Konmari: Clothing Part 2 (What I Learned)

Yesterday I wrote about how I sorted out my clothing using the KonMari method, but today I want to share some thoughts on that process and what I learned from it.

One thing I learned was about how much energy I usually expend justifying and rationalising my decisions. I’ve decluttered many times before, and I expected the KonMari process to require even more emotional energy than my usual methods. However, I was surprised that it didn’t sap as much energy as I expected, even though it sounds exhausting to identify your deep intuitions about each and every item you own.

It turns out that my usual rational approach is actually more exhausting. I would always justify what I was getting rid of as defensively as if someone were judging me: this garment was uncomfortable, it was really old, I couldn’t breastfeed in it, it made me feel awful, it was wrong for the climate. I often did the same with things I kept. My justifications were fraught with buts that conveyed my conflicted feelings and guilt: It’s old and cheap, but I really love wearing it; it’s in good condition, but it doesn’t fit me. I always felt bad about discarding things, and even insecure about what I chose to keep, but I perpetuated this misery myself by constantly rationalising.

In contrast, the KonMari method relies on only one criterion for decision-making, and that is whether an item brings you joy, or not. You’re not even required to explore why you feel this way, unless you want to. And you certainly don’t have to explain it to anyone else. This not only makes decluttering move very quickly (as I murmured to myself, joy, joy, no joy…), but frees all kinds of energy to keep going.

I also learned that receiving joy from something does not require perfection, or even frequent use of the item. This is interesting to me because I’ve been curious for a while about the concept of a capsule wardrobe or a ‘minimalist’ wardrobe, whatever that may mean. These approaches tend to emphasise finding just the right items to make a versatile wardrobe, and emphasise wearing the same things over and over because you love them so much. I’ve always felt that something about this approach plays to my perfectionism in an unhealthy way, and hence never taken the plunge to try a capsule wardrobe. I now think I was right in this feeling. Some of my joy-sparking items aren’t things I wear frequently, or aren’t things that are in great condition or even that I would define as perfect. My white t-shirt is a bit pilled and faded, and I could imagine a better one, but I do really enjoy wearing it somehow. I also kept my kilt, purchased in Scotland years ago back when I did Scottish Country Dancing regularly and wore it for that purpose. I don’t ever wear it now, but the lovely wool (I love wool), the beautiful knife pleats, its heaviness and swing, the colours of the plaid, the Woolmark label inside, thrill me. So I kept it. It wouldn’t have a place in a capsule wardrobe (I don’t wear it) or a minimalist wardrobe (I don’t need it), but it can sit happily in a wardrobe of things I really love.

Sorting through my clothes also raised all kinds of unpleasant feelings, as I said in my previous post. I felt guilty about discarding certain things. I was dismayed that certain new things I bought after having Edith, to fit my ‘new figure’ (which I thought would be permanent), are now too big and don’t bring me joy. I discarded one item that Mike picked out for me, and had to go consult him to make sure he knew I wasn’t throwing away his love!!!! I discarded a pencil skirt that I used to wear at my first full-time job, and which was one of the first items I owned that made me feel absolutely, 100% fabulous. Oddly it’s too big now; was I bigger then or was my taste in fit just different? In any case, the memory of it sparked joy, but the skirt no longer did itself, because when I put it on it only failed to make me feel as good as it used to. Have I lost weight or just fallen out of love? This is perhaps the most surprising discovery of all; sometimes I’ve just fallen out of love. And that phenomenon isn’t about the things, but about myself. Most of my unpleasant feelings toward my clothes ultimately centred around growing older, changing, and not yet feeling comfortable or familiar with my new roles and tastes. 

At the end of this clothing category, I have a mixture of feelings, including a lot of relief and excitement to continue, as well as some anxiety. I think this process is much like beginning to clean some neglected area, where the first shifting of stuff just stirs up a bunch of dust, and everything seems worse than before you began. It’s odd that I didn’t realise before that my primary need to do all this sorting is, I think, emotional. We are okay in our space, not drowning in clutter or anything. But I feel compelled to do this because I myself need to do it.

The next category is books. BOOKS! Can you imagine discarding a book? Stay tuned for the results of that endeavour!

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