Decluttering and Unexpected Emotions.

When I begin my decluttering journey, it was more about the effort to find the things I need more quickly and not feeling as if I was drowning in “stuff”. How many times can one person trip over a laundry basket of “things to be sorted later” before they feel frustrated? (Answer: Once past ‘too many times’). Even the amount and assortment of clothing I had was starting to annoy me. (You can read about that here).

My pants drawer, before, when nothing was sorted or folded.

My pants drawer, before, when nothing was sorted or folded.

I took a test in a magazine that pointed out I am a “sentimental clutterer”. I keep things because, once upon a time anyway, they meant something to me or they were a gift. Even if they are broken. Even if I no longer need them or like them. The magazine pointed out, since I keep everything for sentimental reasons, the Konmari Method by Marie Kondo would suit me best.

If you are wondering what kind of clutter you acquire, I found a couple of good sites to look at:


Now that you know why you keep the clutter, you can get rid of it! Easy Peasy. Right? Wrong. It isn’t easy.

I’ve read Marie Kondo’s book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” twice now and have a firm handle on her philosophy. In fact, my copy is covered in post-it flags and highlighter! Her philosophy to keep those things that “spark joy” seemed easy enough. I started with clothes, as she instructs, and have finished my clothing. Books were next so I tackled those too. I am now emotionally exhausted and need a few days break.

Marie Kondo, or “Konmari”, recommends you pull out every item in the category and sort through it in one day. When I did my clothing: gathering everything from the basement, storage space,  closets and drawers my room looked like this:

Since I had donated stuff a few months before, it wasn’t as bad as it could have been, but it still seemed a daunting task. I chose to do the clothes sorting in two steps. 1- Find the things that “spark joy” and 2- work it down into a capsule wardrobe size. I used Caroline’s blog “Un-fancy” as my go-to guide, where she defines a capsule wardrobe like this:

“For Unfancy purposes, it’s a 37 piece wardrobe that includes tops, bottoms, dresses, outerwear, and shoes.”

This doesn’t include workout or swim wear, and I see now she has a special mini-capsule for special occasion wear. It is a wardrobe for 3 months, so you only have to plan for one season, and she encourages you to check weather trends to plan accordingly.

So with the idea that my wardrobe should be condensed AND spark joy, I went ahead. Clothes took me far longer than books, eating up a whole day. I carefully planned a bunch of outfits that could work with each other so I could mix and match. I pulled what I already had from my closet and set it aside, then made  a list of what I still needed, including the budget to buy it, in my printed out capsule wardrobe planner, which you can grab for free here.

Here is what I didn’t expect…..

I was emotionally exhausted by the end of the day. My wardrobe was FULL of pieces that had been gifts, had a memory attached or were hand-me-downs. I picked each article of clothing up and held it at eye level in the sunlight from my balcony doors and asked myself, “Does this spark joy? Do I smile when I think of wearing it again?”

If the answer was yes, that was easy. I carefully laid it to the side to fold later. If the answer was immediately a hard no, then it became harder. All of these emotions came flooding into me. If someone had given it to me, I felt like I was yelling at the person that I hated it and, therefore, them. Yeah, I need therapy. I put a lot more of myself, emotionally, then I needed to into each decision. Even when I kept in mind Konmari’s philosophy that the article of clothing had done its job for me if it didn’t spark joy, so to thank it and send it on its way to a life where someone would enjoy it, it was still hard. Every time I put a piece in the donation bag it felt as if I was crushing a memory, hurting someone’s feelings or being wasteful (even though most of it I didn’t realize I still had!).

I finished at supper time and could barely eat, I was so exhausted. It took a lot out of me. I had put the filled donation bags in the hallway and they sat there, like disagreeable lumps, judging me. I know, I need therapy. I didn’t expect so much EMOTION to be attached to my THINGS. I also didn’t expect thinning them out to bring them closer to 37 pieces to be so hard. (If you have slightly more than 37 pieces, as I do, that’s okay! We are not slaves to a number. But the goal is around 37). As I watched the size of the pile decrease, I actually got a little panicky. As my friend said, after she had reduced her wardrobe,

“I feel so much lighter. I feel a little nervous but really good.”

It’s those mixed emotions that are draining at first!

However, after I came back from eating to finish the job, I looked at the small pile of clothing and felt pride and, yes, joy. As I folded the pieces of clothing the “Konmari Way” to put back in my drawers, the ease of fitting them back in their spots and the extra space in my drawers gave me a little thrill. Everything I laid hands on and lovingly folded gave me joy and I found myself smiling and humming, excited to get dressed in the morning.

I donated my extra clothing the next day so I wouldn’t have a change of heart and unpack it all again, and I have never looked back. I did go and buy the rest of the pieces for my capsule wardrobe. Now, anything that is hard to mix and match goes in the donations bin, and I can work with the remaining pieces of clothing. My wardrobe works so well together, I could get dressed in the dark! It is also really fun to accessorize and dress up the outfits with scarves or hats. Doing my clothing in such a thorough way has helped immensely. I have more time in the morning, I have more pride in myself (which has led me to healthier choices), and I am more productive during the day.

For a helpful decluttering guide, from emotions to a how-to, I recommend this article: The Art of Tidying Up: A Complete Guide to a Decluttered Life.

Doing this isn’t for everyone, and I am warning you now, it is hard to do emotionally (or maybe that’s just me), but if you do try it, let me know how it goes!

Do you have a capsule wardrobe? Whose example did you follow?

If you have a capsule wardrobe, do you find it hard not to shop for 3 months?

What are your go-to staples?

Comment below! 

I can’t wait to model my new wardrobe for you. It is foggy and overcast and BRRR here today, but I will try to get some good shots on a sunnier day. 🙂 I am very excited about my “boring grown-up wardrobe” as teen me would say. Haha. Happy clothes sorting!

*Note: these thoughts are my own. I am not sponsored by either Marie Kondo or by Un-fancy, I just really like their thoughts. 🙂 *


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