Sunday, February 8, 2015

A most important question

My closet before

“Does this spark joy?” 

After the Big Why, this is my most important question. This is the question that leads to quicker, better decisions about what to keep when you’re in the throes of decluttering. Does this spark joy? Marie Kondo, in her breathtakingly simple book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, instructs us to ask this question of each item we own. If the item does not spark joy, we are to thank it respectfully for its service, and let it go. This process is not about denigrating our things and calling them “junk,” but rather about appreciating what we have and liberating those things that we no longer need (respectfully). Kondo has a true Japanese reverence for objects.

I Googled the question “Does this spark joy?” There are a number of articles out there written by people who have taken this book to heart and Tidied Up using this central question as a guide. The first article I found inspired me to take this day and Tidy Up my whole wardrobe: all my clothing, potential clothing, and needing-to-be-altered clothing, whether they were currently living in my closet or not. I needed this inspiration because I had gotten bogged down in decluttering. So, after reading the article and…
My pile of clothing
After breakfast at Dixie Diner, I went home and pulled out all my clothing, potential clothing, and project clothing and, by 10:00, had piled everything on my bed and bedroom floor; I was absolutely astounded by the pile. Now, I have purged a couple times before (but not by gathering every piece of clothing I have in the whole house and putting it all in one pile), so the size of the pile seemed huge. It’s important to make one big pile, or you might miss some things. One big pile allows you to look at your abundance and appreciate what you have. One big pile allows you to realize the enormity of the task of “stewardship” of this one category (clothing) you have taken on. One big pile shows you how “heavy” the burden is (truth be told, I had not even worn many of the garments!). When you free all those clothes, they can go and faithfully serve someone else. That feels liberating.

The next step is to take each item in hand, one at a time, and lovingly ask the all-important question: “Does this spark joy?” Sometimes I would find myself answering: “but it’s a good color for me” (even though it doesn’t fit, and I haven’t worn it in how many years?); or “I won’t have any (or enough) turtlenecks to get me thorough this cold winter” (some are so threadbare that I’m embarrassed to wear them anyway); and “not sure, I’d better try this on” (sometimes the try-on showed that the piece did indeed spark joy when I had it on, a delightful surprise).

By 11:45 I have a much bigger pile of things to let go of than of things to keep, and I can’t make any more decisions. It’s time for a break.

Wow. The process is going much more quickly and easily than I had anticipated. Apparently, “Does this spark joy?” is the right question.

Clothes I intend to keep
Clothes I intend to donate
After lunch and running errands, at 2:45, I started back on sorting clothes. I found some sweaters that I had been looking for—they were in the plastic tubs where I stored some winter clothes last spring and then forgot about. There were some things in my “to be mended or altered” pile that I will keep, though I won’t keep them all. The mound of donations is growing, and DH said, “You won’t have any clothes left.” That’s a scary thought until I realize that most of the things in the donate pile have not seen the light of day for a number of years, so I was not wearing them anyway. By 4:00 I have finished asking the question of all my clothing; it’s time for another break.

At 5:20 I started folding all the clothes I want to keep and putting them away in the closet. As a bonus, my closet is big enough—with enough drawers—that I won’t need to keep the old dresser that does not spark joy!

Clothes ready to donate
Finally, time to pack up all the clothing to donate. While packing them, I would start to question my previous decisions. I would say, “This is a really nice shirt…” which begs the question: If it’s so nice, why has it been hanging, unworn, in the back of the closet for several years? There were a couple of items that I removed from the discard pile and returned to my closet, but only a couple.

By 7:30 the job was finished and I took 6 kitchen-size garbage bags out. Wow (approximately 5 ½ hours elapsed time of working on my clothes)!

My closet - after
Not only did I let go of clothes that were not serving me, but I've started to let go of some notions of who I thought I wanted to be, for example, as a creative upcycler. I had brought home thrift store finds to make into something else; I never did. That’s one “possible self” I can let go of. I’m ready to make changes. My closet is now ready to accept changes. I have let go of more than just clothing.

“When we really delve into the reasons for why we can’t let something go, there are only two: an attachment to the past or a fear for the future.” Marie Kondo

1 comment:

  1. Great posting as I know we all have trouble with this. As I get older I find I need fewer and fewer clothes and I go through what I have each season change -- giving away those I haven't even worn at all.(It helps to have very small closets). I think "Dressing Your Truth" helped me a lot with this -- I gave away a LOT of clothes that weren't my colors and felt so free afterward. Your closet is lovely - I bet you whistle every time you open the doors *smile*. I love this quotation - it says it all.