Thursday, May 28, 2015

KonMari Clean Sweep

I did something over the last two days that absolutely terrified me: I went KonMari on my entire wardrobe.

If you're not familiar with the KonMari method, it's a system for organizing your life and purging possessions you don't need. There's a book about it: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I have not read the whole book. I read a bunch of online stuff about it. It's pretty simple, really: if something doesn't "spark joy," don't keep it.

So starting yesterday I grabbed a Diet Cheerwine and settled in to see what clothes I owned that sparked joy and which ones I was holding on to for bad reasons.

1. T-Shirts

I am a t-shirt fanatic. I've ordered shirts from shirt.woot several times, I get a bunch of free ones, and if there's an event I do that gives away a shirt, I probably still had it. Here's a short list of what I got rid of:

  • shirts from three high school musicals (yes, from when I was in high school)
  • two shirts from Governor's School (in 2003)
  • four college shirts from various events
  • three Woot! shirts that I used to wear a lot, but stopped because of the fit or because, at 28, I don't need a whole lot of novelty shirts
  • the shirts we got for free on our honeymoon
That's not an exhaustive list; I also got rid of several shirts that are unflattering, in bad shape, or that I just don't like for whatever reason. I kept a few: the Cobra Kai shirt, the Troy and Abed shirt, the Mario/Princess Bride mashup shirt, the "Hot Light is on in Gastonia, NC" shirt. That last one is a little weird. I don't wear it often--mostly when I'm cleaning, or as a sleep shirt, or to work out--but I picked it up and, sure enough, it sparked joy.

That phrase, "spark joy," is at the heart of the KonMari method, and it sounds really stupid when you first think about it. But you really can tell a difference between something that sparks joy and something that doesn't. The feelings I had--about clothes!--ranged from hatred (the stretch maxi dress I bought at Target because I needed something in the moment, which shows every lump on my body) to indifference (a pair of khaki trousers) to love ("Of course I'm keeping you," I told the orange Mad Men-style dress I bought two years ago, as if to reassure it). By the end of the process, I was afraid I was going a little crazy.

2. Work Clothes

This has always been a tricky area for me. Because I'm not working outside the home, I rarely need to dress professionally, but I have to consider what I'll need in the future. I kept a few pairs of trousers that make me feel good about how I look. I kept the suit I wear for interviews. I kept several professional-looking dresses. But I got rid of a lot: shirts I've had since I started teaching, a skirt that I wore maybe one time, a dress that I couldn't wear because it showed my tattoos--which kind of soured me on the dress, along with the fact that the lining stuck to my skin in an uncomfortable way. It came down to determining what I needed based solely on how it made me feel. The black pants I bought and wore on Jeopardy! were my barometer for this section, because they're my favorites. The clothes I kept didn't need to feel as good as those, but if they didn't incite a little of that feeling, away they went.

3. Swimwear and Pajamas

I owned two bikinis that I would never wear. I've worn them in the past--usually when I had dropped some weight--but my belly hasn't been the same since containing a baby, and I knew I wouldn't ever wear them again. I had pajama shirts that were shirts Brandon had gotten for free that he knew wouldn't fit him, but that I kept to sleep in. I had pajama pants that were uncomfortable and had shrunk in the wash. I ended up keeping three sets of pajamas and two nightgowns.

4. Formals, Shoes, Accessories

I had a couple of formal dresses from chaperoning prom. I kept the bridesmaid dress from Monica's wedding because I like the dress--even though I haven't worn it again, I think I might in a couple of weeks, and it has pockets--but I put all the other formal dresses into a bag to potentially consign. This was hard because I knew what I had spent on some of them, and it felt like a shame to get rid of something I'd worn one time, but by the time I got to the formals I had gone into "GET RID OF ALL THE THINGS" mode and I just didn't care.

Getting rid of some of those dresses also meant I could get rid of some shoes. I kept pairs of shoes specifically to go with one dress, so I ended up bagging three pairs of shoes that I had no reason to keep without the accompanying dress. I also went through my jewelry. This was an area where I allowed sentimental value to rule: I got rid of a lot of earrings, but not the pearls Brandon got me in China. Even though I don't wear earrings, those have meaning, so they stayed.

I filled three bags of just clothes and a fourth with other stuff--a purse I was mad at, the shoes, belts, jewelry, etc. I folded my clothes and put them away according to the method (vertical, so you can see what you're after) and I have an entire empty drawer now. I feel no pressure to fill it.

I don't know if I'll be able to repeat this process with other areas (like my bookshelf--that's a sacred space, and letting go will be really hard) but it felt good to do this, and I want to keep moving through the house and figuring out what I do and don't need. We'll probably have enough to do a yard sale, if anyone's interested in rifling through my cast-offs.

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