Wardrobe pruning for minimalists: KonMari stairway to heaven

As you should have heard it from your local newspaper – and this blog – by now, the KonMari method for pruning our possessions is aimed at keeping only those objects that spark joy. She insists that you start with clothing because most people have an abundance of these ranging from sentimental favorites to never worn gifts, so it should be easier to develop our inner spark-o-meters. The way wardrobe editing KonMari style is described (and pictured, if you are into manga!) is a huge pile of garments in the middle of your living room and you going through them for hours (or do *this*). But… what if you have very few items already and the whole spark joy thing is rather menacing, because you know that you run a real chance of discarding all your wardrobe?

Well, that was the situation I was in early December – with a muted spark-o-meter! But then then I found ideas about what to do, both in her in-detail book and the social media: find your joy étalon and build on it! The idea is that even if we are unclear about some pieces, we are very likely able to identify things among our belonging that bring us maximum joy. And then, the second most joyful one, etc. etc. So in principle it possible to order all our garments ranging from most to least joy. In stats language, we are turning a binomial variable – “yes, joy” vs “no, no joy” – into a continuous variable ranging between these two extremes. For me this conversion took some pressure off the decisions, I separated the task in two: (a) order first and (b) then decide what to do with the low-joy end.

(A very important KonMari caveat for me that doesn’t get mentioned that much – probably because there is not much about it in the bestseller manifesto book – is that there are items that bring joy not because of their appearance or fluttery feeling they give to you but because of their function, and that is fine and still *counts*. Think hammers and winter underwear.)

And, as I appreciate rock’n’roll puns, in my mind these are stairways to heaven joy! So this is the joy order (not to be mixed up with joy division) of my dresses, from top joy to bottom joy:

Several interesting things happened while I was doing this. First, I was unable to order my layers in this way. And I accept that. The functionality is so *loud* winter jackets and sweaters that I don’t really hear the joy. All garments among my layers are either high joy or high functionality items, i.e. if I would throw away my parka – because of its sub-optimal silhouette, let’s say – I would have to replace it with other similar piece. Looking for a specific item that I have to buy bring me very little joy, so I leave my layers alone.

Second, once ordered I looked at the bottom of the list. (That’s the most interesting part because in theory all my seven dresses should be of the superjoy kind by now!) The last two live in Rīga, that’s clearly not a coincidence: I see them rarely and my Rīga ultra-capsule makes me wear them. The purple jersey one is actually a very nice one – a warm, stretchy and flattering hand-me-down from my mom – but it won’t last. It’s giving off treads and piling already, after ~10 wears. I’ll wear it out and will be loving every moment of it, but it won’t be long…

December 2008 – Brussels, Belgium.

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The little black dress is a weirder case. I bought it in H&M in late 2008, in a pretty low happiness moment of my life when browsing fast fashion and buying big plastic earrings made me feel better. The neckline looked good in carefully selected photos but was a continuous struggle and adjusting when moving around. Our seamstress added satin straps that took away the constant fidgeting but I still feel very self conscious when wearing this one without a layer (like this), hence most of the time it looks like this:

January 2018 – Rīga, Latvia.

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Coming back to the weakest link of my dresses’ stairway of joy: what shall I do with my little black dress? I know it brings me less joy than the rest, but… (a) what will I wear to the opera next time? and (b) when will I wear my floral bolero, as that garment was made to go together with this dress and no other garment or garment combination I currently own offers the same black canvas and balances out the extravagant shape of the shoulder detailing? My mission hence is no to throw it away, at least not until I happen to cross paths with the perfect LBD, but to steep with joy this one! One option to tone it down and wear more I found during these holidays is this one:

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I did the stairway exercise with my tops and bottoms too, and this is what the joy order of the tops are, again starting with top joy and going down to lesser:

The last three are here because of something else but joy as such: the black lace top is extremely versatile (and, as the purple dress, won’t live for much longer because of all the piling), the floral shirt is on probation and to be evaluated after this summer, and the WAG set – the result of my irrational whims – will also first have to see the summer and then we’ll see…

The order of bottoms you can see here, and I’m doubting only the last two items. WAG skirt has the same probation time as the top, although the skirt has a much greater potential (the top is so crop!). I’m still hoping that maybe somehow this set will be amazing in summer with no need for tights and layers + the option to tone it down with a pair of Birks. And – taddah! – the real outcome of all this ordering is that the little plaid mini, an American Apparel hand-me-down from Marina has to go. It’s too short and too tight after lunch – not enough joy!

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Lessons learned from this exercise? (1) It gets harder to prune when you have few items, as there is no pile of meh to fish out your joyful gems from. (2) This kind of ordering – taking into account both pure joy that garments bring you and their function – is helpful for making wishlists: you jot down the function and think of a better replacement. In my case the ones to replace would be the little black dress if I would come across one that makes me more confident (a basic quality black jersey bodycon could do the trick!) and when the black lace top dies, it could be time for a basic jersey turtleneck or boat neck. (3) You become aware of those with limited joy *and* function, and those garments have no excuse to be in your wardrobe. Let them go!

Share it with a friend!

Luīze

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