The bliss of letting go (our simplicity journey continues)

As some of you long-timers will recall, I've been on a simplicity kick over here since almost forever. A post I shared back in 2010 lit a spark in many of you and we walked this path together, letting go of the excess wherever we could.

I've written extensively about our simplicity journey.

There was this and this; this then this – oh, also this and – (I could keep going, but I'll stop for your sake). And every time I felt so accomplished – I felt like I was finally winning – as truckload after truckload of excess left our lives.

And yet.

Five years after beginning this journey somehow we're still buried. I haven't even come close to winning this game.

The bliss of letting go: our simplicity journey continues

Several of you recently recommended the book "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up" (or the KonMari Method). I reserved a copy from our library months ago, and it came in on Friday. I devoured most of it the first night.

And Lupine (in particular) was fascinated.

She asked me to read a bit of it aloud to her, and then proclaimed with enthusiasm, "I want to go first! Can we do my stuff tomorrow?"

Um, okay.

Saturday morning I heard her feet padding down the stairs, earlier than usual.

"Can we do my clothes now, mama? I want to start now!"

Intuitively, she knew. This was big, important work. And the sort of work that brings positive change. Why wait?

The bliss of letting go: our simplicity journey continues

The bliss of letting go: our simplicity journey continues

The KonMari Method differs from other organizational plans in the very first step. Because you must begin by gathering everything (in the category you are working with) from everywhere in your life. Every box, every closet, ever storage unit.

All the clothes.

All the shoes.

All the books.

All the toys.

For our project that meant digging through a few bags and totes in the barn and in the basement and hauling them – along with the contents of Lupine's (always undersized) dresser into the living room.

I have never done this before. Because dragging a little red wagon piled with clothes across the ice on a sub-zero day? No thanks.

We did it anyway.

We even checked the washer.

Every piece of her clothing from every corner of our world. Summer, winter, too big, too small.

Everything. Onto the floor.

The bliss of letting go: our simplicity journey continues

The bliss of letting go: our simplicity journey continues


It was humbling.

For all of our goals of simplicity, there we were standing in a knee-deep pile of clothing for one small, nine-year-old human. And while this is all of her clothing in every size and season, it's still a lot. And perhaps that's part of the point of KonMari. To see more clearly what surrounds you. To get real about what you have, and then make a mindful choice about what to do about it.

So we set to work.

The bliss of letting go: our simplicity journey contiues

The next place KoMari differs from other organizational strategies was the best part for Lupine and I. Because the criteria for keeping things? Joy.

Does this item bring you joy? Yes, it stays. No, it goes. Obligation, guilt, "but I wore it yesterday"? All of that went out the window.

And she purged, and she purged, and she purged.

Some items she'd clutch to her chest, a dreamy look in her eyes before tossing them into the "stay" pile, others that she had resisted letting go of just a few weeks ago were tossed without a second thought into the "bye bye bag".

Item after item until the pile was gone.

The bliss of letting go: our simplicity journey continues

The bliss of letting go: our simplicity journey continues

For every item Lupine joyfully chose to keep five or six were tossed into the donations bag.

By lunchtime all of her (neatly folded) clothes fit into one small laundry basket that she could lift herself while I could barely heft the donations bag off the ground.

Sage walked into the room twice during our KonMari process: once as we began our journey, a mountain of clothes piled high on the floor, and once just after we finished folding. He remarked on what he saw both times.

First: "Whoa. Why does she have so many clothes?" Followed two hours later by: "Whoa. Why does she have so few clothes?"

The difference was profound.

The bliss of letting go: our simplicity journey continues

And what she chose to keep, completely on her own, is perfectly enough. Though I offered no guidance or suggestions, she kept just what she needs. A few pairs of pants and skirts, a few shirts of each sleeve length, a swimming suit, her favorite pjs, socks that don't bunch up when she wears them.

Only things she loves.

In the end, everything she owns for every season fits in her small dresser. The same dresser that just last year was too small to hold her summer things alone.

And when she woke on Sunday morning what was the first thing she said?

No, nothing of regret, not questioning, nto "can I dig through the bag for that one pair of jeans". No. Instead she asked,

"Mama, can we do my shoes and accessories today?"

I think we've found our plan.

The bliss of letting go: our simplicity journey continues

A few of thoughts in closing (because I can feel the questions coming already!):

What if you need it but don't love it?

KonMari would probably say let it go and replace it with something you do love. However we took a different approach that feels good to us. Our criteria on these items was: How will it feel to have an item you truly need instead of none? (Snowpants or a rain coat or wool socks for example)? Joyful.

So no, if she didn't like her coat we would not have let it go just because it didn't spark joy. Because being warm on a sub zero day is the close enough to joy in my book.

What about sustainability?

Isn't this environmentally troubling? To get rid of all this stuff just becasue it doesn't bring you joy?

KonMari has been criticized for unsustainablity. "Get rid of what you don't love and replace it with things that you do!" some people say. But really, is that the message?

I believe there is a deeper sustainability lesson to be found during this process, which is about filtering what we say "yes" to in the first place. Lupine and I talked about this as we dug through the pile. And even at nine it made perfect sense to her.

Every item in the pile was something we had said "yes" to once. And we need to be more selective with what we say "yes" to.

Even hand-me-downs. Even from the thrift store.

So am I replacing my worn out couch that no longer sparks joy for me? No, I am not. But by thinning down my other belongings to those that bring joy might just inspire me to mend, clean, and spruce up the couch that I already have.

I want to keep more clothes than that.

Great! Then do. It's all about joy, and your joy and mine won't happen at the same frequency.

Remember, just like parenting, our bodies, our finances, or our lives in general, comparison isn't helping anything. You are on your journey and I am on mine. Do they need to look the same? Of course not. That wouldn't be any fun for anyone.

Did you sing "Let it Go" the entire time you were doing this?

Sadly, no.

Epic parenting fail.



11 thoughts on “The bliss of letting go (our simplicity journey continues)

  1. Jeanette says:

    I’ve been on this path at our home…with and without the rest of the family…for a couple years. It seems to come in stages and like you I purged and purged only to come back and purge again later. About 6 months ago I got the KonMari book and it helped me tremendously to take the last final steps. Especially with “letting go” of things because it was a gift or because I paid money for it *gasp*. Over time we have pared our home down to things we truly love and cherish and its really opened up doors for us! We do more…read more..craft more…discover more. Its amazing and refreshing! The key though is not bringing in what you don’t love. I’ve stopped shopping,even at thrift stores, unless theres something I am specifically looking for. I don’t want to bring things in to my home that I have to haul out later. That has made a world of difference.This message applies to so many facets of life, even my knitting. I now only knit items I truly love and will wear and that are useful and beautiful to me. I love the look on Lupine’s face and the fact that she get’s the message at such a young age. bravo! What a gift!

  2. Rachel Wolf says:

    Yes and yes! Lupine and I talked about what was at the heart of that big pile of clothing and we realized it all came down to saying “yes” too often. I love the knitting message you shared, too. There was an abundance of hand-knits that ended up in that bye-bye bag!

  3. Lotta says:

    I’ve been Kondoing too! Clothes and several other categories are done. Still a few to go, but it feels great. And the easiest way of letting things go that I’ve ever discovered. The other thing that strikes me is that whatever criticisms there are of this method, in reality it is all about joy, and the world needs more joyful people. Joyful people tend to bring about positive change in the world, rather than contributing to the negative. It reminds me of this quote:
    “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” – Howard Thurman.

  4. Rachel A. says:

    That’s great progress! We’re working on this at our home, too. I was quite excited to finally get our kids’ non-school clothes (they wear uniforms) to fit in their dresser drawers.

    I’m currently reading Marie Kondo’s second book “Spark Joy” and she actually has a chapter called “For essential things that don’t bring joy, look at what they do for you” where she says “The point is this: the things we need definitely make our lives happier. Therefore, we should treat them as things that bring us joy.”

  5. Rachel A. says:

    (I just thought you’d like to know that she actually agrees with your approach of keeping needed things, like a warm coat or snowpants.) 🙂

  6. Amanda M. says:

    This is wonderful. I am perhaps too practical for the idea of “brings you joy” — I like how you also thought of things you might need.
    I aspire to this quote:
    “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”
    ― William Morris
    And now, I feel the urge to go through my sock drawer(s).

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