One of the most important parts of the KonMari process is tidying by category, not location. Believe me when I tell you, it makes all the difference in making the task manageable and fun. You only have to focus on one thing at a time, which is sooooo much easier.
In addition to tidying by category, we typically follow a specific order. We recommend you start with the clothing category first (Check out our handy guide on the KonMari basics). Why start with clothes? I’m so glad you asked! Poor you if you didn’t, because I could talk about this forever!
First, and most importantly of all, we aren’t usually as emotionally attached to clothing as we are to things like keepsakes. Even if you don’t start with clothing, please, please don’t start with photos or heirlooms, because if you’re like most people, you’ll get bogged down and discouraged. (Spoiler alert - photos and keepsakes are the very last thing you’ll organize. Whenever you come across any of these during your tidying marathon, just set them in a box to deal with later. That goes with anything else that isn’t in the category you’re working on. Set it aside and focus only on the category you’re working on.)
Another benefit of starting with clothing is that it’s typically not stored all over the house (though we’ve seen it in some creative places). The KonMari method involves gathering EVERYTHING from the category you’re working on into one place. You might have clothes stored in several closets, but it’s usually not nearly as overwhelming as gathering every single paper or photo from every drawer or cabinet in every room of the house.
Once you’ll gather all your clothing into one place, you may be surprised the sheer abundance of items you own. That’s a good thing! It makes being able to release things much easier. You’ll heap all your clothing into one huge pile - we call it the “power of the pile.” You’ll confront the volume of things you have, which can be eye-opening, and sometimes embarrassing, but at the same time, it helps our clients realize that if they only keep things that are useful or spark joy, they really will still have plenty. I can’t tell you how many people have said, “If I get rid of everything that doesn’t spark joy, I won’t have anything left.” You will, believe me.
Surprisingly quickly, you’ll see that big pile of clothing curated and hanging in order in your closet or folded neatly in drawers, which is super satisfying. Now, every time you get dressed you’ll get to look at your lovely closet, whereas tidying the paper category isn’t as overtly apparent to you every single day. A lovely, tidy closet will give you a big boost and spur you on to tackle the next category. Make it easy for yourself to celebrate milestones and enjoy your success as you make your way through the process. Several of our clients tell us they love opening their undie drawer because it’s so pretty. My 90 year-old mom has escorted guests to her bedroom to show them her tidied dresser. Another client swore she wouldn’t keep up with folding her panties and putting them nicely in her drawer. A few months later, she sent us a photo of her neatly folded undies. She’s now addicted to the joy of a tidy lingerie drawer.
Since joy-checking is the backbone of the KonMari Method, practicing the skill on the clothing category is the easiest way to get good at it. Before you move on to more difficult categories, you will have fine-tuned your decision-making ability. A quick joy-check overview: you’ll hold each item and ask yourself:
How often do I use it?
Is there something else that does the same job?
How do I feel when I hold it?
If I were to go to the store, would I buy this at full price?
Is it something beautiful or useful?
Once you’ve joy-checked everything in your wardrobe, you’ll be surprised how much more pleasant it is to get dressed in the morning. Everything in your closet are items that fit, you feel good in, are in good repair, and bring you joy. Since you will have removed things that don’t fit, you won’t experience bad feelings every time you pull out something that used to fit. I finally got rid of a pair of jeans that fit me for about 5 minutes once. I’m at a pretty normal weight, but every time I saw those darn things, I felt bad. I’m glad I finally let them go. Keep what fits you well now, not what used to fit, or you hope will fit in the future. People always look great in things that fit well, no matter their size.
You’ll also remove things that you bought but never ended up wearing. Seeing things with tags still on them often makes people feel guilty for spending money on something they didn’t use. Leaving it in your closet won’t bring back the money you spent, and letting go of it will free you from having to see a constant reminder of a purchase that didn’t work out for you. As Marie Kondo says, sometimes the purpose of a possession was to teach you what doesn’t bring joy, and you can be grateful for the lesson learned and move on.
At the same time, passing along clothes that didn’t work out for you to someone who can get use out of them is rewarding. There are charitable organizations that are always looking for donations. (If you’re in Arkansas, we have a Donation Destination list on our website if you’d like to see some of our favorites.) Or you could hold a clothing swap with friends. My daughter has done this a couple times, and loves seeing her friends wear clothes that no longer spark joy for her, but are in perfectly good condition. .
We’ve helped lots of clients organize their things, and the ones who began with clothing first felt a wonderful sense of accomplishment very quickly. It helped them get excited about the process and gave them the motivation and confidence to tackle the more difficult categories. If you’re ready to start your tidying journey - I highly recommend you start with clothes. You’ll be glad you did!
For more details about the categories and sorting order, check out Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Or give us a call. We LOVE tidying clothes! And everything else.
Sue Fehlberg is Arkansas’ only Certified KonMari Consultant