I KonMaried My Wardrobe (FP Style)

This post contains affiliate links. Also, it contains terrible photography, for which I apologize. My bedroom is in the basement and it’s kind of a dark hole.

Well, everyone else was reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying UpI am by no means a committed minimalist, but I do like to keep my possessions trimmed down and tidy, so I got on the hold list for the book to see if I could get any fresh ideas.

First, let’s acknowledge that it’s kind of a weird book. The author, Marie Kondo, advises thanking your possessions for their service to you, especially when you are discarding something. I don’t find it necessary to consult the feelings of inanimate objects. And while nicely stored clothes make me happy, I do not believe that the clothes have an opinion one way or another. Still, I’m getting some use from the book.

Marie Kondo’s sole criterion for deciding whether to keep or discard an item is, “Does it spark joy?” and she advises that you begin paring down by starting with your clothes in a specific order: first tops, then bottoms, and so on.

I thought I had a pretty small wardrobe and I’ve gone through it regularly, but I was surprised when I started counting to find that I owned 62 tops, from camisoles to cardigans. (According to Kondo, the average person she works with has 160, so I guess I do have a small wardrobe.)

Frankly, I think it’s unreasonable to expect all your clothes to “spark joy.” I often wear to work a pink and white striped button-down that I bought when I was breastfeeding Big Brother. It does not now and never has sparked actual joy, but it is comfortable, reasonably professional, and performs all the important functions of clothing, so I kept it. I can’t alternate between pajamas and the red dress Mr. FP bought me in Italy, the only two items of clothing that I find particularly joy-inducing.


Sweat pants, circa 1997. They still cover my legs, so I choose to keep them rather than buy something new.

I also dislike discarding clothing because Americans waste massive quantities of clothing. A lot of our discarded clothing winds up getting shipped overseas. If I don’t wear it, it’s possible no one else will, either, so to keep things out of the landfill, I like to err on the side of using them up.

So I set a lower bar: I would keep any clothes that did not cause me actual emotional or physical discomfort and that serve a purpose. Turns out, I owned nineteen shirts that I actively disliked or had no conceivable use for. 19! And that’s just shirts.

I love the color, but it's time to admit that I bought this shirt too small and it hurts my elbows.

I love the color, but it’s time to admit that I bought this shirt too small. Even if I lost weight, it would still pinch my elbows.

The fanciest, newest clothes I got rid of. The dry-clean-only shirt was a gift and I bought the makes-me-look-pregnant skirt to go with it.

The fanciest, newest clothes I got rid of. The dry-clean-only shirt was a gift and I bought the makes-me-look-pregnant skirt to go with it.

I filled up one garbage bag and about half of a Trader Joe’s bag with discarded clothes, but for me, the bigger impact was the vertical folding. Essentially, you fold your clothes up so tightly that they stand up on their own (no really–this actually happens!), then you place them in the drawer on their edge. While the folding takes longer, it lets you fit a lot more things into the drawer AND at the same time actually see it all. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been looking for something and not been able to find it when it was in a pile the whole time.

Before. Never knew what shirts were in which pile and my underpants and sports bras were shoved awkwardly in the back.

Before. Never knew what shirts were in which pile and my underpants and sports bras were shoved awkwardly in the back.

And after. Removed undies and added several large sweaters plus some camis from the closet.

And after. Removed undies and added several large sweaters plus some camis from the closet.

I made the change several days ago and love it so far. I do spend more time folding, but it’s kind of satisfying, and anyway I find I get that time back not having to hunt for things in piles. Plus I like how nice it looks. She advises using shoeboxes as drawer dividers, but so far I’ve been making do without. My underwear drawer is too shallow for a shoebox, but I do use a commemorative paperweight to keep my sports bras from falling over.

Vertical sock folding made room for my sports bras and underpants in--of all places--my underwear drawer.

Vertical sock folding made room for my sports bras and underpants in–of all places–my underwear drawer. Paperweight keeps pile from falling over. I’ve also heard of people using bookends.

Now that I’ve I tossed out everything in the closet I hated and then folded much of what remained (now that I had all that dresser space–yes, you can fold skirts), I will be able to fix my awful closet space. See, I have these two awkwardly placed bars:

Before pic of overcrowded closet with draggy clothes.

Before pic of overcrowded closet.

There was not enough space either on the bottom or the top to hang dresses or long shirts and everything just kind of dragged. Now, I can hang everything on one bar, lower the other one to make a convenient shelf for things like my sewing basket, and still not have dragging clothes. Just as soon as I get around to it…

Have you read The Life-Changing Magic? How do you store your clothes? Do you thank your possessions for their service to you?


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About frugalparagon

I'm a part-time librarian and mom to two small boys. I blog about striving for the long-term goal of financial independence while running a tight ship at home.

12 responses to “I KonMaried My Wardrobe (FP Style)”

  1. Anne says :

    I haven’t read the book, but I did switch to a “capsule wardrobe” of 37 items about six months ago. I got rid of a ton of clothing and put a lot more in storage, just in case, but I’m finding that the 37 items are actually too many and I could do with fewer. I read about the folding technique and switched my dish towels over, which as been great. We don’t use paper towels, so there are a lot of dish towels in our drawer. I’ve been through a lot of my stuff with the “does it spark joy” test, but the only things I’ve thanked or said goodbye to were sentimental items that no longer served the same purpose.

  2. Mrs PoP says :

    I read a copy of the life-changing art of tidying up this past summer and I probably could have timed it better than reading it in the middle of a giant remodel project since I wasn’t particularly inspired to tackle anything else right then. That said, I’m not sure the “spark joy” test is really applicable for all items. I have a few dresses that do spark joy, but they are not appropriate 100% of the time, much less 5% of the time! And I can tell you that my paint-splattered t-shirts and jeans and shorts do not spark any joy, but are highly useful ~30% of the time these days. Everything else is a mix in between.

    As for the folding, I’ve always folded or rolled camisoles and tank tops (of which I still have a ridiculous number, despite whittling down) so that I could see them all at once. Same with dish towels. But I haven’t been able to figure out how to fold anything else so that it stands up like that. Drywick shirts and shorts all seem to collapse if I try and arrange them vertically without absolutely jamming them in together and I have a ton of those (I wear at least 1 drywick shirt per day, not kidding). Any hints on the folding there?

    • frugalparagon says :

      I only have a few pieces that are 100% synthetic. I folded them down super-small–maybe actually in eighths lengthwise. And they are braced with larger, sturdier items; I have exercise clothes on one side of the dresser and pants on the other.

      My sweater drawer tends to be looser because, well, I am generally wearing a sweater. The item on the end, next to a gap, does tend to fall over when I close the drawer; I guess that’s why some people use bookends, but so far it is not a problem. Forget about trying to make it the same height as your dresser. That only works for jeans. Anything more delicate will be much shorter than the depth of the drawer, or else it will flop. Most of my things are folded in either sixths (folded in half lengthwise, then in thirds) or eighths (folded in half three times).

      Hope that helps! I actually watched several mini-videos on folding technique :-).

  3. Autumn says :

    I haven’t read the book (though it is on my “to-read” list, so I’ll get to it eventually), but that’s how I’ve always folded my t-shirts and workout clothes. Now I feel a little fancy.

    I would also have trouble finding clothing that sparks joy. Clothing just doesn’t do it for me. That’s how I keep it from coming into my house in the first place 🙂

    • frugalparagon says :

      Excellent point! I would probably own a lot more clothes if they brought me joy. Since they don’t, today I’m wearing a baggy Lands End drifter, circa 1998, and jeans with heavy inner-thigh patching. And I’m like, “Well, at least it’s not a freebie T-shirt.”

  4. Tarynkay says :

    I also found it to be an odd book. Some of it was inspiring, some of it was just strange. I wonder if it was odd for Japanese readers as well, or if it is just the cultural differences.

    I can’t say that it was a life changing book. But then I don’t live alone and I can’t throw out all of my husband and sons superfluous possessions.

    I love the folding method, though, and switched to that. I really love folding clothes so I got a kick out of a whole new way to do it. And it does keep the drawers much nicer.

    • frugalparagon says :

      I do think it’s a cultural thing–I heard that the author practices Shintoism, in which inanimate objects have–souls? I didn’t bother to look it up or verify, but it rang true :-).

  5. Jody S. says :

    I’m just now “allowing” myself to get rid of things that really annoy me. Before, I would keep a shirt or something because it still had wear, but now, if I find myself whining on the inside whenever I decide to wear it, I figure I should probably get rid of it. Especially if I somehow purposely get it dirty during the day so I “have” to change into something that I can be okay with.

    • frugalparagon says :

      Funny! Yeah, you might find yourself spilling hot coffee just to get to change, and that could be dangerous :-). Into the Goodwill pile!

      For me, equally hard as getting rid of things that annoy me is getting rid of things my husband likes but I don’t. The blue shirt in the picture was a gift from him… but it didn’t work.

  6. Jacq says :

    I was skeptical about not wrapping my socks one tucked in the other, and honestly thought my sock drawer would devolve into chaos. That hasn’t happen! 🙂
    The folded shirts work well for me. I have 1/2 of the drawer light weight long sleeve and t sorts on the other side.
    most of my sweaters now live in the bottom drawer.
    The joy idea is tricky because work clothes rarely inspire joyful feelings. Isn’t that why some of us are targeting FI? I did put some zhirts in a different closet the see if I missed them enough to look for them, and I have. I still have way the oooh many clothes. I previously. Punted my t shirts and I had over 60. My office is cokd so I only wear them in the summer to work with a long sleeve, and even then onLy on Fridays. I pared down, but some were gift or souvenirs from trips. I’m working on it.
    Interesting book. I’m just glad the socks worked, 🙂

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