I first became aware of the Marie Kondo method of tidying when I was having my nails done at a local beauty salon. The client next to me was telling the technician how her underwear drawer, and her life, had been transformed by folding all her clothes a certain way which meant they could be seen at a glance and easily retrieved. She was very enthusiastic about it and said that as well as making her life so much easier, folding her clothes this ‘special’ way had a calming effect on her. Her inspiration, she said was a Japanese woman called Marie Kondo who had written books and been on television demonstrating the life changing methods of folding clothes. I thought it sounded a bit sad, how bad is your life, I thought, if a bit of tidying can transform it and how does anyone make money out of telling people how to fold clothes? Nevertheless, the next day after a fruitless search for a pair of matching socks in a drawer that still had maternity bras in it (nice reminder to buy a birthday present for my thirty seven year old son’s upcoming birthday), I looked up Marie Kondo on my Kindle and downloaded a sample of ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying’. Within the hour I had bought the book and entered the life changing cult of ‘KonMarie’.
The six basic rules of tidying the Marie Kondo way are:
- Commit yourself to tidying up easy enough during lockdown
- Imagine your ideal lifestyle I glossed over this because I have to work and my ideal life style involves retiring
- Finish discarding before you tidy easy as long as it’s his stuff not mine
- Tidy by category, not by location the most useful piece of information
- Follow the right order – clothes, papers, books, komono (komono is make up, accessories, everything in that drawer), sentimental items I didn’t follow this order and I lived the tell the tale. I started with my make-up and toiletries and failed a bit on the sentimental items
- Ask yourself if it ‘sparks joy’ my husband’s socks don’t exactly ‘spark joy’ but he’d be a bit miffed I chucked them out. Likewise, his underpants.
The best piece of advice was to tidy by category. It made everything so much easier. Just get all you have of one type of thing together so that you can see everything you have. So, all my make-up and toiletries which were in the bathroom, my gym bag, my bedroom drawer and my work bag were all thrown ruthlessly on the bed as I worked my way through them. Marie Kondo says that when deciding what to keep we should hold it, commune with it and if ‘sparks joy’ we should feel a ‘little thrill’. When we throw things away we should say thank you to it and let it go with a feeling of gratitude (goodbye toilet brush!). Frankly, some of her ideas are as mad as cheese but she does make you think about why we keep so much stuff. My criteria was: do I use it? If I lost it would I miss it and want to replace it? If the answer was no to both, it went in the bin. The other useful part of working my way through one category at a time was that I could see how much of my stuff I had bought several times over. I had six mascaras, five lipsticks and enough concealers to make my entire body invisible. Already feeling like a new person after reducing my make-up down to one small bag I worked my way through my clothes, one category at a time, tee shirts, dresses, jeans and so on. I ignored the book section – I’m a librarian and love my books because yes, they spark joy as do shoes so they nearly all had a reprieve. I got rid of tonnes of receipts, instruction manuals (they’re all online), boxes that had housed computers, phones and various gadgets which were kept in case the item had to go back or I sold it on – two things, which as Marie says, rarely happen.
Feeling lighter and slightly giddy, at my sudden move into domesticity, having previously had a somewhat slovenly approach to housework, I moved on to the folding and storing of my clothes. Marie says we should never stack things in piles ‘vertical is best’. This little tip has not only transformed my life but my husband is constantly delighted at being able to see all his undies and socks at a glance in his drawer (he’s also easily pleased). The Marie Kondo way of folding clothes is very specific. It involves smoothing them with your hand and folding them in a very particular way (it’s hard to explain, you would have to see it in action*) into a little roll so that they sit up by themselves. Not only did I adopt this method of putting things away but I also watched videos on how to fold just about everything; knickers, boxers, socks, hoodies, sheets tee shirts, even tea towels. Up until this point I assumed I was the least domesticated person on the planet. My husband does the majority of the cleaning and when we went shopping for a kitchen I told him to choose what he liked because I wasn’t interested. A kitchen is a kitchen right? I pay for someone to do my ironing and I have never moved a piece of furniture to clean under it. However, there I was, one day during lockdown, folding my husband’s socks and underpants like a demented fifties housewife. I found the smoothing and folding quite therapeutic and once I started I just couldn’t stop. The towels, dishcloths, tea towels have all been Kondoed. I persuaded my husband to let me Kondo (now a verb in our house) his wardrobe because whilst he had all his jumpers and tee shirts in order of colour (he’s much more particular than me), they were all stacked (never stack!) and only the ones on the top ever got worn. Yes, he could have done it himself but I wanted to it. My hands itched to smooth and fold and anyway he was quite happy with the way it was. He is now delighted with the new system because he can see at glance the mountains of clothes he’s bought over the years (he’s a shopaholic). My clothes which Marie said had to be stored on hangers are now together in categories; my going out clothes are all together, as are my jeans, skirts and blouses. I no longer have to rifle through my wardrobes looking for a top to go with trousers or look for a jumper that ‘I know I have somewhere’ because now I know where everything is. The woman in the salon was right, there is indeed something deeply satisfying about looking in your underwear drawer and seeing all your smalls at a glance and not having to rummage for your knickers when you’re half asleep. I have also ‘Kondoed’ my home workspace so that I have little baskets for work and my various projects and now only work on one thing at a time. When I’m studying, for example, all the other baskets are in a (very tidy) drawer. It takes away the stress of trying to do too many things at once. I haven’t, however, turned into a domestic goddess. My house is not minimalist – far from it, I’m surrounded by books, photos and bits of junk that have been picked up over the years because they ‘spark joy’. I don’t hug them and tell them that I love them though – sorry Marie.
I don’t know why having things in order and smoothing out knickers feels so life changing, maybe it’s because the menopause sometimes feels like navigating a hard path without a compass. I often suffer from ‘meno-brain fog’ where the simplest words elude me and I do things like put boot polish in the fridge. With Covid and Brexit added into the mix I sometimes feel that normal life is slipping away. When I smooth, fold and store, I have the sense of having control over something, even if it is just my husband’s boxers.
*Check out KonMari folding, what YouTube calls ‘intimates’ The KonMari Fold | Intimates – YouTube