A reader recently expressed a desire to start the KonMari process, but was concerned about the practicalities of getting it done with small children in the house and a backlog of other work. It made me think back to when I began, and I realised that I had also had many concerns about beginning. Now that I’m this far through, though, I’m so glad I did begin, and I also have no doubts about finishing. So I thought I would share some of the strategies that helped me when I was just starting out, as well as a few encouragements.
Work more slowly through the process, but not less thoroughly. I think that, according to your needs, you should adjust the speed you progress through the KonMari process; give yourself more months to finish, and accomplish the work in shorter pieces of time, even 30-minute segments if need be. But don’t start taking shortcuts or eliminating parts of the method, because I think the parts of it that feel cumbersome, or perhaps unnecessary, can end up being surprisingly helpful. In my experience, each part has a purpose, and it’s better to slow down and make time for each step, than to skip any of them to save time.
Do your thinking first, then gather your things, then tidy. It has helped me, in this discarding phase, to break each tidying category down into three parts:
- survey the house and list what to look for, and where;
- gather the items, by putting them into a box or in a single place;
- and then do the actual sorting, touching, and decision-making.
It’s only the last part, step 3, that requires deep focus or even much time. So I can use low-quality time for the first two parts (a few spare minutes, or when Edith is with me), and then have the category ready to tidy when I finally have high-quality time to myself. I have found this a good way to get the ‘grunt work’ done, as it were, with low-quality concentration, and save my times of high-quality concentration for the real work of tidying, which is going through each item and making decisions.
Don’t over-organise when you are in the discarding phase. The discarding phase is the one I’m in, and although I always put things away after going through them, this isn’t the time to mount a massive reorganisation. That comes after all the discarding is done. So if you feel overwhelmed, it might help to remember that the task of discarding does not require you also to reorganise everything. Just put it away neatly for now.
Make a specific outline to follow. As with all projects, making a thorough list and plan upfront alleviated some anxiety by making every task specific, and allowing me to track my progress. I encourage you to do the same, in whatever format you like. The main thing is to lay everything out, i.e. record every category you need to complete.
Treat the KonMari project like a temporary, one-time, happy event, and adjust your life to make it easier. Kondo is always describing tidying as a ‘festival’, as something that you do only once. In keeping with this, I think it’s good to make changes in the rest of your life to help make tidying easier, because it isn’t a permanent state but just a temporary phase. For example, ordering takeout for dinner on a day you plan to tidy; loosening up your regular cleaning routines; and giving yourself rewards and small celebrations as you progress.
Do it alone. (It’s worth it.) Sadly, I haven’t found it to be possible to tidy well with Edith awake. It’s not just because she makes more messes, but tidying in this way requires a kind of focus and internal reflection that is not possible (for me) in the presence of distraction. I might be able to distract her with activities if she were older, but right now I have to tidy while she’s asleep or when someone else watches her. However, the great effectiveness of tidying alone makes it worth the effort to find the time.
Be encouraged that, in my experience, the method creates its own momentum. That is, as soon as I started, I started feeling more energy to continue, and it got easier to keep going. The amount of intimidation I felt before I started was greater than any that I felt after beginning.
Although some mess is created, the areas you tidy look so much better that the overall effect on your home is very quick and positive, even at the very beginning. I was worried that our home would look worse for the duration of my tidying. True, it made a mess when I initially pulled things out to go through, but by the end of each category most things were put away again and looking better than before. In the first few days, when I tidied up my clothing, my closet looked so much better that I used to just walk in and stand there to enjoy it. We still have some pockets of the house that contain piles of donation items or other discards, but these are isolated. By and large, our house is looking slowly better and better. The intense mess of tidying is fairly short-lived, as long as you finish a category and put the items away before moving on.
You might try watching the YouTube series by Janine on her channel A Young Mum. She chronicles her KonMari process very thoroughly, and since she was, at the time, a stay-at-home mother of three children, I felt encouraged that the process would be possible for me even with a small child, and even in a family home.
You might find, as I did, that tidying each subcategory doesn’t take as long as you might expect. It might sound huge to tidy all your clothes, but if you break it down as Kondo suggests (and as I did), doing tops, bottoms, dresses, accessories, etc., separately, each of these subcategories can move fairly quickly. I’ve had a few mammoth tasks – paper was this way – but for the most part, my subcategories have taken from 15-60 minutes. And I have also found that I move more quickly the further I get, because I’ve learned how to make decisions more adeptly.
These are my thoughts at this stage. I hope it helps! I dithered a while before beginning the KonMari process, but it has been so beneficial I’m glad I did begin.