How Learning to Fold Changed My Life

This summer I read a book that delivered on the promise in its title.

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up in two words is in fact life changing.

If you are someone who struggles even just the littlest bit to keep your home in order, this post and this book is for you!

While it may seem like a tidy home is a little out of context for what I usually write about, I want you to know that this book is one of the best ‘self-enrichment’ books I have read in a long time.

It goes beyond the external appearance of your home and deep into your heart, begging you to answer the question, “What brings you joy?”

Honestly, is there a better question to ask oneself? I think not.

Before I dive into the lessons that I learned from the book, you need to know something about me. While clutter makes me a little crazy, the last thing I would consider myself is naturally tidy.

I love to clean and I love a clean home, but it’s usually a cycle that goes like this:  

I make everything look beautifully spic and span. Truly spotless. Then, within two to four days, everything is pretty much a mess and so I do the whole thing over and over again.

In fact, I had a running text message joke with my husband.

ME: Love, oh my goodness. I think someone broke into the apartment!

HIM: What?!?!

ME: Yeah, I came home and there is stuff, clothes and shoes, absolutly everywhere! I can hardly see the floor. It’s not how you left this morning. It’s a disaster. We definitely had robbers. I don’t think they took anything, but they most definitely made a huge mess.

HIM: Love, did you make a mess today?

ME: Yes, I’m so sorry. Don’t hate me. (prayer emoji) I promise to clean tonight when I get home.

Let me just say we had ‘robbers’ more often than I care to admit.

At some point, I accepted the fact that this is just how it goes. You clean, you make a mess, and you clean again, right?

Wrong!

Not when you are following the KonMari method.

If this book, written by Japanese organizing guru Marie Kondo, can turn me into a gal who keeps things tidy on an ongoing basis, then surely she can do it for you.

Ever since reading and implementing the principals in the book, even my husband can’t believe the changes that have occurred.

My closet REMAINS beautifully organized, day after day.

My desk STAYS in clean and clear. Nothing extra on it. 

Our home has continually maintained a sense of calmness and peace.

Not a single robber has paid a visit since.

No more cycle of clean, mess it up, clean again.

It just. Stays. Clean.

Below, I am sharing the THREE things that completely changed my outlook on tidying and why the method works.

I am also sharing a few pics of my closet. And… you guys! I fold my underwear now! WHAT?! I never did this before. That alone will change your life!

Although these are rather short snippets as I encourage you to read the book, I want to give a little glimpse into my takeaways of the KonMari Method.

1. Everything in your home should elicit joy.

While I have heard this principal before in other organizing books, Kondo takes it a step further. Or, deeper I should say.

It’s not about what GAVE you joy (“I loved this when I bought it two years ago”) or what MIGHT give you joy in the future (“Maybe one day I will wear this!”), it’s about asking yourself “does this give me joy TODAY, in this moment?”

If there is an object in your home that gave you joy when you bought it (like that dress that you haven’t worn for 2 years but spent a lot of money on so don’t want to get rid of it) then it has served its purpose in your life which was to provide you with joy back then.  But the only moment that truly exists is now.

So that other top in your closet that you think you might wear ONE day? Ask yourself, does it bring you joy today, right now?

You will be amazed at how clear this answer becomes.

2. When letting go of the things that no longer bring you joy, thank them for the wonderful job they did when you had them.

In the past when I would go through my closet, I would just stuff everything I no longer wanted into a bag for donation.

However, because I was looking closely at each piece, asking if it gave me joy, I wanted to treat each item with the utmost respect. With the things that no longer gave me joy, I took a moment to literally thank that item for the joy it had brought me.

Whether it provided me with a cool look on the beach of Nantucket, or when purchasing the item I felt the rush of excitement about owning something new, each item served a purpose.

So, rather than chuck all the items on the floor, I thanked them and sweetly folded them into beautiful piles.

And as a result, I now look at all the things I CHOSE to keep and every day I thank my little items.

I say thank you to my skirt for allowing a cool breeze to flow on my legs on this hot day.

I say thank you to my bag for carrying my computer as I bounce around the city.

I say thank you to my sandals for keeping the soles of my feet comfortable so that I could walk many blocks today.

Because I have gained a new sense of respect for the things I own, I tend to take better care of them. I want to put them away in their rightful home. I want to fold them properly so they have air to breathe. As a result, each item gets put away beautifully in its place and with pleasure. This is the KonMari method.

3. Upright folding.

Kondo doesn’t believe in making piles with your clothes. She says it like this, “If you were at the bottom of a pile with a bunch of things stacked on you, how would you feel?”

She says that piles don’t allow you to see all the items (hence you likely won’t use them) and that it doesn’t give your things an opportunity to do their best work for you.

So she has a technique of folding where you find the sweet spot.

Take a look at my workout pants and jeans. I just take a pair out and then put them back in the slot when I am done. No more messy piles.

closet1

 

closet2

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Doing this alone has changed my ENTIRE getting dressed experience. Finding that pair of pants I want? No problem.

This was just a small portion of what I gave away.

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And, well, my underwear drawer. I could resist sharing this. Okaaaay!?!!

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Now, it’s your turn.

Leave a comment and let me know if you’ve read it (I love hearing other success stories with this book) & what you think about the KonMari method, or share your biggest challenge when it comes to cleaning!

Love,
Erin

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53 Responses to How Learning to Fold Changed My Life

  1. I just bought this book! I can’t wait to follow through on it! Hooray for more JOY. 😉 xoxo

  2. Kelly says:

    I am moving tomorrow, and so this post comes at the perfect time! I absolutely LOVE tip #1. If it doesn’t give me joy today, then I will thank it for past joy and move on. Brilliant!

  3. Joanie says:

    I too, am the QUEEN of “robbers in the apt”! I read the book, did my closet and donated 4 garbage bags full of clothing! That was 2 months ago and everything is still organized! I used to work for a professional organizer and have never had results like this! It really is magical! ?

    • Erin says:

      Ah! Joanie! I love hearing that it’s still organized! Can you believe it?! It truly is magical. And I love that you had ‘robbers’ too. Heehee. Great minds. xoxo

  4. Patty says:

    I read and did the clothing part of her book as well. Could use a little tweaking and have not moved on to the other articles in my life but it is a start. I was skeptical about the folding of the shirts and underwear in the vertical fashion and now that I have done it am very pleased with the new system. I often think “does this bring me joy” when making decisions now on what to keep as well as now on what to acquire. It is a life changer. I also love when my chosen self help paths intersect – so it was great to see you utilizing Kon Mari!

  5. Jill says:

    Love this! I definitely need to apply these tips to get my apartment in order and keep it in order. Too much stuff is definitely a big problem…I find it hard to part with things I spent money on and like..but then when it’s just amid clutter, I don’t get to enjoy it.
    I do use this approach to folding my shirts and underwear and I love it! Opening a drawer to nicely folded underwear is one of my daily little pleasures.
    I’m going to have to look into this book! But thanks for these tips, I’m going to try to do a closet clean out this weekend.

    • Erin says:

      I’m SO with you on the underwear being one of life’s little pleasures. That’s it exactly. Yes, get the book! It will help with your ability to let go of even the things you spent a lot of money on. Promise:) xo

  6. Ginny says:

    This gave me inspiration to further clean my closets and also tackle those bookshelves! (I just wish I could get my husband to let go of some books, but I am going to share your thoughts and work on him!)

  7. Pam says:

    I am reading this book right now! I have been on the waiting list at the library forever and it finally became available. I’m almost done reading and then I plan on getting to clearing out – starting with clothing of course!

  8. Kim says:

    I just started reading the book, and I love it. The photos you posted are very helpful, as now I can visually see clothes that are folded and loved.

  9. Jen says:

    I had this book out from the library on my Kindle, but didn’t have a chance to crack it open (and maybe was a little afraid to, because then I *have* to do something. But this post has made me realize that I need to read it. I need to do something because looking around at my house does not give me joy! (It doesn’t help that my husband has hoarding tendencies and my kids are pack rats!)

    Thanks for this post, Erin! I look forward to getting it out again and giving it another go.

  10. Linda says:

    Just read your blog, will be getting the book and starting it asap. I love the folding method…makes so much sense. Can’t wait to start receiving joy from my things instead of stress! Thanks for sharing.

  11. Katie says:

    Gah! I need to read this book! I find that with such little space in this ~700sqft apartment, and the closet I share with a man who has too many clothes, I’m constantly looking through piles to find those pants or that top, or some box that had that one pair of boots in it.

    Going to buy this book so fast! Thanks Erin!

    PS – Anyone who’s sentimental about clothes/concert t’s/those shoes from 1998 – take photos! I have a fun nostalgic photo collection of concert t-shirt photos, and I swear I don’t miss those shirts. (Except that one shirt that I sleep in and I’m never throwing away)

  12. Lisa says:

    I’m about half way through the book, in the middle of packing for a move to somewhere but not sure where yet…I’m getting rid of a lot of stuff that’s just been taking up space and that mostly I don’t notice anymore – there’s no joy in that, huh? I can’t wait to get to the folding part, just started “catagories”. It’s very cool to see the process in action, thank for the pics.

  13. Angie says:

    I haven’t read this book but after reading your blog I can’t wait to get my hands on it. I’m naturally an a organized person but I live with a messy family so I struggle to keep everything tidy. I clean my closets at least every six months but never thought about thanking the items I gave away. I also love the idea of not stacking my clothes but putting them side by side. Never thought of this before but it surely makes sense. Thank you so much for sharing Erin. xoxo

  14. Laurie says:

    ok, that’s it! Getting the book, because the idea of not doing the CYCLE thrills the crap out of me!
    Thanks for the extra info Erin!

    Love, Laurie

  15. trish bennett says:

    Thanks ! I have to downsize all of my stuff because I am travelling this year and maybe from now on but so many items have meant so much to me . The idea to THANK THE ITEM will help my process of letting go of it because it still honors the memory . Great !

  16. Victoria says:

    Read and loved the book BUT still looking at my like that
    I was supposed to take care of by end of summer!!!!
    Eeeek. It has made me see I have some inner work to do.
    Went through a flood two years ago which ripped a lot of personal items from my life without my consent. I’m still not recovered from it but I have so many items that were given to me. Not all I wear of course but I think there is some fear in me that needs to release.
    Thanks for posting.

  17. Thanks for this Erin! I haven’t read this book yet, but my interest is definitely peaked. I live in Peru so we can’t get books here easily, so I’ll have to look into kindle.

    This is also so timely for me because I literally just fixed all the clothes I have that have holes in them and fixed all the little broken things in my house like the door that didn’t shut right and the missing floor board and the broken toliet, etc. And then I bought a lot of fresh, happy alive plants for our house and a ton of flowers for our garden – ah!, wow, what a difference it makes! Jack Canfield of Chicken Soup for the Soul said that it’s good to make a list of all the broken things in your house and then get them fixed because otherwise you are sending a subcounsious message that you aren’t worthy. So especially if you are wanting to be a millionaire (let’s say) it is important to do this because otherwise you are creating a bit of a block. It makes sense!

    My rule in my living space is, “Do I LOVE it?” Do I look at this coffee mug and love it? Do I LOVE the bath mat? And then it creates this vibration and resonance of love and people can feel it.

    Thanks so much for this post, I LOVE it! 🙂 Btw, I’m in Jeannine’s Mentor Masterclass, so that is how I found you. And you are the guest mentor this month and I’m loving your videos with awesome tips and suggestions. Bless xx

  18. Diana says:

    I love this little book! This method really works. My difficulty is finding the blocks of time necessary in the initial sort phase. With 5 kids I just don’t have big chunks of time. However, the few drawers and closets I have transformed make me happy just looking at them every day. It really is worth the big time investment needed at the beginning stage. The results not only bring joy from the removal of “unloved” items, but the beautiful visual of organized spaces. Saves loads of time as well because I no longer have to search for anything-everything is in its “home”.

  19. kim says:

    I bought the book a couple of months ago. I instantly fell in love with the approach. I just moved a year ago and still had everything for the most part in storage. I thought I would spend the winter cleaning one box at a time but every time I opened the storage door, I was overwhelmed and closed it as fast as I could. Then I read the book. So, with a lot of effort and some wonderful help… I took everything out of the storage unit [10x20x 7 ft high] and sorted it into about 7 categories – you know, clothes, books, sentimental etc. Then I put it all back in except the first category – clothes. It seems like I didn’t accomplish much but it made all the difference in the world. I took all the boxes of clothes back with me and sorted them as she talks about. They all fit in the built in when I was done. Next I brought all of the kitchen boxes. I was amazed at how easy it was to get rid of so much. I proceeded on until now my storage unit is about 1/3 full, and I am done to only 3 categories… But they are the hardest for me! sentimental [of course], books, and craft supplies. I am def making progress though and everything I have tidied has stayed that way! I am so grateful I can’t even say. I have been trying to clean out for about 15 years now in one form or another and it just never seemed to end. The best part is, I have more idea of what brings me joy now so I somehow have a yardstick to make choices by when choosing to bring in new things. It is a great book.

    • Erin says:

      Wow! Sounds like you made an incredible dent! That’s amazing. And I agree, the sentimental stuff is harder. I have always kept that stuff to a minimum anyway, so made it a little easier. Congratulations on the beautiful transformation! xo

  20. Rebecca says:

    I love this book! I read Clear Your Clutter With Feng Shui and really scaled back, then I discovered this book and it took it up ten notches! My life is changing as I keep applying her process throughout my home. I think her method teaches you to raise your standards in your whole life as a result of learning to choose every item, decision, experience, response by whether it brings you (MORE!) joy 🙂 <3

  21. Agnes ryan says:

    I keep hearing about this book and have been resisting but you’re robbers story is a reminder of one time I actually had robbers and the guard ( Irish policeman) said “they made some mess hah?” And my brother in law said “actually no, it would’ve looked something like that when they came in ”
    Time to fold, time to embrace letting go and time for letting in Joy that’s the best bit. Yes to joy.
    Thanks Erin,
    ..maybe there are some enthusiastic folders out there who would love to help a folding beginner. I’m in TIpperary Ireland… Start with the book I suppose.

  22. Joyce says:

    Yes, talk about synchronicity. I just ordered this book from Amazon, it just arrived y’day, and I started reading it! I’m so excited to get my home truly organized! Thanks for the confirmation I really need to do this!

  23. Joann says:

    Vertical folding!! What a genius idea, I’m off to do that right now. Don’t you just love finding new ways to do what could be considered boring jobs, yippee.

  24. Deb says:

    I really liked this book. Getting my clothes out of my drawers is like opening presents everyday! I’ve gone through my dresser and the clothes in my closet. I am trying to work on other areas in my house daily. My goal is to find a new home (out of my house)for 5 items everyday. I liked that she talked about how the items once gave you joy and maybe now they don’t anymore. They could give someone else joy now. It is ok to let them go. I think that it helps to find things in your life that you can control and improve when life seems out of control.

  25. Ashlee says:

    Love this! Can’t wait to read it. I do some home cleansing of my own now, but I love the ideas you shared in this post. 🙂

  26. Marj says:

    Is there a special way to fold? Or do you just line up the folded clothes?

  27. Lucie says:

    I actually bought this book by accident a while ago with Amazon one-click ordering. I’m starting to think that it really wasn’t an accident! Thanks for sharing what you learned. Can’t wait to finally start reading it 🙂

  28. Jennifer Otts says:

    I have almost bought the book 100 times, but I am wondering if anyone with kids can share their experience? I don’t see my little ones keeping up with the system, or at least not trying to fight it, but I’m willing to try anything. I’ve threatened to have “robbers” come in & “steal” some toys!

  29. Carolyn says:

    Saw you talking about this book on Periscope. Was at Costco the next day and saw the book and bought it! I’m about three quarters of the way done with the book and loving it! Can’t wait to start applying the techniques with myself and my 3 little boys! Thank you so much for sharing!

  30. Michelle says:

    I read the book recently. I read another comment on the “does it bring you joy” idea for sorting clothes, which was “would you buy it today”. My 14 year old daughter who thinks my wardrobe is “tragic” decided to take every single piece out and made me try each one on to give me a yes or no. I realized there were tops that I still wore that weren’t terrible, but they also weren’t the most flattering and probably 5-10 years old. I let it all go and gave 3 big garbage bags full to value Village. My closet looks amazing and it really feels good. Now we need to work on my husbands stuff!

    • Erin says:

      I love that your daughter helped with this!:) Very cool. I found that my husband was really inspired by what I was doing and did his own closet, to a degree. That said, he is naturally more tidy then I, so it wasn’t a stretch for him. Maybe you can do with him what your daughter did with you:)

  31. Lori says:

    I just started reading this book. I really need to get control over my clutter. Dh, ds and I live in 1000 ft home and we are literally bursting at the seams. I know I hang onto things out of a deprivation mentality. I really hope this book (and my mantra work) can help me let go.

  32. Samantha says:

    It’s so funny that you mention this book today, Erin, because I just saw it at B&N the other day and bought it. I thought, “I hope that this isn’t just another book on how to tidy that will actually end up just cluttering my home.” I haven’t finished it yet, but I LOVE it so far! I’ve been implementing these tools: When I come home from work I immediately put my keys in the same place, empty my lunch bag, clean it out, go through the mail and file, sort, recycle or throw away whatever I need to. I hang up my jacket, etc. Having this ritual is becoming second-hand and it’s making me already feel more organized and like my house is tidier! On a separate note, I’ve been slacking in the workout dept, so this morning I got up early before work and did your soul stroll– what a great start to my day! Thank you thank you! xoxo.

  33. Krista says:

    I was looking for something to do this 3 day weekend. Looks like I found it! This is the 3rd time this book has shown up in my life this week, so clearly it’s time. Can’t wait and am already going thru things in my head! Thanks for the encouragement and example Erin!!

  34. Hi Erin!

    I corresponded with you when you were in Chicago. I’d like to share your work with my blog readers…and I think I’m ready to move my life forward now.

    My favorite part of the book is when she said to take each item and hold them to your heart and ask you heart to respond to the question ” Do I love this?”

    Lovely!

    I used a lot of her techniques…then my son died and suddenly there are pictures and boxes everywhere and I just need to dig out…again!

    THanks for sharing this powerful message…cleaning out invites all kinds of good energy into our lives.

    I know I can do this !

    Love,
    Jamie lee Silver

    • Erin says:

      Dearest Jamie- Been thinking of you. I love this perspective as well. So very lovely. I wish the strength and love as you move through the sentimental stuff. Big hugs! xo Erin

  35. Ann says:

    What great timing! Love the idea of vertical clothes. I have always hated stacks, so tried to hang everything….but never thought of this plan. I am going for the book!! Thanks!

  36. Sara says:

    I have the book on my Kindle, and am looking forward to getting started on it. I love the idea of thanking an item for it’s service, for the joy it brought to me at one time. And then letting it go. I have some things that were my mother’s, that no longer bring me joy. And I feel a little guilty about letting them go. But I’ve decided that it doesn’t diminish their worth by setting them free. I can still cherish my memories of my mom even without hanging on to a bunch of clutter that is collecting dust in my closet. That’s not honoring my mom in any way! I think it would make her happy if I gave them away. Onward! xoxo

  37. Jeanine says:

    Ironically, I have two bags on the floor waiting to donate; one mine, one of my daughter’s things and I haven’t donated yet because there is so much more in there that I need to go through. Your piece gave me a sense of relief; the feeling that it is ok to get rid of something that still has a tag even if I never wore it, for some reason that day I thought I needed it. Or the guilt of the money wasted when it is rather hard to come by these days, or the feeling that I should always save those other sizes big and small- just in case- even though I never want to be either extreme again- too big or too small. After a recent trip, where I just bought a few new things…all I could think is – there is no space to put them. I can’t even see what I have. My daughter returns to school next week and i am so excited to dig in and rid my space of all the things that no longer energize me, and in fact, actually make me feel bad about myself when I put them on. Who needs to feel frumpy or too old or out of date….there are gems in there that I discover whenever I seep through …and I am reminded why those fabulous things will be in there forever. Why not have a closet full of joyful things…it really does make you feel lighter- physically and spiritually. Thanks!!! xo

  38. Amy says:

    Hi Erin, this post is so fitting. I just moved into a new place two days ago and my friend was telling me about this very book!I feel like it’s a sign. I’m always digging for my clothes and shoes in the morning feeling so overwhelmed and disorganized. I like how these ideas change my way of setting up my clothes in a different way and becoming excited to get dressed. It makes perfect sense to try this and give my clothes some respect. 🙂 I’ll let you know how these ideas change my cleanliness and getting dressed experience. Thank you!

  39. Hi Erin!
    I love seeing all the organizing work you have done with your closet – shows gratitude for the lovely clothing you have collected. The folding and lining up (instead of stacking) is a technique I use in my dresser drawers with t-shirts, workout clothes and jeans as well!
    Thank you for your work,
    Tara

  40. Joan says:

    Love these ideas! The change of season is just the right time to try this too!
    When travelling a couple of years ago I used a similar system to your vertical stacking. Instead of a suitcase with neatly folded piles, I put my piles upright in a big duffle bag so I could see the edge of each shirt and pants. The socks and underwear went into the ends because I didn’t need to see them. I picked skirts and dresses that could be rolled or twisted, so I had one row along the side where all I could see were two inch rolls of different colours and textures. I had one duffle bag for visiting family with nice clothes, and a different duffle bag for camping. If I was going to be at a someone’s house for just one night I made sure to throw a new shirt, shorts and underwear in my purse or book bag, so I didn’t even need to go looking for clothes the next day. It was the easiest I had ever packed and it kept me organized for over three weeks!
    Now to try the vertical system on my shelves and buy this book.
    I am doing this every year now. Maybe it will make someone else’s life a little easier.

  41. Carol says:

    I read about the vertical folding technique around the time I was about to move houses, and it really works. my drawers have never in my life been so organized! I do need to do a more thorough sweep through the house, as my husband is more of an accumulator, but still, small changes can make a big difference.

  42. Monica Figueroa says:

    Thanks so much for this, Erin. I have a lot of decluttering to do, especially with my clothes. I think a lot is saved for my “goal weight” but I think I have to focus more on the now and keep maybe just 1 pair of jeans, a top and a dress as “goal clothes” rather than a whole wardrobe of the weight I was before. I guess this’ll help me get excited about the new clothes I’ll invest in to celebrate my efforts and work, rather than trying to look how I did before. Time to leave things in the past! Thanks again 🙂

  43. Mallory Hawks says:

    Love this! I have been on a purging quest for several years, but still had the “perfectly clean for a few days and then disaster” issue. I heard about the Kon Mari folding method a few months ago and it instantly changed our lives. James has always had really organized drawers for all of his graphic t-shirts, but you could only see the ones on top. I used the Kon Mari method in my drawers and closet and said, “Baby, you are going to LOVE this.” He’s obsessed now and had an entire drawer of empty extra space when he was finished to fill with other items that were crammed into his closet. I started going through each area of our apartment with the Kon Mari method and it has blown my mind. I didn’t do it all in one day like she suggests but I’d say I’m 80% there. It really is MAGIC!