The Method to Neatness

Two years ago, a friend gave me a copy of Marie Kondo’s best selling book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and after reading it over the weekend, I realized I’ve been doing it all wrong. So this holiday season instead of accumulating new things in my wardrobe, I decide to eliminate as much as I could. I was relatively clinical about it, but and the years of consumption had made the problem a bit difficult to handle. Every so often, I would eliminate a few things but it wasn’t a very efficient way to lighten up on the things I owned.

So instead of buying something new this Christmas — I decided to hire folks to help me eliminate so I could lighten the detritus of life from my tiny apartment. I hired Neat Method, a San Francisco-based company started by Ashley Murphy and Molly Graves. They are in the business of organizing your apartments/homes, but, I wanted something even more specific: I requested that everything I like and need should be available at eye-level. Anything that was hidden needed to be donated, sold or consigned.

After meeting one of their representatives, I signed the contract and originally thought it would take two days to make sense of my bedroom and closets. I was adamant on getting cleaned up, and didn’t much care if the hourly charges were a little steep. A week later, Kathrin and Haley, two ladies who were going to help me, showed up promptly at the appointed hour, and set to work. By end of day one, I realized that the problem was way more monumental and would take upwards of five, “six hour” days to tame my 600 square-foot apartment.

Kathrin and Haley simultaneously cleared my closets and piled clothes by garment type. While doing this they asked me three questions:

  • When was the last time I wore a garment?
  • Does the garment fit me well?
  • Do I love it?

Just answering those three questions essentially eliminated my vast collection of bags, fountain pens, sweaters, shirts and jackets. Next came my accessories such as belts, handkerchiefs, hats and scarves. By end of day one, everything that was left in the closet (not organized) answered the three questions as a yes. Day 2: same ruthless logic was applied to my vast sneaker & shoe collection, followed by outerwear. Suddenly at the end of the day, the closets and the bedrooms were perfectly organized with bins labeled and items within my reach, depending on how often I needed to use them.

I found so much stationary in the closet that even I was shocked. Yup, I got a problem when it comes to collecting notebooks and notepads. But I knew that I would never use them for the rest my life, so I decided to give them all away. One of the closet sergeants told me that many school teachers have to buy stuff for the school kids and they can barely afford to do so. This seemed like the perfect new home for them, and I hope kids find good use for these notebooks. I am down to a mere twenty, and they should be good for another year or so.

But the task wasn’t done just yet! It would take about three more days to organize and declutter my living room and the kitchen, plus get rid of everything from my storage area. The kitchen is all designed for easy access to everything. The living room too is based on that philosophy. One task that was left — I needed to organize my personal papers and donate the books to a local library. In the end I was left with a number of empty boxes for my cameras, lenses and computers. There were some suitcases/luggage bags which I use for travel, and also some seasonal stuff.

The ruthless cleanse wouldn’t have been possible had it not been for the tiger team from Neat Method. If you are looking for a good group to help manage your closet and personal space, I would highly recommend them. They are expensive but worth every penny!

Be reducing the clutter and giving away as much as I could, suddenly my life feels lighter, cleaner and simpler. What I need and what I love are now one – making it easy to get the most out of the stuff that’s left. In many ways, this Christmas instead of buying a gift for myself, I got rid of everything that was weighing down my personal space. It is a great way to start the upcoming year – fresh and airy.

December 26, 2016. San Francisco

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