My mom is the youngest of seven, and I’m the fourth out of five.
It wasn’t until I read Marie Kondo’s book that I realized the impact these simple facts had on both of us.
Kondo points out that some of the most difficult things to get rid of are items from family and friends.
Well, guess where a child in a large family gets most of her clothes?
Family and friends.
As younger siblings, we aren’t just getting hand-me-down clothes either. No, it also applies to furniture, toys, decorations, etc. It’s so easy to say yes to something free. Maybe we’ll decide it isn’t “just right” later, and we’ll get rid of it after we’ve tried it out. By that time, it’s difficult to give it up even if we never would’ve bought it for ourselves.
It was so refreshing to me when Kondo explained that this process keeps younger sisters from establishing their own style. I just thought I had lots of styles, which to a certain extent is true. But there are definitely clothes that I keep and wear just because they are comfortable or nice even though they are a pattern or shape I’m not fond of. I wear plenty of clothes that really don’t fit, but I say they’re good enough. Marie Kondo’s requirement that clothes “spark joy” has made it easier to get rid of what I don’t really like.
I used to avoid shopping for two reasons relating to the above:
- I felt bad spending money when I had free stuff I could use (even if I didn’t really like it). It never really crossed my mind that other people get new clothes when they gain or lose weight or when they get taller, and they don’t necessarily feel bad about it. It’s just something they have to do to meet a basic need because they don’t have anyone giving them clothes.
- I got overwhelmed by all the choices. I have a conglomeration of styles from siblings and friends, so I don’t know instantly by looking at an item whether I’d ever wear it or not. But by getting rid of clothes I don’t love, I am making decisions that help me identify what isn’t my style. For example, my mom frequently says that everyone needs a nice white shirt. I don’t like wearing them, though. Now I just don’t have any. If I need one for a certain event, I’ll simply buy or borrow one then. Now in a store, even if I see a super cute white shirt, I remind myself that I don’t wear them. It helps easily narrow down the options.
These days, when someone gives me a bag of clothes, I only keep about a fourth of them rather than the usual three-fourths.
How Life is Different Once You Fix the Problem
This process of decluttering my clothes also made me aware of (and has given me space for) items I don’t have but would love and use. Keeping a list of these things makes shopping so much more fun. It’s easier and guilt-free because if I don’t find what I’m looking for, I don’t get a bunch of stuff that’s just ok. I realize that I’ve done without the item for a long time and will do without it for longer, until I find what’s just right. I like to call it Goldilocks shopping.
Anyway, having hand-me-downs so often also kept me from realizing the value of buying some things new. I still buy lots of stuff used, and if I buy something new I try to get it on sale.
But for too long, I underestimated the value of having warranties and guarantees for some items. Or how beneficial it is to experience new ideas in a book along with others discovering it for the first time. (I mean, reading Harry Potter for the first time at this point has a lot less excitement and connection to other people than reading it the first day book six came out.)
For many people, all of this will seem so obvious, but I imagine there are others like me who didn’t realize how life-changing these things can be.
Instead of our default answer being to not buy stuff new, we can consider whether it will actually save time or money in the long run if we buy something new or if it will be worth it to experience it sooner rather than later.
Have you found that Kondo’s ideas about the younger sister are true about you? Have you done anything to change it? What have you learned from the process?
This is part two in a series of Thoughts Inspired by the KonMari Method. If you missed the first post about what you do when your family isn’t on board with decluttering, check it out here. To keep from missing upcoming posts, sign up for my newsletter. Next week’s post will be about how clutter is not smart but we trick ourselves into thinking it is.