Marie Kondo has been in the news quite a bit recently, with many people debating the usefulness of her method for decreasing clutter.
Kondo's method, KonMari, has resulted in some other unintended side effects, but the effect it had for author Sandy Allen had surprisingly little to do with excess "stuff."
The KonMari Method, according to Marie Kondo's website, is:
"A state of mind – and a way of life – that encourages cherishing the things that spark joy in one's life. Belongings are acknowledged for their service – and thanked before being let go, should they no longer spark joy."
Sandy recently wrote an essay, which was published by them., in which they describe the slow process of how removing the clutter from their life brought about a realization of who they really were.
Allen originally picked up a copy of Kondo's book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up in an attempt to help their boyfriend, Rob.
While he wasn't an overly untidy person, Sandy was very organized and there was one spot that needed tending.
"Our courtship had been a steady reclamation of his less-tidy space by my relentless wave of tidiness. (Whatever's going on in Marie Kondo's brain that makes her say "I love mess!", I have it, too.) His nightstand, though, was The Place He Put Things. A place I ached to clean."
After unsuccessful attempts to get Rob to read the book, Sandy decided to lead by example.
They started with the closet; as they went through all of their clothes and determined whether they brought joy, there was a clear pattern that emerged.
"I didn't take me long to see it, what the discard pile was. It was only the skirts, only the dresses, only the flowers and lace and sparkles. It was everything I'd bought hoping that some colleague might say: Isn't that cute?"
"I burst into tears, shame filling me entirely, and then I laughed about the fact that this book had made me cry, this silly, stupid cleaning book."
Allen described having an internal list of moments that hinted that they weren't satisfied with playing the ultra-feminine role, moments that they couldn't let themself fully acknowledge for fear of what that would mean.
One of these moments was from a work Halloween party.
"One Halloween, I'd come as Ace Ventura."
"After lunch they were giving prizes to those who'd really gone above and beyond costume-wise, myself not included. I stood in the crowd next to a colleague who'd come dressed as her boss."
"Earlier her costume had gotten a big reaction, though, because it was her dressing as him: sneakers, jeans, glasses, of course the hoodie. Everyone laughed. Now we were standing around, drinking booze, eating sugar. I told her I liked her costume and she looked embarrassed."
"'I feel so awkward. Don't you feel awkward?' she asked."
"I didn't get what she meant."
"'Dressing like a guy!' she said."
"'Oh,' I said, and without thinking added: 'I always dress like a guy for Halloween, or at least a lot of the time.'"
"'That's funny,' I said to my colleague, 'I haven't noticed that before.'"
Here's a photo they shared of their favorite Halloween costume ever. Sandy is on the left.
It wasn't until they started working from home that things started to become clearer.
"Now with no office to go to, I rarely dressed, and if I did I wore sweatpants. The days I did go out, for an appointment or a meeting, I might force myself to dress up. Tripping down a cobblestone street one afternoon in heels, I wondered who the hell I was trying to fool."
After running into someone they knew while donating the last of their dresses and heels, Allen had a realization.
"I didn't say to him, nor could I have articulated, that I was throwing out the last of me pretending to be a woman."
"Walking away, I felt joy, an almost ridiculous joy. I also felt terror, like when a cartoon has walked off a cliff and is standing blissfully on air."
Rob was supportive of Sandy through their journey to self-discovery, acknowledging their struggles and providing loving support.
After a clothes shopping trip that was an ordeal in and of itself, the two went on a date.
"That evening, we went on a date. I wore a new button down, trousers, Oxfords. We moved down the street, his hand in mine, which was shaking, so terrified by the question of what we must look like to others."
"Before that night, I realized, I had never before been both 'dressed up' and comfortable."
Allen goes on to describe the various ways that this paradigm shift, which started with the simple act of sorting their wardrobe, has changed their life.
The way others react to them has changed significantly as they present in a more gender neutral fashion.
"Sometimes people think I'm male at first and then realize I'm not, usually when I talk, and sometimes I then see a wild anger in them."
"In those moments, I feel my vulnerability. Though in other senses I feel safer; I am no longer constantly catcalled, as I was before — that drumbeat of male violence, muffled. All the time I feel how arbitrary these categories are. All the time, I know this is all just about power."
"Some who see me now are excited about my apparent difference. In a restaurant, a waitress ran over, grinning, nearly shouting, "'What are you?'"
"The best feelings are the converse of this cisgender othering: the moments of communion, however brief, I share with other queer and trans people out there in the world."
The essay's reception on Twitter was overwhelmingly positive.
Quite a few people have expressed having had a similar experience to Allen's.
A few Instagram users commented that Allen's essay helped them to articulate their own "gender stuff."
Clothes are an integral part of how people express themselves.
Maybe taking a hard look at what you actually wear and and enjoy and what you hold on to because you think you should, could give excellent insight into who you are as a person.
Kondo's follow-up, Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up (The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up) is also available here.