the KonMari Method

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If you read my recent resolutions post, you know that Mitch and I (like half of America) recently committed to completing a full KonMari clean-out of our home, which we’ve lived in for three and a half years now. For nearly two months, we worked on formulating a tailored plan and psyched ourselves up for the undertaking… and then finally began the process right before the new year. (Like, two days before 2019, but fo sho still counts, right? Made me feel like I was “ahead,” at least. 😂) Our goal is to finish the job within the first quarter of the year, and I’m really excited about documenting the process week by week on the blog!

Today, I’m sharing some background on the KonMari Method, our story, that tailored–yes, slightly altered–plan and timeline, what we’ve done so far, and how we’re managing it with kids. (One very active 2.5-year old and one very active baby in my belly. 😉)

The KonMari Method

I read the best-selling book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo a few years ago, shortly after we moved into our first home, and it’s been in the back of my mind ever since. The author calls her radical approach to tidying and decluttering the “KonMari Method,” and she promises happiness, clarity and a more fulfilling lifestyle if we commit to ridding ourselves of anything that either doesn’t truly serve a purpose or doesn’t “spark joy.” It’s easy to confuse happiness with things, to inflate those things’ importance, or to keep them around because they’ve seemingly always been there. But very few possessions actually help us achieve the lifestyle we’ve always wanted; instead, they bog us down and almost get in the way.

Seems logical enough, right?

Breaking it down even further, here are her basic tenements. You must…

  • Commit yourself to tidying all at once, not over a long period of time. If your heart’s not in a life-changing undertaking, you won’t be successful. Similarly, your chances of success are far lower if you decide to take it slow. Set a deadline, and stick to it.
  •  Imagine your ideal lifestyle, and keep it at the forefront of your mind. This will be a huge motivator in actually finishing the job.
  • Finish discarding before working on organization and storage. Homes can still look neat even if their closets and drawers are packed with unnecessary items. The goal here is to discard everything first, and then start thinking about where you want to put and how you want to organize your belongings.
  • Organize, declutter and discard by category, not room, in this order: Clothing, Books, Papers, Miscellaneous (Kitchen, Bathrooms, Garage, Kids’ Stuff, etc.), and then Sentimental Items. The reason behind this is simple: if you do it by room, you’ll likely find yourself getting distracted, and suddenly hours have passed and you’ve gotten very little accomplished, all because you found an old photo album and got sucked in. ;) Kondo argues that if you declutter in her order, that you’ll be far better prepared and equipped to tackle the tougher categories when you get to them.
  • Hold and touch every single item, and really think about whether you need or want it. When one tackles clothing, for example, Kondo instructs us to put the entire contents of our closets and dressers on the bed or floor so we can really see the sheer volume of what we own. We are then supposed to pick up and inspect every single item. Do I love it? Does it spark joy? Do I use it frequently? If not, give it a little hug, thank it for its “service,” and then place it in the discard pile.

Our story

If you’re new to this site, let me introduce ourselves. We’re the Larkin Family. :) There’s me, of course… And then there’s my husband, Mitch; our two-year-old daughter, Emma; our quirky, accident-prone miniature dachshund, Noodle; and we have our second child due in May. I’ve been running this blog and freelancing full-time since we moved to Chicago 4.5 years ago, and last year, Mitch quit his job to help me manage my business and also run a small investment company with his best friend who’s back in New York.

(Long story short, they developed three products that initially helped to fund the investments, and the job now largely entails managing those investments. It’s pretty insane and I’m so proud of them. Going on eight years now!) From the very beginning, our goal was to be self-employed and work together from home, and we finally did it. We know it’s not for everyone. But we’ve always wanted this, and we’re really happy!

In 2015, we purchased our first home: half of a townhouse in Lincoln Park, Chicago. We love it. It’s in our dream neighborhood and we’ve worked hard to renovate and decorate it over the years–but it’s small, and we’re starting to feel it now that our family is expanding and we’re running two small businesses out of it. We have a living room with a dining area, but we’re lacking anything additional (like a family room, playroom, basement or backyard), and therefore spend most of our time in the space you see above.

Before kids, Mitch and I lived in NYC for nearly a decade, and we unknowingly “KonMari-ed” on the reg since we moved apartments often. I wouldn’t say that we lived with the bare minimum, but we were good about staying on top of clutter. There’s only so much you can fit into a 500-square foot apartment, after all!

In Chicago, though, things are very different. First, we have a kid here. She’s obviously the best thing to have ever happened to us, but we vastly underestimated how many physical things come along with having children. Before she was born, we promised ourselves that we wouldn’t be that family who had toys and gear strewn everywhere; that we couldn’t, since we live in the city. But… hahaha. Riiiight. Staying on top of it is a constant battle. And you clean, the kids destroy, repeat. ;)

And then there’s Mitch’s business. We store a good number of products in our small storage area, and because of that, we can’t effectively use it for our family’s purposes as well. So. Many. Boxes.

But I can’t blame Mitch and Emma for this, because honestly, I’m the biggest contributor to the clutter. My blog has a significant focus on fashion, and therefore a whole lot of stuff arrives on our doorstep every week. I’m incredibly grateful to the companies that send it; it’s beyond helpful from a business perspective and it’s not lost on me that I’m a very lucky girl. (I mean, woe is me, right? I get to feature and review my favorite brands’ newest lines for a living! And then keep whatever I like! It’s seriously a dream job and so much fun.) That said, I do struggle, from a practical standpoint, with how to stay on top of it.

Before kids and Chicago, it was more manageable, and my system totally worked. (Give the really nice gifted products to friends and family; sell valuable things I purchased on my own; donate everything else.) Now, though, I’m trying to balance work and motherhood, and I’m majorly strapped for time, not really killin’ it in either area and always feeling behind on life. Everything seems to pile up so quickly, and therefore I tend to shove it places and only address it when totally necessary.

Clearly not the correct approach, but I’d much rather play tea party with my daughter with what little free time I have than clean out overstuffed closets. (And then there’s all the guilt I have from owning this stuff in the first place, wanting to appreciate it and use it but also not wanting it to overtake my life, and the desire for it to go to both people who need it and to people who’ll get joy from it. But that belongs in my next blog post about this, eh? 😉)

Like I said earlier, though, the clutter has started to affect us. Little tasks feel daunting, and those feelings of always behind behind or that we’re hot messes in general never seem to go away. I think all of this is compounded by the fact that we live and work in our home, but Mitch and I realized that we needed to revamp the space sometime in November. We couldn’t handle it during Q4, but committed to Q1. So here we are, and the goal is to be ruthless and get rid of 50 percent of our possessions at a minimum. We will be fine without. Plus, we’re really hoping to move to a bigger place soon, and want to be ready!

Btw: Have you watched the Netflix series yet? (It’s called “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” and it’s such a great motivator!) We’re definitely not in as rough of shape as the couples featured on that, but we *can* identify with how overwhelming, uninspiring and frustrating owning too much can be… and how daunting getting started is. (I loved how honest the first couple was about not having the time or energy to do it.

Whether you’re a parent or not, I think we can all relate to feeling exhausted at the end of a long day, and I know the last thing I want to do is fold my t-shirts into tiny squares. Hello, you lovely couch and glass of wine. When I’m not pregnant, of course. 😂) It’s also been super helpful to see so many other people undertaking similar challenges, given that it’s the start of a new year. The KonMari Method has taken the country by storm, and I’m here for it.

Our timeline and tailored plan

I’m pretty sure that Marie Kondo would want us to complete this project within a week or less, but that’s just not going to happen at this point in our lives. As I said before, we’re already struggling to run our businesses and household while also being good, present parents. (Only so many hours in the day!) I’m also pregnant and constantly sick. So our timeline is a little more realistic: three months. Three months to KonMari the crap out of our master bathroom, master bedroom, living room, dining room, kitchen, guest room, guest bathroom, nursery and storage area.

I know we can do it. Again, we’ve spent the last couple of months revving ourselves up for this; it’s kind of all we talk about. We’re so excited about making big changes, living more simply, and focusing on what really matters. Yes, we’re physically decluttering our home. But it also feels like we’re decluttering our minds and hitting the  “refresh” button on life. (I’m clearly nesting, haha.)

So what’s the plan?

Mitch and I really do buy into the vast majority of the KonMari Method. So much so that we half-kiddingly ask ourselves and each other “WWMD?” at least 10 times per day. (“What would Marie do?”) That said, we know ourselves, and want to set ourselves up for success. So we’re making a few changes to the method:

  • We refuse to hug our socks. I joke, but it’s also not happening. We really like the idea of taking the time to consider whether we actually need something, whether it serves a purpose, or whether we really love it. And letting go of the guilt associated with discarding it if the answer is no? So on board with that, too. But you won’t find us hugging or literally thanking old tupperware or even the most sentimental of stuff. That’s just a little too much for us. 🙈
  • We probably won’t fold correctly. I’m fine with piles and rolled up socks in my drawers, and I’m not convinced that changing the way I fold will help me remain organized. But I could be wrong! I’m going to at least try it at least once and see what happens.
  • We’re putting stuff away and into the right rooms, and also cleaning, before we KonMari. For example, take a look at our living room in the above photo. It might look like we KonMari-ed it, but we haven’t yet. Our cabinets, drawers, shelves and closets are cluttered and disorganized, and fall mostly under the “Miscellaneous” category, so it’ll be a while before we get to them. We do, however, put everything “away,” and we dump Emma’s stuff in her room, albeit usually on the floor, every night. We also vacuum, dust and wipe down surfaces. Same thing with the master bedroom, which we’re now in the middle of KonMari-ing. We get way too overwhelmed otherwise, and are less likely to dive into a KonMari session, if things don’t at least appear orderly when we start. But I don’t think that Kondo wants us to stop our usual “clean up” strategies anyway!
  • We are going category by category as instructed, but we’re not restricting ourselves from tidying elsewhere if we get inspired. We subscribe to the idea that Kondo’s order is important, and sets you up for success. But we’re not about to let the house go just because we’re still working on “Clothing,” or not clean out that overflowing desk drawer when we can’t fit something in that needs to be put away. An example: I KonMari-ed our guest bathroom yesterday in its entirety because it’s tiny and it took me a grand total of 10 minutes. It felt great. And one more: While purging my closet the other day, I noticed a picture frame that I didn’t love on top of my dresser. Boom: gone, right into the trash. So easy! No, I’m not about to go through the photo albums I have stashed in my night stand because I realize that it would delay my progress with the clothing. But we’re doing a little extra here and there because why not?
  • We’re dedicating 30 minutes per day to KonMari. 15 minutes in the morning, 15 at night. Most days, we get really into it and do more than the 30, but 30 has proven to make a difference, too. :) Slow progress, but progress nonetheless, and a time commitment we can actually make. Work, parenting and life will always come first.

What we’ve done so far and how it’s going

I’ll be honest and say that it’s going slowly… But it’s going well and we already feel like a huge weight has been lifted from our shoulders. We probably started off on the wrong foot because I was hell-bent on KonMari-ing our master bathroom first–straying from the order! Because I wanted to start my day off clear-minded in a place that inspired more KonMari-ing. (Love that it’s acceptable to use it as a verb now, haha.) So I spilled out the contents of the vanity and our shelves onto the floor, sent off a ton of unopened toiletries and makeup to a women’s shelter–I highly recommend “Sarah’s Circle” if you’re in Chicago–and kicked multiple garbage bags to the curb. (I’ll share more of the process and photos next week in my second KonMari post.)

And can I tell you? It’s been WONDERFUL. I start off each morning in the most beautiful and organized bathroom (mad props to Mitch for designing it–I love it!), and I think about everything else in my home I want to declutter that day while I’m showering, doing my hair, and putting on my makeup. Kondo would probably say “tsk, tsk,” but I highly recommend it. ;) If you’re like me, consider doing your bathroom first. And then start with the categories!

Right now, we’re on the “Clothing” category. It’s been challenging, and I do think I’ll personally need to do several rounds of it. (Like, do a round and then do it again a few days later.) There’s just a lot to sort through, but I’m slowly becoming more and more ruthless. And while it’s been a humiliating process. I can’t believe I own this much and I’ve let it go for so long. It’s also teaching me so much about mindfulness, regardless of what line of work I’m in. I feel happier, too, and somehow more focused. Simply put, no one needs 30 pairs of shoes!

How we’re managing this with kids

Kids–especially young ones–are really great at re-cluttering. (As I mentioned before, you clean, they destroy, repeat.) So we work on this project before Emma wakes up, during her nap, or after she goes to bed. And since it’s only 15 minutes at a time for a grand total of 30 minutes per day, it is doable.

The only thing is that right now, I’m in the middle of working on my closet and dresser, and 15 minutes at a time means that there’s a big mess–and tons of piles–in our master bedroom for days on end. Which kind of stinks, but I’m keeping my eye on the prize, staying the course, and just walking into the master bedroom and taking a deep breath whenever I get stressed, haha.

Slow and steady, though, and I hope to be done with my clothing soon. Either way, I’ll share an update with photos–along with what I’m doing with the discarded stuff–next week!

Questions? Comments? Requests on what you’d like to see/hear about in future KonMari posts? Let me know in the comments below!