Is the Konmari method the best way to declutter your closet?

Posted by Aloïs Guinut on Wednesday, January 16, 2019 · 18 Comments 

Because new years means resolutions, Netflix has decided to welcome you with “Tidying with Mari Kondo” in lieu of a time consuming TV show.

Well, it DID consume time to watch but wasn’t useless as it inspired me this first short article of 2019. So bonne année ladies!

I noticed than her job and mine are similar in numerous aspects. Our clients expect from both of us to improve their life by making something previously hassling into something enjoyable.
In the case of Mari, your whole life by tidying, in mine, your confidence by styling.

Aaaaan we both… LOVE MESS!

The KonMari method, consist in applying to every household a two phased system. first sorting, their tidying by finding each item a confortable “home” within your house.

During the sorting phase, you have to decide whether or not you keep an item depending whether if it “sparks joy” for you. once rid of a ton a clutter (measurable in bin bags), you can proceed to install your beloved belongings in a rightful place.

If you strictly follow her method, (detailed in her book that I have read), clothes are the first items you ought to proceed with. That is where I can compare both of our job, as, before beginning the styling, I start with a closet decluttering with my own clients. I her book Mari relates that her clients are nervous when they first welcome us in their house as showing the content of your closet to another person is something very intimate. Besides, you may be feared that the expert will judge your behaviour (he won’t, that what professionals are for).

Yet, if we both declutter closet, we do not have the same method.

1/ The “clothes mountain”

In the show, Mari recommends her client to pile ALL their clothes (which includes accessories) in one big pile, called the “moutain” in order to create a shock of realizing how much they actually own.

Before a closet editing session, I proceed pretty much the same way. Before my arrival, I ask my clients to gather all their clothes and accessories in one room. I also need my client to realize how much they own.  Yet I do not require them to get their clothes outside of the closet which may be counterproductive in my practice: I need to see the clothes at rapidly as I can you see.

As our favorite japanese tidying expert narrates in her book, numerous people tend to forget what they own and for that reason do not use everything they own. One of the reason is that they have forgotten where all their clothes are as they disseminate them throughout the house. One of the oddest places I have noticed in my practice, is to store clothes in their kids room. typically they argue that there is not enough space in their to store everything. Yet, once the process of decluttering finished, there is.

Another thing that KonMari narrates is the tendency of her clients to “hide things from her” as they say it is “not relevant”. It also happens to me all the time. especially with jewelry. I ask to see what jewelry they own and they show me a little. then I ask again, is that all you really own? and then they are like “oh I have this box of things I haven’t worn in years, it is not helpful to show you”. but yes! I want to see the box. typically I do find a gem or two, and then, the rest is to get rid of (with the agreement of the owner of course ^^).

Like Mari, I think those things you do not see clutter your mind. So to dress efficiently, you need a clutter totally free closet, that is a closet in which you love everything.

2/ The sorting process

Our methods differ her.
In the show Mari recommend the “big messy mountain” thing.

Yet in her book, the method is much more civilized.

She recommends to sort the clothes in categories before sorting them (the tops, the bottoms, the clothes on hangers, the socks, underwears, bags, accessories and shoes).

Personnally, I ask my clients to sort their items in three piles before I arrive:

the clothes they love and wear

the clothes they love but do not wear

the clothes they do not love anymore.

I each category, my clients tend to keep the parting that was happening in their closet (tops together, etc), which is relevant enough for my purpose.

3/ The choice criteria 

Once the mountain erected, Mari explains her clients how to erode it.

It’s pretty easy. The only criteria to decide whether or not to keep a clothing item is whether or not it “sparks joy” to them. I actually agree with the criteria although I think this ought to not be this only one to take into account. The concept of “sparkling joy” may sound abstruse to you but I am sure you already have experienced it. Take my exemple. If like me you are a scatterbrained person, you may have lost a piece of clothing. Did it make you sad? Did you crazy cuddle it when you eventually found it again? (just like Mari, I consider my belongings to have souls I guess). That, my friend, is an item that sparks joy. So if you do not know if you want to keep an item, wonder how you would react if a imply person would rip it apart. Relieved? Toss. Angry? Sad? Keep.

Unfortunately, all is not all black and white in my own opinion. maybe this scarf looks awfully boring to you. maybe you find your satchel to be the most boring stuff ever designed. maybe with the KonMari method you would have said bye bye and moved on to buying new ones (which is ok). But, let me work my styling magic and bang! There you own a delight sparkling bag with a colorful scarf-wrapped. I too am a closet fairy who can make your items spark delight again!

4/ The supreme judges

The substantial difference between KonMari method and my own (shall I have it patent proofed btw? I have to find a name first. A catchy one. Opinions? I would not mind being world well-known and rich too)…

So i was saying (sorry caught caught in fantasies), the substantial difference lays in the identity of the supreme judge. The one who decides for each piece of clothing weather it gets to live in the cosyness of the closet or die in a moist bin bag.

In Mari Kondo method, you are the supreme judge. She merely will help you find the true answer by asking you very accurate questions about your feelings toward the clothes. She is like a shrink for your relationship with your belongings. but that is all. You are the only one to decide.
As she underlines in the book she is no clothing expert but she can discover whether or not a clothes makes you happy.

I actually have this detection skill to. but in some cases I can see the charm of stuff you got to unlove with my stylist eye. and show it to you.
On the opposite, I can also make you realize that this dress you have cherished for years is not treating you well anymore. She had become tight, washed out, button missing maybe. but you can’t see this because you are still in loooove. I can open your eyes on this toxic relationship and make it end.

Once your eyes are opened you get to decide whether or not you actually keep the clothes as you still are the supreme judge. but 99% you follow the lawyers guidance (I am).

I proceed with sorting the pile of clothes my client “does not love anymore”. typically I agree with my client and toss it all. This is very rare for me to find remarkable pieces in this pile. and even if I find an “ok” piece I do not try to save it and count on my client’s judgment. Whilst sorting, I ask my client why he got to not love those pieces which get me to know him or her better.

Then I go to sort the pile of clothes that my clients cherishes and wears on a regular basis. here I find interesting clothes as well as worn out, outdated or outsized clothes. I have to make my client’s eyes open on those facts so that he agrees to get rid of the once beloved items. When in doubt, I get them to try the piece.

The pile of beloved yet unworned clothes is the last I proceed with. I have to confess it is my favorite as it in some cases contains remarkable clothes my client have trouble styling. My job there is to find ways to wear them so that instead of being dormant in the closet they end up being worn and cherished. instead of frustating (“I have no idea how to wear this”, “this is not something I can pull off”), those clothes begin to spark joy.

5/ Wrong reasons to keep clothes

In her book, KonMari have identified wrong reasons to keep clothes. As I have spotted the same ones in my practice, I 100% agree!

keep it because it is a gift: as Mari, I think the main purpose of a gift is to be given. once that task has been accomplished, there is no need to store it for numerous years. and to be truthful after a year, the person who gave it to you probably has forgotten about it.

keep it because it is expensive: if its value is the only thing you keep it for, then get rid of it.

keep it “to wear home”: just like Mari Kondo, I am very strict on this one. If a piece of clothing is neither confortable or beautiful, then there is no reason to wear it at home either! That is typically just an excuse to keep unnecessary stuffs. say good bye, I guarantee you will feel lighter.  eventually you can keep up to three tees and comfy pants for that purpose but that’s it!

keep it “for gardening”: same story. One pair of dirty jeans and sweater is enough. toss the rest. and when was the last time you did gardening?

6/ The ok reasons to keep clothes

For our fav world’s famous tidying expert, if it does not spark joy, you do not keep.
I have other criterias too. Based on personal memories.

creating an heritage: as a teenager and as a grown up as was so pleased when I would get amazing clothes from my grandma and mum. I would cherish them even much more than others because of their backstory. but when the 80’s came back I did reproach my mum to not have kept items when they were outdated. Therefore, I store a few pieces for my niece for when they will be amazing again.

creating a disguise storage: as a child I loved to play with the numerous stuffs my family has set aside for us to play with. As a grown up I still adore to play dress up and have a little storage for that purpose.

Well, when I think of it, those clothes still spark delight in their own way.
But keep them stored outside of your everyday closet! They are not clothing anymore actually.

6/ The tossing issue

I find Mari’s relationship to items to be ambivalent. In a way they treat them as if they have a soul and thank them when they go but then… she toss them in unsightly garbage bags!!!

She seems not to care much about donating or recycling. According to her, donating is mostly giving the mess to someone else and finding the proper way of recycling just leads to keep the stuffs in the limbos of indecision.

I agree that you shall get rid of the clothes as soon as you can but also that you shall lenghten their lifecycle by donating or recycling. poor clothes: you would not want to murder them before they are completely worn out would you? (and poor planet you gave much of her to produce them).

Yet, like Mari, I do not want my clients to have their clothes lingering in their rooms for weeks. So I forbid them to try sell on second hand platform. That is a hassle, takes lots of time to photograph the things, edit the sale on a platform and maybe you won’t sell them at all.

Instead I recommend the followings:

donate to charities: all the clothes that have no value. Whether they still are wearable or not. The charities will either keep them or hand them to textile recycling compagnies. If you want to be helpful, sort them ahead.

put them in a consignment store: only for branded items that are in outstanding condition. Consignment stores are very picky because very few clothes actually are valuable. The consignment store is a much better choice than trying to sell you clothes by yourself as I explained above. If the store refuses your clothes, then they probably have no value and you may as well donate them.

donate to loved one: Mari says that you shall not clutter loved ones closets with your old stuffs. I both agree and disagree. instead I would say that you shall donate your loved ones only clothes that are in good condition, will suit them, and most importantly, will make them happy.  To make sure about this, before handing the actual cloth in front of them and ask if they want it, why not text a pic message to ask if they are interested. This way they won’t feel obligated to accept.

7/ Tidying the clothes

Mari has some interesting storage tips. Some are very logical, some are quite esoteric.

Her iconic recommendation is to store soft items vertically in drawer rather than to pile them on top of each others.

It is brilliant:

you can see your whole collection in one glance

the storage space is very much reduced

the bottom of the pile’s items are not crushed

I regret not to have read this before I had my new closet built.

Some tips are a bit esoteric like storing your suspended clothes from long to short to create a pleased diagonal.

I rather recommend sub categories like:

everyday: jackets, dresses, pants

evening: all that is only proper for parties

This will save you the pain of overlooking your sparkly tops every morning.

Overall we agree on the most important:

see all your clothes when you open your closet

own only pieces you actually wear in your closet

8/ Incorporating new pieces

Now that your closet is all clean well organized you will be able to use your wardrobe to 100% unless…

If you have hired me, I may have noticed some pieces that you cannot wear until you have purchased new ones.
Lots of peoples miss basic clothes that will combines with other pieces. The adjunction of those will make your wardrobe 100% functional. At the end of the closet editing session, I will have identified what you are missing and we will th

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