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New Year's resolution for 2015: declutter, Marie Kondo style

Joan Fieldstone

December 29, 2014

By: Joan Fieldstone, Home Improv Advocate

In: Interior Home ImprovementInterior Design

As I sit here writing this blog, 2015 looms large, just about three weeks away. Maybe you are reading this in January and the holidays have come and gone, your New Year's resolutions are already broken -- or else you haven't made a dent in tackling a single one.

Unrealized resolutions happen to us all at one time or another, especially when it comes to DIY home improvements or just getting rid of some past baggage of the physical sort. A Japanese master of decluttering, Marie Kondo, advises in her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, that a thorough, once-in-a-lifetime "tidying" can change your life in ways that could conceivably help you accomplish the rest of your New Year's resolutions. Her clients have reported that after decluttering, they were able to also achieve seemingly unrelated life goals like weight-loss or starting a new career.

About twice a year I make a half-hearted attempt to get rid of unworn, unused clothing and household items. When I have to relegate them to the trash heap, it's a sad day. Is there any help for those of us who cling abnormally to our no longer useful and even unloved possessions?

Kondo believes there is. She recommends making a ceremony of deciding what stays and what goes, complete with showing your gratitude toward each member of both piles. It starts with throwing everything you own on the floor from the "category" you're currently decluttering -- for example, clothing, electronics, or books -- and picking them up one at a time as you meditate upon whether or not the item "sparks joy" in your life.

Expert advice for decluttering: applying method to the madness

Perhaps my first mistake in not following her method to the letter was that I chose to throw my clothing on the bed, not the floor, so the dog and cats would not pee on them when I turned my back. Pulling clothes out of the closet makes the fur babies a little anxious. They think I'm packing to leave on a trip.

Cat in pile of clothes

It doesn't matter whether the thing you are contemplating is useful, worn out, or still has the tags on it. It could be a priceless heirloom or a Cracker Jack box-trinket your first boyfriend gave you in second grade. The KonMari process is the same for each and every single thing you own. Don't even ask how long this takes. I spent half a day on the clothes in my closet, and I started with a fraction of what most women have. I even cheated -- a lot -- on her meditation method of deciding whether each item would stay or go. In no time at all I was flagrantly yelling "thanks" as I tossed clothes I knew I wasn't in love with anymore into the "to go" pile. Talk about decluttering being therapeutic…If I had only been that decisive in my early dating years, who knows how much grief could have been avoided.

According to the KonMari method, once you've made your choice, you are supposed to gratefully thank each item for the joy it gave you at the time it came into your life or for the service it's performed. Then, either send it on its way, or lovingly put it away. She also offers her preferred techniques for folding and storing as a means to show gratitude to the items that you've chosen to keep for the joy they give you. For example, socks should always be folded, never balled up. They have suffered enough physical abuse after you've worn them on your feet all day.

You have to love these sort of Japanese traditions to embrace this method of decluttering. I do, though I still find them a tad unusual. I'm sure I'm not enjoying the full benefit Kondo believes comes from following her process to the letter and completing an entire house-purge in one session. As of this blog, I haven't finished the clothing category yet, which includes shoes, handbags, scarves and accessories. I didn't properly thank my clothes or consult my deeper levels of consciousness. When confronted with the mountain of my entire wardrobe piled on the bed, however, I chose quickly. The pets were restlessly waiting to get back to napping on the quilt.

Empty closet

Maybe that's why I'm feeling a little depressed this morning. Or maybe it's because the sight of so many empty hangers and drawers is a little terrifying -- though in a day or two after I get over the shock, it could become exhilarating -- which is what embarking on a New Year should be all about.

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