I’ve got closets on the brain.
Still, I am VERY excited that soon I’ll no longer have to share a closet with Kevin. In fact, nobody will have to share one in the new house. That means I have five empty closets that I need to whip into shape and make hang-ready.
So, it was with much relief that I anticipated my recent design consultation at the Container Store. I must admit, I haven’t been the biggest fan of their Elfa closet system. I don’t like that the drawers wobble. I don’t like the grate feel of the racks, and, well, the whole thing feels a little cheap and chintzy to me.
On the flip side is California Closets. Sure, those things are pretty sexy, but I’d rather spend that kind of money somewhere else (or even not at all). And Ikea’s Pax line, which I have used before and loved, was going to be too big for most of our needs.
So now I’m warmly embracing Elfa — like that guy you initially passed over in high school but, hey, he has a car. (Not that I had that option in high school.) More than that, I do love that you can change the layout at any time. And that I can install it myself. And that it was 25 percent off. Sold!
However, as I approached my design appointment, it dawned on me that I had no idea how to organize a closet. How much space would I need for hanging stuff? How many shoes did I own? What should I do with accessories, such as purses, jewelry and belts?
More importantly, was I going to take a leap of faith and build a closet that followed the KonMari principles? After all, that would mean folding the majority of my clothes and putting them into drawers. Not hanging them. A bit of a game-changer in the closet design department.
In case you haven’t heard, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo has piqued the curiosity of design folk, homeowners and anyone wondering if they were folding their socks right. The answer? You’re not.
The book’s title alone drew my attention. “Life changing?” “Magic?” “Tidying up?” I can’t remember the last time I said, “Let’s tidy up!”
As I read the book, one thing became perfectly clear: Marie Kondo might be sick in the head. I mean, really. To say that tidying is her passion is a complete understatement. I can’t even imagine what it’s like living with her.
She tidies with every fiber of her being and truly gets sad when she sees socks waded up and folded into a ball.
“Look at them carefully,” Marie Kondo admonishes a client in her book (I would imagine through gritted teeth). “This should be a time for them to rest. Do you really think they can get any rest like that?”
Marie Kondo got her zeal for organizing at the tender age of 5 when she began reading home and lifestyle magazines. By the time she was a teenager, no one in her family was safe from the long arm of her tidying mania. I imagine an intervention being staged … with professional help standing by.
Instead of playing with her classmates, Marie Kondo opted to organize her teacher’s bookcases. (Oh, you again. Still doing it wrong, am I?) Instead of studying for an exam, she would go on a tidying binge that would take her to the wee hours of the morning, with dozens of garbage bags filled with things to throw out.
One day, she had a breakdown and fell asleep. When she came to two hours later, she awoke to hear a mysterious voice, advising her to “look more closely at what is there.” Instead of making it about throwing things away, KonMari refocused her quest on cherishing the things that brought joy to her life and discarding the rest.
She’s since built a tidying empire and has a three-month waiting list of clients, all of whom hope to join the ranks of previous initiates whom, she claims, have never had a relapse. Here are a few testimonials from her clients:
“Your course taught me to see what I really need and what I don’t. So I got a divorce. Now I feel much happier.”
“Someone I have been wanting to get in touch with recently contacted me.” (??)
“I finally succeeded in losing 10 pounds.”
Hmm. That’s some odd feedback. So, why was I about to take a risk and become a member of her cult?
Because I have great respect for someone like KonMari. She sees something that I certainly don’t see, but that fact that she has given it so much thought and holds her beliefs with absolute conviction makes me … trust her.
She raises some good points. Tidying one’s stuff leads to a tidy mind and a tidy life. Treating clothes with respect leads to greater respect for one’s self. Taking care of your clothing makes you take better care of yourself. It makes you more aware.
She even counsels against people wearing “loungewear” around the house, you know, the kind Flight of the Conchords sang about in Business Time: “You’re wearing that same old ugly, baggy T-shirt with the stain on it that you got from that team-building exercise you did for work.”
Holding on to this kind of “loungewear” encourages you to let it take over, and that kind of baggage is just not good for the soul … or your closet.
“If sweatpants are your everyday attire,” she reasons, “you’ll end up looking like you belong in them, which is not very attractive. What you wear in the house does impact your self-image.”
So on a random Saturday morning, I put my faith in KonMari and threw ALL of my clothes on the bed.
While KonMari’s method tackles every aspect of life — books, paperwork, memorabilia — she encourages going about tidying in a very specific order, with clothing being the first and easiest to accomplish.
I picked up her book and read the chapter titled “Selection Criteria: Does It Spark Joy?”
“You must take each outfit in your hand,” she says. “When you touch a piece of clothing, your body reacts. Its response to each item is different. Trust me and try it.”
At first, I felt weird just sitting around stroking my clothes, so I tried them on and posed in front of the mirror. It was really nice to get reacquainted with my clothes. And after awhile, yes, I did just know as soon as I held a garment!
My butt never liked you.
I only kept you because my mother gave you to me.
Just … no.
Some things I took great delight in throwing out. Like my all-white ski suit, which seemed like a good idea before I had three kids, but nine years later suffered from crotchal rips and looked like a truck massacred it.
Others were more difficult: My beautiful Michael Stars dress that was so stretched out because I ONCE dared to hang it on a hanger. I curse you Michael Stars! I still love it … and mourn it. But I don’t regret the decision, because I know in my heart that it was the right one.
And my Spanx. Well, no, actually, I delighted in tossing that.
Eight pairs of shoes and 5 garbage bags later I was done!
Next came the KonMari method of folding.
Rather than stacking clothes on top of one another, KonMari wants you to fold them into cute, little origami triangles that stand up side-by-side in a drawer … so you can actually see everything at a glance! Genius!
Plus, she wagers that you can fit more into a drawer stacked in this manner than you can when they’re stuffed on top of each other.
You’ll know when you’ve attained the triangle “sweet spot” when it can stand up on its own.
Let’s use my slightly wrinkled Rush concert T as an example, shall we?
Step 1 (Folding it face up, rather than down, allows for any ruffles, embellishments, ties, etc. to “rest” inside the shirt and not flop around on the outside.)
Step 8 … wait for it
Step 9 … Ta da!
That seems like a lot of steps, but the only real addition is folding the shirt into a triangle at the end. Besides, look how cute that little bundle is? I mean the shirt, not the butt.
Here’s how they all looked stacked in a drawer:
And if you’re curious to see KonMari in action, check out this video where she perfectly folds an underwear drawer, including socks. Yes, now you’ll know.
Neat, right? And there are plenty of other tutorials out there that show her folding all kinds of stuff.
It’s been about 1-1/2 months since I rearranged my clothes, and I’m actually keeping it up, just like she said I would! The folding process is not as bad as I thought it’d be, and I kind of enjoy doing it.
One of the biggest perks is that I’m much neater with my clothes. I can’t simply shove my clothes in a drawer. That would ruin all the origami inside! I have to be more thoughtful about what I do with my clothes, which is exactly what KonMari wants!
The only drawback I can see is when it’s laundry folding time. Her method takes up a bit more counter space and, since I currently fold on my bed (which I hate), there are no sides to keep things from tipping over. Hopefully my new laundry area will change that.
I waiting until we move into the house to see if I want to KonMari everyone else’s closets, but with three kids who daily tear up their drawers trying to find something to wear, I can definitely see the value in having all of their clothes presented at a glance. Kevin is particularly intrigued. His drawers are a mess.
My half of the closet is looking nicer, too. In fact, it looks pretty bare! (In my eagerness, I neglected to get a “before” shot, but believe me, the thing was filled.)
Now, before you start thinking that I don’t have any more clothes, don’t despair. Part of it has to do with the fact that most of my stuff is now in drawers. Part of it is because my long coats and dresses are currently stashed in the kids’ room because this closet can’t hang them. And part of it has to do with the hangers I’m using.
While KonMari advises against going out and buying a crap-load of organizing supplies, I did replace my thick wooden hangers with Huggable Hangers.
These things are awesome! Not only do they slim down the closet, but their velvety-ness keeps clothes from sliding off. Finally!!
KonMari has specific instructions on how to hang clothes in a closet. The longer, heavier items like coats should go on the left, with lighter items like blouses rising to the right.
She encourages the reader to draw an arrow rising to the right and one descending to the right.
“Did you notice that when you draw an arrow rising to the right it makes you feel lighter? Lines that slope up to the right make people feel more comfortable.”
WHOA!! That is just a small example of the depth of her tidying thoughtfulness.
I haven’t even gotten to put into practice some of the other sections of her book: “Unpack and de-tag new clothes immediately”, “Forget about ‘flow-planning’ and ‘frequency of use,'” “Decorate your closet with your secret delights.” All so intriguing!
In all, I’m very pleased that I drank the Kool-Aid and KonMari’d my closet. In fact, it kind of makes me wonder if really need the walk-in closet I’m about to inherit …
Oh, who am I kidding? Yeah, I do!