Konmari, nail polish, flower vases, and all the rest of it

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No swatches.  No news.  Ramblings ahead.

You may have noticed I haven’t been posting a lot lately.  Nothing’s wrong; in fact, everything is great.  Sometimes when I look out my windows — especially my second-floor sewing room window, where on a clear day I can see all the way into Glacier National Park — I think life is so beautiful I could cry.

Part of the silence and rumination has been the insidious, imminent arrival of the annual holiday commercialization, which every year is coming earlier and earlier.  I am partly to blame.  On this blog and on my Facebook page, I’m posting, “OMG, look at this deal!”  “Check this web site for a BOGO sale!”  “Hey, Acme Nail Polish has a new collection!”  It’s buy, buy, buy.  Acquire, accumulate, and hoard.  This is not how I really want to live.

The other part of the change is that I have just finished reading the popular book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, by Marie Kondo.  As of this writing, it’s been out for over a year and is still #1 in motivational self-help books on Amazon.  You may have heard of it under its more common name, the Konmari Method.

Already a very tidy person, I put off reading it.  Thought, “Nah, don’t need it.  Don’t wanna.  Can’t make me.”  I generally abhor trends.  But then I thought I’d like to read it, because although my house is neat and clean, the decluttering never seems to end.  I’ll clean out a big closet, and a month later it has to be done again.  Why is that?  I got in the long virtual line at my library and put a hold on the book, both the paper version and the electronic one, happy to get whichever one came in first.  Finally got the physical version.  Brought it home, started reading it, and…. as they say, dawns the light.

We’ve all heard the common decluttering mantras over the past years and decades:  If you haven’t used or worn something in a year, get rid of it.  Don’t keep any clothes that don’t fit your current body.  When you declutter, do a room/closet/drawer at a time.  For some of us (many of us?) that doesn’t work.

Konmari says to tidy by category, not room, and to do it in a specific order.  Clothes are first.  Without going into too much detail, the main concept boils down to this:  Don’t decide what to throw out; instead, decide what to keep.  And keep only those things that spark joy.

If that sounds too silly, bear with me.  Think how wonderful it would be if you opened your closet and you loved every single thing in it.  Imagine being in a room in your house and loving every single item in it, and being able to actually see/use/enjoy all those items.  We’re often surrounded by things we don’t particularly care for, if not outright dislike, but we keep them out of habit or laziness.

Just glancing at the rack in your closet or scanning your bookshelf will not do.  No, you have to physically pick up each individual item and ask yourself, “Does this spark joy?”  If the answer is yes, keep it.  Be honest.  Are you keeping a shirt only because someone gave it to you, even though you hate it and never wear it?  Are you keeping a framed photo of an old boyfriend only so you can get it out once in a while and torture yourself?  Do you keep an old outdated textbook from college because…. well, you can’t even remember why?

Kondo says that if you follow her method, you’ll reach a point where it will click.  That happened to me when I opened a cabinet that had flower vases in it.  There were five, ranging from a tall, wide-mouthed one to a tiny bud vase.  I kept them all just in case.  In case I wanted to, you know, put flowers in them.

Reality check.  When I actually cut and display flowers in my house, guess which one of the vases I use?  You guessed it, none of them.  Instead, I always use an old, off-white, chipped cream pitcher that belonged to my grandmother.  Because I love it.  Because it sparks joy.

Cream pitcher

When this one thing hit me, I realized how much I own that I don’t love.  I am practically buried in nail polish and supplies for various hobbies, none of which I can ever possibly use in my lifetime, and I’m going to start letting go, freeing them to spark joy in someone else.  The local shelter for homeless teens is going to get one big honkin’ box of nail polish.  When you (that is, I) have so many things that you don’t even know what you have or where it is, it’s time to let go of some of it, if not a lot of it.

An essay about one woman’s experience with Konmari can be read here.  It’s really good and I recommend reading it slowly.  I want that kind of peace.  Haven’t felt it for a long time.

Now, I’m not saying that Konmari will solve all your problems, clear up your skin, and make you win friends and influence people.  Parts of it are IMO beyond obsessive, and other parts don’t fit me culturally.  You also need to realize that she’s not talking about throwing out your necessities such as medications and so forth.  I don’t know about you, but I cannot go through my medicine cabinet and honestly say, “Oh, aspirin, you spark such joy.  Toothbrush, how I love you.”  (Although I do think you should have a toothbrush you enjoy using re: color, bristle softness, and handle comfort.)

American Thanksgiving is this week and I want to spend it happily and quietly, not tearing my hair out looking for ads to buy things I don’t need with money I don’t have.  I’m not going to push that on you, either.  Have a wonderful holiday.  Eat enough but not too much.  Go outside.  Be joyful.


8 responses »

  1. Thanks for a nicely written & reflective post. The story about your grandmother’s vase was so touching!

  2. I happened on your blog while trying to decide between Zoya Autumn and Channing as part of their Black Friday sale. You helped me decide… and then this post made me reflect! Thank you.

  3. Pingback: Where does your nail polish want to be? | The Silver Nail

  4. My friend told me about that method and I did use it to go through my closet, drawers, etc and I donated bags of clothing I no longer wanted. It really was refreshing! I started this in the spare room, there’s no way to really categorize that stuff, so I’m working on it!

    • Yes, I have a ton of that stuff she calls komono, or miscellaneous things, and get stalled on that, especially hobby supplies. I see she has a new book coming out in January called Spark Joy, where she discusses bathroom and kitchen things more, plus hobby stash. I’m not trying to push her book(s) too much but think that second one will be a good read.

  5. I read it very recently too, as all three of us (me, husband, 12 year-old son) are all VERY messy. I am – of course!! – the best, but we still live in a state most of the time. We managed to Kondo our clothes, but it took all day and we haven’t got any further. Hope to get around to the books soon. It’s a great method and I think it will work for us. (Although I AM NOT Kondoing my polishes!!)


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