Finding Joy in Folding Socks & Underwear

"I can't find the book I checked out about decluttering. I think it is buried under all my stuff."
-Margot, via Facebook

Three library workers share how one book--The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by organizing consultant Marie Kondo--did, in fact, change their lives. It's sort of a book review...but more like a conversation.

1. Why did you read the book in the first place?
Karen: I read the book because so many people told me how great it was, and I just ignored them. I didn’t want to be part of the crowd. Plus it had a super long reserve list, so it took six months to get it.

I really was "anti" magic of tidying up by the time I got the book.

Jen: Full disclosure–I have not actually read the book. I have read my friend’s blog post that explained the basic concepts in the book, I have skimmed the book, and I have watched YouTube videos, particularly about the folding method she uses. I have the book at home and FULLY intend to read it in its entirety, because just the small amount I know has transformed my thoughts and more importantly, my feelings, about “stuff.”

Kenya: Because an un-named person (Jen) never actually read the book, she kept the book propped up on her desk so that I stared at the lovely turquoise cover (less than two feet away from my desk) every work day for several months. I also read the blog written by that same friend, and remember how transformative throwing stuff away seemed to be for her. One day about three months ago I decided to read the book, so I took it off Jen's desk and stuck it in my bag. Small parts of my life magically changed that weekend.

2. What did you learn from the book?
Karen: It really is magic. There was one line in the book that made me just put it down and go over and start taking things out. I really like the idea of asking whether something gives you joy (or not) and it gives you the permission to get rid of things you’ve been hanging on to. It also reminds you of why certain objects do give you joy.

I also like the idea of making sure that all things that are the same are in the same place. I found books in nooks and crannies, and now they are all together in one spot. I feel lighter--and I just started this week! I really like the folding technique for t-shirts–it means I can see all the shirts at one time (and notice that I seem to have a lot of blue t-shirts, even though it’s not a color I think I even like, but evidently I do).

I refound some shirts that I haven’t worn in a while because they’ve been hidden at the bottom of the drawer. I also love looking at my nicely folded sock drawer. How many pairs of white gym socks does a person need when they only go to the gym twice a week?

Jen: I learned to let go of things that I’d held onto for years and years for no good reason. Holding each object and asking myself if it brought me joy was profoundly useful. Clothes that are too small that I hope someday to fit into again? Those do not give me joy. They give me an annoying feeling of guilt. Gone!

I also learned that presentation and organization are very, very important to me. I knew this to a certain extent, but didn’t realize the depth of it in my soul. My hanging clothes have always been organized by my own preferences (shirts on top rack, short sleeves first, then ¾ length sleeves, then full length sleeves, from light colors to dark), but I used her folding methods on my socks and shirts in drawers, and I feel like an organization guru every morning. I love that I can see all of my socks at a glance!

I have also become less consumer-oriented since using the methods in the book with my wardrobe. I use that “wardrobe” term loosely. I should just say my small amount of clothing. I have a love/hate relationship with clothing. It’s necessary, but I don’t like shopping for it. Now, I realize that I don’t have to! I only need to buy things that truly bring me joy. I have bought only one shirt since tidying up my closets and dresser drawers, whereas before I was buying stuff willy-nilly hoping against all hope that I would like it. I usually didn’t.

Kenya: I love clothes. I love shopping for clothes and other things. Always have. I like finding pretty things to wear and to put up in my home, and sometimes I buy things that I never wear and never put up in my home. Although this didn’t happen a lot, it did happen.

I was in the middle of the book, following the first steps of tidying up by dumping every piece of clothing I owned in the middle of my living room one Saturday morning. On my laptop, I was binge watching videos by Marie Kondo and her followers. I discovered that I had multiples of quite a few things like tank tops in the same color—grey and white, to be specific. My excuse was that you can never have enough cheap (like $1.99 cheap!) tank tops from Forever 21, but the truth is…you can. One top in each color should probably do it.

This is what I learned:
Just because someone gave it to you doesn’t mean you have to keep it. My sisters and I have always shared our clothes and gave away clothes to each other when they didn’t fit or didn’t work anymore. When I bagged up my six bags of clothes, accessories, shoes, house furnishings, and jewelry that I didn’t wear, couldn’t wear, didn’t like, didn’t love, or never wore I felt a little bad about not handing them off to my sisters. That was our norm. That was our code. I didn’t sell everything at Twice-As-Nice either. The bags went off to Goodwill for good.

Folding my clothes in little bundles for my dresser brings me joy now. I re-watched those YouTube videos like a madwoman, learning how to fold everything from sweaters, socks, tank tops, yoga pants, t-shirts, you name it. I am proud of how my colorful knee socks look. I know what I own, and I can see what I wear.

Always ask myself, “Do I love this enough and does it bring me joy?” I still love shopping as much as before. But now I think about how much I will love the item when I take it off the rack or the shelf in the store. I think about whether or not I have a duplicate in my closet or dresser, and then I think about what this one piece of clothing—or earrings or shoes or that purse—will make me feel. I’m aiming for joy.

Duplicates of bad photos and articles that you’ll never read take up a lot of space. After I finished tidying up my house, I had about five empty plastic bins—those large ones that you buy to store your holiday decorations. I shredded what I couldn’t donate, and that was about three plastic bags worth of paper. I did keep all of my dad’s LPs even though I don’t have a record player because they smell like his house.

3.  What was the strangest thing(s) that you threw out?
Karen: I haven’t gotten very far, so there hasn’t been too much that’s odd.  But I did get rid of literally 15 pairs of tights that are too tight!  I remember I would get a stomach ache whenever I wore them, so I stopped wearing them, but still kept them in the hopes of what, my bones would shrink? Guess what, they never did and now someone else who is smaller than I am can enjoy lots of tights.

I also got rid of tons of postcards that I had kept because I always thought I would do some cool craft thing with them. Twenty years later, no cool crafts have happened, and I just don’t need to hold on to them any more.

Jen: An obscene amount of socks. I’ve only gotten through my clothes so far, and I got rid of so many pairs of socks, it was ridiculous. I like socks the most of the clothing formats. Socks are comforting to me. They give you warmth. They protect your feet. But you do not need drawers full of them. You need one, small, immaculately-organized drawer of socks that brings you joy.

Kenya: I discarded a half-empty gasoline container that’s been in my linen closet for about three years. My sister brought it over for some reason I can’t remember now, and left it with me.

I’ll repeat: I kept this in my closet for three years.

YouTube videos featuring cleaning and organizational consultant, Marie Kondo:

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing

Marie Kondo Folds a Perfect Underwear Drawer

Marie Kondo Organizes a Bookshelf