Why Less is Always More — or what happened when I confronted my clothes

KonMari says it is possible to tidy your ideal life into existence. But does sorting through every item you own, category by category, asking ‘does it spark joy’ actually work?

I was keen to find out. After living out of a backpack for a year I was abruptly reacquainted with all my possession and all their messy-ness when I moved them out of a loft and into a Bristol basement flat.

I knew I could live with only a fraction of what I owned, but how exactly was I meant to sort through it all?

Enter KonMari.

I read about Mari Kondo’s method online, and was gifted the book shortly after mentioning it to a friend. Her claims seemed not just implausible but also impossible — I would never be messy again and would live the lifestyle of my dreams, if and only if, I agreed to follow her method to the letter.

This meant sorting through everything I own, category by category, item by item, holding each individually, and asking ‘does this spark joy?’. If the answer is no, it goes.

I wanted so much to believe I could be tidy, I could live in order, not chaos and I could logically downsize my life. I opened her book, pencil in hand and said: yes, I agree.

Four months into her method and has it made a difference?

The answer, quite simply, is yes.

I can now say turning your life upside down and sorting through it item by item, category by category is invaluable. So let’s talk about the first category — clothes.

She says to start with clothes, because it’s easy, the least sentimental category. But since clothes are the first attempt at ‘does this spark joy?’ I still found it a long and hard task.

It’s hard because you have to confront yourself and you have to be honest.

You have to hold that shitty t-shirt you’ve kept because you wore it when you were ten years old and played on the village basketball team — that means it’s precious and I should keep it, right? right? right?

And you have to admit to yourself that, actually, on balance, you f***ing hate wearing it. The word t-shirt is too generous a description for the cotton sack it has become, your name printed on the back in peeling green letters.

And guess what, you didn’t even know it was there.

And you realise, you kind of don’t want or need it around.

Discard.

Feel sad.

Feel… inexplicable… lightness?

Relief!

Next t-shirt-…

Slowly the pile, the stack, the pillar of clothing gets thin. The ‘keep’ pile is sadly small but beautifully composed, dedicated to clothes kept only out of ‘want’ and not ‘need’. The ‘discard’ pile is enormous. The ‘maybe, I can’t decide’ pile is a middleweight heap of denial — it all needs to go.

And now, a few truths emerge: navy blue, forest green, burgundy, these colours are the ones. To be a ‘keep’, a good fit is required. Tight waistlines are all gone along with fuzzy scarfs that shed on everything they touch and shoes coming apart at the sole and hoodies for sports I don’t play or intend to play again. None of these things make me feel happy when I touch them, let alone comfortable and self-assured when I wear them.

I look at the ‘keep’ pile — this is me.

Slowly emerging.

These are the things I love! Floaty fabrics, frivolous finishes as well as clean lines and all in deep serious colours. Of course, I knew this much already, but the feeling of culling out everything, and I mean everything else puts these preferences under the spotlight.

I realise a wonderful thing — I will never have to wear a thing I don’t like, ever again.

Four months after completing the clothes category, this rings true. I don’t wear anything I don’t love because I don’t own it and fascinatingly I don’t buy it.

My shopping habit has essentially disappeared and been replaced by an avid desire for searching, looking, thinking, and saving up for those beautiful perfect pieces that fit my new found sense of brand, my concrete ‘Kate-ness’.

Whereas before I would shop to cheer myself up, or buy something impromptu for an upcoming night out, now I am happy to wear the same clothes again and again, because I just really like them.

Now, I think about how I like to dress & how I want to look, instead of ‘ah shit, well this will have to do’ and I’ve noticed getting ready in the morning is frankly a piece of piss because everything essentially goes with everything else.

Sorting through my clothes took me 3 days and I had roughly 8 bin bags of discarded items at the end. And while yes it was savage sitting on the floor in silence throwing out three-quarters of all the clothes I owned, the results are so palpable and liberating that I find myself telling anyone who will listen: less is always more when it sparks joy.