• Deborah

Going Rogue in the Closet: The Companion Guide to Decluttering


As a self-annointed devotee, I have pitched unrelentingly the awe-inspiring merits of the newly-translated book, "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying up." I stand by my rants (and my now 1-stick-only lipstick box). I (without exaggeration!) have spent the last 3 weeks constantly decluttering drawers, shelves and hidden stashes of stuff throughout my house.

I even taught my kids how to do it yesterday. "Hey kids, wanna do something really fun?!"

But… but… but...

There are a few things that don't really work for me.

Don't get me wrong! Ms. Kondo's book has changed my life -- and I feel the deepest level of respect for her. But even a disciple has to strike out on her own once-in-awhile, no?

Here is my quick-guide for" Tidying Up Your Closet: Finding Your True Self in the Clutter" (A Companion Reader: Pt 1 of an infinite-part series):

  • Decide you wish to declutter and organize the "things" in your life (which is really code for "you'd like to kick up your life but don't really know what that 'kick-up-your-life' means")

  • Start in your closet. Find that one piece of clothing you simply LOVE. The favorite jeans you wear the minute they come out of the wash, that dress that makes you feel like you could concur the world from the bow of a yacht, that scarf that reminds you of the best day of your life (in a piazza in Rome, no less). For me, it's a particularly simple white Oxford that makes me feel immediately strong-yet-feminine, smart-yet-pretty, corporate-yet-artsy with perky breasts and a smaller-than-reality waist (don't ask, I address my issues in Part 14). Hold it up and feel the joy it's sparking in you. This is your "joy-standard." Take a minute and revel in the feeling. Close your eyes, if you want. Then, place that item within arm's (and eye's) reach. I like to hang mine on the closet door.

  • Turn back to your closet and pick up the next item of clothing. Hold it at arm's length. Quick. What's the FIRST thought that comes to mind?

"Okay, this shirt is great for running errands on Saturday."

"Oh, Mom. I wish you wouldn't spend your money buying me "going-out-blouses" in silver lamé. It reminds me of that dress you bought me for my piano recital that didn't..."

"This blouse looks good with white pants. Didn't I wear it last summer to that school luncheon when my favorite blue dress looked a little tight in the tush?"

  • Look at your "joy-standard." Ahhhh.

  • Now, look back to that shirt. SEE the DIFFERENCE?!?! One elicits joy. The other… not joy. Put the not-joy in the give-away pile. Your goal? To surround yourself only with those things that bring you joy. I know. You'll have nothing left. It's true. But there in lies the REAL decluttering.

The truth is… you're NOT just decluttering your closet. You're decluttering your life and throwing away all the unncessary baggage you've been carrying for your whole life.

The responsibilities, obligations, guilts, burdens, pressures, fantasies, should'ves, would'ves, could'ves. They're cluttering your closet AND your ability to live YOUR honest, true life.

  • Repeat. Hold up item, Register FIRST THOUGHT about the item, Compare FIRST THOUGHT to your "joy-standard." Keep or give away.

  • Stop when you feel either very accomplished or overwhelmed, emotionally-exhausted and/or depressed. Put the discards into a shopping bag and close the door. If you're able to this for 5 things in your closet, consider yourself a rock-star.

  • Return to that closet daily. Look at the clothes you kept yesterday. Look at your "joy-standard." Do they match? One of them… not so much, right? YAY. You've an even bigger rock-star today than yesterday.

"What a minute!" you shout. "Ms. Kondo says to do it in one big purge. This doesn't sound like success?!"

Success NEVER comes in one 2-hour clothes-tossing session.

Getting in touch with your true self is akin to building the strength of a newly-discovered muscle; latent in its power yet weakened by its lack-of-use. It's your emotional truth. Your true meaning in life. Your purest form of self. I don't know… call it what you want… but it is YOU. The YOU you were meant to be. The YOU that you are. Just a bit lost in the shuffle of all those damn shirts that kinda itch, too quickly stain around the armpits. Getting in touch with your true self? Not going to happen just because you gave away a pair of purple-patent pumps you bought at a Barneys Warehouse Sale.

Do a little a day! Yes, you're going to slide back into old habits. Remind yourself of your goals. Try again. Hold your "joy-standard" in your hand. Ahh, that's what joy feels like. Go back into the world, with that feeling still in your mind.

In time, it becomes easier to know what brings you joy and what doesn't, without having to compare it to your "joy-standard." It becomes a part of your conscious-mind

Still with me? Okay, so now what?

  • Open a kitchen cabinet. See all those tea bags? Which one do you ALWAYS grab when you want to have a cup of tea? Darjeeling, because you like the taste AND you love that it reminds you of that tea luncheon your best friend threw you for your wedding shower? "Joy-standard." That really-bitter dandelion-detox tea you bought because you should be more focused on your health but it tastes like dirt and you gag with every sip? SEE THE DIFFERENCE? Toss out that tea, you rebel! You've just decluttered your life. And got to know yourself a little bit better. Baby-steps towards the honest life we should all be living.

  • Do it everywhere, all the time. Find your "joy-standard." Then, apply it to ALL things around you. Go back into the sock drawer you decluttered last week and give away that pair of argyle cashmere socks that somehow remind you of Sister Marilyn, that up-tight, highly-judgemental high-school Principal who still gets your goat. Go into the garage. Get rid of those dusty roller-blades that pinched your toes 18 years ago (but keep that box of old towels you love to use when you wash your car because not only are you recyclying but you're saving $20 from the carwash, you industrious gal, you). Go into the den. Get rid of that book that reminds you of that vacation you fought with your boyfriend and the one that's over-written and dull, despite the NYTimes' opinion. Keep the one about Jackson Browne, 'cause you just like him and it's fun to be reminded of that.

And on-and-on it goes. Bringing forward the life that brings you joy, the life you SHOULD be living.

Everytime you declutter, think to yourself, "Oh, my. I think I'm beginning to understand who I am and how I really feel. " Soon, you'll not need to reach out and touch your "joy-standard."

You'll just know it when you feel it. And when you don't.

Oh yes. Imagine the implications of using this process on EVERYTHING. Your job. Your hobbies. Your friends. Your relationships…

Imagine spending 98% of your life experiencing your joy-standard?

Thank you Ms. Kondo, for proposing the unimaginable.

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