Downsizing, De-cluttering and Stuff

You’ve probably heard of the book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo….and her sequel “Spark Joy: An Ilustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up.”  Both are guide books for de-cluttering your living space…and in doing so de-cluttering your life. Maybe you’ve even made it a New Year’s resolution to de-clutter your life?…how’s that resolution coming by the way!  I actually haven’t read the book, but I’ve heard and researched the premise of her book and had to personally downsize and de-clutter quite a few times in the past few years. I can tell you that, although the reason may not be ideal, in the end it is cathartic to get rid of the stuff that bogs you down. Sure, there are some things I wouldn’t mind having back because I’ve needed to re-furnish this bigger house again, but for the most part I have the things that are important to me and bring me joy.  Which brings me to Kondo’s philosophy about stuff “Does this spark joy?”

Here’s the gist of her process on de-cluttering.  Love it or lose it!  Most of us think that the best way to go about it is room by room.  Kondo disagrees (Oh…and did I mention she has a waiting list of people who want her help?!)  She says the way to go about it is by categories, starting with your clothes.  Take all of your clothes (and socks and underwear) and throw them on your bed…or wherever….yes, all of them.  You’ll have a discard, a donate and a keep pile/bag.  Literally pick up each item and ask “Does this spark joy?”  Okay, I know you’re rolling your eyes right now, but hold on.  Don’t ask “will it fit me again” or “I remember wearing this when….”…NO, ask “Does this spark joy?” If not, put it in the discard or donate pile.  Also, choose what to keep, not to get rid of….that’s an important distinction. Sure, if you’re a clothes horse it might take more than a day, but in the end the simplicity of minimalism, and the joy of donation, will be your reward….not to mention how tidy everything will look.  Once you have all your like garments together (t-shirts, sweaters, jeans, etc) she says to fold them the Kon-Mari way and then to place them in your drawers in a way that you can see each item….like this…

Socks are simply rolled…

Clothes are hung from longest/heaviest/darkest to the lightest/shortest …

Next you’ll move onto books and she says that your bookshelf should be the highlights of all you’ve read.  Then it’s on to miscellaneous, like bathroom stuff and finally mementos (pictures/objects).  Mementos is the longest and hardest process…which is why it’s last…but possibly the one that sparks some unforgettable memories that will bring you joy.  Kondo wants you to thank each item for it’s service and for what it taught you.  Your rolling your eyes again, aren’t you??


I used to think that my hutch was just a place to store stuff….and then my sister came over….

declutter redo

Now it’s a display of items that have meaning and organization….I know, you wish you had my sister’s help..she’s awesome!!

Again, I didn’t read the book or use this method each time I moved, but when I really downsized four years ago I had to look seriously at some of the items and decide whether they were that important to me.  I also couldn’t have done it without the help of the most amazing neighbors and friends who categorized things for me.  I would say that almost everything I “needed” to keep was sentimental, truly brought me joy and/or was used on a daily basis ( the way, I still have all the pictures from over 30 years ago and will get to that pile soon enough..ugh!) It can be, and was for me, an incredibly emotional thing to do, but in the end it really helped me move on in a way I didn’t know I could…but had to. When I moved back here I realized it was still a lot of stuff, but as I look around my home just about everything has a happy memory attached to it or a story that I enjoy re-living in my mind….without living in the past.  Downsize and Upsize (is that a word?)…do both with thought and intention.

Which brings me to the reason I even thought of this subject!  My daughter and son-in-law will be moving into their own adorable new home in a few weeks and there will be some re-arranging again to do here.  They’ll be taking some things that have been here the last seven months, I’ll be moving my clothes from closet to closet and it’s time to tidy it all up.  I’m really going to try to touch every piece of clothing and only move it if it sparks joy…some of those clothes are just too tight or too old!  I really do hope that my drawers look like those above…so f-ing organized!

So, go for it!  Take it slowly & methodically, and in doing so you will shake the cobwebs and simplify your life….another basic tenet of her philosophy is buy experiences, not things.  It’s quite cathartic!

You cannot direct the wind, but you can adjust the sails!


  1. I love this, and so agree! When we moved from the west coast, Justin and I both had to take a hard look at what we had and what we really wanted to keep, and got rid of SO much. Amazing how few things are really important to me when I take a hard look. Bravo!

  2. P.S. Kudos to Mariellen’s impeccable decorative talent; less is definitely more. Love the before and after pictures – right out of a magazine!

  3. I have that book! I like the approach. I did a big purge in my closet and, yes, while it’s hard to part with some things, it really does feel good to be surrounded by things you actually fit into and it makes you realize what you have and can spark creativity in a whole different way. It also doesn’t make you feel badly anymore. You walk into your closet and it’s the you today. Living in the present is better. Thanks for this….it’s inspiring!

  4. Over winter break Katie and I cleaned out our closets. She put on some tunes and we had at it! I got rid of items I’d only worn once or twice, but HATED and other things that had been in there for 20 years. The best part for me is to be able to look in my closet in the morning and easily find something to wear.

    Katie went crazy and cleaned out all of her drawers and cabinets, too. My garage is now full of items for a future yard sale.

  5. Hi! Before leaving the ‘hood for our year of travel Bern and I had the big clean up, clean out, do you love it experience. The More you do it the easier it goes. At the same time figuring the minimum that you need and will it fit into a back pack was an interesting process. Now, after four months in Amsterdam, what goes to New York? 😳


    1. Hey Bruce…So great to hear from you! When are you guys in NYC and for how long? I’d love to try visit while you’re there…maybe do a home exchange with someone! Miss you & Bern! xoxo…j

    2. I only brought a little with me to “your” house but I’m thinning out again!!! Hard to believe but I’m a “clothes horse”.

  6. you have to read the book! it’s life-changing! austin and i konmaried (yes we made it a verb) over the summer and it was just incredible!

    1. Hi Kate…I’ve heard “konmaried” is a verb now! After all these comments I’m going to have to do it and take pictures to prove it! I’m picking up the book from the library this weekend. Stay tuned!

  7. I bought that book, haven’t read it yet. Thanks for the synopsis. I have a lot of stuff I need to go through. Already did the closet, but one room at a time. Like the idea of the undies and socks. I’ll have to redo my drawers!

  8. I love this post. You and I have had to go through this process a number of times over the recent years (for different reasons…. But similar in a way). It is so cathartic in the end and living in a space that is meaningful and organized is freeing.
    Miss you!

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