My Marie Kondo Hack: Set Aside, Don’t Throw Away

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girl holding trash bag

Yesterday, I wrote that a major part of making the Marie Kondo method of tidying work is following the process as closely as possible. Today, I’m contradicting myself (sort of). Because one of the things that made letting things go easier for me is that I didn’t totally let them go — at least not at first.

I’m crazy sentimental about objects. That part of The Velveteen Rabbit where we learn that toys become real when we love them enough? I took that to heart. (This Christmas, I started crying after reading ONE SENTENCE of The old Skin Horse’s soliloquy.) Letting go of any object that I’ve loved, or even liked a little bit, or even seen the tiniest bit of potential in, is really tough for me.

You know those black trash bags that line the hallways of new konmari converts, filled with discarded belongings? I filled those bags, too — but I didn’t give them away at first. Instead, I piled all my giveaway bags into a closet until the end of the process. Knowing I’d get another chance at keeping things made me a lot more willing to let put them aside in the first place.

I was worried that this strategy would backfire; that I’d spend all that time tidying only to “save” all my junk right back at the eleventh hour. But that’s not what happened at all. I’d filled a huge closet right up to the ceiling with giveaways, and I went through them before I called the thrift store truck. I kept only three things. Three! I wasn’t even tempted to save more — I was shocked at how easy it was to let things go at the end, once I’d gone through the whole process and learned how to identify which items really brought me joy and which didn’t.

Actually, this isn’t against the rules at all — and, in a way, Marie Kondo said this would happen. She has us sort through sentimental items at the end of our tidying because she says it’s easier to deal with memorabilia once we’ve gone through everything else and refined our sensitivity to joy. I know, I know, this sounds silly. All I can say is, it worked for me. Throughout the whole time I worked on tidying, I’d set aside items whenever I felt sentimental about them. T-shirts, books, greeting cards — anything that I had the slightest trouble parting with because purely because of the memories they were attached to and not because of the joy they brought, I put aside to wait until the last step of the process.

When that step came, I was scared. I thought it would be the toughest tidying challenge of all. Instead, it was the easiest. Because when I looked at all my sentimental items together, it was really obvious which ones I treasured and which I was holding onto unnecessarily. In many cases, I had four or five things that reminded me of the same memory — one of which I actually loved, and the others I’d just been hanging onto for no good reason.

When you’re doing konmari, it’s okay to be worried about letting go of your things — and that doesn’t mean that you won’t get rid of them when you really need to. It just means you’ll do it thoughtfully and purposefully. And, that means you won’t regret what you leave behind. As Marie says, you’ll find a way to identify what you want to bring with you into your future. As for the rest? You won’t look back.

Carrie Rollwagen is author of The Localist, a book about buying from locally owned stores. Currently, she works as Communications Director at Infomedia, a web development company in Birmingham, Alabama. Find her as @crollwagen on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and most other social media platforms.

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