Listen… Your socks are trying to sing you a song of self-love
… And other lessons from the Konmari art of decluttering
I’ve been knee-deep in my own filth. Luckily this “filth” just consists of old papers, defunct electronics, abandoned hobbies, and several college and graduate degrees worth of dusty notebooks and texts. Yes, I excrete the husks of processed trees and outlived dreams. But I’ve been trying to declutter.
The process I refer to is known as the Konmari Method, after the nickname of Marie Kondo, who wrote the bestselling book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Method of Decluttering and Organizing. The main tenet of Kondo’s method is to ask yourself, “Does this spark joy?” If the item does not “spark joy,” throw or give it away, or donate it.
There are other elements to this method too, such as a sequence you follow for sloughing types of items to make sure you don’t go back to your gluttonous ways. So far, it is working quite well, even for this American prone to retail therapy.
Kondo believes that if you let it, your house will tell you exactly how much of anything you need. She also has techniques from folding everything from dresses to socks (underpants-footballs, anyone?). I first heard about the book from my bandmate who explained Kondo’s at-first outlandish idea that socks should not be balled but, instead, folded and allowed to sing. You might think this is hilarious until you tidy your sock drawer, leaving only the things you love — and then, yes, you discover that even your socks kind of sing.
“Feet me in St. Louis, Louis!” they croon.
The most profound part of getting Konmari on my house’s ass was when I made a second pass at my clothes. The first time I went through them, I kept a bunch of garments that fit me just because they fit me. I realised after rereading the section about clothes and about trying to decide if something sparks joy that the reason “it fits this body and is fine” is not a good enough reason. This is a body to be celebrated and I’ll better serve it by wearing only things that spark joy.
I had been living with a closet full of things that said, “This body is merely adequate and it’s lucky if a thing fits on it at all, you fat slob of a body — and who do you think you are, feeling you’re worth more than this perfectly fine thing that just doesn’t feel luxurious on your skin?”
Screw that noise. We deserve to feel better than that. I woke up to the realisation that my skin wants smooth, soft things next to it, and the fact that some of my former clothes are plain stupid for the body I have. It’s a body that gets me through this life. I need to stop talking to it and treating it like it’s something less than a dazzling miracle.
While going through old letters I had quite the crying jag and had to put myself into child’s pose. It can be hard to look at what feels like lifetimes’ worth of correspondence, especially if some of those relationships are over or if you have loved ones who have passed. My husband and cat were very understanding as I exclaimed through the tears, nearly hyperventilating, how short life is. Yes, this part sucked, but it was better to have gone through it than to have that anxiety and trepidation shoved up into a gut of my house somewhere.
Some of the things Kondo neglects to mention is that your back will hurt from doing this, so you should stretch, and if you are really in need of Marie Kondo-ing (I’ve taken to making a verb of her name), you’re going to sneeze a lot from the dust, too. Also, you might have a mini existential crisis going through photos and old letters. To counter this, really take the time to smile when you hold something that sparks joy. This will help fill you up when you come across the things that make you sad.
Give yourself time. Remember — this is all about self-care, not self-flagellation. Unless, of course, self-flagellation sparks joy, in which case, think how great your Cat-O-Nine Tails will look surrounded only by other things you love.