World-famous organizing guru Marie Kondo helps homeowners declutter their way out of all kinds of tight spots in her new Netflix series, “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.” Yet in the latest episode, she encounters the toughest clutter to part with of all: sentimental items. Is nothing sacred?
In the episode titled “Breaking Free From a Mountain of Stuff,” we meet Aaron and Shenita Mattison, who want to have a third child—but seem to have absolutely no extra space for a baby in their Southern California home.
Not knowing the gender of their intended tyke, Shenita has kept every piece of clothing her 7-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter have ever worn, as well as every toy they’ve ever played with.
But the clutter is not all kid stuff. Books and magazines, as well as vast amounts of clothing, are a big part of Shenita’s identity. Like most of us, she’s purchased clothes in the ideal size she intends to fit into one day. And she also has many lovely Pakistani shawls and scarves that help her connect to her roots, but don’t get a chance to be worn all that often.
Shenita believes that it’s more about organizing everything and putting it away, rather than letting it go, and you wonder if Kondo’s gentle ways will be enough to convince her that she really doesn’t need to keep all the stuff she holds dear.
Here’s what we learned while we watched Kondo work her magic.
Purify the space
Once the Mattisons have done as Kondo asks and emptied their closets and drawers, they find they have a massive mountain of clothes—and the couple feel overwhelmed.
Kondo advises them to take a deep breath and “purify the space,” which is feeling rather claustrophobic.
There are several ways to do this, she explains. “When you feel stuck while tidying, try to change the air. Simply opening the window will be effective,” Kondo says.
You can also “create a sound that has a great vibration,” she continues, striking a small tuning fork to illustrate her point. But she says any happy music would do just fine (the Beach Boys, perhaps?).
Finally, she suggests purifying the air by lighting a candle or incense, or spritzing the room with a clean scent.
“I use these methods to purify my home every day,” she confesses. Shenita is amazed that she can be so organized, especially when Kondo tells her she has two children, aged 1 and 2, at home.
Out with the old (clothes)
Shenita has a serious “I might wear it someday” syndrome. She has clothes in many different sizes and for many events, and wants to hold onto all of them.
Kondo suggests she “start with something that’s very easy to make a decision about by picking out clothes that fit you now and that you’re comfortable with.” When Shenita finds things she feels “I’m not happy I have to wear,” Kondo suggests letting them go.
Kondo advises Shenita to ask herself, “Do I really need this piece? Is it necessary for my life?” Doing so helps Shenita cut way back.
Shenita has many beautiful ones, and Kondo explains that they can be kept organized by rolling them, rather than folding them, with the fringe on the inside. (This is also a brilliant way to avoid ironing.) She also suggests organizing by size, and placing the rolled-up scarves in a drawer so that they can all be seen when the drawer is opened.
Sorting and organizing books
As with clothing, Kondo advises taking all the books off the shelves and out of storage boxes, and stacking them in one central location where you can go through them one by one.
“Ask if this is something I’d like to bring with me into the future,” advises Kondo.
The couple also consider whether certain books are up to date, or if more current information could more easily be accessed online. This perspective helps Shenita toss almost all of the old magazines she’s been keeping.
The kids, of course, are the ones who should decide which toys “spark joy.” But there’s just one problem: Children often find joy in almost everything! So you’ll likely need to have the children rank their toys, and get rid of the ones that they play with the least or have outgrown.
Kondo advises organizing the remaining toys in boxes, separating them by child and by types of toys. Instead of storing all the toys together in one big box, she says, put books on a shelf, stuffed animals in one box, and activity toys like balls and jump rope in another.
Does Marie Kondo spark joy in this home?
For a while there, Shenita appeared to be going rogue. So many of her belongings have deep sentimental value for her, and she bucks at the suggestion that they get rid of so many.
“We have the space,” she says. “Why can’t I keep them?”
But in the end Shenita reaches a realization: “We do not need a lot of things to be happy. Because of all the things we’re surrounded by, it was hard to remember that.”
Best of all, after their decluttering, the couple agree that there’s room for their family to grow.
“If we have a third (child), we can do this now,” they say.
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