Minimalist in DC

The Quest for Less "Stuff" & More Time

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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!

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: A Book Review & Overview of the KonMari Method

Keep only those things that speak to your heart. Then take the plunge and discard all the rest. By doing this, you can reset your life and embark on a new lifestyle.” – Marie Kondo, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing

For our 10th Anniversary last week, Nathan and I took a much-needed, child-free vacation to Zion, Bryce Canyon, and Capitol Reef National Parks. They are incredible and inspiring places that everyone should visit at least once. The time together was amazing and I also found time to indulge in an unexpected treat: I read a great book!

Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing is getting a lot of press right now and is surprisingly high on the best seller list. I didn’t expect it to be life-changing, but within a few pages, I found myself getting really excited. After one chapter, I knew I had to try her technique, which she’s coined the KonMari Method.

The KonMari Method is surprisingly simple.

  1. Discard
  2. Organize Completely

The KonMari Method: Discard

First, discard everything, by category, starting with your clothing and ending with mementos. How do you know what to get rid of? Pull everything out, pick up each item one by one and see if it “sparks joy”. Do you love this item or not? Listen to your gut – you should know immediately. If you don’t, then it’s got to go. The end goal is that you’ll have a house filled with only the things that you love.

While many organizing methods tell you to clean and get rid of things gradually (10 minutes a day, 10 items a day, the minimalist game), Marie Kondo argues that you need to tidy up your whole house all at once (over a period of about 6 months). Once you get to a place where you’ve achieved perfect order and everything you own is something you love, you’ll never want to go back. In fact, she’s rolled out this method with hundreds of clients and, while some never get to a state of perfect order, those that have, never rebound.

As I write this, it sounds too good to be true, but as you read Kondo’s book, she has you bought in from the outset and the farther I got, the more I wanted to try her KonMari Method. She details the order in which you should consider items for discarding and specifically warns you to discard before you start to organize (lest you get side-tracked and never finish). She also stresses the importance of discarding by category. Looking at all of your clothes at once, for example, helps you better figure out what you should keep.

The KonMari Method: Organize Completely

The second step, after you’ve removed all items that don’t “spark joy”, is to organize completely. Using only the storage items (boxes, closets, etc) you have on hand, give every single item a place. Every single one. Once they have a place, you’ll have perfect order.

What’s Not to Love?

There were a few things that were either weird or weren’t covered in this book. What if an item doesn’t “spark joy”, but is something you really need (like a suit that you wear at weddings and funerals)? Clearly you should replace those items with something that you do love, but who has the money to do that for everything you need right away? I guess you could keep a list and slowly replace the items when you can, but I wonder if that lessens the magic of looking around and only seeing items you love?

What if you have kids or a spouse? Kondo specifically says you should not discard/organize for others. Only they can go through this journey for themselves and she says they usually start to do it on their own based on your example. I have a really, really hard time imagining my 4-year-old will spontaneously start throwing out her stuffed animals, but I guess I’m willing to try it just in case it actually works.

The book is also peppered with allusions to inanimate objects having feelings. For instance, “I pointed to the balled-up socks. ‘Look at them carefully. This should be a time for them to rest. Do you really think they can get any rest like that?’” It was hard to get past that at first and I’ve never fully bought into the idea that my house itself will be happier once I’m done organizing, but Kondo’s ideas make so much sense that at this point I couldn’t care how she developed them or about her relationship with her picture frames.

I really can’t wait to get started. I’ll let you know how it goes.

November Food Challenge Accomplishments

My November Food Challenge was so fun, I wish it lasted longer. There is a lot more I had planned, but never got too, like finding more ways to eat healthier and diving into the The Minimalist Cooks Dinner: More Than 100 Recipes for Fast Weeknight Meals and Casual Entertaining. I never even cracked it open. Why? Because as I was organizing my existing recipes, I realized that I have more than enough delicious, easy recipes right now.  Plus, I just plain ran out of time and this wasn’t a high priority.  Realizing that you’ll never get to everything on your to do list and letting the lower priority things go takes practice and this project gives me a lot of practice.

There are a couple things I’m really happy I did accomplish during November’s food challenge:

  1. Analyzed and fixed my grocery budget (parts I, II, and III).  Ever since I cut back on meat and dairy, my weekly bills have come in an average of $20 under budget.
  2. Explored other ways and places to shop for groceries and realized that shopping online (which I was already doing) was the best option for me.
  3. Cut back on disposables, I use far fewer paper towels and switched one kid to cloth diapers this month!
  4. Revisited a couple of sane dieting methods and read up on the diabetic diet. I didn’t write about this, but I gave up sugar for most of November (something I do periodically because it makes me feel GREAT). Now, I usually drink water instead of soda when we go out to eat.
  5. Remembered a sneaky way to cook for two nights at a time and get people to eat reasonable portions.
  6. Took the time to be thankful. This was by far the blog post that made me happiest.
  7. Organized all my recipes (and shared some)!

As far as accomplishing my original goals goes, I give myself a B.

My four original goals

Original Food Month Challenge

I accomplished #1 & #4. I started work on #2 (I’m not being too hard on myself, because this is a lifelong process). For #3, I thought about eating out a bit and decided not to change anything.  We go out once a week as a family and try to stay under $25.  It’s a wonderful time for us to do something together and, while eating out less would be healthier and cheaper, this is a part of my life that I love and want to keep.

So, here’s to food and how wonderful it can make our lives.  In December, I’ll be concentrating on our monthly bills and how to reduce those.

Declutter The Bathroom (Weekend Project)

Why is there so much stuff in the bathroom? I don’t spend a lot of time there and there aren’t a lot of places to store things (at least that’s true of our 1960s-era bathrooms).  When you declutter the bathroom, you not only find extra space in the room, you get extra time in the mornings – time usually spent searching around for the items you need.

Declutter The Bathroom

The bathroom is where a lot of samples, partially used beauty products, and bath toys lurk. We use a lot of disposable items (toothpaste, shampoo, deodorant) in the bathroom, but we don’t always use them up and dispose of them. That’s why my drawer looks like this…

Drawer with Clutter

…and the cabinet and tub look like this.

Under the Sink
Uncleaned Tub

I’m tackling my bathroom in two steps:

  1. Get rid of as much stuff as possible and organize it now.
  2. Future Project: Examine my morning and evening routines to see what else I can cut out of my life to give me even more time and space.

What to Throw Out

I like to go into a space with a plan and these questions helped me decide what to keep and what to pitch.

  1. Do I use this every day?
    If this isn’t part of my daily routine, it doesn’t belong in the bathroom.  Consider throwing it out or moving it to a closet.
  2. Do I need this?
    Is this really enhancing my life?  Would my life be better without it?
  3. Is this too big for the space?
    If you still need and use the item every day, but it’s too big for your bathroom space, find a smaller container and use the larger container to refill it.

Results

I cleaned out and organized everything in the bathroom except my husband’s drawer. Now I can actually find my hair dryer in the mornings and the kids’ toys are in one specific bucket – out of sight.

Clean & Organized Cabinet

Clean & Organized Cabinet!

Clean & Organized Drawer

Clean & Organized Drawer!

The most surprising thing I was storing was a very large and completely empty bottle of bubble bath.

Clutter No Longer in my Bathroom

Clutter No Longer in my Bathroom

I’d love to put our toothbrushes out of sight too, but am afraid they’ll just touch each other or get dirty. Luckily, a few people have solved this problem by creating a nice toothbrush holder for inside the cabinets. That will be another fun future project.

All-in-all, I’m pretty happy with my newly-de-owned and organized bathroom. It’s been over three weeks and everything is still organized!

Lessons Learned from One Month of Minimalism

Today is my $25K Challenge’s one-month anniversary! My excitement is immediately overshadowed by a scarier thought: I only have 11 months left. I’ve been concentrating on de-cluttering, but I haven’t changed a lot of our spending habits yet.  Yes, we haven’t bought anything major this month and, yes, I think about being frugal all the time now, but in reality, that’s only translated to $190. I still have $24,810 to go.

I could see this as a sign that I’ll never get to $25K, but as an eternal optimist, I’d rather focus on the good things that have happened over the last month and relish the fact that this goal and blog have given me the motivation to start. Here are my lessons learned from my first month of minimalism.

  1. Family Onboarding: No one else in my household was really on board with eliminating a bunch of our stuff, but I’ve noticed a subtle change in the right direction.  Once they started to reap some of the benefits (easier cleaning & more organized spaces), I got a few compliments.  Then, finally one or two items of their own were offered for the chopping block.  Getting everyone involved is a slow, and not always steady process, but it seems to happen naturally if you start with yourself.
  2. Do something every day. Picking something small (like throwing away 10 things a day) and getting in the habit of doing it made minimalism seem less daunting. Rome wasn’t built in a day.
  3. Organization: One side-effect of de-owning is that you can organize your spaces at the same time. My husband is a bit skeptical of my minimalist project, but he seems delighted when he catches me cleaning out another drawer. Could this project be slowly winning him over?
  4. Don’t throw out something without asking the owner.  They will probably notice.
  5. The fact that you’re de-owning doesn’t change the fact that junk still accumulates (e.g. mail). You need to set-up a defensive system to keep junk out of your house in the first place.  I’m still working on that.
  6. Kids: Clearing their stuff demands a special strategy that I haven’t quite figured out yet. Case in point, the other day, my 4-year-old walked into the kitchen with three markers and told me that her pink and grey ones didn’t work. When I suggested we throw them away she said, “Nooooooo, they might start to work later.”
  7. De-owning seems to give me MORE energy. In the same way that exercise can make you more productive, some early de-owning wins can give you momentum for an entire day or longer.
  8. De-owning in your home makes you think about creating space in other places too, like your inbox and your calendar. Minimalism is a mindset change that takes on a life of its own once you start.
Lake Manyara Elephants

Elephants in Lake Manyara National Park (Tanzania) are free to roam through forest and grasslands, without anything holding them back.

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