The Tweak I Made To The Kondo Method That Totally Works For Me

Holistic Psychiatrist By Ellen Vora, M.D.
Holistic Psychiatrist
Ellen Vora is a holistic psychiatrist practicing in NYC. She graduated from Columbia University Medical School, is boarded in psychiatry and integrative and holistic medicine, and she's also a licensed medical acupuncturist and certified yoga teacher.

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Like so many of us, I had a come-to-Jesus moment with the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. And yet, a few months after each cycle of what I considered KonMari-ing (i.e., cleansing my space of the tonnage of crap that "didn't spark joy for me"), somehow my apartment would get cluttered again.

There was this relentless tide of consumerist accumulation, mainly in the form of Amazon purchases, that would begin to fill in any empty spaces in my apartment. Every time I would manage to get my home feeling minimal and Zen, a few months later it was cluttered to the gills again with new things I "needed."

Then, the one trick that finally helped me declutter my home out of a suitcase for seven months.

How living out of a suitcase changed the way I think about clutter.

My family of three is currently living out of a single suitcase and two backpacks as we travel around the world for seven months.

Wrap your head around that: one suitcase, two backpacks. For two adults and one toddler. For anyone not intimately acquainted with toddler care, contrary to what you would expect, the toddler's stuff is not the smallest but, in fact, takes up the lion's share of our luggage by a landslide.

And let me add one important detail here. You may want to be sitting down for this one. Not only have we been living out of a single suitcase, but we have been traveling internationally, beyond the reach of Amazon. At first, I didn't know how to function without the convenience of online shopping, just as I sometimes wonder how we did anything before smartphones. I didn't know how to replace my husband's cheapo watch when it broke or acquire portable blackout shades or a poncho when I realized these were necessary to keep my family sleeping at night and dry in the rain—without Amazon.

However, I quickly learned how to survive. It turns out, some things you can completely go without, and some things you can MacGyver for yourself with some garbage bags and duct tape. The crazy thing is that even a single suitcase and two backpacks have ended up being too much stuff. I wish I could have had a packing dress rehearsal, where I could have quickly learned what I don't actually need. It feels like about a quarter of our suitcase could have been left at home.

When I return home and am tempted to resort to old habits, I plan to use the following questions: Do I need it? No, but seriously, do I really need it? Can I possibly manage without it? If yes, can I MacGyver it with duct tape?

My husband and I have thought long and hard about what we miss from our home. The answer is our Instant Pot, and that's about it.

What about the eight large containers of stuff we put into storage before subletting our apartment? I don't miss a single item (in fact, I can barely remember what I owned before). A part of me is considering never retrieving that stuff and starting fresh with a minimal amount of belongings. Realistically, I will probably have to pick it up but will donate much of it before it settles back into our apartment.

So if you want to kick your KonMari-ing into high gear, I suggest you attempt to pack a suitcase to cover you for seven months, even if you're not going anywhere. Anything that doesn't make that cut probably shouldn't make the cut to be in your home at all (Instant Pot aside). And about a quarter of the stuff you pack will end up being unnecessary.

We all need so much less than we think we do.

Struggling to decide what to keep and what to give away? Check out the best decluttering advice we heard in 2017, and bookmark this room-by-room guide to getting organized. Get more from Dr. Vora with her mindbodygreen classes on controlling anxiety and falling asleep naturally.

Ellen Vora, M.D.
Ellen Vora, M.D.
Dr. Ellen Vora is a holistic psychiatrist practicing in NYC. She graduated from Columbia University...
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Ellen Vora, M.D.
Ellen Vora, M.D.
Dr. Ellen Vora is a holistic psychiatrist practicing in NYC. She...
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