clothes, plus special occasion/coats, makes my wardrobe small enough I can pick out an outfit still drunk on sleep and not be embarrassed at work. That fact, rather than any individual piece of clothing, brings me joy.

The KonMari method doesn't really provide me a way to make more mindful consumer choices. But it provides a nice counterpoint to consumer guilt that makes me hold on to things that never quite worked out, or have since lived past their usefulness.
posted by politikitty at 6:55 PM on March 26, 2015 [15 favorites]

Maybe think of it as 'the best object for the job' with only *you* and no one else being the judge of what is 'best'. I threw away a bunch of ball point pens the other day. They worked ok, but either the ink was a bit too faint, or sometimes the pen skipped and left blank spots, or the pen somehow felt awkward to hold. Now, all that's left are the pens I deem the best for me. It's satisfying to know that I can now grab any pen at random and not feel frustrated. In that sense, your Zip-It absolutely fits the definition. Imagine trying to clean out a drain with a coat hanger for years, then you get a Zip-It. How would you feel?
posted by mono blanco at 6:56 PM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

I love this line from politikitty: "The KonMari method doesn't really provide me a way to make more mindful consumer choices. But it provides a nice counterpoint to consumer guilt that makes me hold on to things that never quite worked out, or have since lived past their usefulness."

posted by smorgasbord at 6:56 PM on March 26, 2015 [21 favorites]

I'm a Kondo-convert but haven't had time to fully implement her ways...or maybe that's just my excuse!

Anyway, I get what you're saying but maybe go from the opposite direction...if you pick something up and feel a twinge of sadness, then discard it. So anything that has a "but" behind it. Ie " I love these pants but I need to replace a button" (and it's been a year etc) or " I really plan on reading this book someday" (but it's been 2 years and I haven't etc).

I hate throwing out things that "are still good" but honestly ancient socks, hideous trousers, shrunken/stained shirts...they really all can be replaced with a nicer version, assuming a semi-comfortable lifestyle. I'm still on the Kondo path, but less stuff does really make you feel lighter/better. Thanks for reminding me I still have "work" to do!!
posted by bquarters at 6:57 PM on March 26, 2015 [7 favorites]

Also definitely donate everything that is still useable, it may have outlived its usefulness for you but you can feel good that you passed it on to someone else (via Goodwill etc)...even those pens may be a happy bonus for another person while easing your own situation/peace of mind!
posted by bquarters at 7:03 PM on March 26, 2015 [2 favorites]

Putting Me Together taught me to build a capsule wardrobe (or a remixable wardrobe, as she calls it).

With KonMari, I think starting with clothing and books is a good way to start, as she suggests. It's also important to take the step of imagining where you'd like to be when you've finished. Can you envision that wardrobe? The way it feels to open that closet in the morning? To step out of your house wearing those clothes?

Now, holding this sweater... Do you feel that way? Does it spark that "yes!", does it move you closer to that goal? Or is it merely "okay"? Worse, is the collar stretched or are the sleeves short or is it frayed or stained or somehow uncomfortable or annoying? Do you love it enough to fix that button or is that to-do pile going to hang around making you feel vaguely guilty for the next 6 months? Do you unconsciously avoid that dress because it worked when you were 24 but now you are 34 and your self image has changed?

With clothing, I found that I had quick yes's and no's, but the maybe's were difficult. It's okay. Do what is useful to you and keep going. Ms. Kondo won't catch you. ;)

With your ZipIt, do you feel more prepared and powerful and adult? Is that not a kind of joy? With another tool, does it feel redundant or does it need to be replaced?

Her idea that objects like having a job to do was very interesting to me. Are these pants well suited for their current job? Or are they hoping to retire? Is this book hoping to work for someone else, or does it have something left to do for me? Can we say "thank you for your service" and let them go, or can we say "I am so glad you are still helping me!" I think this is close to the idea of sparking joy.
posted by heatherann at 7:08 PM on March 26, 2015 [14 favorites]

A helpful mental exercise for me is to imagine that the item isn't mine at all, but that I've seen it on a "free stuff" table at a garage sale or similar. Would I think it was an awesome find, or something I wouldn't mind leaving for another person?
posted by rivenwanderer at 7:33 PM on March 26, 2015 [48 favorites]

We've just started on the project and have finished the clothing part. I thought about "Do I enjoy wearing this?" Unless I could give it an A+++, it went in the "give away" bag; a few things went in the garbage. My husband, more into intuition and energy vibe woo, held and sort of meditated on each piece.

What I discarded: underwear that was saggy or baggy; socks that felt tight and clingy after just a few wearings; tops that always made me feel too hot or too cold or were a pain to launder/iron/maintain; skirts that didn't really fit and I didn't love enough to have altered; ditto pants, also white summer pants that were lined (because white) that made them too hot for summer; a jacket I bought on sale with a malfunctioning zipper that never did work right; PJs that were just old worn-out t-shirts and shorts; my wedding dress (I've been married nearly 36 years and I bought the dress mostly because it pleased my mother, who herself passed away 17 years ago).

What's left: I love everything that's left. Each item fits well, makes me feel good, and is about as flattering as clothes on fat, short, middle-aged woman can be; PJs that are super comfy but matched sets that if I had to, I could answer the front door in. I generally always bought with a couple of capsules in mind, so most things go with most other things. Getting dressed is simple, and in about 5 mins on Sunday night, I create 5 outfits for the work week. Of the 8 full-to-the-brim drawers I kept clothes in, 3 are now empty. There's lots of space (and breathing room) in the closet for hanging clothes and my out-of-season things take 1/3 the space they used to. When I shop now, my criterion is not "Is it okay?" but "Do I absolutely love it?"

The whole house feels better even though 80% of our clothes are in our bedroom. I have a week off coming up and we're going to do the books. By summer we hope to have gone through the whole cycle.
posted by angiep at 8:35 PM on March 26, 2015 [13 favorites]

"How can you assess whether something suits you, especially when you are the only one looking at it?"
Yes, I can totally speak to this part! I think of clothes as functional too, I think it makes it easier to figure out what you need to buy and what needs to go.

For me having a capsule wardrobe is easy because I get rid of things the minute they displease me and get new cheap things whenever I can. And I narrow down what I buy to a subset of specific rules of things I figured out will look good on me. I took some things I liked and thought about what it was about them that I liked. I like a certain type of sweater, a certain kind of blouse underneath, a certain kind of jeans, a certain kind of shoe, a certain cut and length of dress. When I shop I look at stuff and run it against my list; if it passes, I try it on. So few things pass and so many things have to retire that the net result is I only ever have about 6 or 7 outfits at any one time. Every once in awhile I branch out and try something on that veers away from my criteria and I usually regret it. What are the common qualities of the clothes you wear the most often, that make you feel good? A certain color family, a certain length, a certain neck shape?

Something that helps me be brutal about getting rid of clothes is to try to remember to think about how my clothes make me feel when I'm out and about. Just a quick glance in the mirror to assess if I feel as good about this choice as I did that morning, and usually the answer is yes, but sometimes it's no. And if it's no, why would I want to put myself through that again?

Also assessing things when I'm doing the weekly laundry. Is this shirt still alive? Is the color faded really bad? Is there still a stain on this? If I don't throw it away I'll have to wear it again, can I imagine that happening? In the garbage with it! This takes less than a second while you're hanging something up - just get rid of it on the spot and don't think twice. Don't wait for some imaginary time when you're going to donate things, don't wait for some big NOW WE CLEAN THE CLOSETS project, just get it out of your sight.
posted by bleep at 9:42 PM on March 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

My former boss seemed to live a life of effortless perfection to which I aspired; KonMari helps. Joy, to me, means a happy satisfaction that my possessions are perfect. That is, it's a perfect manifestation, for me, of what it is and how I feel using it (no annoyances, proud and in control, etc.). So the sink declogger works perfectly and I feel good not calling a plumber... the jacket fits perfectly, looks perfect and is in perfect repair and I feel great wearing it... the book is beloved because it's perfect for a particular mood or information need and I revisit it like an old friend. I eliminate duplicates this way; if screwdriver a is perfect, then screwdriver b in the identical size can go; it is less "perfect." For a screwdriver, though, "perfect" is pretty simple: In case I need it, I have it and can now find it and won't need to buy it again, all of which makes me feel like a competent adult: great!

I love knowing that every single pair of underwear in my drawer is "perfect" and when they get ratty now I throw them out to keep the drawer "perfect." I have thus eliminated disappointment and anxiety from choosing a pair that doesn't work and so is less happy-joy making. Lather, rinse and repeat across all my stuff. Effortless perfection.
posted by carmicha at 9:44 PM on March 26, 2015 [11 favorites]

+1 for Putting Me Together's tutorial on building a capsule wardrobe from scratch. Spend time pondering the colors you'll choose: they'll drive everything you buy, so make sure they're colors you like and colors that compliment your skin tone. Putting Me Together spells out EXACTLY what pieces to buy, so no guessing or waste!
posted by missmary6 at 12:24 AM on March 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

In the book, she does talk about why you go through your clothes first, then books, then miscellany stuff. It is easier to know if you like a shirt or not. You are also then training yourself and honing in your spark-o-meter. It does take practice.

I think you are getting overwhelmed by thinking about too much stuff at once - KonMari about clothes, plumbing tools, and moving on to a perfect capsule wardrobe. Stop that! Go step-by-step, one small step at a time, with the first step being the KonMari for your clothes, as she lays it out in the book.
posted by jillithd at 6:15 AM on March 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

For clothes, I kept the things that I was excited to wear and comfortable. No more dresses that are just a little too low-cut, no more t-shirts I never really liked the color of. I realized I didn't wear this stuff much anyhow and culling it would make it easier to find the stuff I like and create space for other clothes that suit me better. I've already noticed a couple more shirts that don't quite fit right and underthings that are looking dingy.

I pulled out about a third of my not-large wardrobe, and it's in a suitcase because I couldn't handle tossing that much of it at once. I've taken a couple of things out, I'll probably donate the rest after it's gotten warm and I feel confident I won't want anything else in there.

For capsule wardrobes, I find it helpful to start with a silhouette. I often wear pants with a t-shirt and a cardigan, and I have a bunch of t-shirts and several cardigans, and tend to get clothes in blue, green, and purple, so all those things mix and match pretty well. Figure out what outfit you wear most days and round it out from there with a few things for variety, like a jacket or a couple buttondowns. I didn't find focusing on the number of items or carefully planning every single one very helpful.
posted by momus_window at 6:34 AM on March 27, 2015

The underlying point is to shift your natural set point for keeping things. If you've gotten to the point of reading organizing books, clearly the default of "well, I might want to, someday" isn't working for you. By shifting that to "sparks joy", however you understand it, you're moving the needle. When I Kon-Maried my clothes, after a few pieces it became clear that I had been using excuses to hold onto pieces I didn't like. A whole drawer of "nice" sweaters that I never wear was just taking up space, waiting for me to realize.

Is it hard to apply "sparks joy" to cleaning products? Yes. But the basic idea still works. Start with the clothes, and see how it goes.
posted by wnissen at 9:46 AM on March 27, 2015

I have been struggling with trying to declutter for a few years now. Then I had a dream that was helpful. In the dream I had to move or go somewhere very quickly. All my belongings were laid out on a table; I had to choose what to take with me, and I couldn't take very much.

Through this dream, I realized that I had been asking the question: what can I GET RID OF? Now I realize that an easier question is (similar to "what gives me joy?"): what do I want to KEEP? I like the suggestion also in this thread of imagining your belongings on a garage sale table--would you buy it?

Finally, if you have anything that might be historic, call your local or state museum and offer to donate it. I had several gorgeous vintage items from the 30s-40s that our state historical society wanted for their clothing archive. The curator asked me what else I had, and they also took many of my high school clothes that my mother had made me. I feel good that pieces of my family's history are preserved at the museum.
posted by Mayree at 12:40 PM on April 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

You are totally screwed if you are one of those people for whom everything sparks joy.

(I know some people like this, habitual thrift shoppers for knick-knacks)
posted by habeebtc at 3:11 PM on May 13, 2015

« Older Email blast, then opt-in to follow thread?   |   Images to prompt writing Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.