Taming the Clothes
I have been asked by a number of readers and students if I’ve read Marie Kondo’s hugely popular book called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. The answer is, yes.
I’ve not just read it, I’ve put some of her tidying suggestions to the test in my own home.
Her book, and my experience of it, has been so provocative, that I’ve written articles on four topics already – which I’ll share over the next four weeks in this order:
As you can tell, I have quite a bit to say about this little book that has captured the world by storm. Even if you haven’t read Kondo’s book, you may find my remarks helpful in your journey. If you have read it, I’d love to hear how her methods are working for you. Use the comment thread below to share your experiences and help us all come out of our respective (cluttered) closets.
Taming the Clothes: Folding
For such a simple task, folding laundry (mindfully) and putting it away is one of the best practices I know to cultivate ease. I love it for what it does to calm the nervous system and quiet the mind.
Until I read Kondo’s book I never thought that there was an art to it as well.
Her method sounded beautifully zen, so I wanted to try it. (I’ll try anything if it will love-up our home spaces and simplify our lives.) Kondo suggests a technique that allows for the garment to be stored upright in a drawer to create more space, make it easier to see and find later, and free clothing from getting piled upon, which, she says, creates more wear and tear and wrinkles. (Who knew?)
I tried it one muggy afternoon with my folded piles – one drawer at a time. All my underwear, socks, tops, T-shirts, scarves, nightgowns, swimwear, sweaters, sweatshirts, and sweatpants underwent a major makeover.
After about two hours of folding the KonMari way, I was amazed – giddy, in fact – at the possibility that this much empty space could be created! These photos will give you an idea of the effect it had on my scarves.
From bureau drawers I eagerly moved to the shelves in the closet, pulling out the bulkier things and throwing them into piles on the bed: sweaters, sweatshirts, sweatpants, cargo pants. Folding these took longer for some reason and putting them away did not feel as satisfying because they disappeared into the back of the shelf.
Folding fatigue began to set in.
After I finished putting away the last item, my giddiness had faded into a blur of exhaustion. I was cooked.
As I took inventory of my progress, I was surprised (more like shocked) to discover that I was not in love with my efforts.
The smaller things like scarves, underwear, and socks were not the problem. It was the larger tops and T-shirts that felt a bit rigid in their new upright envelop bundles. Though the space-making effect was dramatic, some of my clothes in the emptier drawers felt oddly more tight – like there was less breathing room – if that makes any sense. And due to their more compact size, my sweaters and sweatshirts were harder to see.
It was time to stop.
All that changed the next day. I needed time to get used to, and integrate, the transformation. I also needed to make some intuitive adjustments.
Applying Kondo’s suggestion for hanging clothes [that orient thicker, larger, and darker garments on the left, and the thinner, smaller, lighter fabric garments on the right], I moved the contents of some of my drawers around too: thicker, fall-winter, long-sleeved tops and T-shirts to the left; thinner, spring-summer, short-sleeve ones to the right.
There was something about having gym T-shirts mixed in with my nice ones that didn’t feel right either, so I moved them into their own drawer – a new space that had been freed up by all my micro adjustments.
And the sweaters and sweatshirts sitting slightly back on the shelf in the closet? I have grown to love their new arrangement. It looks like they’re peeking out from their perch instead of jumping out (screaming) at me when I enter the closet to reach for something.
I’d be lying if I said it was a walk in the park. It was not. My body hurt from top to bottom after my big fold-a-thon. Physical exhaustion is sign for me that I’m moving a lot of energy, and taking on more than I can handle. I was too excited to slow down, and probably suffered more than I needed to.
Folding takes time. And folding in a particular way takes even more time and focus when you’re new at it. Each garment folded the KonMari way requires an additional three to four folds (to my usual two or three) to get it down to size. The smaller things require even more folds to get them to stand up on end.
Four drawers and two shelves took me two hours.
If you’re willing to do the work it takes on the front end, and allow some time to get used to the changes, I think you’ll agree that it’s worth it.
It occurred to me after the fact that if I had broken down each task into smaller, more manageable sessions, AND handled each garment with more appreciation for its function in my life (rather than focusing on getting it right), it might have made the folding process more soothing and less exhausting.
“Folding In” The Spacious Way
Folding clothes mindfully gives us a chance to honor their role in our lives, and honor ourselves by extension. Leaving clean clothes in the hamper to pull out at will, for example, does neither. Kondo makes this point loud and clear in her book as well.
Putting things away with awareness not only leads to a tidier space, but over time, it promotes well being and feels really good. Add compassion (i.e. no judgment) to your practice, and you’ve transformed a mindless housekeeping task you do almost every day (on auto-pilot) into nurturing, soul-filled experience.
That said, I don’t believe you need to fold and put away perfectly just so to receive the spacious benefit that the practice offers. If the KonMari way of folding feels too tight or rigid, too much to handle or too time consuming, I would suggest you dial it back. Fold the garment in a way that feels right to you (that isn’t shoving, wadding, jamming), and put it away with love.
I think that the “with love” part is the key here, not so much the perfect outcome.
Care to weigh in?
What are you experiences of the KonMari method? Tell us in the comment thread. We welcome your thoughts!
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