In my last post, I explained how to get yourself in the best mindset for the KonMari process. If you've read that post and taken the tips on board, then you are ready to get started. Brace yourself—the fun is just beginning! First up: the CLOTHING category. This covers clothing, shoes, loungewear, outerwear, fitness/swimwear, accessories and jewelry.
(Be sure to pin this guide so you can refer back to it later!)
TABLE OF CONTENTS: QUICK LINKS
- How do I declutter and organize my clothing using the Konmari method?
- How long does it take to KonMari your clothing?
- How do I organize my clothing using the KonMari method?
- What clothing should you fold and what should you hang?
- How do you fold the Konmari way?
- What about my kids clothing? Should I bother to fold them the Konmari way?
- A word of caution: please avoid this trap
- Is our clothing still tidy?
How do I declutter and organize my clothing using the Konmari method?
The essence of the Konmari process is very simple: empty EVERYTHING out of your closets/dressers and dump it in one central place. (The bed makes most sense for this category.) Take each item one by one, and hold it. Ask yourself if it sparks joy. Are you excited about wearing it? If it's a HECK YES, then keep it. If it's a no, or a maybe, then put it aside to discard or donate. Keep working through the pile this way until you are finished. Try not to overthink decisions and move through the pile swiftly. When you decide to let go of things, cultivate a sense of gratitude for the item and the way it has served you in the past.
On our very first day of decluttering using the KonMari method, we tackled our own clothes which took the whole day. By the end of the day we had several large trash bags filled with donations, which surprised me, as I didn't think we had much to donate in the first place.
On the second day, we had the kids go through their clothing. On the whole, they were much better at being decisive than we were, although my eldest daughter wanted to hold onto things that I knew she had no intention of wearing. I encouraged them to only keep clothes they truly loved to wear, and at the end they each had around 10-15 outfits left. Since I do laundry once a week, this seemed like a pretty good number to land on.
During the process, I found that there were a few recurring feelings that slowed me down: the feeling that something was going to waste (items in good condition/items that I paid a lot of money for), and the feeling of guilt when getting rid of items that had been bought for me by other people. (This was especially true of the jewelry category.) I had to make a decision there and then to go with my gut. If I truly loved it, it stayed. Otherwise, it was gone. I told myself that items were better off being used by someone else than gathering dust in my closet. This was initially very hard, but the lightness I felt after completing the process and opening a drawer that wasn't stuffed full was addictive. This kind of momentum is key as it's what keeps you going through the process.
Side note: the funniest part of this process was finding out the day after the Big Purge that my husband had gotten rid of ALL of his socks. Apparently he liked none of them. I rescued him with an emergency trip to the store and the thought of it made me laugh for DAYS.
How long does it take to KonMari your clothing?
This largely depends on how much clothing you own, and how much internal resistance you face in discarding items. I mentioned in the last post that I used to be a very tidy packrat. I was under the impression that we had a pretty modest amount, but once it was in a pile on the bed it definitely felt overwhelming. (I think the shock factor helps you let go of things and make hard decisions.)
In total we spent three days on this category—one day on our clothing, one day on the girls' clothing (including their baby clothes) and one day folding and organizing, plus finding new homes for our donation pile.
How do I organize my clothing using the KonMari method?
Organizing clothing the KonMari way basically boils down to learning the skill of file folding. She advises storing most items of clothing in a dresser rather than on hangers, as you can store things more efficiently and use up less storage space than hanging everything.
Marie Kondo doesn't see the need for clothes organizers. She believes that if you purge first and learn the basics of folding, you shouldn't need any kind of special organizer. That being said, she does suggest using simple boxes for smaller or flimsy items that don't stand up well by themselves. My favorite boxes are the IKEA STUK boxes because they are nice and shallow which works well in my dresser. I also like that it has divided compartments. If you don't want to purchase anything, then a small cardboard box will work perfectly fine!
The other direction she gives for organizing clothing is arranging it from heavy/dark to light and rising from left to right. There's a little bit of intuition involved in this step. I guess the reasoning is that it's more aesthetically pleasing this way—and this whole process is about arranging your belongings in a way that brings joy. I was skeptical, but I have to say it does feel pretty good.
What clothing should you fold and what should you hang?
If an item will fold neatly into a rectangle and stand up by itself (think T-shirts, jeans, pyjamas, sweaters, socks...) then fold it. If it doesn't fold easily (eg. button down shirts, flowy dresses, blazers) then hang it. The exception I found to this rule is workout clothing—because of the fabric it's hard to get these items to stand up, so I use the IKEA boxes to keep it in order.
We happen to have the tiniest closet in the USA, so folding most of our clothing works really well for us. The only items hanging in our closet are shoes, dresses, button down shirts and formal wear. Oh, and yoga mats.
How do you fold the Konmari way?
Well, this is an entire blog post in itself! I watched many YouTube videos to get me started, but the truth is (and I know it's annoying to hear) that you will figure it out as you go, and find out what works best for your clothing. Months on, I don't even think about how I'm going to fold items—it's habit. I know that my husband's shirts work best with a fold in half and then thirds, whereas the girls' T-shirts require a slightly different ratio to get them to stand up.
Finding that sweet spot that works for your clothing AND your storage space takes time to figure out, and there isn't really a shortcut except for trying different folds yourself. But I will say that it's worth persevering as it's a great feeling to open a drawer of perfectly file folded clothing. It doesn't get old!
To keep things concise and on track, I'm not including a folding guide in this post, but there are plenty of detailed and helpful resources available. Abby Lawson has a very comprehensive folding guide on her blog, and "Spark Joy" by Marie Kondo—the follow up to "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up"—features step-by-step folding instructions and answers to FAQs about the KonMari process. It's a good place to dig in and get more detailed information about how the method works out in practice.
What about my kids clothing? Should I bother to fold them the Konmari way?
I follow the same method of organizing for my kids' clothing as I do for my own clothes. The only caveat to this is that their closet has some stored clothing in it—a few boxes of outgrown/too big clothing on the top shelf to switch in and out as needed. I store these from smallest to biggest sizes going left to right. My previous method was vacuum-sealed bags absolutely STUFFED full of everything my kids had ever worn. It was always very annoying to find the right bag, and I used no discretion when holding onto items for the future. Now I keep a smaller selection of clothing for my younger child and donate the rest, knowing that she's likely to want to pick out a few outfits of her own or will acquire things for her birthday to bolster her wardrobe when the time comes.
Some people probably think I'm crazy for taking the time to file fold my kids clothing. But here's the thing—it doesn't take me that long now that I've been doing it for a while. And I think it actually helps my kids keep their clothes neater—they can see everything at once rather than having to dig around in the drawer, and it also helps me see what they have and what they need. My kids definitely have a pretty minimal wardrobe after this process, but it's full of things they actually wear, rather than items that have been bought as a gift or on a whim and don't ever see the light of day.
A word of caution: please avoid this trap
The big mistake we made that almost derailed our entire KonMari journey was that we included the teeny baby clothes that our children had outgrown as part of the clothing category. This, in fact, should have gone into the "sentimental" category which comes last, as you work through categories from easy to difficult. It was REALLY hard being faced with those kinds of choices so early on in the process, and I think we would have breezed through this category if it hadn't been for this mishap. Luckily it didn't matter in the long run, but I wanted to highlight it just in case you have the same issue come up. Save those tiny babygrows for the sentimental category, and thank me later.
Despite tackling some sentimental items too early in the KonMari process, I did learn that the world still keeps on turning when you let go of things with meaning. And I will also tell you this: up until this moment, I haven't really given those tiny clothes a second thought. It doesn't keep me up at night. And when I see the girls' closet with space and room to breathe, it brings me joy.
Is our clothing still tidy now?
Nine months on I can say that these changes have definitely "stuck" and my closet line-up really hasn't changed a lot. I do laundry once a week and wear most of my clothing regularly, and I feel more confident in my style and what I like. If I go shopping, I'm a lot more picky than I used to be. I have to really LOVE an item to purchase it, and I have a mental image of whether it will fit well with what I already own, or whether it would get left hanging in the closet. I guess I've ended up with a capsule wardrobe without really trying to achieve that.
I no longer stress about the girls' clothing and whether they have enough because I can see it all at once, and the once-dreaded task of switching clothes out for bigger sizes is not a big deal at all. Buh-bye vacuum sealed bags.
The amount of clothing we own now matches the size of our storage, and gone are the days of stuffing and packing too much in. I've learned that I can live with less and I prefer fewer higher quality items over a higher quantity of cheap buys. This has given me a lot of mental freedom that I never knew I needed! I'm also very quick to let go of gifted items, or pieces I know aren't my style, rather than letting them take up valuable space in my home.
Coming up in the next post is BOOKS—stay tuned!
Catch up on other posts in the series:
KonMari Part One: 10 Tips to Prepare You for KonMari Success
KonMari Part Three: How to Declutter & Organize Books