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Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Life-Changing Magic of Folding Clothes Into Origami

If anyone had foretold I'd be folding my sweaters, jeans, and, yes, even undies into origami in a quest for a more organized home, I'd not have believed it. Yet, here I am. Remember last year's breakout book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up? It prompted a slew of riveting "clutter" photos all across the web and spawned the hashtag #KonMari — now a verb, as in "I KonMari'd my closets." But does it really work? I put it to the test. 

Sorting tops — does this "spark joy"?

What I Like About the KonMari Method

Inspiration to Get Started

Though the book is thin and more than a bit repetitive, its very simplicity is what inspires the reader to jump right in. I wasn't even through the first few chapters before wanting to put the book down and start giving all my stuff the "does this spark joy" test. 

Donation pile — this is just tops, pants and shoes!

Permission to Let Go

Accepting that you don't have to keep things forever once they've "achieved their purpose" is the strongest take-away of the book. That sexy dress you bought when you lost 20 pounds a few years ago that sadly never fit again? It's just a nagging reminder that you didn't maintain your weight loss. The dress served it's purpose. Thank it for the joy it gave you at the time you bought it and donate it to a charity shop. That sweater that a loved one gifted you that's not your color? It's not going to change color sitting at the bottom of the stack of sweaters you always choose first. The purpose of a gift is the message of love and regard it sends. Having relayed the message that you are esteemed, the gift has served its ultimate purpose, points out the author. Thank it for making you feel good when you received it and let it go. That piece of furniture handed down that's not your style? Thank it for the memories, bring it out of storage, and shepherd it off to a new life with an owner who will use it and love it.

I don't know how well this strategy will work for Collyer-level hoarders, but it helped me let go of a lot of things I no longer use.

Second bedroom — summer clothes closet

Quick-Start Action

While other organization methods require you to analyze how you use your space, this method puts the decision making in your heart not your head. This is another strength of the system. It doesn't bog you down in planning and overthinking. All you need to do is sort your things into categories — clothing, books, papers, miscellaneous, memorabilia — then touch each thing and say whether it sparks joy. If it does, keep. If it doesn't, discard. Easy peasey.

Socks and PJs

No Expensive Containers

This is one organizational system that won't require you to run out and buy a bunch of boxes, bins and shelving (sorry, Container Store!). The author suggests using ordinary shoe boxes to separate items. That's what I used to keep origami-folded socks separate from origami-folded PJs.

Origami t-shirts
 Vertical Storage

At the heart of the KonMari method is a way of folding items that allows you to store them vertically. This means you will see everything at a glance and that achieves three things: 1. You always know what you have. 2. You don't mess up a whole drawer trying to retrieve something from the bottom of a stack. 3. Everything you see sparks joy, because you eliminated everything that didn't. This encourages you to keep the system going, shed more stuff, and let the good stuff take center stage.

Entry closet

Weaknesses in the KonMari Method:

Functional Planning

Because this method requires no analysis and planning upfront about how you actually use the space in your home, you'll hit a wall after sorting, when it comes time to find a new place for everything. The author says listen, and your home will "tell" you where things should go, but that's not helpful, frankly. When I got to this point, I had to look to other organizational gurus who came before KonMari, like Julie Morgenstern, who suggests you create "stations" in your home, organized around daily activities, and store items in a way that makes daily life run more efficiently.

I created a place in our entryway closet to store accessories like hats, gloves, scarfs and bags when we first come through the door. This way, when we're getting ready to leave in the morning everything is right there waiting to go.

Bonus: I did have to run to the Container Store for this cool hanging shelf. (I love the Container Store.)

Medicine cabinet — waaaay pared down

Categories Are Too Limited

Four categories of *stuff* may be the way they roll in Japan, where the author is from, but for most Americans four categories is insufficient. I had breakout sessions for medicine cabinets, grooming items, electronics, office supplies, kitchen gear, tools, and, yes, junk drawer(s) plural.

Also, I wasn't able to sort through all my categories in one day, the way KonMari suggests. So I tackled my project over the course of a week. Either way, it still got done and that's the key thing.

Linen closet

Pared waaaay down

Things you need — but do they spark joy?

Utilitarian Items

It's not practical to ask that all things "spark joy." My hairdryer, for example, does not spark joy, but I need it. Ditto iron and ironing board. And what about people who wear a uniform to work — like doctors, nurses, postal workers, waitresses and so on? Even wearing a suit every day is a kind of uniform. Most uniforms do not spark joy. There needs to be room in any sorting methodology to keep purely utilitarian articles. If it works, fits, is in good condition, or is attractive and you don't hate it, that might just have to do for some utilitarian things.

The folding

Folding Maintenance

I won't write up a tutorial on the folding methodology, because it's already been covered so well by reviewers like Goop, who offer very useful animated gifs on how to fold every type of clothing item.

It's year+ into the trend, and there is some backlash from bloggers who KonMari'd their closets, only to find keeping up with the folding a hassle. It's common to immediately regress to rolling balls of socks, despite "stressing the elastic". Personally, folding undies into tiny origami is tedious, so unless I see a real payoff I'll let that go.


Despite the author's insistence that no client ever complained of regretting letting go of something, there are accounts of bloggers who had regrets — like this woman in the UK, who threw out her flat iron. I know the feeling. I'm already regretting letting go of a round hair brush and curl tamer.

I do like seeing all my t-shirts and sweaters in one drawer a glance, though. And color me *surprised* to learn how many pairs of jeans and cords I could fit in one drawer when they're folded the KonMari way. I was able to eliminate an entire plastic bin that was taking up space in the closet.

And look, an empty drawer!

While I have some categories still to sort — kitchen stuff, tools, and junk drawers — I can give the KonMari method a positive thumbs up. 

The supervisor
Sasha the Wonder Cat gives it a thumbs up, too. She had a grand time shedding all over my sweater drawer while I folded.

Have you KonMari'd your house? What about the method do you like? What about the method can you do without?