Tidying Up: review of Marie Kondo’s cleaning method

By Jackie Cameron

The Harbinger (Prairie Village, Kansas)

There’s a spot in my room my mom calls “the growth” — an ever-expanding pile of useless items like my seventh grade backpack, too-small black rainboots and a broken tennis racquet. Combined, these items make my room look like a preschool lost-and-found. Tired of my mom passive aggressively leaving the Swiffer duster outside my door, I turned to Japanese organizing consultant Marie Kondo’s tidying up show and book to help me through organization rehab.

“Tidying Up with Marie Kondo,” a Netflix original based on Kondo’s best selling book “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” follows Kondo as she guides different families through cleaning their cluttered homes. Kondo, a five-foot cleaning fairy who loves messes, takes on the toughest of jobs like a couple’s basement that resembled the Christmas section in Target and a family’s kitchen island sunken beneath piles of junk.

Even though I didn’t have Kondo there in person to guide me, the tips she shares on her show and in her books were enough to help me make my room look like it is in my mom’s dreams.

Despite the fact that some people on her show struggle big time with straightening up their stuff, I found it relaxing and a fun way to reconnect with forgotten items.

Kondo uses five “lessons”— clothing, books, papers, komono, mementos — when tidying up. Komono are miscellaneous objects while mementos are sentimentals. Her motto: if an item “sparks joy” when you pick it up, keep it. If not, toss it. For me, this meant immediately remembering the good hair day I had with that one striped top or realizing that thing that’s been hidden in my drawer was the coin purse my grandma purchased for me when she went to Italy. It became clear which objects sparked joy for me and which ones needed to be thrown in the trash.

In another one of her books, “The Life-Changing Manga of Tidying Up”, she also emphasizes the importance of cleaning based on category, instead of room. The book is Manga, a form of Japanese comics, and tells the story of a girl named Chiaki as she attempts to straighten up her apartment to impress her attractive next-door-neighbor. The graphics proved to be a helpful visual aid, especially the four pages dedicated solely to folding techniques from socks to skirts.

My clothes situation was the biggest issue — I haven’t seen the bottom of my closet since ‘07
— so that’s what I decided to focus on. Kondo makes a point that you should create one big pile withall of your clothes to see everything you own. Staring at the teetering mound of clothes that completely hid my twin-sized bed underneath, I felt ashamed. Why did I have four Harry Potter related t-shirts? Did I really need that many pairs of ripped jeans? Kondo’s method worked — by laying out all of my clothes I saw how much I needed to get rid of.

Staying true to Kondo’s methods, I “thanked” my clothes for all they had done for me. To be honest, I felt silly “thanking” my matted down, blue Patagonia as I tossed it in the donate pile. But when I reached my grey hooded sweater, saying thank you just didn’t feel like it was enough. This top had seen me through birthday outfits and family Christmas photos, but hadn’t seen the world outside my closet for two years and needed to go. Expressing my gratitude gave me a sense of closure I didn’t know I needed.

I was finally left with clothes that I genuinely liked which made organizing them easier. Some clothes I had worn the day before, while others hadn’t hit the runway since freshman year. Plus there was a lot less clothing after my closet purge, which made putting them back less daunting than usual.

Clearing my closet of items I didn’t need also allowed me to see how discombobulated everything else was — I had at least 15 Lululemon bags mixed in with random pairs of socks. Thanks to Kondo, I knew how to fix this: one of her tricks is to place bags within bags that are similar in size, which made my pile go from 15 to two.

At this point, I was feeling accomplished — my closet was clean, my pajamas were folded like Kondo had taught me and being able to control how my room looked felt good. However, the lack of books and papers in my room meant I would skip to the next step: “komono.” And guess where all the miscellaneous objects go in my room? The “growth.”

By now I had the whole “sparking joy” thing down and threw out all of the rubbish I had thrown in this corner. Goodbye smelly soccer bag! See ya later pair-of-Jack-Rogers-I-only-wore-once! The mementos portion, which only involved clearing my bedside table of old photos and vacation keychains, was a breeze after the “growth.”

I now understood why everyone on her show cries once they’re finished cleaning — the four hours spent perfecting Kondo’s folding and saying goodbye to old favorites all led to this moment.

Now when I walk in my room (past the empty spot where my mom used to leave the dusters), my chest doesn’t clench up with stress at the sight of full laundry baskets shoved into the corner or yesterday’s outfit laying on the floor of my closet. My room is tidy for now — here’s to hoping the “growth” doesn’t make a comeback.

Photo Credit: Twitter Trends 2019

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