Minimalist in DC

The Quest for Less "Stuff" & More Time

Category: Weekend Project (page 1 of 3)

Discarding Komono: Marie Kondo’s Miscellaneous Category

I’ve found the KonMari Method of organization, invented and popularized by Marie Kondo in her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, to be an easily-followed breath of fresh air in the organizing world. For one, she emphasizes that you must first discard the things that don’t “spark joy” (which helps you on the road to rational minimalism). Secondly, she describes a method of organization that doesn’t require you to buy a bunch of fancy storage units from the Container Store. I’ve been having (yes, I’ll admit it) fun going through each category and experiencing the real difference it’s making in our house. I’ve done clothes, books, and papers (part I and part 2) so far. Now it’s time for the “Miscellaneous” category which Kondo calls komono. It’s really a dozen mini-categories wrapped into one.

I am halfway through discarding komono.

Marie Kondo’s Miscellaneous Categories

They’re called “komono”, or random things you keep for no apparent reason. Here’s what Kondo specifically calls out:

  1. CDs, DVDs
  2. Skin care products
  3. Make-up
  4. Accessories
  5. Valuables (passports, credit cards, etc)
  6. Electrical equipment and appliances (digital cameras, electric cords, anything that seems vaguely electric)
  7. Household equipment (stationary and writing materials, sewing kits, etc)
  8. Household supplies (expendables like medicine, detergents, tissues, etc)
  9. Kitchen goods/food supplies (spatulas, pots, blenders, etc)
  10. Others (spare change, figurines, etc)

What Else?

As you can imagine, everyone’s komono categories are different. In addition to Marie Kondo’s official categories you’ve also got to be savvy and figure out what you haven’t discarded yet that’s not sentimental. Do you have a hobby that wasn’t covered? Or a sport? What about your furniture, does it spark joy? At the end of this list, in my opinion, you’ll still need to walk around the house and uncover a bunch of categories that haven’t been touched. Throughout this book, I get the feeling that Americans just have WAY more excess stuff than the Japanese, which is why I suspect that we’ll have WAY more komono categories.

What I’ve Done

Kondo doesn’t go into a lot of details on komono. So far, I’ve gone through numbers 1-6 and here’s what I did.

CDs, DVDs (“Joint De-owning”)

I sat down with my husband right after we did books and went through DVDs together, because DVDs seemed like a logical next step and many of our movies are shared. He looked at them first and if they didn’t spark joy for him, then I got to decide whether it stayed or went. This “joint de-owning” technique actually worked quite well and Nathan ended up continuing to de-own a large set of his own books after that. I was thrilled.

My CDs were a bit different. I’d already gotten rid of all of their packaging. Now, I just looked through them and got rid of the ones that truly didn’t spark joy. I also made a mental note to upgrade my music player so I could completely get rid of my CDs in the future.

Discarding CDs

Skin Care Products & Make-up

I did skin care products and make-up together with medicines because I felt they were basically all one category and I didn’t think I had very many left. Boy, was I wrong.

Products & Medicine

Products & Medicine

I not only kept the things that “sparked joy”, but also kept the items we were actively using and discarded items that had expired. I wrote the year on all of the sunscreen that I know we bought this year and threw away the rest. I have no idea how we accumulated so many half-used sunscreen bottles.

Accessories

What is this category? Didn’t we already de-own accessories when we worked through the clothing? I have no idea what Kondo meant by accessories in this context and so I just skipped this category.

Valuables

Passports, credit cards, and other things that are important fall into this category. I basically went through all of these during the paper purge because many of these are kept with my valuable paperwork.

All I had to do was go through my wallet and make sure I didn’t have any old cards. I suppose if you have an excessive amount of credit cards, you should cut some of them up at this point. I only have three: my VISA, my back-up VISA that I keep around mostly because it’s my oldest account, and my Target card. Purge the expired cards and sell the gift cards you know you’ll never use.

Electrical Equipment & Appliances

This category took longer than expected. First throw away broken appliances and appliances that don’t spark joy. Then, throw away any leftover boxes your appliances came in. Finally, go through your cords. If you don’t know what a cord belongs to, throw it out. It’s easier to go buy a cord you really need than to search for it in a heap of useless cords. Label the cords you use.

How Long Does This Take?

All of this took me an afternoon. I’m halfway through the list. My house is in much better shape. Now, if only I could get my kids to embrace KonMari too because the largest pile of uncharted “stuff” left is quickly becoming toys.

Discard Papers with KonMari: Part 2

Last week, in Part 1, I outlined Marie Kondo’s “discard papers” method, which she describes in The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. Unlike discarding clothes and books, which can be done in a few hours, discarding papers took me two weeks. Why? Because papers are EVERYWHERE!

I dealt with the file cabinet and our dresser and the kitchen island and the kitchen table and the storage boxes and the coupons and the random kid creations and our junk drawer…

Junk Drawer Before & After

Junk Drawer Before & After

Literally every room, drawer, and box had random paper and it just keeps coming in everyday (thank you, US Postal Service)!

Keep or Pitch?

I followed Kondo’s advice as closely as possible, but I found that she didn’t touch on many types of documents, so I had to make up a few things as I went.

Document Type What I Did
Health Insurance Claims Since we thankfully aren’t going through any extended illnesses, I started throwing these out right away. Our insurance company keeps a copy on their portal.
Kids’ Art Throw out all but the best pieces of art. If you can’t decide, take a picture, and then toss them. For more ideas, check out this blog post.
Receipts After verifying the charge online, I now throw out receipts for food, gas, and anything else I probably won’t return. The rest I keep for a year, except for items that have extended warranties.
Bills I’ve gone paperless and have automated payments on almost all of my bills, so I don’t have to deal with paper or checks.
Coupons I stopped using coupons. They are so annoying and I realized they’re not worth my time in sorting and storing them.

Kondo’s Suggestions

Document Type

What She Suggests

Warranties Keep them in a single folder, since you don’t have to access them frequently.
Instruction Manuals Throw them out. They’re all online, and we rarely look at them anyway.
Lecture Materials Put the ideas to use and then get rid of your notes.
Credit Card Statements After you’ve ensured they’re correct, they’ve fulfilled their usefulness. Throw them out.
Old Checkbooks No one uses these again. Throw them out.
Greeting Cards Get rid of them, except for the ones that spark joy.
Pay Slips Use them to figure out how much you earned and then throw them out.
Sentimental Papers Set them aside until you deal with mementos. Eventually you’ll break them into two piles: “keep” and “deal with”.

Things I Kept

  1. Pay-off notices for old mortgages and car loans.
  2. Hospital records from when my kids were born and vaccine records.
  3. Tax Forms up to seven years ago, only because we’re required to, legally.
  4. All official IDs, titles, and insurance policies.
  5. Mementos: Anything that had sentimental value, I set aside to deal with later.
  6. One copy of each bill, so I can reference our account number if I need to.
  7. Warranties now live in their own folder, nicely labeled and about 1/6 of the size they used to be before I got rid of the manuals.
Good-bye Instruction Manuals

Good-bye Instruction Manuals

  1. Employee documents related to our nanny.
  2. Car maintenance records in case we ever resell them.
  3. Current reservations & tickets (like our Busch Gardens summer passes)!
  4. Credit reports: We likely only need the latest one, but I want to be sure we’re covered if anyone’s identity is ever stolen.

Still, even with all of these items still in the house, I’ve gone from four, full file drawers down to half of the top drawer (frequently accessed) and half of the second drawer (infrequently accessed). I need a lot less file cabinet now!

Top File Drawer Before & After

Top File Drawer Before & After

Organization

Kondo recommends the following:

  1. A vertical file for papers in use, or that you need to process.  I didn’t have a vertical file yet, but my pile of “in use” papers is now located in ONE location: the corner of our kitchen island. I understand why the vertical file would be better: things at the bottom of my pile are forgotten and lost.
  2. A clear, accordion folder for documents you need to access frequently. I have been using David Allen’s Getting Things Done method for eight years and, without an accordion folder readily available, I decided to continue to organize my files with alphabetized hanging folders. The only difference is that now, my files fill up half of one drawer, instead of four. I’ll likely switch to an accordion folder someday because I like the idea that it would fill up more quickly, prompting me to evaluate what’s in there sooner.
  3. A clear, single folder for documents you don’t need to access frequently. The rest of the files that don’t have sensitive information in them, I put in a pile inside the second file drawer. I didn’t mix them all together because they were already in folders, I just stacked up the folders and put them away.
"Infrequent Access" File Drawer

“Infrequent Access” File Drawer

  1. Everything else (ids, titles, tax papers, etc) goes in a secret, protected location.

The End of Paper

I really, really hated this project. It seemed to take forever and it was really, really boring. However, it is completely worth it. It turns out that random papers were the reason my house always looked so messy. Now, even with our kids’ toys strewn about, the house looks much better and it’s even easier to sort our mail (much more of it goes directly into the recycling). Now, the only problem is getting all this to the shredder.

Shred This

Pretty good, given that I’d already gone through our files once this year!

Discarding Papers with KonMari: Part 1

My basic principle for sorting papers is to throw them all away. My clients are stunned when I say this, but there is nothing more annoying than papers.” – Marie Kondo The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing

 In Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, she outlines a simple technique to get organized forever: first discard all items that don’t “spark joy”, then organize completely. A couple weeks ago, I started sorting through my clothes, then books and have been amazed by how effective her methods are.

However, getting rid of clothes and books was EASY compared to my next assignment: discarding papers. In Part 1 of this blog, I’ll talk about Kondo’s recommendations and in Part 2, I’ll discuss some of the gaps in her advice and what I did a bit differently.

Kondo’s Thoughts on Paper

Kondo’s advice on paper is very simple: “My basic principle for sorting papers is to throw them all away.” She makes me laugh by not hiding her extreme disgust for paper lying around the house.

I laughed right up to the part where I started gathering all of my papers together. It was HORRIBLE! There’s paper everywhere! Receipts, mail, stuff I need to do, kids’ art, coupons, random garbage: WHY IS THERE SO MUCH PAPER?!

What’s so great about Kondo’s advice is that I finally feel like I have permission to pitch the vast majority of my records. There is really very, very little that I need keep.

Three Categories of Paper to Keep

According to Kondo there are three types of paper to keep:

  1. Paper you’re currently using. These should all be kept in only ONE place in the house. Kondo recommends a vertical file folder.
  2. Paper needed for a limited time. Records or contracts you don’t have to keep forever.
  3. Must be kept indefinitely: birth certificates and other important papers.

Discarding Paper Instructions

Most paper doesn’t “spark joy”, so when sorting through them, the technique is very different from when I searched through my books and clothes.

  1. Gather all the paper in the house together.
  2. Create three files:
    1. A vertical file for papers in use, or that you need to process.
    2. A clear, accordion folder for documents you need to access frequently.
    3. A clear, single folder for documents you don’t need to access frequently.

While organizing the items in the “access frequently” category above is important, all documents in the “don’t need to access frequently” category should be lumped together. Why waste your time organizing them, when you never look at them?

Special Instructions

There are a few items that Kondo goes into in depth.

Item What To Do
Warranties Keep them in a single folder, since you don’t have to access them frequently.
Instruction Manuals Throw them out. They’re all online, and we rarely look at them anyway.
Lecture Materials Put the ideas to use and then get rid of your notes.
Credit Card Statements After you’ve ensured they’re correct, they’ve fulfilled their usefulness. Throw them out.
Old Checkbooks No one uses these again. Throw them out.
Greeting Cards Get rid of them, except for the ones that spark joy.
Pay Slips Use them to figure out how much you earned and then throw them out.
Sentimental Papers (cards, certificates, etc) Set them aside until you deal with mementos. Eventually you’ll break them into two piles: “keep” and “deal with”.

How Well Does This Work?

Unlike when I went through my files the first time, I am REALLY cleaning house this time.

Discarding Papers

I guess I was originally afraid that I would need all these records for some sort of mythical tax purpose or lawsuit. What Kondo helped me realize is that, hey, I’m 32, if I haven’t had to use these documents yet, after years and years of taxes and no lawsuits, I don’t need to keep them!

There are a few categories that I came across and some things that I changed about how I store my papers. That’s what I’ll talk about in Part 2.

Discard Books with KonMari

I love the KonMari Method, which Japanese cleaning guru, Marie Kondo, outlines in her very popular book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. I’m following her technique as closely as possible and that means starting with a giant pass through all of my belongings, category by category, to discard items that don’t “spark joy”.

Last week, I started with my clothing. Even though I’d been discarding items as part of my minimalist project for months, I found the KonMari Method to be, by far, the most effective way to shrink my wardrobe. Not only that, but I’m incredibly happy with what I have left: just the essentials, but the essentials I love. The next step after clothes is books.

Steps to Discard Books

  1. Gather all of your books from every corner of your house.
  2. Handle each book, one-by-one, and decide whether it sparks joy.
  3. Discard those books that don’t spark joy.

It’s so simple. Don’t try to tackle photo albums or other mementos yet. Leave those for after you’ve gone through every other category.

Reasons to Keep Books

Unlike many other techniques that urge you to discard books you won’t ever read again, Kondo recognizes that books can bring you joy even if you never intend to read them again. It’s OK to keep them if you look at your shelf and are happy to see them. In fact, she lists out the following two reasons to keep a book:

  1. It belongs in the hall of fame. These are the books you truly love. Books that you read over and over.
  2. It inspires pleasure. This list of books might change over time, but keep the books that spark joy now.

Books to Throw Out

  1. Books you haven’t read. “The moment you first encounter a particular book is the right time to read it.” Otherwise, you likely never will, so toss it.
  2. Books that inspire “moderate pleasure”. While only you can decide what to keep and toss, Kondo has noticed that she doesn’t need books that only inspire “moderate pleasure”. She never looks at them and they don’t spark enough joy to justify a space on her shelf.

How To Get Rid of Books

 Once you’ve figured out which books to keep and which to pitch, you have a couple of options for disposal.

  1. Sell them using Bookscouter or Amazon.
  2. Donate them to a local library or a non-profit.
  3. Give them out to friends.
  4. Throw them out. Kondo doesn’t outright tell you to just pitch everything, but she implies it every time she mentions filling up garbage bags with your discards. Most books can be recycled after you remove the covers and bindings that contain glue, so I urge you to pitch them responsibly.

The whole process, for me, took far less time (around 30 minutes) than my clothing project last weekend. I’d already done a great job getting rid of books, but I still found more to discard!

Discarded Books

Discarded Books

I kept about the same number of books as I threw out. Most notably, I ended up with Spanish reference books (which remind me of my semester in Spain), a couple gardening books, and a few of my favorite books on starting your own business (which I’d like to do someday). If everyone else in the house would do this too, we’d be getting a much smaller bookshelf!

Now it’s your turn! Which books would you keep?

Discard Clothing KonMari Style

Last week, I wrote a review on Marie Kondo’s new book: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I wasn’t kidding when I said I couldn’t wait to try her KonMari Method, in which you first discard all items that don’t “spark joy”, then organize completely. She recommends starting with your clothes, then within that category to evaluate them in this order: tops, then bottoms, things that should hang (like jackets, suits, and dresses), socks/underware, bags, accessories, clothes for specific events, then shoes.

On Sunday morning, I woke up early and pulled every piece of clothing I owned out of my drawers, closets, coat closet, laundry, and other miscellaneous places where clothes inexplicably live. I laid them all out in the living room.

Before KonMari

The “Before KonMari” Pile

I was a bit nervous to get started. What if I threw out something useful and then regretted it next week? What if I accidentally kept something I hated? What if I just couldn’t tell? I finally decided to trust the process and see how it went.

Clothing KonMari Instructions

Kondo recommends the following when discarding:

  1. Start when you’re fresh (early morning is best in her opinion).
  2. Pull ALL of your clothing items out of every place they are kept.
  3. Pick up each item individually and ask yourself if it sparks joy. If it does, you generally know right away. If you have to think about it, it’s likely it doesn’t spark joy.
  4. Thank the items you’re discarding for their service, fold them, and put them in a trash bag.

Wait, what? That’s right. Remember how I mentioned Kondo’s affinity for treating household objects like humans in my book review? Thank your items for their service and send them on their way.

Maybe I’m just drinking the KonMari kool-aid at this point, but that isn’t as crazy as it sounds. Those who are grateful, tend to be happier people. I actually found that thanking my clothes for their service made it easier to part with a few of the items for which I was on the fence. However, I have to admit that after a while, I completely forgot to keep thanking things until hours after I was already done. Hopefully my socks aren’t offended.

Getting Started

I started with a few things that I knew would spark joy to get the ball rolling. My favorite shirt was folded and put in the “keep” pile first. After about 10 items, I could figure out whether something sparked joy rather quickly.

“Maybes”

There were a few items that I wasn’t sure about.

Maybe Pile

The “Maybe” Pile

I tried these items on and found it was easier to decide whether they sparked joy when I saw them in the mirror. Over half of them were easily discarded.

Keepers

The whole process took about 2-3 hours, but in the end, I had a LOT fewer clothes. I wasn’t surprised by what was left. These were the things I wear all the time; the things I really love.

Keepers

Keepers

I filled an entire garbage bag with everything else.

Discards

Lessons Learned

My best advice is to do this somewhere you can be alone. Once my kids woke up, they started asking to help and broke my concentration. Kondo also recommends not letting your family see what you’re discarding because it can be stressful to see you trash a gift or other item they liked.

Also, don’t be afraid to throw away things you think you need. I ended up with a list of four items to replace:

  1. Suit
  2. Rain jacket
  3. Two bras
  4. Running shorts with pockets

I don’t need these items right away, but I will eventually. I practically hated the old versions and now, a week later, I’m really glad they’re out of my life. This serves as a forcing function to replace things I should have replaced long ago. Kondo says if you are using the item right now, hold onto it until you find something you love to replace it.

Conclusion

I enjoyed the process and I REALLY enjoyed the outcome. In fact, this was the most effective way of whittling down my clothing that I’ve tried all year.

Post-KonMari Closet

This side of my closet was filled when I started my minimalist project in September.

Next up: Books!

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