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The liberating journey of de-cluttering

Kate Edwards

I like to think that I’m a pretty well functioning person.

But by the end of 2015, I couldn’t step foot into my wardrobe because the floor was strewn with piles of mismatched shoes and clothes that had fallen off their hangers, and I had just stopped trying to push my drawers in altogether because they were so crammed with pairless socks, stretched undies and bras that no longer fitted.

I constantly bemoaned the fact that I had “nothing to wear” which would propel me towards making yet another impulsive online purchase…that would inevitably end up in the back of my cupboard.

Sound familiar?

I often do an annual clean-up, but after hearing about the international bestseller The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organising by Marie “KonMari” Kondo, I was intrigued.

Heralded as life-changing, and even earning herself a verb – “I just kondoed my cupboards” – this organisational guru was included in Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people of 2015.

Her philosophy basically works like this: you dump a pile of whatever it is you’re de-cluttering (in my case, clothes) on the floor and then go through each item asking yourself “Does this spark joy?”

It sounds simple enough, but this one question seemed to spark terror in my heart. I don’t consider myself a hoarder, but for some reason, the thought of letting go of these inanimate objects brought up all sorts of overwhelming emotions: frustration and anger with myself for having made some obviously poor purchasing decisions, inadequacy over not intrinsically knowing what suits me and grief over letting go of items that represented a time and state of being in my life. And let’s not even start with the “maybe I could fit back into this” or “maybe I should hang onto my fat jeans” conversations that took place in my head.

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Warning: de-cluttering can initially be overwhelming!

I have to admit, I sat there for half an hour paralysed – tempted to just crawl into the foetal position. So I got help. I sent a couple of photos to my girlfriends who promptly responded with “get rid of it”.

Armed with this support, I took a deep breath and put the first item into a garbage bag – a satin black dress with metal studs on the shoulders that I thought might be a fun thing to wear to a Halloween party…three years ago. Oh, by the way, I hate Halloween.

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My girlfriends had to talk me down from keeping some of my fashion disasters…

Once this initial hurdle was over, it became much easier. And I got more help. To distract myself from the self-recriminating voices, I listened to podcasts the whole time. So while some woman from TedTalks waxed lyrical about the importance of knowing your own health stats, I chucked and re-folded and chucked some more. All of this in a state of half-dress too I might add. Only because I couldn’t apply myself to the rule of simply holding an item, I had to actually try it on too.

Maybe I didn’t “kondoe” my wardrobe exactly right. Maybe not everything left in my cupboard actually “sparks joy”. I mean my pair of supportive undies aren’t exactly bliss inducing – but they do a great job of making me feel better in those clingy dresses. So I had to let this rule slip a bit, otherwise I’m not sure I’d have much to wear.

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Each item of your clothing should “spark joy”!

I also became acutely aware at the end of this whole exercise that I need help from here on in in buying clothes that suit me, that I’ll actually wear and that will go with other items in my wardrobe…but that’s a whole other article.

In the meantime, I’ve moved on to my pantry. Four garbage bags later (and it’s a tiny pantry) I still can’t say that the remaining items spark joy. But actually being able to see the white shelving and having clearly labelled jars in places where I can find them does really give me a buzz.

Next up…the whole house. But one pile at a time.

Image of ‘surprised girl…‘ via Shutterstock

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Kate Edwards

Kate Edwards juggles work as an advertising writer with freelance journalism, being married, and raising two hilarious and full-on boys. When she’s not madly zipping around town ferrying kids or getting to meetings, you can find her enjoying a post work-out coffee with her female tribe, attempting to cook paleo treats for her family and bingeing on the latest TV series sensation.

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