The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: Chapter 3 Discussion

Today we’re discussing chapter 3 of Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

Five bags… six. Seven. This past weekend I removed seven trash bags — all filled to the brim — from my home. Their contents? Clothes of all varieties. Many were pieces that I had carried with me for years, their weight following me from apartment to apartment, state to state. I’ve needlessly moved many of these pieces hundreds of miles, picked up a few — more than a few — with the intention of altering them (never did), were gifted some from kind, well-meaning family members (that may have missed the mark just a little), while some just seemed to materialize in front of me, out of nowhere. What’s shocking isn’t the seven bags, but the fact that the total would actually have been closer to 20 had I not already donated/sold off a large amount of my wardrobe earlier in the year. It’s amazing how much stuff can fit into a one-bedroom apartment.

This absurd clothing collection was my first official foray into the KonMari Method. I began late Saturday morning, and — save for a few breaks — didn’t finish until late Sunday night. I followed the instructions given at the beginning of chapter 3 and gathered it all in one place – my living room – though I admit to working in shifts because there just wasn’t enough room for it to all be sorted at once. My deviations were minimal and mostly to save my own sanity: I listened to music (opposed to the author’s suggestion of silence) and asked my husband’s opinion from time to time as he seems to be more reasonable and less attached to stuff than myself. Our cat, Zephyr, under the impression that we were moving yet again, burrowed into the sweater pile and refused to come out until things began to be put away and it became clear that our little family would in fact be staying put.


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I sorted fast and hard while still being mindful of each item and handling it with care, as KonMari suggests. As the discard pile on my couch began to grow, I discovered I’d been hoarding five additional swimsuits on top of the three on actual rotation in my wardrobe, realized I own too many sweaters, and found I had a habit of purchasing strange pieces from the thrift shop with the intention of altering them… and then never following through. When your life, or a part of your life, is gathered before you in its entirety, habits and predilections become surprisingly clear.

“What things will bring you joy if you keep them as part of your life? Pick them as if you were identifying items you loved from a showcase in your favorite store.”

While reading through chapter 3, one thing I found myself feeling skeptical towards was the suggestion to “never, ever ball up your socks,” her ideas of folding in general. Perhaps one of the less-controversial suggestions to feel self-defensive about but, when you’ve been folding your clothes and rolling your socks the same way for years, it’s hard to think of doing it any differently. That is until you actually give it a go. As I sorted my socks, reluctantly unrolling them from their potato-like shapes, I began to notice that one from each pair was consistently stretched out from having to house its match. After carefully folding them into thirds or fourths and placing them back into the drawer something magical happened…the drawer actually slid back into my dresser with ease. After years of struggling to open my drawers and then shove them closed, now my clothes actually fit into them perfectly. So much so that, when I went to grab a pair of socks a few hours later, I actually spooked myself.

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This is the part of the process that makes it clear why so few of KonMari’s clients suffer from clutter relapses. Once you see your clothes in this type of order, it’s hard to imagine messing them up. A rumpled shirt wouldn’t mesh with a drawer of otherwise neatly-folded tops, it just makes more sense to take the 20 or so seconds to fold it back up and return it to its brethren.

“Every piece of clothing has its own “sweet spot” where it feels just right — a folded state that best suits that item.”

I’ll admit that while I followed most of the author’s advice, I deviated in a couple of areas. She suggests not categorizing by season or activity, instead sorting by “cotton-like” and “wool-like” materials. Personally, I’d rather be able to find my gym clothes easily, or reach for a patterned tee-shirt over a striped top when I feel like it. Additionally, while it may make sense to meld seasons in other climates, the drastic seasonal shifts here in the northeast make seasonal-specific clothing a necessity – it just doesn’t make sense to keep a heavy woolen sweater within reach during a 90+ degree summer.

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In the end, I’m sure I kept more than what the author would be pleased with (the number of striped shirts I own, and still chose to keep, would likely shock her); however, I give myself credit for starting with a category that I feel passionately, and emotionally, about.

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The next section of chapter 3 delves into books — a category I’m feeling positively about, as I own a small but personal collection — and magazines…which are a whole other story.

She then moves on to discuss papers, and it’s here that I must give a cheer at her advice: “rule of thumb — discard everything.” Sweeter words hath ne’er been spoken. I’m looking forward to reaching this stage of the journey, as the author provides great advice for not only dealing with papers (throw it all away), but also dealing with troublesome documents that you may not know what to do with, such as credit card statements and used checkbooks (hint: you throw those away too).

While this book is small, the project housed within it spans much longer than simply a weekend or a month. Essentially we’re charged with sorting through the detritus of our lives in order to discover what we truly value and cherish. I feel I learned so much over just two days, and can’t wait to dive into the komono (miscellaneous items) to discover even more.

This week’s discussion questions:

– Did you take on a category in your home this weekend? If so, why did you decide to tackle that particular category?

– Do you have a particular method of doing something that you find challenging to break? Why do you think that is?

– Towards the end of chapter three, the author speaks of discarding mementos, are you scared of undergoing this process? Why do you think it’s so difficult for many of us to part with the material representation of our memories?

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  1. Am working my way through the same book with the same cathartic results! Books this weekend – hope I am as ruthless with them as I was with my clothes :)

  2. I’m not doing the book club, well…I wasn’t. I’m going to buy the book now. I’ve been resisting to read it since although I’ve preached declutering for years I was afraid the book was too overwhelming. Last night I was so tired moving stuff (moving house soon) that the only thing I thought was I don’t want to go through this again! Thanks for sharing your process!

  3. I love seeing people’s honest reactions to this book and how they adapt it in their own way, even though I haven’t read it myself! The first thing I will be tackling is my clothes. I know I only wear maybe a quarter of what I have. Reading this post has made me really motivated to start!

  4. i didn’t get how you fold clothes vertically for drawer so you can see every shirt at same time. I see that you did it in that nice picture! Wow! But how will you put one back or pull one out without making a mess? She described how to fold it but I was not good at following along to that!

  5. Your cat:) So cute!
    I agree with your feelings about seasonal clothing. First, I live in about 150 square feet, and second, our summers are 90+ degrees and humid, and our winters like to sit in the -10’s come January. There’s no practical reason to have a swimsuit or a sundress within reach in January. I haven’t worn my long underwear in six months, but I have enough for every day of the week. I will continue to rotate clothes.
    Also, I think it’s hard to stick with a tidy home when your self-esteem is low. I know that psychologists emphasize self-care, especially when you’re going through a difficult time, but I don’t think a rough time is the best time to start the KonMari method. (Until you’re starting to pick yourself up again. That could be a great time.) Anyway, that’s when I find myself backsliding.

  6. I started reading this book a few weeks ago. I’ve already done clothes, books, papers, and I’m currently working on “komono”. It feels so good to get rid of things I don’t love or never use. I feel so much lighter! I do have one suggestion for you though, and that is to decide for yourself whether to keep an item without any input from anyone else. When I was going through my clothes I also asked my husband’s opinion on a couple things. But then I realized that if I have to ask someone “What do you think of this?” or “Does this fit right?” then I probably don’t really want it or need it. And if you have to question it or second guess yourself, it probably doesn’t spark joy either!

  7. I haven’t read the book, but am into minimalism and came across the KonMari method a while back. I adopted the folding techniques which I learned via YouTube. Though I don’t own a lot of clothing, I am disorganized. After adopting this method my drawers have stayed neatly organized for months.

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  8. I had sorted tee shirts & underwear two weeks ago using the Konmari folding method. Surprisingly ALL my long & short sleeve tees & singles fitted into one drawer. No off season space bag needed.
    And all my socks, tights & knickers can be seen at a glance now, no rummaging for the right colour for my outfit.

    Today I emptied my entire wardrobe, the off season trunk, the space saver bags & piled it all on the bed.
    I removed the coat hangers & then sorted into coats, knitwear, skirts, dresses, pants, shorts, shirts/blouses, tops, loungewear, vintage. Jess I have a heap of clothes.
    I went though each pile. There were only a few things that I hesitated over, but eventually they went into the bin/sell/charity piles.
    I could probably get rid of way more, but again I was surprised everything, summer & winter, coats & all, fit in my wardrobe now it is sorted in to sections.
    I have kept one small trunk of things I could not bear to part with yet – a skirt made of neckties that I hand stitched together, several sentimental vintage pieces that I’m sure I will want again one day, my Japanese school skirt from 1983, my sport top from grade 7, a collection of fashion week tee shirts & a few cashmere roll neck sweaters that I will wear again, just not this last season.
    I can’t wait to get up tomorrow morning & find all my clothes neat & tidy ready for spring.

  9. Jayne – I never thought opening a drawer could be so satisfying, but it really is amazing to see everything so neat, and I’ve found it makes the entire process of getting dressed easier.

  10. Lauren – Amazing that you’ve made so much progress, I know it’s going to take me a lot longer… but I’m not giving up! I agree with you about utilizing a second person and I should have been clearer in the post – he actually helped me get rid of MORE, haha! I had a few bathing suits I was going to keep sitting in a corner and was on the fence about them, when he entered the room and said “wow, you’ve owned some pretty ugly bathing suits” — totally confirming my suspicion that they needed to go :)

  11. Hanna – A resounding YES to your point about self care. When I’m feeling down it’s so much easier to wallow in my mess, but as soon as it’s clean I feel my mood lift.

  12. Lauren – so glad I could help! It’s not too much trouble sliding them in and out, but I HAVE found I need to be more selective (not grabbing a few tee shirts to try at once) or else I have a lot of folding to re-do.

  13. Rita – so glad to have you along :) the book itself is laid out so simply, it’s the STUFF that can be overwhelming! But tackling one category at a time makes this much easier to deal with.

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