About 2 years ago, I read Marie Kondo's Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, and no hyperbole: it really was a life-changing book and it really was a one-time reorganization. After reading it, I donated, sold or discarded roughly 50% of my possessions. I tossed items that were worn, donated items that were still good but that I had no use for, and sold or consigned items, like clothing that I no longer wore.
The "KonMari" Method – an overview
In a nutshell, Kondo advises that you pick up each and every one of your possessions and ask yourself if it "sparks joy." If it does, it's a keeper. If not, into the recycling, donation or garbage bin it goes.
I used to be a clothes horse, especially when I worked as a creative director in Philadelphia's largest advertising agency. Post-cull, my closet now only contains about 1/3 of the clothes it used to. I went from owning 1500 books to about 200 books that I regularly use. Most noticeably, I downsized my collection of 400+ cookbooks to fewer than 100. My jewelry collection, junk drawer, sock drawer, pantry, utensil drawers and possessions in general are all noticeably slimmer.
Now, I am much more deliberate with purchases. I still have many books on my Kindle/iPad, but I only purchase books that "spark joy." If I buy a new item of clothing, I have a loose "one in/one out" rule to help keep things manageable. Fewer possessions to care for means more free time for fun – including running – and for the people in your circle. Life is much easier when you own less.
"Kondo-ing" (yes, it's a verb now) does not only apply to things. Kondo claims that reducing your possessions to only those that truly make you happy can have a domino affect on other areas of your life.
It was true for me, in retrospect, although I was not aware of it at the time. A few months after my home reorganization, I finally ended a relationship that, although loving, was not sustainable for either party. I stopped participating in one-sided friendships. I left my stressful job in advertising and returned to my calmer former life of self-employment as a medical writer/creative director. I also got my USATF track coach certification and began taking on clients who wanted help with their running.
Did this all come about because I reorganized my possessions? Of course not. But deep symbolism is rooted in our actions and the subconscious is always at work, even when we're sleeping. Especially when we're sleeping.
Kondoing your running gear
Although I had Kondo-ed my running gear 2 years ago, racing and blogging means constantly accruing new stuff, some useful, most not. For example, I already ran 4 races this year and received 4 swag tops, only one of which I will realistically wear.
I live in a city that experiences all 4 seasons, so I need to be ready for heat, humidity, rain, wind, snow and freezing temperatures. I also run 6 days a week and complete weekly workouts in addition to running (yoga, strength, cross training), so I do need to keep a fair amount of gear. But still, things were getting out of hand.
Inspired by Holly at Fueld by LOLz, I decided to embark on an expedition to spring clean my 3 drawers of running gear. My results may not look all that dramatic since I am generally organized and had already Kondo-ed. But you can see that my drawers contain fewer items and look neater, with each item now having more room to "breathe."
Kondo recommends folding clothing so it stands on end. This way, you can easily scan your gear and pick out items. I was skeptical but after 2 years of folding this way, I concur and will never go back. For organizing, I used shoe boxes, various plastic containers and dividers I found at Ikea. You can also buy them here or at any organizing shop. I find that putting things in boxes really does make it easier to keep things neat for the long haul.
My top drawer contains running singlets, hats, gloves, buffs, reflective marathon blankets, a hydration belt, and miscellaneous gear. I ended up donating a few singlets that were 7 years old, still in decent condition that I no longer wore, but ended up keeping most of this drawer's content. Top drawer changes were the least dramatic of the three.
My middle drawer contains shorts, running bras, short-sleeved shirts and T-shirts. The race T-shirts tend to pile up, and let's face it: most of them are ill-fitting, boxy, uncomfortable ("Cotton is rotten") and not attractive. They do make great throwaways for chilly race mornings, though.
True confession: I have a superstition that I must hold onto any T-shirt received in a PR race, which accounted for some of the bulk here. But it was time to donate the excess. Also, the elastic on several of my running bras was starting to wear, so I tossed those and donated some out-of-style running shorts. I ended up moving some items from the top drawer (Body Glide, headphones) to this drawer and I'm happy with the way this one turned out.
My bottom drawer was in the worst shape, as you can see, and I was starting to feel stressed whenever I looked at it or tried to wedge in yet another shirt after doing laundry. Here, I stow long-sleeved shirts, light jackets, capris, tights and headbands – mostly bulky stuff. Making matters worse, last fall and this spring, I had run many races that gave away long-sleeved shirts so the accrual was happening faster than the disposal. I ended up donating quite a few shirts and jackets that I no longer wore. I also reorganized by headbands by upcycling a blue mushroom container. Much easier on the eyes, right?
Here's the bag of items I ended up collecting to donate.
Now it's time to spring clean the rest of my place!