After starting to read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying¹ last week, I was inspired to declutter my tops in a different way — the KonMari way.
Prior to this, about a year ago, I had decluttered all my clothes on a rational basis, asking myself such practical questions as:
- Have I worn this in the last year?
- Am I likely to wear it in the next year?
- Have I gained as much value as I can from this item of clothing? (So, if it had been quite expensive, I would ask myself if I’d worn it enough to justify its cost.)
But, I didn’t ask myself:
- Do I love this item of clothing? Does it bring back good memories?
- Do I feel great when I wear it?
- Does it make me feel good?
Marie Kondo says the main criterion for choosing whether to keep something should be whether it “sparks joy.”
So, I decided to declutter my tops following her advice. I picked up each top individually, held it close to my heart, and listened to my intuition.
Here’s what happened … and how you can declutter your tops the KonMari way, too — in just 5 easy steps.
1. Start with Out-of-Season Tops
Marie Kondo advises sorting through your out-of-season tops first because you have some emotional distance from clothes you haven’t worn in several months. This made sense to me, so I piled all my lovely warm sweaters on my bed on a sunny summer afternoon.
As I already knew, I loved most of my sweaters! When I hugged one, a lovely memory of my daughter giving it me for a Christmas was the first thing that came to mind. For another, a memory of buying it on a shopping trip with a dear friend sparked joy. Another sweater simply evoked a warm, cozy feeling of being enveloped in warmth.
On the other hand, when I held yet another sweater close to my heart, I felt no joy. I remembered the wind whistling through it the last time I wore it, and I realized I’d never liked its baggy, unflattering design. It went on the “discard” pile.
As soon as I picked up a sweater with wide sleeves, I knew I would get rid of it. Its sleeves always got wet when I was washing my hands or the dishes. It also felt quite scratchy against my skin. I realized it was my “last resort” sweater — I would wear it only if I couldn’t find anything else to wear.
When decluttering my wardrobe last year, I decided to keep it because I thought there was still more wear left in it. However, I think I’ve only worn it once since then, so now really was the time to let it go. Using the “spark joy” method, I was 100 per cent sure I was making the right decision this time.
One sweater surprised me. I had worn it quite a lot last winter. It was warm, easy to wear, comfortable and looked fine.
As I hugged it to my chest, I realized I didn’t love it. I felt no joy whatsoever.
I looked at it in surprise.
Did I really not love this sweater that did its job so well? My answer was “no,” so that one went on the discard pile too.
2. Continue with In-Season Tops
Next, I placed all my spring and summer tops on my bed, excluding the tops that were being washed and dried. I figured that, if I’d worn them in the past week, I’d keep them, but I will do the “joy test” before putting them back in my cupboard.
I rarely wear sleeveless tops — maybe a few times each summer when the weather is very hot, so I was surprised to count four sleeveless tops.
After holding each one close to my heart, I let go of one of them — a plain green vest top that I haven’t worn this summer and I don’t like very much. I kept it last year because I had worn it a few times during the unusually hot summer — and I thought it would be wasteful to get rid of it.
Now I’m happy to let it go as I know it brings me no joy.
Although I don’t wear the other three sleeveless tops very much, I decided to keep them as I feel good when I do wear them, and they evoke good memories.
3. Get Rid of Anything that’s No Longer Wearable (even Out of Sight)
Sometimes we hang onto old, well-worn clothes because we think we’ll wear them where no one can see them — perhaps while we’re alone at home or underneath another garment.
While gathering together all my tops, I found three tops hiding at the back of the cupboard.
I’d forgotten about them. They were quite worn. One had a small hole. Another was decorated with splodges of hair dye. The third was faded.
I remembered that I’d decided to keep them last year as I thought I’d wear them while gardening or as an extra layer under sweaters. The fact that I’d forgotten about them and definitely didn’t wear them at all made my decision for me — they went straight in the bin!
I usually wear an old top when I’m gardening, as I often catch myself on brambles, thorns and old nails. So, I’ve kept two other old tops exactly for this purpose — one for summer and the other for when the weather is cooler.
4. Keep a Few Things Just in Case
Although it’s not often a good idea to keep things “just in case”, hear me out on this one!
I decided to keep two sparkly evening tops, which I rarely wear. I’ve worn one of them on one occasion in the past year. I can’t remember when I last wore the other one. Maybe over 10 years ago?!
However, they both sparked joy when I held them close. I know I won’t wear them much in future, but I do know that I’ll feel good if I do wear them.
Keeping them will also mean that I won’t have to rush out and buy a suitable top if I’m invited to a special occasion or event unexpectedly.
Although it’s fine to keep a few things you love “just in case,” I think it’s a good idea to put a limit on the number of things in this category.
And, in case you’re wondering, Marie Kondo does advocate keeping clothes that make you feel happy, even if you don’t wear them very often.
5. Wear “Dilemma” Items One Last Time
Two tops gave me a real dilemma. When I held them close, I had mixed feelings.
Although I liked their designs and had good memories associated with them, I remembered feeling less than comfortable the last time I wore each top. One had felt too tight and the other didn’t seem to fall well and annoyed me.
As I really couldn’t decide what to do with them, I decided I’d wear them one last time to see if my negative feelings were justified. If so, I’d get rid of them immediately.
So, I’ve hung them together on the other side of my tops in my wardrobe and will do the “wearing experiment” at the earliest opportunity. I have a feeling I’ll end up letting go of both tops, but I want to give them one last chance, as I do like them.
Another “dilemma” item was a sweater I’d worn only once. It didn’t spark any joy when I held it close, but I wondered if I didn’t have enough experience of it to love it. I decided to keep it for another winter and then reconsider.
So far, I haven’t found any specific advice on what to do with “dilemma” items in The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying, although Marie Kondo does suggest keeping things you’re unsure about. So, that’s what I’ve done — with some conditions attached.
The Result of Decluttering my Tops the KonMari Way
After decluttering all my tops about a year ago, I really didn’t think I’d get rid of more than one or two more tops this time.
I was wrong! I let go of 15 tops in total — giving 12 tops to charity and throwing away 3 worn tops.
What I learned from Decluttering My Tops the KonMari Way
The main thing I learned was that you can make very different decisions with your heart than your head.
At first, holding each item of clothing close to my heart felt a little weird, but I was surprised that I received an intuitive answer from my heart very quickly.
Marie Kondo also recommends expressing gratitude to the clothes you let go of. So, I thanked these items for serving me so well in the past and for keeping me warm and helping me look good.
At first, I felt somewhat cynical about doing this, but it became more natural after I’d done it a few times.
After I’d finished decluttering my tops, I felt a burst of happiness and positivity that lasted for a few days.
I’m definitely going to consult my heart rather than my head when I declutter the rest of my clothes and other possessions. However, I may thank those I discard without saying the words out loud, so that my husband and children don’t overhear and think I’ve gone completely crazy!