How I Tried the Japanese Method of Decluttering and Dumped $2,000 Worth of Stuff
“The Japanese Art of Decluttering” is a term popularized by the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo and the book Life Free from Dream by Yukiko Kaneko. The principle described by the authors is simple: you need to get rid of all the things in your house that don’t bring you joy.
It is believed that tidying up helps everyone not only to get rid of useless stuff but to also change a person’s attitude toward life. Is this really true?
Especially for Bright Side, I will tell you how I followed the Japanese method and what it led me to.
When I heard about this Japanese method, I thought, “Oh! I know people who definitely need this idea!” For example, I have a friend who still has her prom dress — “just in case...” as she justifies it. I did a superficial cleaning at my place and didn’t find any useless stuff.
I remembered about this method for the second time when I moved into my new apartment. I don’t have my own furniture, all the dishes I own are a coffee mug and some wine glasses, and all the electronics I own are a laptop and a smartphone. But it still took me a lot of time and money to pack all my stuff and move it to my new place. Then, I decided to check more thoroughly.
- In order to make the process more efficient, the Japanese recommend doing the checks not by the rooms (the kitchen, the bedroom, the bathroom), but by the categories of things: clothes, shoes, and so on.
Like many other girls, I can divide all my clothes into several categories: every day, going out, just in case, in case I go insane (I’m sure many people have such clothes too.)
Of course, all my things are split into categories only in my head — in my wardrobe, everything’s always chaotically thrown into one huge pile. So I decided to just open my wardrobe with my spring/summer clothes and put all the contents on the couch.
This is what the first stage of the Japanese method looked like. I also accidentally found out that I apparently have a thing for the color yellow.
Now, according to the recommendation of the Japanese, I had to decide which clothes from this pile made me feel good. But feeling good is usually associated with traveling, being around interesting people (and cats, of course) so in my understanding, clothes aren’t supposed to make me happy. So, I tried a different way: first, I estimated how comfortable I felt in every article of clothing. I ended up having to throw away several cute but synthetic blouses and then I tried every single thing on.
This is the result of checking the wardrobe with spring/summer clothes.
I kept denim overalls, a skirt, a dress, and several T-shirts. Choosing was slow and hard. It was hard to say goodbye to many things because I could come up with a million of excuses: I can lose weight for this, this stain can be removed, this doesn’t fit me well and doesn’t suit any of my clothes, but there is always a way, right?
A tip from Yukiko Kaneko helped me here: such excuses are stealing from yourself. The clothes we might look fantastic in sometime in the future don’t let us have the clothes we look great in right now.
It took me a month to sort out the wardrobe with my spring/summer clothes, but the process went much quicker with winter clothes, underwear, and shoes.
On the left: the cosmetics I found on the shelves, in my purse, and even in my fridge. On the right: what I actually use on a daily basis.
Most of the cosmetics were bought to save money. For example, I have been using a certain cream that’s specifically for my type of skin. It costs $25. But I’ve made several attempts to replace it with something cheaper. So, when I was tidying my place up, I found 5 creams that cost $30 in total. I haven’t used every one of them more than 2-3 times.
This is the result of checking my jewelry. I kept only the red elephant.
After I’d finished with my jewelry, I started sorting out other categories where there were a lot of other surprises. For example, I had a sandwich maker, a coffee maker, and an electric kettle. I completely forgot about them because I hadn’t used them for 5 years. I had a lot of stuff I didn’t need in other categories too:
- Souvenirs and house decor: Magnets, decor dishes, toys, figurines, and other things that collect dust.
- Fabrics: Uncomfortable ben linen and towels, a couple of tablecloths, and several ugly synthetic comforters.
- Devices: Headphones that didn’t work well, a very inconvenient table lamp, and a curling iron.
Where to put all this stuff?
It’s better to find an answer to this question before you start the process. Otherwise, the stuff will move to the balcony and later, it will just go back to the places where it was in the beginning. I came up with 4 places:
- Animal shelters: I donated some things that couldn’t be worn anymore, bed linen, and everything else that could be used as a mat.
- Charity: I found a few volunteer organizations on Facebook and gave them the stuff that could be sold for charity. Almost all of the warm clothes I had was donated to a family that lost everything in a fire.
- Gifts: On Facebook, I found several groups where participants give their things away to others. This is how I got rid of almost all of my jewelry, unnecessary makeup, some clothes, and shoes.
- Dumpsters: Everything that I couldn’t get rid of through the first 2 channels, I simply threw away.
Aside from these methods, there is one more: sell or exchange a useless thing. I didn’t try this, but a woman I know does this often and claims that she finds it very motivating.
What to do to prevent this from happening again:
One of the examples of an article of clothing I had to get rid of.
Yukiko Kaneko compares the process of getting rid of useless stuff with losing weight: if you simply throw away some things without changing the system, they will return very soon just like extra weight after a crash diet. So, I analyzed the main reasons why I had useless things in order to prevent them from appearing in the future.
- Sales: The thought something (maybe of poor quality or an unclear purpose) was sold at “just $5” made me buy truly useless things. For example, the red dress on the photo. It doesn’t suit me and it doesn’t fit me. So why did I buy it? Well, it was on sale...
- Saving money: “I need something for $30, I don’t have this money now, so I’ll buy something for $10.” As it was shown by the example with my face cream, this system simply doesn’t work.
- Things that are not valuable anymore: They were useful in the past, and it’s really hard to get rid of the thought that they will be useful in the future. So, I made a rule: I buy a new thing only when I get rid of an old alternative.
In general, the tidying up process took me 6 months, and here is what changed after I finished it:
- As there are fewer things in the apartment now, cleaning it is much faster and easier. Just imagine: now I wipe the dust on any horizontal surface without having to move things. I just don’t have them anymore.
- Because my wardrobe is half-empty now, I don’t ask myself the traditional what-to-wear-question. Now I have enough time to cook a normal breakfast without eating a piece of bread with cheese while putting on shoes. Besides, when I got rid of the things that didn’t suit me, I started feeling better and more confident.
- Another result was this number — $2,000. It’s the approximate cost of all the things that I threw or gave away (new or almost-new clothes, devices, and so on). If this number doesn’t seem real to you, come to any of your wardrobes and split the contents into 2 categories: something you really need, and something you can live without. But be honest. Count the cost of the things from the second category. The number will probably amaze you. This is a great antidote against falling for the tricks of advertisements and other factors that make us buy things we don’t actually need. For the past 3 months, I’ve bought only a pair of sneakers. I am not saving money — I’m just trying to make a good decision.
- I gave my jeans away to a girl who said that they would be the first jeans in her life. It’s not like I felt I was a wizard who was capable of making dreams come true, but I understand people who help others often. It makes you feel good and it fills the void inside that many people have.
Can it really change a person?
The Japanese didn’t lie: I really did change. Tidying up made me feel freer both morally and physically. Now I don’t have to worry about the purchases that should be done or have been done. I don’t regret buying useless things, and I have more free time and money. Isn’t this the definition of freedom?
Anyone who has thought about the idea of minimalism should really pay more attention to it. The connection between how you feel and how many things you have is incredibly weak. You will understand it when you get rid of 2-3 bags of stuff you don’t need.
What do you think about this method? Will you try it? Tell us in the comment section below!