Toss It Tuesday – 8 Lessons Learned from the Decluttering Bible

Messy Pile of ClothesYou’ve probably heard about Marie Kondo, a Japanese organizing consultant, who wrote the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.

Kondo has a radical, two-pronged approach to tidying. First, put your hands on everything you own, ask yourself if it sparks joy, and if it doesn’t, thank it for its service and get rid of it. Second, once only your most joy-giving belongings remain, put every item in a place where it’s visible, accessible, and easy to grab and then put back. Only then, Kondo says, will you have reached the nirvana of housekeeping, and never have to clean again.

So, as Baby Boomers and Seniors face life transitions, what can they learn from Marie Kondo? In her article, 8 Lessons Our Editor Learned from the Decluttering Bible, writer Cate La Farge Summers discovered eight lessons from Kondo’s book. Here are a few:

Lesson #1: Tackle Categories, Not Rooms

I’d always tackled clutter by room – take on the office first, the bedroom next. Instead, Kondo’s first rule is to tidy by category – deal with every single one of your books at once, for example, otherwise they’ll continue to creep from room to room, and you’ll never rein in the clutter. She advises beginning with clothing, since it’s the least emotionally loaded of one’s things (books come next, old photographs are much later), so as soon as I found a free afternoon, that’s exactly what I did.

Lesson #3: Nostalgia Is Not Your Friend

As I started emptying the closets, I opened boxes filled with letters and old photographs. Serious mistake. Kondo knows what she’s talking about when she insists you put blinders on and focus only on the category of stuff at hand. Read one old letter, and suddenly you’re down a rabbit hole of nostalgia.

To be honest, I was probably procrastinating. In theory, I was sold on the idea of living exclusively with clothing that gives me joy, but I still had hang-ups: What will I be left with? Will I have anything to wear to work? Will I have to sacrifice beloved things, all for the sake of decluttering?

Then my 18-month-old son, Henry, wandered in, and there’s nothing he loves more than recluttering. The afternoon was basically lost. If you do this, don’t waste time like I did (and maybe book a babysitter for this project).

Lesson #4: Purging Feels SO Good

From then on, I followed Kondo’s advice to a T. I gathered every piece of my clothing and put it in one giant pile. While I normally tidy my clothes only when I’m on a long phone call – distracted from the task at hand – today I wasn’t even supposed to listen to music. Channeling Kondo, who says a prayer upon entering a client’s home, I lit a candle, said a little prayer, and started digging through the mountain of clothes.

Once I got to work, it was so much easier and more fun than I’d thought. This question of joy gives you permission to let go of off-color shirts bought on sale, dresses past their prime, skirts that always clung uncomfortably. I realized I had many things that seemed great in theory but weren’t actually my style – they’d be better on someone else’s body or in someone else’s life.

Six hours later, I’d filled 12 bags with non-joy-giving clothes. Instead of panic, I felt relief – 12 times lighter. It also felt like good karma: The best stuff went to a consignment shop, and the decent stuff went to a charity thrift store, off to see a new, hopefully better life.”

Read the other lessons discovered in 8 Lessons Our Editor Learned from the Decluttering Bible.

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DAYNA WILSON: As a Certified Senior Housing Professional (CSHP) , I have special knowledge about everything from reverse mortgages to the importance of universal design. I can tap into my network and put you in touch with my team of qualified home inspectors, movers, attorneys, CPAs, organizers and other experts. I have all the resources and knowledge to simplify the transaction and eliminate the anxiety of selling your home.

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