Konmari-ing my me-made wardrobe

Konmari wardrobeThis post is only tangentially related to sewing, but I think it definitely touches on things that every sewist must think about from time to time: how we choose what to make, how often we wear the things we make, and how we deal with things we don’t end up wearing. Thanks to Marie Kondo’s cult book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying, I’ve been on a de-cluttering spree and have spent most of the weekend clearing out my wardrobe, books, and sewing room (well, got to keep myself busy while the overlocker’s in hospital…). I thought I’d share some musings on the process of streamlining my wardrobe and how I feel now it’s done.

If the Kondo craze has passed you by, check out this article for a bit of a primer. The ‘Konmari’ method outlined in the book has you obliterate your unwanted belongings in strict category order, which Marie states should begin with clothing. Now she suggests this category is tackled first because it’s likely to be the least emotionally-driven class of belongings, but I’m not sure how well that applies to a sewist who will naturally be more attached to garments she’s made by hand.

P2170332Nonetheless, I did go through my wardrobe as Marie suggests, holding every garment in my hands and asking myself ‘does this spark joy?’. The joy-spark test is Marie’s basic measure for determining if you should keep a possession or if it must be thrown out. I found it a bit more helpful to expand that question into two further questions: ‘am I happy to own this item or is it a burden?’ and ‘if this item was ruined/destroyed, would I be upset?’. Those two additional questions really helped me to focus on what I wanted to keep, whether handmade or not.

The keep-or-throw process was still a little bit heart-rending at times – not just for my handmade garments, but for vintage one-offs, holiday purchases that remind me of the trip and those super-soft favourite old t-shirts too. To ease the feeling of guilt or sadness, Marie suggests thanking your garment for the time you’ve had with it and remembering that the joy it brought you in the past was what made it worth owning, which is super cheesy but actually did kind of help. Also for every handmade garment I threw out, I made sure to take a lesson from why it wasn’t working for me – be it fit, fabric choice, style or construction – so that its little garmenty life wasn’t in vain. Luckily quite a lot of me-mades did make the cut to stay though!

Konmari wardrobeThe result after a few hours of hardcore sorting? Five bags of cast-offs! I was pretty shocked as I do a wardrobe edit fairly regularly and send a large bag to charity every few months, but I was much, much stricter this time due to following Marie’s joy test. I’m going to book a collection from my local Traid to pick up the cast-offs – it seems fitting to donate to a charity that values the craft of sewing and works to improve textile waste and worker conditions.

P2170334
Once the cull has happened, reorganising can begin. I put my clothes back in a nice logical order: tops on the upper rail roughly in frequency-of-wear order from left to right: cardigans, everyday tops, then seasonal items  – Marie doesn’t approve of packing away off-season items. As an aside, look at how embarrassingly clear my colour preferences are: hello grey, black, wine and khaki, you can stay.

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Skirts and dresses on the bottom rail again leading from everyday to formal/off-season. (Luckily I’m not a shoe person; that grey pair is my only pair of non-everyday shoes.) Having this much stuff hanging up is a bit against Marie’s methods as she doesn’t like garments on hangers unless strictly necessary, but personally I much prefer to see everything at once. My trousers do live in a separate drawer though, as do loungewear and underwear. Those latter categories were much quicker and easier to sort for some reason.

There’s no doubt the Konmari method works. For the first time my wardrobe really does feel lighter and fresher. I can actually see all my clothes and riffle amongst them on the hangers – I hadn’t really realised how cramped and unpleasant my wardrobe was to navigate before. I’m interested to see if it makes it easier to choose what to wear in the morning; my instinct says it certainly will.

P2170327The upshot of all this is that I am kind of going to be forced to approach my sewing choices in a much more careful way – to really think about what I want to make and if it belongs in my wardrobe, and ensure that trickles down into fabric choices, too. The good news is that after the big cull there are definitely areas of my wardrobe which need to be replenished a bit – mostly trousers, t-shirts and day dresses, which are what I wear 90% of the time. Luckily those are the garments I like to sew as well, so I’m feeling fairly confident that I can make stuff that will fit into the gaps.

If this whole process sounds a bit military and joy-sucking by the way, I don’t feel that way at all – it’s quite freeing to have less stuff and a clear idea of what kind of things will make me happy to make and wear in the future. And it wasn’t even that hard to throw out me-mades once I began to remember that the point of owning them may have been to learn something rather than to keep them forever.

Has anyone else got on board the Konmari train? I know from Instragram that Kelly and Morgan have been through it and both said it affected their sewing choices as well. Is sewing a wearable and ‘joy-sparking’ wardrobe important to you? How do you feel about throwing away handmades?

65 thoughts on “Konmari-ing my me-made wardrobe

  1. Ingrid

    Interesting approach. So funny you’re written about it since I’m about to do a similar cleans with the Wardrobe Arhcitect. I like the idea of ‘spark of joy’ test though – it’s simple and intuitive, rather than encouraging you to overthink your choices. Which one can easily do…

    1. Katie Post author

      I found it interesting too that Marie doesn’t suggest you try on your clothes or consider if they suit you etc. I suppose you instinctively know all that anyway at some level so it just slows you down. I was interested by WA but there are so many steps and I feel that would lead to over-thinking, yes. Interested to see how you get on with it.

  2. Marilla

    I’ve never heard of this approach, but it sounds interesting! I’m currently forcing a similar process on my belongings in a bid to live a cleaner existence, as unnecessary clutter weighs people down too much and is an unfortunate reality of modern living. I’ll still be an impulsive shopper I’m sure, but hopefully I will question my reasons prior to purchase more (we’ll see). I am impressed by your shoes! I am definitely not at restrained :-)

  3. Daisy Jones

    Katie this is ringing very true for me, with reference to getting rid of self sewn garments, always more difficult I think!
    I have just ordered the book, my closet is groaning and is well overdue a clearout for spring. I agree with you too on the hanging i much prefer to see what i have especially when rushing to dress on a busy morning!
    I will let you know how I get on…..
    best
    daisy j x

  4. Emma Jayne

    We’ve been decluttering the whole house over the last 6 weeks. For clothes I took a 3 pass approach… first pass is to remove tired, old clothes, second pass is to remove ill fitting and the third pass, a few weeks after the other two, was to remove all the ‘maybe’ items that haven’t been worn. I found no difference in RTW and handmade but my husband found it really difficult to get rid of anything that was a present and/or handmade. I kept telling him I could make a new one (but better where my skills have improved or a pattern that obviously needs adjustments). I’ll tell him to thank his clothes for the joy they have brought him but it’s time to let go!

  5. Teresa

    Never come across this before either. I feel like I spend half of my life decluttering! Probably because I totally don’t trust my husband: he’s far too good at it and there would be nothing left in my children’s rooms ;-) I’ll doubtless be having another attempt this half-term. I’ll keep this method in mind, thanks!

      1. crab&bee

        There’s nothing like looking at your freshly cleansed closet and only seeing pieces you love! I’m glad you found the book useful. I finished my clothing sort a couple of months ago (I think?) and I can say that I’m still folding / putting away my clothes every night and handling my laundry promptly. I was only cautiously optimistic when I read that her clients don’t relapse but when everything has a home, it’s harder to make excuses!

  6. Sophie-Lee

    I actually finished this book last night – and a few of my local sewing friends have been reading it recently too! I haven’t properly started the discarding (have just done my tops and my husbands tops) but I’m looking forward to it. I really like the change of mindset from “can I do without this?” to “does this bring me joy?”

    1. Katie Post author

      Funny how a lot of sewists are drawn to it – I guess we accumulate a lot of stuff and have trouble throwing away!

  7. Caroline Joynson

    Nice work there Katie! It must feel nice having your new sewing room and now a de-cluttered wardrobe. So much easier to plan your new-makes for 2015 now!
    I am well over-due for a clothes de-clutter. I have been doing little amounts fairly regularly but think I need a more rigorous approach – like you have done to get rid of un-wanted / tired / un-worn clothing.
    As for the me-made clothes that I don’t wear anymore I think because I have documented them through my blog it is easier to part with them and hope they find a new home / get re-cycled into something more useful rather than cluttering up my wardrobe x

  8. Helen // Grosgrain Green

    This is really interesting. I hadn’t heard of it before, but it’s worth exploring further. We live in a small space and I am constantly feeling claustrophobic over the amount if stuff we have. But then again, we have 2 kids (as an aside, I’m pretty sure cheap plastic toys that come free with magazines spark zero joy in me, however I’m sure my son would disagree!!). I’m intrigued to find out if you apply the same logic to your sewing room – especially those “spare” buttons!! :)

    1. Katie Post author

      I do intend to pare back my sewing stuff a lot, and only keep what I need for my next few planned projects. I need to slow down sewing so I don’t end up with a bursting wardrobe again…!

  9. knitlass

    Interesting! I recently posted on a similar theme after sorting out our bed linen collection (http://www.auldfashioned.blogspot.co.uk/2015/02/more-or-less-overcoming-stuffocation.html) and working from a ‘no more than 4’ basis rather than can I let go of this when it was given to me/could be made into something else/etc etc? I am planning to work on my clothes next (we are doing a bedroom makeover, so whittling down is all good) and I was thinking of using ‘how many shirts/tops/skirts do I need (or could I manage with)?’ and let that guide my purging decisions, rather than the do I like it/does it fit question. I have already concluded that in order for the number approach to work, that will mean that I will really have to like things for them to stay. My clothes will have to work harder because I’ll have fewer of them. And, like you I suspect I will end up with a few gaps in my wardrobe that need to be filled.

    1. Katie Post author

      Stuffocation is a great word! I threw out a load of old pillows and bedding as well. A number approach is interesting – I did count how much I had in each clothing category after I was done and it feels like a good amount, so maybe keeping at this equilibrium would be a good idea.

  10. lisa g

    I’ve been doing the same! The book seems quite ruthless at first, but as I begun to sift through my wardrobe I began to really get it. I think I’ll need a second pass though… even though I parted with quite a bit I know more can go. The rest of the categories will be far easier to sort!

    1. Katie Post author

      It’s absolutely ruthless! I’m having pangs for a few things I discarded… they’re still in bags for the charity shop to pick up. I wonder how Marie feels about digging something back out again… however I reckon a few more things will go shortly too.

  11. Carrie

    This was such an interesting read. I’m feeling overwhelmed by trying to keep my tiny house neat and feel like a lot of my stuff needs to go. I tend to fairly ruthlessly cull my wardrobe every season, but as I refine my preferences and sew new garments, I am definitely going to give this a try. I like the (albeit cheesy) idea of thanking the clothes. Clothes with memories are always the trickiest for me to let go of!

    1. Katie Post author

      For sure. I have a couple of very old t-shirts that I couldn’t bear to throw out even though I don’t wear them any more. They still spark joy though, so they pass the test!

  12. suzy

    I’m reading the KonMari book at the moment too, and have been sorting out my wardrobe over the weekend. I’m finding culling the wardrobe with the “spark of joy” test much easier than in the past, when I’ve tried to be sensible about what to keep and leave – there are some garments that I don’t wear much but love, so I think they deserve to stay. There are others that are eminently practical but don’t really feel like me, so it makes sense to let them go.

    1. Katie Post author

      Yeah, it’s really interesting that practicality or if it suits you etc isn’t important in this method. I think that’s what freed me up to throw out things I hadn’t considered chucking before.

  13. Diane

    Funny, I haven’t heard of Konmari, but I recently had a big wardrobe clear out and always try to think hard when making fabric purchases about what garment it’s going to be used for and whether I’ll be comfortable wearing it (so anything polyester is out!). I think sewing is definitely helping me to define my style, and moving countries and living in a small space made me pretty good at culling. It’s amazing how much stuff we accumulate over a short amount of time – especially when you live with an obsessive collector! I might buy the book and subtly leave it on his pillow…

    1. Katie Post author

      I do like poly because it doesn’t wrinkle, and that’s a big decider in what I choose to wear regularly! Apparently the tidying habits do rub off on people you live with, I’m hoping so too ;)

  14. Sara

    I haven’t read the Kondo book, but I’ve read several blog posts about it. I love that it doesn’ t seem to be guilt inducing. I agree that clothes are easier to sort through than books as I cannot get rid of books. I do sort through clothes twice a year, and I put away the off-season clothes. I wonder why Marie Kondo says you shouldn’t? It works for me. When I do the switch, I rediscover all the things I’d put away and it’s almost as if I get to reinvent my wardrobe twice a year. The one thing I struggle with though is scarves, because I have a good number of scarves that belonged to my grandmother. They are really gorgeous, but not my style, but I can’t seem to part with them.

    1. Katie Post author

      I’m not so attached to books, I read mostly on kindle now. The ones I find hard to throw away are cookbooks!

      I think I agree with you about seasonal clothes. My off-season stuff lives in a drawer under the bed, and I haven’t put all of my summer stuff into my main wardrobe just yet. I don’t really see the point as they only see the light for holidays and maybe two weeks of the year. So I think I’ll cheat and leave some under the bed, but do an edit so I’m not hauling things out that I don’t like each season.

      If the scarves still spark joy and remind you of your grandmother, you should keep them! I kept a couple of things that remind me of trips and things, even though I don’t wear them any more they still make me happy.

  15. Andrea

    Thanks for this post Katie. I try to clear out my wardrobe regularly and it is nice to read about different methods. I find my wardrobe has less and less clothes and it makes it so much easier to choose clothes in the morning. Whenever I feel I don’t have anything to wear I know it is time for another clear out.

  16. Sarah - Fabric Tragic

    I do love the idea of less stuff and the only place I’m really failing is the wardrobe! It’s great that it’s been a useful exercise for so many people…..
    I’m going to be very practical and boring though and ask what the authors view is on the mundane and boring things like the thermals, the singlets and the beat up old clothes we wear doing housework, renovations, gardening and to the gym. Isn’t it wasteful to some degree to get rid of such things that we all need, but sure as heck don’t spark joy?! Or is her point to only have a few such things? Don’t get me wrong I’m not being critical in any way but I know for a fact I’ve a pared down shelf of things I don’t love and would love to chuck but I know I will need and wear regularly in the unglamorous roughage of my life…..

    1. Katie Post author

      Good point, and she sort of does address this. Basically anything that’s indispensably useful to your lifestyle does spark joy in its own way because it’s necessary to own it in order to carry on doing the things you like/need to do. That’s why I found it a bit more useful to expand the sparking joy question in my head to allow for those kinds of answers – those things aren’t a burden to own since you need them to maintain your lifestyle, so they can stay.

      A bit related, she did a Reddit AMA which answers some more ‘real life’ questions from Americans. I think she plans to release a more international version of the book at some point, since some of the advice does tend to be specific to the Japanese way of life. http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/2u7yet/i_am_marie_kondo_international_tidying_expert_and

        1. Katie Post author

          np! The book has definitely changed my way of thinking about the stuff I own, and realising how much of it really does drag down your surroundings and hence mood. I’d love to reach the point where I only own things I love and/or support my lifestyle – that’s the end goal!

  17. Emily

    Ive only been sewing my clothes for 18 months or so… so I’m just getting round to the point where I might need to chuck out some handmade items and it is so much harder! However I did a thorough wardrobe sweep a while back and have now found that I have very few things to wear, great excuse to sew lots!

  18. Kris

    I love this idea, and have been thinking of working on my clothes for a while now. My only issue is I do have more of a business wardrobe I need to keep for the future (My current job has no dress code, but I know that will change, and I’ll be sad to say goodbye to the comfort of leggings and stretchy skirts!). I’m thinking I’ll be able to empty a drawer and fold/bag/store the business clothes in there…

    It’ll be great to slowly go through my apartment and reorganize while downsizing. :) Thanks for the inspirational post!

  19. Alice

    oh, wow. I should do this. I am always really battling with myself, because I love having stuff, but I desperately want to live a more portable, simpler lifestyle. The joy-sparking question is a scary one because I know a lot of the stuff that I have does not spark joy, but I still want to keep it! Silly, I know… In any case I am moving out of a house and into an apartment fairly soon so my life is ripe for a tidy. I am always clearing out my closet but if I only kept the joyful things it would be much smaller.

  20. Caroline

    To motivate me to have a big clear out, I find nothing better than watching an episode of ‘Hoarders’! To see mountains of clothes and other possessions in other people’s homes really drives me to have regular clear outs. I have been a magazine/book/paper/clothes hoarder (though not extreme) in the past but now I keep this well under control. As I make most of my own clothes, I find it extremely difficult to let these go as there is more of an attachment, but I would rather give these to friends who appreciate them more. Its much easier to give away shop bought clothes.

    1. kddomingue

      I had a good gigglefest over your comment as I, too, use the show “Hoarders” to give myself the impetus to grab a bunch of trash bags and start chunking stuff! I routinely recommend this method to anyone who says that they’re thinking about doing a “spring cleaning”! All joking aside, watching three or four episodes of
      “Hoarders” can make you realize just how much unnecessary stuff you’re living with……and taking care of which is time that could be spent on more joyful pursuits.

  21. Ginger

    This is such a great way to reframe the clearing out discussion! I will definitely check out this book- it sounds really interesting! I struggle to keep things de-cluttered since we’re apartment-dwellers… it was much easier when I didn’t have any real hobbies! And I never know what to do with the things that I don’t use very often (like, say, a set of screwdrivers) but don’t want to have to pay to replace if I chuck them and end up needing them later! Guess I’ll have to read the book! Thanks for the rec!

    Oh! I also wanted to say that it’s really not very hard for me to give away handmades. Once I realized that, for me, it’s way sadder for something that I spent a lot of time and energy on to be unworn and unloved, I found it to be kind of a happy thing to give them away. Recently I sold quite a few handmades to a secondhand store in my neighborhood, and the buyer was really impressed by my sewing. She’d worked in costuming and was really excited to check out how I’d made different things and what techniques I’d used. I was so pleased that she thought other people would want to wear my stuff!

    1. Katie Post author

      I feel the same! I was in our local charity shop the other day and saw some of my handmades on the rail, it was a nice feeling!

  22. Natalie

    Inspired by your post I just spent half an hour going through my Berlin (and therefore much smaller) pant and sock drawer. I’ve got a bagful of stuff for the textile bin and about twice as much space in the drawer thanks to the folding method! So thanks for that. I really thought I had nothing excess here but turns out I was wrong. I had to admit that a few pairs of pants that were 2 sizes too big really weren’t bringing a spark of joy to my life…

    1. Katie Post author

      To be honest I’m still balling my socks, I need to try her folding method out… I had a MUCH needed undies and pyjama throw-out, was definitely hoarding a load of comfy-but-scuzzy things in there.

  23. Kate

    Funny, having never heard of this book before the last month, I’m hearing it mentioned everywhere! This is the first time I’ve sat up and taken notice though; thank you. It’s interesting to realise now how the items that are clutter subconsciously bring me down, especially when I open by wardrobe. I just want to be surrounded by a few lovely things that bring me joy, watch out house, here I come :)

  24. Peitra

    oh wow, i’m reading the exact same book!! but sadly i’m LOLING through the book because i aint got jackshit (the curse of being young n broke) but its the first time i’m living on my own and i just need to dust and vacuum and mop more (yay:|) so it hasn’t really helped. i just stick to my newly minted cleaning schedule which has improved my surroundings.

    1. Katie Post author

      Haha, I bet cleaning is easier when you have fewer possessions though. I usually have to spend ages tidying up THEN clean and it takes forever.

  25. Rachel

    Not strictly sewing related but certainly relevant. Your added questions definitely make sense and I may try using your three questions in an upcoming effort to cull items myself. I’d be interested in hearing about how the rest of the types of items go too.

  26. Pam Hetherington

    I’ve just moved this method into my sewing room! A little bit scary, but now that it’s pretty much done it feels a whole lot better. Especially being able to see the fabrics that are there, not hidden on top of each other in a basket. Good luck! x

    1. Katie Post author

      I’m doing the sewing room this week! Throwing out fabric and notions definitely seems harder than clothing.

  27. Felicia

    I recently moved temporarily for an internship for just six months and had to do something similar, although I hadn’t heard about this method before. I could only pack one box with clothes, so I really had to think about which garments I actually wear and like wearing! Now my wardrobe is small but very functioning, with colours that goes together and garments that are easily combined. Feels great, and it’s easier now to plan upcoming sewing projects that fits well into it!

  28. Berte

    Sounds like a take on the Interior Alignment clutter clearing credo: love it, use it, or get rid of it. Only having clothes that inspire and uplift is a very good idea. As is realising you don’t need a special occasion to dress nicely. Looking pretty *feels* good, and that has to be good, right? Healthy, even! :-)

  29. Alexandra

    Thanks for posting this! I haven’t heard about the “konmari” method before but I seriously needed to. I’m such a pack rat, I get anxious even thinking about parting with my stuff, especially my handmade clothing even if it doesnt get worn often. I’m definitely going to take a look through this book and try to go through my clothes.

    1. Katie Post author

      Hope it helps you! I kind of like having stuff around me too, but it’s definitely freeing to learn to let go a bit.

  30. Renee

    I’m reading her book now and got rid of 75 percent of my wardrobe easily. But, I can’t bear to let go of about three vintage dresses. Maybe next years purge?

  31. Jessica

    I just read the book and while I think she’s crazy obsessed, I so want to be like her! hahaha. I went through some clothes while I was packing (to move!) this week and got rid of 3 bags already. When I actually sit down to do the method I feel like it’ll be awesome. I have a ton of clothes that are too small that I’ve been keeping for years until I reach the magic size where I can wear them again and I just realized that I feel terrible every time I look into my closet because I can’t even fit into most of them. My husband says I shouldn’t throw them out due to the replenishment cost, but I feel like I emotionally need to let them go! Anyone else ever deal with that?

  32. Irene

    Great! However one little detail you have backwards, Konmari strongly suggests is ordering the wardrobe in an upward slope from left to right. Heavy long clothing on left, slowly getting shorter and on far left is the shorter light clothing. Apparently it is more appealing yo the eye, naturally giving a person a burst of energy and feeling comfortable

    1. Katie Post author

      Yup I read this bit but didn’t stick to it because my wardrobe slides open left to right and I prefer to have the lighter things more instantly visible. Not everything she says makes total sense, so I think a bit of bending her rules is necessary sometimes ^_^

  33. Sara

    Have you used the Konmari method on your fabric stash to? I’m in the processing of starting that and a bit freaked out. Terrified to throw things away that I could use :-)
    It would be intresting to read someone elses thoughts about that about. And does your feeling last a few months after the cleanout?

    1. Katie Post author

      It’s definitely trickled down to my fabric and haberdashery stash! Fabric and wardrobe are totally linked for me since I aim to wear everything I sew, so it’s definitely affected my sewing choices as well. A few months on I’m very much still sticking to it – it’s sort of easy when you have the nice calm feeling that everything’s in order.

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