The 3 Things To Do When Your Closet Kondo Attempt Has Failed

The magic of Marie Kondo has been going around again like fairy dust thanks to the new Netflix show Tidying Up with Marie Kondo and people ask me “what do you think of all of this?” They know that after a decade of doing Subtraction Projects I LOVE all things that help people simplify and get to live the lives they want to live and here’s what I think: If it works for you, fantastic….but it’s not for everyone.

Here’s my story:

One day I emptied the entire contents of my closet, my dresser, the storage containers for out of season clothing, everything on to my bed. (As I was directed) I felt no joy in this process. I would pick up an item and struggle – did this bring me joy? It was a lot to ask of a sweater that I purchased a decade earlier. I liked it, I think. I didn’t wear it as much as I thought I would, but I’m not really in the business of asking a sweater to make me feel joy. I set the sweater down. I went to get a glass of water and closed the door.

I slept in the guest room for three nights. I wasn’t opening that Pandora’s box of a bedroom. No way.

I think it was an episode of Oprah that inspired this action. It had a “deal with it once and for all” note to it. But that’s not what happened. After those three days on a guest mattress designed to encourage weekend-only guests, I hastily moved all of the Stuff back to where they had taken up space before my uninspired action. No progress made. Defeated.

This effort highlighted something important and something I’ve built into our journey of Subtraction Project: you didn’t get all of this Stuff in a day, over a single weekend, or in the last year. Let’s give ourselves permission for this to take as long as it takes while feeling joyful in the journey.

This isn’t a blank permission slip to procrastinate but it is an invitation to let this process feel great and highlight the happiness that can be triggered from that Stuff you like being within reach.

The 3 Things To Do When Your Closet Kondo Attempt Has Failed

  1. Put it all back. I know, this feels hard because you had every intention of dealing with this stuff. The reality is life will be even more overwhelming and chaotic if you leave it all out until you can “deal with it” because that mythical time will be “tomorrow” a day that never actually arrives as it always exists out there in front of you.
  2. Make a move towards progress. Grab a grocery bag and put on a favorite song and fill the bag with things from your closet that you can let go of with ease. You’ve got some things you KNOW you will not ever wear again, create the momentum of forward progress. “But it’s not enough!” you may lament. Tell that inner voice this: It will be. One day, after many days of forward progress you’ll be able to say “there, that’s better.”
  3. Make a commitment. Repeat the grocery bag challenge every day (or each Friday) until you reach the “there, that’s better” point. Need outside accountability? Share the success on social media and tag #subtractionproject to get cheered on by others on the same journey.

Want to join me on a 10 Day Journey of Subtracting Stuff?
Sign up here:

It’s Free, actionable and enjoyable. 

3 replies
  1. Linda Zanoni
    Linda Zanoni says:

    Too funny – try removing 1 thing on the 1st day of the month 2 things on the second day of the month, 3 things on the third day of the month etc. By the end of the month you will have removed close to 500 things. By the way, I counted rubber bands, pencils, pens, books but at the end of the month I didn’t have much left for a subtraction project. I can’t remember why I did this but it was a great way to get into the mindset of removing stuff. The mailman sent me a thank you note for the rubber bands and that day I was able to get ride of 60 things!!

  2. Sara
    Sara says:

    I used 1 & 2 with all the Christmas stuff. I pulled all the boxes and bins out of the attic determined to go through them once and for all and get rid of the things I no longer like or want or use … and I got overwhelmed and put it all back. BUT, I did pull the three CD set that I never listen to, the books my kids never read, half a box of blue and white ornaments I bought to craft with years ago, and a painted wooden box and put them in the pile to go to the free table at the dump.

  3. Kathryn Ancona
    Kathryn Ancona says:

    This is totally the reminder I needed after feeling SO overwhelmed tackling my closet! Thank you!!!!!

Comments are closed.