A Therapeutic Approach to Closet Cleaning That Actually Works

Every year when spring rolls around, we pledge to tackle our overflowing closets once and for all. We envision ourselves finally getting rid of every last item that we know, deep down, we’ll never actually wear. But these fantasies rarely match up to reality, which usually finds us second-guessing our “goodbye” piles until we’ve racked up artful justifications for keeping most pieces. The imagination is not our friend here, as it convinces us that costume parties and elaborate are about to become a regular part of our lives. Memories don’t help either, as they can make letting go of the simplest things feel downright heavy. In the words of relationship therapists everywhere, we are too attached.

But a new method of closet cleaning, developed by the Japanese professional organiser Marie Kondo, might be the first solution worth it’s hype. Kondo, the author of The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, is everywhere these days, and with good reason. Her book seems to have a magical effect on even the least tidy people out there, causing near-hoarders to suddenly purge their entire homes. The fashion world was immediately intrigued, and one of our very own founders, Hillary Kerr, attested to spending one full weekend Kondo’ing her closet.

So what differentiates this self-help tome from the rest? Well, as Kondo sees it, cleaning house is a lot like therapy. She believes that the things we hold onto are a reflection of our inner lives, and that the items themselves contribute to our happiness or lack thereof. Sound kooky? Well, stay with us and you’ll be a Kon-vert in no time.

Scroll down to read our 6 essential guidelines for closet cleaning from Marie Kondo.

This is Kondo's most important step. It requires that you take each and every item in your hands and ask yourself, "Does it spark joy?" It may sound silly, but experience proves that Kondo is really on to something. Individual clothing items either make us feel good (a flattering top, a bracelet from a friend) or bad (too-tight jeans, a scarf from an ex) about our lives, and you shouldn't keep anything that falls into the latter.

If you have clothes sitting around that you've never worn or that still have the tags on, you can be pretty sure that that won't change. There's a small window of time after purchasing something to see if you'll ever actually wear it, so give yourself a month (or two at most!), and if you haven't touched it, say goodbye.

Do you own clothes that you would never leave the house in? A few stained T-shirts, or an old pair of sweats, perhaps? Well, you should chuck those immediately. Why keep anything that might keep you from going outside and living your life? This also goes for any tattered work clothes or outdated party dresses. Kondo wants you to be your best self, and we do too! 

Ever been gifted an item of clothing that you'd never actually wear, but feel compelled to keep it out of respect? Us too, but it's time to let go of that burden. Gifts are meant to express positive feelings, so once those feelings have been received and you've said your thanks, Kondo believes you are free to get rid of the physical object. And let's be honest, no one ever goes rifling through your closet to make sure their gift is still there!

One of the reasons it's so often difficult for us to let go of things is that they remind us of a past phase of our lives or reflect who we hope to be in the future. But Kondo believes that experience takes away from the present moment and your present self in all his or her glory. To really appreciate who you are right now, you need to let go of anything that wraps you up in the past or future.

Kondo believes that the items you do hold on to and wear regularly should be treated respectfully given all the work they do for you. So rather than balling up your socks or stuffing your jeans haphazardly into a drawer, garments should be neatly folded or hung up so that they have enough room to breathe. This also makes getting dressed a much easier process!

Will you be giving Marie Kondo's method a try? Let us know in the comments!