I’ve always considered myself an organized, relatively clutter-free person. I love to clean, and I never leave stuff laying around. Then I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, and realized I was living in a fool’s paradise. My clutter was simply hidden away in drawers and behind cabinet doors. I had boxes of stuff I never used in my closet and under my bed. Essentially, my whole life was a lie.
Once my eyes were open to my flaws, I couldn’t continue living that way. I grabbed Marie Kondo’s book and started attacking the clutter.
The Paper Clutter
First, I went after my excessively-saved paperwork. As a writer, I kept every paper I ever penned in college. As an organized, prepared person, I kept every user manual, pay stub, insurance pamphlet, and semi-important-looking document that crossed my path. Do I ever look at any of these things? No. If I’m being honest, I rarely even read the stuff my health insurance company mails me.
In her book, Marie says to throw paperwork away once it’s been handled. The only paperwork she says you really need to keep are your birth certificates, passports, death certificates, and leases. Pay stubs don’t need to be saved. User manuals don’t need to be kept just in case.
Well, if Marie says it, I believe it. I went through all of my “important” documents and tossed pretty much everything. I had kept all of my paper drafts from college, and even though nostalgia and pride told me to keep them, I sent them to the trash. In this technological age, I’ve got all of the writing I need saved on a flash drive. Those revisions aren’t going to help me out in the future. Old magazines, school notebooks, and research materials also headed out the door. In all the years I’ve kept them on the shelves, I’ve never once looked at any of them.
Aside from the actually important paperwork, I did keep a few other things. Namely, my old notebooks full of short stories and various other writing. These were my first foray into the fiction world, and even though they all suck, I don’t want them in the trash to be forgotten forever. Plus, you never know when one of those old ideas might suddenly be appealing and lead me to my next great story. Those stay. I also kept my old journals and planners because these have sentimental value for me. When I’m older, I’ll be just as likely to go through those as I am old photographs.
My bottom bookshelf is now mostly clear. The two document holders were overflowing before I started, and now they’re both barely holding anything. The whole little space looks less forlorn and overworked. Overall, it looks like my bookcase can breathe again.
The Desk Clutter
I rarely ever open the drawers at my work desk. Most days, I just set things on top of my desk and keep that mess under control. So I’m not entirely sure how it happened, but when I decided to “check” my desk drawers for clutter I didn’t actually think there would be anything to declutter.
I was wrong. So, so painfully wrong. Somehow without realizing it, my drawers had become a distant cousin to the elephant graveyard in The Lion King. There was all kinds of “dead” stuff in there.
I found two Ziplock bags of almonds, a small tupperware of honey, a bottle of honey, a bottle of agave syrup, a single packet of popcorn, one peppermint tea bag, a box of green tea, multiple birthday decorating items, a snuggie, my old, defunct office badge, several post it notes bearing random quotes I once found inspirational, a clown nose, a stress ball, and countless bobby pins. What. Is. My. Life.
Alright, I thought. Let’s KonMari this bitch. I grabbed my trash can and tossed out all of the Post-It Notes, the clown nose, the random pieces of paper, and everything else that neither sparked joy nor served a purpose. Naturally, I saved the bobby pins (those things are important), the food and tea, and the birthday decorations.
Once the toss or keep portion was done, I reorganized and consolidated. A few food items I placed in the kitchen for others to eat, an empty notebook went to the supply closet, and all edible items and useful office supplies went in the top drawer while my snuggie and decorations went in the bottom.
Now my drawers are truly clutter-free and only full of the items I actually use on a weekly basis. What? You don’t wear a snuggie at your desk once a week?
The Clutter I Didn’t Know Existed
Before learning the KonMari method, I genuinely thought I lived a clutter-free life. However, thinking of my possessions in terms of categories rather than by space illuminated the fact I had random items hidden away in “drunk drawers” (So named because it sounds funny, and drunk people don’t make any more sense than junk found around the house) and miscellaneous boxes and cabinets. I wasn’t anywhere near as minimalist as I believed I was.
I started this portion of decluttering by addressing my drunk drawers. I assumed every home was meant to have a junk/drunk drawer, but looking at everything through the KonMari lense showed me the error of my beliefs. I had junk hiding everywhere. Once I noticed it, I couldn’t let it be.
I started with the drunk drawers in my kitchen. One drawer was intended to hold tech stuff and office items because I didn’t have a desk when I moved in. The other drawer was supposed to be for my clean eating recipe book and miscellaneous cooking utensils. They ended up holding a hodge podge of everything I had no idea what to do with.
Aside from the drunk drawers, I also had two junk shelves that held every item I had nowhere to put. Since my grandparents passed away this past year, I had acquired so many random items I had given them over the years that I legitimately had no space for them in my small apartment. They also made me sad, so they were hidden on the bottom shelves of my pantry. Nonetheless, the clutter had to be handled.
I tackled it all in the same way as the other problem areas. However, there was more sentimental value with this clutter. I kept all of the stuff I got from my grandparents’ homes, but made sure to toss a lot of the crafty tools I’d been holding onto. Every single random pen I had been saving for the future went to the trash. Several random charge cords were tossed. The old coupons I had forgotten about were also dismissed.
If I didn’t really need it or have emotional attachment to it, I made like Elsa and let it go. I still have stuff in those drawers and cabinets, but it’s not nearly as packed as it was. I actually found several items that should have been stored with other like items, like some books and planners.
The Car Clutter
My car is small. Well, the inside is small. I have a Camaro, so my storage space is almost nonexistent. My center console is smaller than most of my clutches, and my trunk isn’t even large enough to hold my suitcase. It’s a beauty, but it’s not functional. Due to the lack of space, I didn’t believe it’d be possible for there to be clutter hiding in it. I mean, when you can touch all four walls from the driver’s seat, there’s really nowhere for junk to hide, right?
Apparently I’ve never paid attention to the items in my car. My glove compartment held the CD case I’ve had since I was 12 (every CD I ever listened to included), my car manual, some drawings from my nieces, and an envelope containing every single insurance slip I’ve ever had—dating all the way back to 2007 when I started driving. I didn’t even have my Camaro when I started driving.
Needless to say, Marie Kondo would be displeased. The useless insurance slips were tossed. My CD case was also thrown away. I don’t even know that I’ve played a single one of those CDs in the last three years. Obviously they aren’t sparking joy in my heart. I also tossed my nieces’ crafts, simply because there’s no need in keeping them. I’d rather have a photo of them than a scribbled drawing.
Then I moved on to the teeny tiny center console. In general, I think I did a solid job keeping this area under control. All I found was a pair of sunglasses I like to wear, an old makeup compact, a pen, my extra phone cord, and a cloth to clean my sunglasses. The compact went to the trash. Everything else stayed.
As far as my trunk went, I’ve always used it to hold the essentials. My extra umbrella, fix-a-flat, a tire pump, two towels, and my car cover. These things don’t spark joy, but they are pretty necessary in a driving crisis. There was no way I was tossing my emergency items out.
My car wasn’t quite the appalling situation it could have been, but it certainly didn’t pass with flying colors. I’m happy to have some of the clutter gone though. With such limited space, I can’t afford to spare it on non-essential items.
And just like that, the KonMari method opened my eyes to the world I was really living in and brought me through to the other side. I’m not saying there isn’t more clutter lurking around here somewhere, but there’s way less. It’s a start at the very least—and hey, now I’ve got more shelf space in my kitchen.