Are you messy? Disheveled? Constantly contending with overflowing drawers and chaotic closets? Marie Kondo wants to help. If you’ve not heard of her, she’s a Japanese woman who wrote a book entitled The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. People are paying attention to this book because it combines boring old organizing with a healthy dose of complete insanity. Plenty of organizational experts will tell you to throw out your old clothes. But only Marie Kondo encourages you to commune with them on a deeper spiritual level before hucking them in the Goodwill bag. And in terms of devotion to material minimalism, Marie Kondo makes the High Sparrow look like Imelda Marcos.
Kondo’s method, branded KonMari, encompasses more than just clothes. It’s meant to help you get your entire life in order via a ruthless (and ongoing) purge of extraneous items. But you start with clothes. I know this because I read a bunch of book reviews before downloading the new step-by-step app. I didn’t actually buy the book, though, because then I’d just have another book to get rid of.
Between the app and my methodological Dumpster-dive, I piece together a sort of KonMari 101. You dump all your clothes in a pile, then pick up each item and take a moment to decide whether it sparks joy. If it doesn’t, you thank it for the good times and then ditch it. The stuff you keep gets folded according to a technique that renders your shirts about the size of an index card. Now you’re on your way to making order from anarchy, raging against the entropy of your sock drawer.
I fire up the app and learn that Step 1 is to take a “before” photo of all your clothes. Only after piling my entire wardrobe on my bed do I realize that this should really be Step 2. Step 1 is to not put your phone on the bed before you bury it in a mountain of clothes.
As I’m forced to ponder each individual item, sartorial revelations pour forth. For instance, I guess I hate pockets on the front of button-downs. I’d never really thought about it, but the shirt pocket presents a kind of distracting asymmetry. And it’s functionally useless, because I’m not carrying pens for my job at NASA in 1965. Thus the shirt pocket is ornamental, and is there a lamer form of frippery than a shirt pocket? If your shirt has 15 pockets, you’re owning it (see Michael Jackson; zippers). If it only has one, there’s something sad about that. Like it’s there to hold your list of friends, but you don’t have any.
I’m also done with boxers, if for no other reason than because boxers and shorts are a risky combo. Speaking of risk, I also jettison the tighty-whities that I bought for a last-minute “Tom Cruise in Risky Business” Halloween costume. Confronted by the entirety of my wardrobe, I’d estimate that roughly 30 percent of it falls under the category of “potential Halloween costume.” The one item that actually is a costume—a spacesuit with a fake butt sticking out the back and a nametag that says “Captain Bud Tocks”—goes back in the closet. There’s always room for you in my life, Captain Tocks.
But not for the disturbing foot gloves known as Vibram FiveFingers. Nor for a pair of Levi’s with a strange wash that I’d describe as “rivulets of 2003” (though I do get a nice charge out of finding $8 in the pocket). And see ya later, Skechers that somehow make me feel like Boris Karloff. Arrrr! Put down your pitchforks, villagers! These shoes are just really square or have too much padding or something!
I also ditch the perfectly broken-in college sweatshirt that my friend Elliot gave me a few years ago. When he handed it over, he said, “I got this from my neighbor.” I was about to thank him for this thoughtful gift when he added, “Who just died.” Sayonara, haunted hoodie.
While the Goodwill pile grows ever higher, there are certain items that I keep even though cold rationality says to move on. For example, there’s an H&M hooded pullover that I’ve always envisioned wearing while having cocktails with my friends Chad and Claudia. But it’s never going to happen. I don’t have friends named Chad and Claudia. But the idea of that brings me joy, so I KonMari that sucker into a tight little square and place it behind the velvet rope of the keeper area.
By the time I’m finished, the reject heap dwarfs my severely edited stack of crispy folded clothes. My wife, Heather, walks in and points out that the shirt I’m wearing has a stain on the sleeve that bothers her every time she sees me wear it, so I triumphantly pull off the offending garment and toss it.
It’s exciting, this KonMari purge. We decide to head out for dinner to celebrate. I open my dresser and realize I’ve got nothing to wear.