Who could have dreamed this? Someone has found yet another way to organize one’s clothes. I’ve read all those sage admonitions for years. You know the ones . . . the advice for clearing out the closet. There is this one: take out anything that you haven’t worn in a year and give away. There is this handy little system for identifying the offenders: On January 1, turn all your hangers backwards. Then, as each item is used, return it with the hanger facing the “usual” way . . . at the end of the year, just sweep up everything with a backwards hanger and cast them away, like yesterday’s garbage.
I must admit, I have distaste for that method. Who knows when I might suddenly want (need?) something that flew out the door on December 31. Besides, I can think of much better things to do on December 31 and January 1 than declutter my closet.
However, since confession is good for the soul (who said that?), I must come clean that my closet is overcrowded. I do hang things by color and type, but hanging them involves an nimble squeeze play. It is not for want of rod space. I have a good amount of hanging room. My theory is this: clothes will mate and reproduce until that space is full, giving birth to extra shirts, jeans, tees, slacks and the occasional dress. So what gives that is new under the sun?
Ms. Marie Kondo, an organizing expert from Japan, is taking the closet by storm. Her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, arrives this month in the United States and is already a best seller in her native Japan and Europe. Rather than espousing a philosophy of 1) do you need it? 2) have you worn it in a year? 3) does it fit? 4) does it flatter? She has a unique perspective on the process of winnowing the burgeoning closet. Does it give you joy?
Really? Does it give me joy? I’m suddenly acutely aware of all the clothes hanging in my closet. They look suddenly drab and well, joyless. Her technique involves taking down each item, holding it in your hands, thanking it for its tireless service to you, and then deciding what I will term “the joy factor.” She writes, “Don’t just open up your closet and decide after a cursory glance that everything in it gives you a thrill. You must take each outfit in your hand.”
“Does it spark joy?” This seems unnecessarily effusive for my tee shirts and worn-to-comfort jeans. Although I can say that my Broncos tees do spark joy in me, especially the Bronco-orange Peyton Manning tee. But what about all those other back-up clothes? Shirts with a teensy hole here and a subtle rip there. Joyless, by gosh! Gone! But, not without my caress and whisper of thanks for the hard work provided (to say the least of the coverage). Truthfully, I am projecting since I have not yet gone into the dreaded realm of the walk-in closet and performed the inspecting, sorting and discarding that remains to be done.
However . . . and this is a big HOWEVER . . . as a skeptic I decided to put at least one of Ms. Kondo’s suggestions into practice. After all, how do I know that she is not just a phony-baloney lady who has figured out how to write today’s best seller? As a born and bred Missourian, I claim my birthright from The Show Me State. So, I tried her technique for tee-shirts. Rather than folding them flat, she suggests folding them into a long rectangle, folding that rectangle over into an even skinnier rectangle, folding that in half and then rolling the shirt up. I have long been a practitioner of rolling my clothes to put in suitcases after I discovered that this procedure results in the traveler arriving with clothes that are very minimally wrinkled or not wrinkled at all. I just never dreamed of passing this along to my dresser drawers.
I took out all the solid colored tees in the drawer and proceeded to roll them up, Kondo-style. (Do not confuse this with Gangnam-style, also popularized by an Asian personality but involving considerably more athleticism than folding tee shirts).
I was astonished by two things. First, I could see every color of shirt without lifting up the stacks. Second, I could actually get another four or five shirts in the drawer (which probably would sound like fingernails on a chalkboard to Ms. Kondo).
Behold the before and after:
Another factor to consider is that when I pulled a shirt from deep within the pile, it would toss the entire drawer in disarray. And of course the point in all this is to become more Zen by ridding our lives of disarray. She states, “When we take our clothes in our hands and fold them neatly, we are, I believe, transmitting energy, which has a positive effect on our clothes.” No wonder I have felt so glum for the past couple of years. My clothes have been feeling miserable. I had no idea. And this pain that I have inflicted on my clothes is not limited to those overstuffed drawers.
There is the sad comment about socks. This is the icing on the clothing cake. Kondo’s theory involves gently laying socks in the drawer to await their next call to duty. Her notion is that they have worked extra hard for you and when they are in the drawer they are “on holiday.” So wadding them up in balls and tossing them into the drawer is merely your rude slight to the fact that they have literally and figuratively walked a mile in your shoes. At least. So why put them into contortions on their much deserved vaca from your smelly feet.
When it comes to the closet, one should hang everything that begs to hang, arranging from left to right, with dark clothes leading the pack. Similar things should hang side-by-side . . . or else more unhappy clothes! She goes on to say, “Clothes, like people, can relax more freely when in the company of others who are very similar in type and therefore organizing them by category helps them feel more comfortable and secure.” Having not yet attempted to release my closeted clothes from their current prison, I can only wonder about their lack of security. It will be hard to sleep tonight knowing that my clothes are frightened and yearning for the company of like comrades.
This blog is a “To Be Continued” effort, since I will take on the challenge to purge my closet. I may even find myself rejoicing Gangnam-style when I have released all that pent up and crowded joy that hangs in my walk-in. So go roll your tee shirts . . . and report back! Lives can be changed. Peace and calm can prevail. Clothes can finally rest in much-anticipated secure comfort. Oh! And don’t forget to thank them.