Minimalism and Anxiety

I was inspired to write this post after reading another with the same title over at A Minimalist Abroad. Berin talks about how minimalism helped him to reset his priorities in life – his job, his daily activities, and stressing over things that truly do matter vs those that don’t, thus reducing his overall stress and anxiety. It was a great read. I hope you’ll check it out.

A few years back, I was also diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, post traumatic stress disorder and depression, as well as post partum depression and attention deficit disorder. I was a mess.

What I found to be true for me, personally, is that specific situations and stressors triggered most of my symptoms. The feeling of dread, the feeling of overwhelm, that desire to escape it all and run away vs fight it out. All of those things, for me, were triggered by my environment.

My job at the time triggered my panic disorder and, in turn, caused the PTSD. Leaving that job was a tremendous step in the right direction, and while it was disappointing to end that chapter in my life, it opened doors to a similar but less stressful aspect of the same career field. My panic disorder lightened tremendously upon leaving. I think I still suffer a bit from the PTSD; some of the things that triggered my panic way back then still produce a bit of anxiety for me now, but they’re quickly fading as triggers the longer time goes on. The post partum kind of goes away on its own as the post-pregnancy hormones a woman deals with start to level out, so that’s gone now. The ADD is still something I deal with on a daily basis, and it’s frustrating, but I’ve learned to cope. I don’t feel depressed anymore, but my doctor tells me that all of the above stem from general depression as a jumping off point, so if you have one, you have depression as well. Whether I believe that or not… I don’t know.

One thing that stuck around for me, however, was the anxiety disorder. It plagued me daily. I constantly felt on edge with a short fuse. I was no longer taking medication with a doctor’s approval, and my symptoms were mostly manageable, but I still wasn’t where I wanted to be. I felt angry a lot and I didn’t like it, so I started really analyzing when I felt my worst, what my environment was like during those times, and what I felt might reduce those triggers.

Through some serious soul searching and being real with myself, I discovered most of my anxiety came from my home environment. I made a list of all the things at home that stressed me out. Once I felt that list was complete, I made a list of all the things that stressed me out that I had direct control over – things like bills, housekeeping, laundry, etc. Those things I couldn’t control I knew I had to just let go.

I found I was stressed b/c I was so overwhelmed by my duties at home. Our house was in a sad state of disarray and I hated it! I didn’t know where to start! And once I got started, I simply couldn’t keep up. I was constantly working on something. I was always telling my children I couldn’t do [insert whatever activity here] with them because I had [insert whatever household chore here] to do first and then I’d have to do [another chore] and [another]. My poor kids. They had a mom who was too busy and too stressed to be a mom! I dreaded going home at night because I knew my work was just beginning as I filtered through the list of things I needed to accomplish that I would never actually get done – ever – and because my attention would be pulled in so many different directions: kids, dinner, laundry, general cleaning, etc, etc, etc. It was never ending! I was very unhappy.

I knew something had to change so I brainstormed how to change it. I made a list of what I felt was the solution and how to achieve those solutions.

  • We have too many bills
    • Fewer debts would result in fewer bills
    • Buying less would result in fewer debts
    • Keeping things longer would result in fewer debts
    • Spending within our means would produce fewer debts
    • Paying extra on things more often would reduce our debts
  • My house was constantly an overwhelming “where do I start” mess
    • The house would be less messy if people put their things away
    • People could put their things away if their things had a home
    • Things would have a home if there were fewer things to house
  • Mount Washmore was insurmountable
    • Laundry would be less overwhelming if I did one load of laundry a day
    • One load a day would be sufficient if everyone had fewer clothes

Things like that.

In very timely fashion, I stumbled upon Konmari and the Magic book, which, in turn, led me to minimalism. As soon as I read the book, I felt like I had a chance to actually take control. As a Type-A personality, control is important!

Since completing the Konmari method and embracing minimalism, I have found my anxiety is nearly gone. I still have anxious moments and times when I feel super stressed to the max, but like Berin said in his post – these stressors are produced by things with meaning now, not a to do list I can’t keep up with. I know that I’m at a point now where I can forgo the to do list once or twice a week if I need to take a break or if the kids need extra cuddle time and things aren’t going to end up wildly out of control again. I don’t have a mountain of chores anymore – I have routine chores that are done in a very short period of time.

It all works now and my anxiety is so greatly diminished that I don’t think I suffer from generalized anxiety disorder anymore. Now I think I suffer from occasional situational stress, which is a normal part of life. Finding this way of life has been so absolutely blissful. I am so very thankful.

You can get your own copy of the Magic book here. (affiliate link)

When Joy Sparking Spills Beyond Discarding Clutter

Over the past year, I have been undergoing a life-changing process of clearing my home of clutter that contributed to my anxiety and overall discontent. My house always felt messy, I always felt like I had a ton of things to do, and I felt anxious all the time. I’d finally had enough and unofficially dubbed 2015 the year simplifying life and finding more happiness. I say unofficially because I didn’t tell anyone in real life what I was doing.

In a previous post, I discussed finding the “Magic” book that I felt had the power to transform my life and later discussed how the process works. I went into great detail, but I still highly recommend you purchase the book and read it to fully appreciate the process and the effect it can have. The book and process met my expectations and helped to open the door to a life I’m happy to be in.

The concept of sparking joy has infiltrated every aspect of my life. It’s wiggled its way into my Facebook account and resulted in the culling over over 100 “friends” and the removal of about 30 groups I didn’t wish to follow anymore.

Joy Sparking snuck into my phone and removed countless apps, to include Facebook and, surprisingly, MyFitnessPal, an app I had religiously logged into for a running total of 875 days without fail.

It burrowed into our financial world as well, which resulted in my resignation from a direct sell company I’d been a part of for the better part of two years, and the resignation from two others I had only been a member of for a few short months.

The longer “Joy Sparking” remained in my life, the less stuff and things I occupied my time with. I realized that the lifestyle I was trying to accomplish was Minimalism! I have found I need less and less “stuff” to find satisfaction.

I’ve started reading quite a few blogs on Minimalism. I’ve made a list of them here in case you want to check out what Minimalism is all about. I’m liking the concept so far.

What I once thought was a lifestyle of restrictions and stark emptiness is anything but! In reality, it’s a lifestyle of freedom! Since embracing the joy sparking art of decluttering and reducing my volume of belongings, I’m finding I’m free to experience life! I’m able to go camping with my family and not feel consumed by the guilt of accomplishing nothing while I sit by the fire. I’m finding I’m free to go on day trips with my husband and just enjoy his company. I’m finding the time to color with my children. I’m finding the time to visit my father’s farm and collect eggs and teach the children about farm animals. I’m finding the time to dream of what we want our future to be! I’m finding the time to read leisurely again. I have found minimalism to mean I can live the life I dream of living rather than being stuck cleaning the life I’d always thought I was supposed to live.

Less truly is more.

Identifying Your Joy Sparkers

Last time, we discussed the different categories of the Konmari process. [Read it here] This time I want to delve deeper into the sorting process.

Let’s start with clothing. Grab all of your personal clothing items. All your tops, bottoms, underwear, shoes, coats, jackets, sweaters, those winter or summer clothes you have packed away in the closet, those bins of clothes you don’t wear anymore because you gained/lost a lot of weight. Everything. Toss it on your bed. Marie says to toss it on the floor, but I don’t agree that this is the best idea. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather not rewash everything that I pulled from my closet. Plus, if you toss it on the bed, you can place your discard items on the floor to be bagged or boxed up later, and you’ll feel the urge to complete this category so you can have your bed back before bedtime. Whether you choose the floor or the bed as your sorting location, be sure to grab everything you own. Tossing all the clothing, coats and shoes in one pile will open your eyes to the sheer volume of clothing you possess.

Your pile may resemble something like this. I was quite surprised by how small my pile was, but I still managed to have 5 black garbage bags of discards to take care of, so apparently there was more there than I thought.


imageNow, start sorting by like item. Tops in one pile, jeans and other pants in another pile, dresses or suits in another pile. This is done so you can see the volume of each category of clothing you have.

Once they’re sorted, pick a category to start with – I started with t-shirts. Pick up each article of clothing the assess how you feel by looking at and feeling the item. Do you feel a charge of happiness in your soul when you touch the item? This charge of happiness is a joy spark. I feel mine deep in my chest. If you feel this, then this item is a joy sparker. Do this for every single piece of clothing you own.

Now, one suggestion I found to be kind of kookie in the book was Marie’s suggestion to thank the items you’re discard. She suggests you find some reason to thank every item you no longer love for once being a part of your life. So, thank that dress that hugged your hips just a little bit too much for your comfort for showing you what not to wear. Thank that ratty old t-shirt for so many years of enjoyment. Thank that scratchy sweater for showing you what type of material you do not like.

Marie mentions that all items have a spiritual aspect to them, but I know most people don’t believe in this type of thing. So for those, consider it a lesson in gratitude. Thanking the clothes you do not wish to keep, either vocally or internally, teaches you how to be grateful for all the extras in your life. We live in a world of abundance. We have more clothing than we could ever need to wear, therefore we are blessed beyond measure and thanking those items we chose to discard teaches us to appreciate this abundance and show our gratitude. It will make you a more appreciative person, trust me. You’ll start to appreciate even the most mundane and insignificant items in your life – the rug you wipe your feet on, that pen you write your check with, even that ponytail holder you put in your hair each day. So, thank your discards individually for whatever lesson or joy they brought into your life at one time. It might seem silly, and you may even feel ridiculous thanking a holey pair of old runners, but it truly does provide benefit to your life. Trust me on this.

Next, assess whether or not the joy sparkers fit right. If you love it, but it doesn’t fit right, Marie says you’re supposed to discard it – she says keeping clothes around that don’t fit is one way we live in the past and living in the past is not advised. Embrace now. It’s good to remember the past, but not live there through regret and loss. She suggests that if you love this item that much, you should consider replacing it in a size that does fit. My advice is to sell that item if it’s in a sellable shape, and replace it with the money you make by selling the item. Consignment is a great way to sell items, but so is a garage sale. I would caution you to not keep a huge collection of items to sell on garage sale because you’ll quickly find yourself overcome with a huge pile of things to sell. But if you think you can handle it or if you have a place to store these items that is not inside the four walls of your home, then feel free. Just be sure to donate whatever you don’t sell, rather than keeping it around for the next sale.

Difficult Decision

What happens when you find an item that doesn’t necessarily spark joy, but has significant emotional value to it? The best example of this would be a wedding dress. Marie suggests moving this item to the “Sentimental Category” which is the final category in the Konmari process. Her belief is that sentimental items are very hard to make a concrete decision about because our hearts cloud our judgement. She suggests saving these items for last will allow us to see them through new, unclouded eyes, which will help us properly deal with them. Maybe the sentimental value is negative in nature – sadness or guilt. It’s hard to make decisions about things that hurt our heart in the beginning, so saving them for the sentimental category gives us time to hone our Konmari skills before dealing with these emotionally charged items. For items that don’t have sentimental value and are not joy sparkers, but still cause trepidation when considering discarding them, say because you spent a lot of money on it and never wore it, Marie’s advice is to discard it.

Sometimes we have trouble making the keep or discard decision but it’s not because someone gave it to us or because we spent a lot of money on it. In the book, Marie says we may hesitate on an for one of two reason.

  1. Fear of the future – ” But, I might need this someday.”
  2. To preserve the past – “But so-and-so gave this to me when…” (I won’t discuss this in length here because I don’t believe too many articles of clothing fall into this subcategory, but my suggestion here is to spend a bit of time with this item. Reminisce about the event when you received this item. If the item is immediately useful or sparks profound joy in your heart, keep it. If the item is not immediately useful or does not spark joy, discard it. If the item produces significant feelings of nostalgia, take a photograph of the item, thank it for the joy it brought you way back when and for reminding you of the gift giver, and place it in the discard pile).

For anything you come across that you can’t make a decision on, you’re supposed to ask your self what is it about this item that is holding you back from making a decision? The goal here is to dig deep to the root of the indecision. When you answer what is holding you back, she advises you ask another question based on that answer. Keep asking yourself why until you reach the REAL reason you can’t choose between keep and discard. If the real reason ends up being sentimental attachment, move it to the sentimental category and revisit it when you get to that category. If it is not because of sentimental attachment, asking these questions should help you make the decision to keep or discard.

If the bottom line ends up being because the item may be useful “someday”, the suggestion is to discard the item. “Someday” hardly ever comes, and if it does, chances are you’ll be able to replace the item when it’s needed. This applies to things like that cocktail dress you bought when your husband was invited to that swanky dinner party 6 years ago that you’ve never worn since. If you should need a cocktail dress for an event somewhere down the road, chances are you’ll want to buy a new dress anyway, so there’s no reason to hold onto the one you currently have. Gift it to a thrift shop or sell it to a consignment shop and allow it to spark joy in someone else’s life.

But what if you spent a great deal of money on an item and you never used it? How can you discard something you paid so much for but never used? You’ll lose that money! I ran into a couple of items that fall into this category as I went through the process. Truth be told, you’ve already lost the money. You don’t keep that money by keeping the item. The money is already gone. Discard the item without guilt and consider it a learning experience to only buy joy sparkers in the future. Either place the item in your garage sale pile or the donate pile. Someone will be overjoyed to find your item in such great condition at such a bargain price.

Deal with discards immediately

Any items you choose not to keep need to be dealt with – they need to be removed from the house immediately. Bag or box them up immediately and remove them from the house. Take them straight to your car and put them in the trunk. Plan to stop at the thrift shop in the next 24 hours. Do NOT reopen the bag or box and go through the items a second time. Generally, doing this produces a feeling of guilt and causes you to second guess your initial gut decision. Also, do not allow others to look through the bag or box. Doing so will result in responses such as “why are you getting rid of this? It looks so good on you”, which will make you second guess your initial decision. Don’t invite this type of roadblock into your Konmari journey. Trust your initial decision!

Congratulations. You have just completed the Konmari sort on your personal clothing. You will likely notice your pile of clothing has been significantly reduced. This is a tremendous win. Give yourself a pat on the back. You deserve it.

Konmari Folding

So, now that we have sorted out our joy sparkers, it’s time to learn how to properly store these items. Marie has a specific method for folding our joy sparkers so they can be readily accessed. When you fold like she does, you can “file” your clothing in your drawers, which gives you an immediate view of all the times you have stored in the drawer. With Marie’s folding method, there’s no more digging through your drawers to see what shirts are hidden from view. Everything is visible.

I will admit that Marie’s method is a little more time consuming, but when you’ve paired down your shirts to only about 1/5 or 1/4 of what you previously had, the time spent doing laundry in general is reduced significantly, so folding her way doesn’t take any more time than laundry did prior to the sorting process.

The description in the book is a little confusing, I think, so I searched the internet for the proper Konmari fold after reading this section of the book. A good video I found is here. There are videos that address everything from t-shirts to pants to underwear to socks. I’ll let you search for other videos as you need them.

When you are finished folding and putting away your clothing, your drawers and closet may look something like the photo below. See how easy it is to see exactly what I have for shirts? I can see each shirt I own without digging. I can pluck out the shirt I wish to wear without disturbing the others. None of my clothes are getting smashed and wrinkly at the bottom of the pile. Every shirt is able to “breathe” because its friends aren’t sitting on top of it. It’s quite calming, to be honest with you.


Hanging clothes

Some people prefer to hang their clothes, and that’s ok too. Marie’s suggestion for hanging is to place the longest items or those with the heaviest weight fabrics to the left, with the length getting shorter as you move to the right. She also advised placing darker items to the left and lighter to the right. While I can see how this would be visually appealing, that seemed a bit on the excessive side to me, so I didn’t sort my items, but I did sort items by ownership – mine on the left, my husband’s on the right. Hanging them this way has also shown me which items I tend to wear the most and which I don’t wear very often, with items I rarely wear remaining in the middle – this I believe will pave the way for another pass through this category in the future.


Whether you choose to fold or hang your clothes is irrelevant, really. What matters is that you reduce the quantity of clothing you have down to true joy sparkers.

Now is a good time to bring up others who live in your home. At the time that these photos were taken, my husband had not gone through his clothing. Truth be told, he still hasn’t and that’s ok. Not everyone feels the need for decluttering. It’s an issue you may also encounter. It’s important not to nag or push the others to subscribe to this method. With any luck, they’ll come around when they see how successful you have been with your sort.

My Outcome

I tackled this task while I was off work for a 3 day weekend before winter had ended. I expected it to take much longer than it did. Once I got started, I moved quickly from one clothing subcategory to the other. I managed to get all clothes sorted, joy sparkers separated and folded, and discards placed in bags and in my trunk within one day, freeing me to use the rest of the weekend on other categories. I moved on to books that same day, and then CDs. Then I completed the weekend by working through paper. We didn’t have much paper because I have always tried to stay on top of it. That opened the door to taking my time on komono, which took way more time than I anticipated. It’s amazing how many komono categories we have in our homes! To help you think of all your komono categories, here is a good checklist created by some random internet person. I hope it helps you like it did me.

I can assure you my closet still looks the same and it’s been quite a few months since I worked through that category. I’ve even kept up with the folding method Marie recommends and surprisingly enough, I actually enjoy folding laundry now. It’s calming, believe it or not. I went from keeping 6 laundry baskets of clothes piled up in my dining room to keeping them empty and in my laundry room.

Getting dressed in the morning is so quick now! Picking out my clothes no longer has to be done the night before because it literally takes seconds to grab a shirt and a pair of pants and put them on. I no longer stand in my closet milling over what I want to wear, pulling out things that don’t really fit and wasting time trying them on only to remove them again and dig around for something else. I know everything in my closet fits. I know everything I have hung up looks good on me and makes me feel comfortable.

I’ve since helped my children (8 and 5) go through their clothing to weed out the joy sparkers for proper folding and storage. My 5 year old easily and quickly makes a clothing decision each morning – I ask her if she wants to wear a dress or a shirt. She answers and then goes straight to her dresser to pick out what she wants (yes, her dresses are folded and in her drawer with her shirts and pants). My 8 year old no longer asks where he can find his clothes. He knows they’re folded up nicely in his dresser.

If your family is anything like our family was prior to Konmari, choosing what to wear each day is an exercise is frustration and a huge time sucking task that involves sorting through laundry baskets to find the necessary clothing pieces. Completing this category has completely transformed our mornings and made them a little less hectic, a little less frustrating, and a little more relaxing. It is my belief that once you complete this category, your mornings will improve as well. Check in with me after you sort your clothes and tell me how it went. I’d love to hear.

What is the Konmari Method?

The “Magic” Book

If you’ve been following along (which won’t be hard since this is only my third blog post), you know that my life changed forever after reading the book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up – The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing” by Marie Kondo, what I call my “Magic” book for two reasons: 1. it was truly magic what an impact it has had on my life and 2. “Magic” is way shorter than the actual title – and I’m kinda lazy.

The “Magic” book is different from other decluttering books because it approaches clutter differently and this different view is one reason why I think it’s far superior to other decluttering methods. There are three ways I find it to be different.

  1. The book suggests decluttering by category, rather than by room or drawer, which is one reason I feel it is so much more effective than other methods. Attacking clutter by category allows you to see just how much stuff you own. It brings all the clothing together in one area. It brings all the books together, all the DVDs and CDs, all the paper, all the medical supplies, etc. Everything comes together in one pile by category to show you just how much stuff you simply didn’t know you had. Seeing it all in one spot is very effective at opening one’s eyes to the sheer volume of what you’ve accumulated. I’m really surprised no one else has thought of this before now as it seems very common sense, but kudos to Mrs. Kondo for suggesting it to us all.
  2. It is different because it only has you focus on your own personal belongings. Anything that belongs to or is used by another household member must be done by them only. So it’s quite possible you could complete the process and have all of your items pared down to joy sparkers only, but your spouse still has clutter everywhere. Marie believes as you go through your things, other household members will feel the pull to join you in sorting through their items. They may not, and that can be frustrating, but it’s really not your place to keep someone else’s items tidy and organized – that’s on them – which significantly reduce your stress when it comes to decluttering your home. So, focus only on your items and cross your fingers that the other messies in your house join in the fun.
  3. The “Magic” book teaches you how to release the guilt you may have felt in the past about discarding things you didn’t want but felt you needed to keep for whatever reason. Maybe your deceased grandmother gave you an item you don’t really like, but you held onto it because discarding it seemed so wrong in the past. Marie helps you get past the guilt you feel about discarding those types of items so you don’t have a stash of “must keep because” items. She also shows you how to get past the “someday I might need this” items. Other books I’ve read have not effectively eliminated these clutter triggers, in my opinion.
  4. Finally, and probably most importantly, the likelihood that you’ll backslide into your clutter filled ways is highly unlikely. Marie shows that paring down to only those things you love helps you feel more gratitude and appreciation for what you own. At this point, they’re just “things” but once you go through the process, they become “things you love” and what do you usually do with those you love? You take care of them – which equates to putting them away when you’re done with them, taking more pride in what you own, treating your belongings with more care and respect, and appreciating everything around you. This is why Marie says no one relapses to a cluttered lifestyle once they’ve completed the process. The glimmer of hope that this might be a permanent change for our household was what really sold me on the process.

Where to start

Step One: Clothing – She advises you start with clothing, stating that sorting through clothing is generally pretty easy for most people – most clothing doesn’t hold emotional or sentimental ties, save for a few specific pieces. To work through clothing, every piece of clothing you own needs to be brought to one location to be sorted. In the book, she tells you to sort on the floor, but I sorted on my bed. This did two things – it kept everything clean and forced me to get it done quickly because I would need my bed cleared so I could sleep. Sort through the items, removing anything that may be deemed sentimental to be addressed at a later time, and then put them away. Marie also has specific instructions on how to properly fold clothing for minimal space usage and ease of access. You would not believe how much this step has transformed laundry day in my household.

Step Two: Books – Once you complete clothing, you move on to books. Books were easy for me to complete, but I know some people have difficulty with this category. It’s important to remember as you go through books that you can generally check anything out from a local library, and if your local library doesn’t have it, you can usually get it through an inter-library lending program. I love to read and definitely have my favorite books, but keeping that in mind helped me to let go of books I had a strong desire to keep. If you’re particularly fond of a book, donate it to your local library instead of donating to a second hand store. Consigning is a popular method for discarding old books too, and often will bring a little extra cash into your life.

Step Three: Electronic Media – DVDs, CDs, cassette tapes, records, etc. It is so easy for these items to pile up and take up a ton of space, and most are obsolete to the point that we cannot use them anymore – but yet we hold onto them. Since you’re on the third category, things should be getting easier at this point, so this category should be a breeze – unless you’re a music nut… then it might be a bit more difficult. One solution is to transfer all your music to MP3 format. Then you still have your music, without any of the clutter.

Step Four: Paper – Quite possibly the most time consuming category there is. The amount of paper we accumulate in our lives is incredible. But Marie provides insight on how to make it quick and easy. For starters, ditch all user manuals. We live in the technology age so any users manual you might need will most likely be available online. Google it when you need it, or find it now and download it and store in a file on your computer. There’s really no need to let the paper copy fill up space in your home. Keep only those documents that are really important and difficult to replace – birth certificates, marriage certificates, passports, pertinent medical records (i.e. those you still need routinely – for instance, if you have a family member with a chronic illness that requires you to see multiple doctors – in which case you keep only medical records that pertain to that particular illness. However, most medical records are electronic now and can be retrieved with ease by contacting the physician. Another alternative is to scan those important documents and store them on a USB drive that you can grab when you need a document. In essence, anything of a paper nature can be stored electronically and the original discarded. There are few exceptions to this rule – military documents, documents with an embossed seal, car titles, things of that nature.

Most of my paper clutter was the collection of school worksheets and artwork my children had brought home from school. I sorted through the artwork, keeping the really good drawings and paintings and have them stored in my bedroom. I intend to display these items using frames once the funds are available for custom frames, but another option is to take a photograph of the artwork and make a photo collage. It might also be a good idea to have family members look through the artwork and pick some of their favorites, and then gift the item to them for their use. There are many options, but I choose to keep the originals and display them.

One final note on the Paper category. It will be necessary to frequently revisited this category to ensure it doesn’t get out of control in the future. Shredding mail as it comes in and recycling that which can be tossed will be necessary to keep this category from growing again.

Step Five: Komono – Komono translates to “miscellaneous”. This category includes everything that does not fit into and of the previous categories, save for sentimental items, which we’ll talk about later. Right now, we’re talking that junk drawer, pens and pencils, office supplies, craft supplies, the kitchen pantry, the spice rack, kitchen utensils, laundry and cleaning supplies, food storage dishes, etc, etc, etc. This category could easily become worse than paper depending on what you have in your home. Many report being in “komono hell”. I don’t mean to scare you off. I really don’t. I just want you to be prepared. Komono is a very broad category and could take some time to complete. As with the paper category, the komono category is one that must be frequently revisited to ensure it remains under control as time goes on. This is a good time to help your children work through the process as well by sorting their bedrooms and toy rooms. I placed toys in the komono category, but you could make it a category all on its own if that works best for you.

Step Six: Sentimental Items – Lastly, we have the sentimental category. This category includes photos, letters, and mementos that hold deep meaning. This category is supposed to be the hardest category by far because we tend to tie emotional significance to our items, but Marie feels that the learning process we experienced in the first five categories will provide us with the tools to tackle this category with strength and determination. More positively, this is also the category where most people report feeling “the click”. I’ll discuss “The Click” in a moment.

Sorting through sentimental items can be very emotional for people. They may find items that were previously owned by loved ones they thought were forever lost. They may find items they didn’t even know existed. They may also experience an emotional or spiritual cleansing as they release items that trigger emotional pain – the release of toxic relationships being the most frequently reported. They may find it difficult to discard photographs of their children, no matter what their age or to discard those love letters from past boyfriends. The key thing to remember here is JOY! Does the item you hold in your  hand spark joy in your heart TODAY. Does it make your heart rejoice to hold it in your hands now. Do not consider whether or not it sparked joy in your heart 15 years ago. Once you pull out the items that spark joy in your heart, showcase them in some way. Put photos in frames, photo albums or scrapbooks. Put mementos you want to see in shadow boxes and hang them on the wall. Display sentimental achievement documents (college diplomas, etc) if it brings you joy to look at them.

Category order matters

Marie talks about letting your home and your items guide you as you work through the process. She says they’ll tell you what needs to be done and when it needs to be done. This might seem a bit on the kookie side for you since inanimate objects don’t really talk, but I have to say in my experience, she’s right. I remember feeling the pull to work on categories out of order and will admit that when I started, I allowed myself to tackle those areas that spoke to me when they spoke to me. I learned the err of my ways and want to caution you not to work out of order.

I started my process in the hygiene closet in my master bath, a komono category, rather than with clothing, because that area spoke to me first. It was easy to perform this category and I made a huge difference in the way my closet looked – but it didn’t stick. I quickly found the cabinet needed to be revisited because rather than doing the whole hygiene category, I only did one area. That resulted in items from other areas of the house finding their way to this closet, in a disorganized fashion, requiring me to duplicate work.

I can’t stress enough going in order of the categories. Clothing, then books, then electronic media, then paper, then konomo, then sentimental items. When you reach the komono category, feel free to listen to your home and hit the subcategories in any order, but the main categories really need to be followed in order.

A good checklist to keep you on track created by some random internet person can be found here. I’ve always been a list person and find I focus my best when I have a list to use. It was motivating to tick off all of these categories as they were completed. I hope it helps you like it did me.

One Final Note

In the book, Marie says that any items you find after completing a category are to be discarded (with the exception of clothing that was being laundered when you worked through the clothing category). She says that if you find a shirt stashed with komono, you are to discard the shirt because finding it later means it wasn’t important enough to you to include it when you went through the clothing category. I’ll recommend you make your own determination on this one. I found stragglers from previous categories as I worked my way through the process, and most were easily discarded, but some were items I would have kept while I was in that category (one example of this is photos I found in nooks and crannies).

Whatever you do, as you work through the categories, think JOY. Does the item spark joy? If it does, it’s a keeper.

Have you completed your konmari process? If you have, I would love to hear from you. If you have not, and you’re interested, stick around to learn more!

My “Magic” Book

Once upon a time, my house was a disaster.

Things were stacked everywhere.
Kids’ toys were heaped about.
Laundry sat in baskets for weeks on end.
We couldn’t find anything we were looking for quickly.
Mornings were hectic and chaotic.
Counters were unusable.
Pictures could not be shared publicly.

I tried everything. Marathon cleaning. Room-by-room cleaning. Buying storage containers. 15 minutes here, 15 minutes there. One-in, one-out. Burning down the house and starting from scratch… ok, so I didn’t do that last one, but I thought about it on more than on occasion. I even thought about tackling it “TLC Clean Sweep” style where everything gets removed from the house and placed under a large tent in the front yard and sorted as either Keep, Sell or Donate. But that seemed a bit overwhelming so I scratched that idea pretty quickly.

One thing was for certain: I was absolutely desperate for change in our home. I didn’t enjoy my life. I seriously felt like I was constantly cleaning and never getting anywhere – like a hamster on a wheel. I shared all the housekeeping memes on Facebook that blamed my kids for the mess.

Like this one:


Or this one:


The truth is, the kids weren’t solely to blame.

I grew up in a house that was perpetually neat. We had a couple “lived in” messes here and there, but they were short-lived messes. My husband grew up in a house very similar. But my bedroom was always a mess growing up. My parents used to joke that they could pull the carpet up and sell it as brand new b/c it had never been walked on thanks to all the clothes that blanketed my floor. My mom would send me to clean my room and it would take an entire weekend – to clean one room! Why?

My husband’s room, conversely, was always clean. I remember staying at his parents’ house with him before we moved in together and he’d clean his room every morning. He’d put things away and pick up laundry. Everyday.

Both of our houses growing up were always ready for company. However, our house together was anything but. At first it was, but over time it got messier and messier. I couldn’t figure out why we couldn’t get our house decent like our parents’ houses. Were were just lazy? Yeah, probably a little bit, but this was more than just laziness.

And it only got worse once we had kids, and even worse yet when the kids became mobile.

I felt like I was drowning every day. I could not keep the house clean. I finally gave up. Our house wasn’t filthy. It was just messy. And it really bothered me. I came home everyday dreading the pending workload. I felt anxious just thinking about coming home from work. I preferred being at work b/c it was less work – and the work I did have to do had an end point – unlike the work at home.

The years went on and I honestly kept trying. I’d go in spurts where cleaning was my passion and I’d feel like I’d made headway, but then life would get busy and it would go right back to the way it was.

As with the start of every year, I vowed to make this year different. 2015 was no exception. Except, it was. 2015 was the year I discovered my “Magic” book.

I was a posting member of the forums over at Mark’s Daily Apple, a health, wellness and nutrition website, and accidentally stumbled upon a post by a friend about her Magic book. At first, I wasn’t all that interested until she kept talking about it and much better her home felt. I inquired. She shared the title and mentioned another poster having introduced her to it. So I checked out the blog of this other gal. She kept talking about her Magic book and how it transformed her life and how easy her house was to keep clean now. I was in. Hook, line and sinker!

What is this “Magic” book, you ask? Well, if you know me on Facebook, you already know. If we aren’t friends on Facebook, here it is.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up – The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo.

As cliché as it might sound, this book changed. my. life. Serious as a heart attack, here, folks. This book was my game changer. This little $10 200 page book was all it took.

This book told me what the problem was. I wasn’t lazy. I was overwhelmed. I was overwhelmed because I had too much stuff! I already knew this but for some reason having this book tell me this was eye-opening, as silly as that sounds. This book taught me how to declutter the proper way. Not room by room, but category by category. It taught me not to just throw things away like every other book on the planet did; rather this book told me to keep only those things that make me happy. What a great idea: keeping things we love, that make us happy. Get rid of anything that doesn’t fit into that “I really like this; it brings me joy” category. It taught me how to set aside the “I spent so much money on this I can’t just get rid of it” and the “But so-and-so got me that as a gift. I can’t get rid of it” excuses. It seriously changed how I looked at the things in our house – I was seeing things with new eyes, if you will.

Since reading the book and implementing Marie’s suggestions, my house is literally only 5 minutes away from being “company ready”. Clear the coffee table of our drinks, empty the recycling and maybe run a load of dishes through the dishwasher and we’re completely ready for company. On any given day. No more marathon cleaning sessions for birthday parties! No more telling people “let’s meet at your house”. No more telling my kids their friends can’t come over for fear the kids will go home and tell their parents what a mess our place was. No more. We’re free of that embarrassment! Finally! And the effects of the book are spilling over into every aspect of our lives. There are far too many positive impacts to discuss in this post – we’ll touch on them later.

Suffice it to say this book has changed my life and the lives of those around me. And I’m so grateful!

Have you read the “Magic” book yet? If you haven’t, I highly recommend you get it on order. You can check your local library, but from what I’ve seen on social media, the wait list for this book at libraries is so long people are waiting upwards of 9 months for it to come available. Just spend the $10. I promise you won’t regret it. I’ll check in again in a few days, give you some time to read my “Magic” book and then we’ll discuss it further.

Happy reading!