Like everyone else with a Netflix account, I was enthralled with the show Tidying Up when it was released in January. I have heard of the KonMari method of simplifying your life by only keeping items that “spark joy” but, truth be told, it seemed kind of silly to me until I watched the show. For some reason, it really resonated. I’ve been wanting to simplify for quite a while and have been trying for about a year to make small changes here and there, but I felt very convicted about it this time. I jumped in with both feet and haven’t looked back.
This method is about finding the things in your life that bring you a sense of peace and letting go of stuff that is only adding to the chaos. Plus being grateful for what you have. It’s the gratitude aspect that resonated with me the most. I love the idea of clearing out all of the excess so we can breathe, having more free time, more money, and instilling a deeper sense of gratitude and pride of ownership in our kids.
Minimalism is a huge lifestyle change and it won’t happen overnight. This post is long because there is so much to share! I’ve been slowly working toward this change for several months, but I was overwhelmed and not really sure how to do it with 5 school-aged kids who all have their own opinions about their toys and clothes. This is where KonMari has been a big help for me. I really am enjoying having an outline of exactly how to proceed. We’ve been slowly decluttering over the past year, but going about downsizing in a more organized way following the KonMari method for about a month.
Am I finished? Not even close. I’ve done several areas of our home, but I expect this process to take a minimum of six more months before we’ve completed most of the steps. I wanted to show you everything I was able to accomplish in the first 30 days.
In Month 1 of KonMari:
As recommended, I started with my own clothes. I’ve been paring down my clothes for about a year, so this really didn’t take me very long. Maybe two hours? The biggest eye-opener for me was the new folding method. I seriously could not believe what a HUGE difference it made. I truly will never, ever go back to folding any other way.
My tee shirt drawer went from this…
I couldn’t believe how much more space I had and how much more organized it felt to be able to see everything I own!
I ended up doing all of the kids’ clothes as well, and they LOVED learning how to fold this way. I know that sounds crazy, but I’m not kidding. They used to be so overwhelmed with the idea of putting away their own laundry, plus because they had too much, the drawers were stuffed full and hard for little hands to operate. But now every single one of the kids feels confident they know how to put their own laundry away, the clothes fit easily in the drawers, and there is a lot less fighting about chores. I also love being able to see all of their things at once because it’s much easier to tell who needs what, like if one child only has one long-sleeved shirt. Or if there is too much. No one needs 17 pairs of leggings.
Eddie did his own clothes as well.
Then I tackled the clothes in our closets, including the coat closet. (I haven’t gotten to mementos we store in the closets.)
I ended up with several bags for donations, some trash, and a bag to go to consignment.
I was truly terrible at this category, but in my defense books are the one thing I love to collect and I’m 100% fine with owning an entire library. It makes me happy. I did manage one box of books to give away.
I was amazed that we had so many extra sheets and blankets, to be honest. I gave away multiple bags of donations from our master linen closet, and I haven’t even touched the kids’ sets yet. I had new sheets in their original packaging that we hadn’t opened for years (plural). Why do we hang on to that stuff when someone else could actually be using it? Seeing how much excess we truly had really made it start to hit home how irresponsible it is to be hanging on to so much stuff. It’s a huge waste of resources, both monetarily and environmentally, and it’s a bad habit to teach our children. There is absolutely no reason I need five sets of sheets or eight blankets for every bed in this house.
I also found a pillow insert hiding in my linen closet. I had no idea I had it and I was kicking myself because less than a week prior I had purchased a pillow insert in that exact size, not realizing I already owned one. How many times do we buy something we don’t really need just because we aren’t organized enough to know what we have available? It’s pretty dumb.
We still have a lot of toys, but I’m at least starting to get a handle on them. Our game closet was ridiculous. Don’t ask me why I had four different versions of Trivial Pursuit and even more versions of Scene It? I was able to donate almost 30 games and puzzles to a local classroom and our closet went from this…
We still probably have too much, but it’s an improvement and we love board games and use them constantly, so I’m cool with it.
We started making progress on the toy category, but we will be working on it for a loooong time. The good news is that our kids have been really receptive to the change. I worried they would struggle, especially our children who came to us out of foster care, because they can form very strong attachments to things that remind them of previous relationships.
I have not forced any of our kids to let go of anything, and I won’t do that. If they want to keep something, they keep it. But as parents we generally know what they use most often. Eddie and I are trying to model the behavior ourselves, and often they do follow along. Sometimes we do get a bit sneaky and put together a bin of things we haven’t seen them use for a while. We do it while they’re sleeping and hide the box in the garage. (Six months ago, before KonMari, we put several boxes of old toys in the garage. Not once in six months did any child ask for a single thing we’d packed away. So this month we donated them.)
But they notice us clearing out our own things and start to do the same. Our girls actually started putting together a few boxes of donations on their own while they straightened their room last weekend. And Nicholas asked us to give away a lot of his LEGOs. Surprisingly, this was the hardest thing so far for me out of everything. I was hesitant to do it because he LOVES his LEGOs. I mean he LOVES them. And I felt very, very, very guilty because I know how expensive they are and how generous people have been to gift us with very expensive sets. But I’m not kidding when I say he sat on his bedroom floor in tears one day because he had dumped out too many from the bin and the thought of having to clean up literally thousands of miniature pieces was just too overwhelming. He was crying “There are just too many. I can’t do this!” and in a full and complete melt-down. We realized what a disservice it was to him to have too much, so we asked him to move the ones he wanted to keep to a smaller bin.
We helped, but he told us which ones and how many he wanted to keep. We ended up with this many. We tried to keep rectangular pieces in the classic shapes, so he could use them to build whatever his imagination wants to create. He is SO much happier being able to see what he wants, and not having to spend hours cleaning up.
We are passing a large bin (actually more because we’d already done several smaller LEGO purges earlier in the year) to another family and so far he seems to have no regrets. Giving away the more expensive toys we’d accumulated seemed to sting me much more than it did him. If I’m being honest, I’m still upset by the idea that grandparents will read this post and be mad at me for giving away expensive gifts. But we are in a stage of life where we have to do whatever we can to reduce stress and this is the right choice for our family.
I really thought that when we got rid of their toys the kids would rebel or resent it, but exactly the opposite happened. I read that on just about every post about minimalism, but it was hard for me to believe our kids would like it until I saw it myself. It’s true. Period. Hands down. They prefer it. This was shocking and eye-opening for me.
We got rid of so many toys that only served one purpose or were complicated, noisy, or duplicates of other things we had. (We did not need 20 Barbies when 5 is fine.) I tried to keep things that spark imagination. One thing that was really interesting: Eddie and I disagreed about keeping the Lincoln Logs. Our kids had truly never used them so Eddie wanted them to go, which was totally fair. But I wanted to keep them because they are high-quality and spark imagination. My new criteria for toys is “Can we use this without electricity or batteries, and will I be able to keep it long enough to use with my grandchildren?” (The answer for most plastic, noisy toys is no. Obviously there are exceptions, like their game systems or tablets.) This also might be why it hurt so bad to give away so many LEGOs, which do fit that criteria. Anyway, We decided to keep the Lincoln Logs for a while. Wouldn’t you know it, the kids never once asked for any of the toys we gave away, but the Lincoln Logs they had never even noticed became a new favorite.
The less they have, the better the kids seem to play both together and independently, and the more they respect and use each item they own. Plus the house stays cleaner, which is a huge bonus.
We sold some furniture that was cluttering up the garage and listed a few other things on eBay and the local Mom Swap. We ended up making almost $300 this month.
We had sooo much we were storing for “one day,” like this still-in-the-box serger sewing machine my mom gave me for my birthday TEN YEARS AGO. I hated selling it, because I really do want to learn how to use a serger one day, but the truth is I almost never take time to sew at this stage of my life and, well, it had been sitting in a closet for TEN YEARS untouched. That’s pretty ridiculous. I also felt guilty because these machines are expensive and it was such a thoughtful gift from my mom. But we ended up being able to get a very nice price for it on eBay, and we put all the money we made into a fund where we are saving to go on vacation next summer. It’s been much more useful funding a ticket to Disney World for a day than it was sitting in my closet for all that time.
I also realized how much stuff we had sitting around wasting space just because I’d never taken the time to get rid of it, like winter hats and gloves in toddler sizes, too small for any of our kids. That made me feel really guilty, actually, because here we are in the middle of a polar vortex and I’m just hoarding stuff for absolutely no reason other than my own laziness when there are kids out there who really need it.
The money we made from selling things also freed us up to be more charitable. I was able to use some of the money we made to donate to a friend who recently discovered one of her students is homeless and was collecting to buy winter items and toiletries.
Once you get on a roll, you find yourself doing various little jobs you always meant to get around to doing, but never did. For example, I cleaned out my makeup bag and got rid of our expired medicines.
Plus it serves to highlight how much money we’ve been wasting on stuff that is mostly just extra. Our kids do not need twenty t-shirts each. They can’t even wear that many in two weeks. We could have saved $100 and taken our family out for an amazing experience rather than spend it on stuff we don’t need that is eventually going to end up in landfills. It’s also made me even more environmentally conscious, and other than socks and underwear, lately I haven’t done much shopping, but when I do I have only purchased “new” items from consignment shops. (Like when one of our daughters broke the zipper on her winter coat and needed a new one. I found a used coat in like-new condition for $7 and supported a local business at the same time, while recycling.)
In all, in the first 30 days we cleared out:
21 boxes and bags for donations
Several pieces of furniture
1 bag to consignment
4 bags of trash (at least)
And in the process we cleared out:
Seven people’s dressers and hanging clothes
Our coat closet
One linen closet
Winter gear (hats, gloves, scarves, etc.)
Mater Bathroom cabinets
Toys and Games (first pass)
Our Master Bedroom (first pass)
Purses and Bags
We are nowhere close to finished or anywhere near truly minimalist yet, but decluttering seems so much less overwhelming to me than it did even a month ago. I notice I’m starting to be more grateful for the things we own and take better care of them by actually mending clothes or doing the dishes right away after a meal. I’ve started making my bed in the mornings for the first time in years. And it takes less time to straighten our house.
Other than having to confront feelings like guilt and our own wastefulness, there really have not been any cons so far. If anything, it really makes you come face-to-face with your own privilege to be living a life where having too much is stressful. (Where are our tiny violins?)
I love the changes we are seeing already and I cannot wait to keep going!
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