Unless you’ve been living under a rock the past few years, decluttering and minimalism is the new big thing. In a world where convenience is king, and we can never have enough stuff, people have started to realise that, actually, yes we can. Having more possessions doesn’t actually lead to greater happiness – go figure – and the lady leading the charge is Marie Kondo.
Marie Kondo came on the scene a few years ago with her book, Spark Joy, but with the advent of her new series on Netflix this year her popularity has skyrocketed. Marie Kondo’s thing is all about keeping the things that bring you joy, and getting rid of everything else. Makes sense in theory – why would you hold onto things that don’t make you happy? – but after watching her show on Netflix, I couldn’t help but be sceptical. The couple she was helping were singing her praises, claiming that they had a better marriage and a better life due to her tidying method, and I couldn’t really believe they were for real. So I decided to tackle my clothes Marie-Kondo-style to see if it really works.
The first thing Marie Kondo does is take a moment to thank the house she’s in before she gets started. I won’t lie; that felt ridiculous to me, but on the episode of the show I saw the couple really appreciated it. They said it gave them a moment to stop and appreciate all this house had given them – all the memories and family moments. There’s something in that – in stopping to appreciate the place you live and all that has happened within it – but for me it was more about stopping to thank God for the house, than thanking the house itself.
Next, Marie Kondo suggests you get all of your clothes out, hold each one and see if it sparks joy. If it does, you keep it and fold it using her special technique (more of that below) and if the item doesn’t bring you joy you thank it for what it has done for you (again, I would go a step higher than that) and throw it away. The problem I had is: not everything gives you joy. I don’t wear my grey cardigan out of any sense of happiness; I wear it because it goes with a lot of my outfits and my arms get cold. I know I’m slightly simplifying what Marie Kondo means by “sparking joy” as it’s more complex than just “does this make you happy or not?” but some things are just useful, even if they’re not wonderful, magical items on their own.
Folding and filing
Once you have your pile of clothes you love, you fold them in a special way. You can find videos on YouTube of the proper technique, but basically you lay out your t-shirt lovingly and appreciatively, fold the outsides into the centre, fold it in half so the top and bottom meet, and then fold again into thirds so that, if done correctly, the t-shirt should stand up on its own. I have to say, if I thought Marie Kondo’s style was a bit wishy-washy before, this is what brought me round.
Firstly, there was something really lovely about stopping to take the time with each item and fold it nicely. Usually, my clothes get dumped on the floor, crinkled up and covered in dog hairs, and then I get frustrated that I don’t have anything nice to wear. But actually, I realised I have loads of clothes I love, and as I lay out each t-shirt I would remember where I bought it or good times I’d had in it and I felt less in need of getting something new.
And spending some time folding was actually super relaxing. I always feel like housework is a massive chore and avoid it like the plague, but this was something low-effort that I could do sitting down with Spotify on in the background and was still very productive. I was only going to do my t-shirts but ended up going through every facet of my wardrobe because I got so into it.
And once the clothes were all folded and upright in the drawer, I could not only see all my clothes at once but also how my wardrobe looked as a whole. I organised my t-shirts in the drawer by colour, and suddenly realised how many blue, white and black t-shirts I have – no wonder I feel like I’m wearing the same thing every day, I actually am!
So maybe going full Marie Kondo isn’t on the cards for me – maybe I’d rather thank the maker of the things than the things themselves – but the woman does have some good points. Let’s appreciate what we have and the memories those things have helped us to create. Let’s organise our things so we can see them properly and don’t feel the need to go out and get something new. And if we’re trying to declutter and move away from the consumer rat race, let’s take care of the things we do have so we can be truly happy with less. Who knows? Maybe tidying can help us to spark joy after all.
Written by Chloe Satchell-Cobbett, Deputy Editor, Liberti