When I heard there was an official Marie Kondo disciple in the area, I was intrigued. Along with the rest of the world, I read the book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. I gleaned some tips while scoffing a bit at what appeared to me to be radical minimalism: only keep those things that spark joy, get rid of the rest. Well, let me tell you, that is not the experience I had recently with Mara Dowler, owner of Bluebird Home, and a “Certified Consultant” of Kondo’s “Konmarie Method.”
While there is a strict order of categories that Kondo espouses about “tidying” your home, Mara agreed to come over and give me a hand with my shoes. I’m constantly weeding my clothes, but shoes are harder to toss, and my collection was getting out of control.
First things, first! We sat down in my living room and thanked my house (!). She asked me to imagine my ideal lifestyle and to look around at my possessions and enjoy them. Which I thoroughly did. I don’t have anything in my living room that is not meaningful or beautiful to me: art made by family and good friends, bountiful books, photos of my daughter, and a small but beloved collection of art pottery. Sitting on my cozy couch and focusing on how much joy this room brings me was a happy way to start.
Next, she instructed me to gather ALL my shoes (from my closet, the mudroom, and wherever else they were stashed) and lay them out on the floor. Boxes came from the top of two closets, shelves were emptied, and the mudroom was cleared. Wow. That’s a lot of shoes. I’ve never seen them in quite this way before and hope to never again.
Mara prepared bags for donations and trash, and we started with easy categories. I can’t wear anything over a 2-inch heel these days, so all the high heels went into donation except for a pair of classic black suede pumps and a crazy pair of purple suede slingbacks that are just too fun to give away.
Then we started on shoes that were duplications either literally (my mantra: if the shoe fits, buy two!) or close enough to others and got rid of the worn-out versions. I had no idea I had so many black slip-on sneakers! Crazy. In this group, I discovered a pair of dark navy Supergas that I had completely forgotten about and never worn (gasp!).
Boots came next, and we made a pile for repairs of those that were too good to toss but needed a new heel or a good cleaning.
The last group was old favorites that I haven’t worn in years, like a toile Christian Lacroix kitten heel and a Miu Miu slingback. Mara said they clearly spark joy as I clasped them to my chest, and whether or not I wear them, I should keep them. Much relieved, I tenderly placed them in a plastic box (vs. the original cardboard), so I could keep an eye on them.
We put all the shoes back by category and color, starting at the bottom of the shelving with darker colors, working our way to lighter shades at the top. It was so pleasing to see my shoes lined up instead of a smooshed jumble and gain much-needed closet space.
When I once pooh-poohed removing every last thing from your closet, now I marveled at the discipline of this method. It’s a real shock and slightly embarrassing to see how many shoes I had, how many I didn’t wear (I unearthed a pair of Pradas that are likely ten years old that I had forgotten entirely and are weirdly still in style!).
We decided to work on bags next, another category I have difficulty culling, and I would attempt this on my own, now that I knew the process. I’ll be needing a house call from Mara once I get to “paper” and “komono”, the miscellaneous category for everything from extension cords to art supplies.
It was so helpful to have a gentle coach to guide me through the process, and I was sad to see Mara drive away. The woman absolutely loves what she does, and it shows. Not for nothing, the process to get certified by Marie Kondo is demanding, so she’s also a true professional.
It inspired me to take the whole house on as a winter project (where are we going, after all??), progressing through the categories step-by-step and for as long as I can handle. The shoe mess looked overwhelming but only took an hour in the end.
A few things I learned:
We tend to hold on to possessions we no longer want or need because we have a fear of the future and an attachment to the past (so true!).
When making the more difficult decisions, think of keeping with confidence and letting go with gratitude.
It makes so much sense to store like things together in one place, one of the tenets of Marie Kondo’s method. The shoes stored in a basement closet hadn’t seen the light of day in ten years.
Do NOT buy more organizing boxes. The Konmarie method emphasizes using what you already have. Once we culled the shoes, I had enough plastic boxes to store them (so I could actually SEE what I had), and we repurposed the sturdy cardboard boxes for future catchalls.
Good to know:
Mara is offering E List readers 20% off their initial session when they contact her through her website and mention The E List. She is happy to work virtually or masked at your home.
Read more about Mara and contact her here: bluebirdhome.net