Does it Spark Me Joy? — My Marie Kondo Journey

There is no better way to prepare for the new semester than some reorganizing and decluttering. 

Marie Kondo, author of “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” brought a lot of attention to her KonMari method in early 2019 when her Netflix series “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” debuted on Netflix. 

Sorting and decluttering is never easy. For some, it’s physically exhausting, and for some, it’s mentally exhausting. Like many people, I easily form an emotional attachment to items I own -- not just clothing -- but different random items as well: that one lanyard I got from a conference I went to a few years ago, those two cute sleeping eye masks I’ve never used, those free water bottles I received from school that just collect dust on the shelf and more. It’s difficult letting go. 

“When we really delve into the reasons for why we can't let something go, there are only two: an attachment to the past or a fear for the future,” said Kondo. Attachment and fear can be both healthy and unhealthy, depending on the situation. It is important for us to regularly take time to reflect on our possessions and evaluate what still gives your life value; and what used to be of value and now became a burden for you — something you should let go of.

It is painful for us to confront our possessions and select items to give up as it forces us to relive foolish choices we made in the past, stirring up all kinds of emotions. Kondo reassured us that the short-term struggle would all be worthwhile, “When we reduce what we own and essentially 'detox' our house, it has a detox effect on our bodies as well.”

The KonMari Method is a decluttering method that encourages tidying through categories, from clothes and books to paper, miscellaneous items, and finally, sentimental items. 

With the method, you get to lay everything from the category out in one place where you can see all of them in plain sight. You then hold each item and let your feeling about the item and your feeling about the relationship you have with the item sink in, asking yourself the ultimate question — “Does it spark you joy?” If it does, you keep the item. 

And here’s the special part about the KonMari method — if an item doesn’t spark you joy, you express gratitude to the item, thanking the item for all the memories it experienced with you, thanking the item for serving you well, and then you let it go. This applies to items you’ve never used or worn as well. “Many people may feel guilty when letting go of items,” Kondo shared, “By expressing gratitude toward the items you let go, it will lessen the feeling of guilt.”

Ever since learning about the KonMari Method, I’ve been wanting to give it a try. While I’m not a serious hoarder, I do have a problem of being too emotionally attached to items and owning more than I need. Even though it’s not a big problem most of the time, moving can be a painful experience, especially when you’re in college and are moving every once in a while. 

With more time staying at home, I finally worked up the courage to rip off the bandage and declutter my life with the KonMari Method during winter break. 

I started with my main problem category, my clothes. The best time to KonMari your wardrobe and other categories is after you spend some time apart from your items. I stayed at my boyfriend’s place for five months at the start of the pandemic with just a small collection of my closet and “lived out of my suitcase” for those couple of months and it gave me some much-needed perspective to my needs and my relationship with certain clothing items. It was definitely weird not having all my clothes with me and ultimately, one of the things that experience taught me was that I can survive without so many clothing items. When I finally reunited with the rest of my wardrobe, it gave me insight as to what clothes I should keep and which ones I should consider getting rid of since when I first saw all my clothes, some of them I immediately recognized and missed, and some that made me think, “Oh wait, I forgot I have that.”

However, I missed out on that being-away-from-your-clothes-window as I’ve been living with my entire closet collection for a semester now. This KonMari method was not that easy. It took me a long time to sort through all my clothes. It was extremely draining, but I managed to get rid of a good amount of items. Even though it wasn’t as many as I’d hoped, I’m proud I was able to let go. I got rid of some college t-shirts that didn’t spark joy and don’t see myself wearing along with some other miscellaneous clothing items that I rarely wear and items that I have too many of. I got rid of a flannel that no longer sparked joy since I have a growing flannel collection. 

College t-shirts are definitely tricky since you receive so many and for people who are too emotionally attached (like me!), throwing away college t-shirts somehow feels like throwing away a piece of your college experience, so I was never able to let go of those t-shirts until now. This time around, I told myself to select some college t-shirts that I do have an actual memory with, wear on a regular basis, or spark joy. I kept a few of them and reassured myself I still kept some pieces of memories with me. 

After clothing, I moved on to textbooks, notebooks, and paper. Many many piles of papers, including notes, exams, exercises, and other handouts from previous classes. I used to — still have a lot of trouble throwing out these things. I either think…. believe those would come in handy in the future, or I simply was too emotionally attached to them. I couldn’t even throw away name tags I made for classes just because I’m too sentimental. This time, I managed to do a good job. The entire time I was decluttering, I told myself how good it would feel to have fewer things and less burden. I reevaluated how often, or in another case, how rarely I look at, use, or think about some of these. I let my rational self take over and recycled many handouts. Of course, I still kept some things that I didn't really need to, but we all have to start somewhere. One step at a time. 

The KonMari journey isn’t just about decluttering and making room. It’s also about reflection and mental clarity. Throughout your reorganizing and sorting, you learn things about yourself you rarely think about, and you get to take time to reflect on yourself, your life and what matters at the end of the day. 

If Marie Kondo is something you’ve been wanting to try, know that it’s okay to be scared to start. It’s normal to push it off and procrastinate, but keep in mind that you deserve to fulfill your own promise to yourself and that you deserve this physical and emotional detox. Good luck, collegiettes!