The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo was released in 2014 and many of the people who read it did, indeed, find it life-changing. In the book, Kondo details her method, known as Konmari, to determine what you no longer need and be able to release it, therefore decluttering your home and only allowing things which “spark joy” to remain.
Millions have used the Konmari method to sift through their kids’ toys and unused small kitchen appliances, but there’s no reason you can’t apply the same method to yard decluttering and outdoor organization. Who of us doesn’t have half-rusted garden tools, too many bicycles, or a pile of… well, who knows what’s in that pile accumulating in the garage or garden shed? Konmari outdoors is the next frontier in home organization!
By using Marie Kondo’s steps to decluttering your home and life, but applying them to your yard and garage, you can make the outside of your home just as relaxing as the inside. Here’s how.
1. Commit yourself to tidying up all at once
Is your garage, shed, garden, deck, or yard too overwhelming to even think about dealing with? You might assume that tackling it a little at a time is the right course of action. According to Marie Kondo, it’s really not. Set aside enough time to just get it done. The danger of doing a little at a time is never finishing.
Imagine this. You decide to organize your work bench in the garage. Great idea! You put all the tools away, set the tool box on top of the workbench, and wipe down the whole area. Looks great! Nevermind the boxes piled next to it or the multiple items you need to step over in order to get there. One item is done. Okay, but what are the odds of it staying that way until you can get to the next part? You may not deal with the broken yard toys and holiday decorations for two more weeks; meanwhile, the workbench has acquired more stuff. When you need a level place to stash things until you can deal with them, what else are you going to do? Now you’re back to square one and feeling more discouraged than ever.
Cleaning the entire area at once is the key to keeping it that way. You’ll have a system of organization by the end, so you won’t continue to throw things in a corner to “deal with later.” You’ll eliminate all of your junk at once. You’ll have the satisfaction of a serene space and be more likely to work to keep it that way – or have an easier time organizing it in the future.
2. Imagine your ideal lifestyle to prevent relapse
Before you even start, write a paragraph about your ideal outdoor lifestyle. You may have a goal of growing fresh, organic vegetables for you family in that overgrown weed patch next to the deck. Maybe you want to spend time outside, grilling for your friends and watching the sunset from your backyard. It could be as simple as wanting to fit your car in the garage this winter to avoid having to brush off the snow after a storm, or as complex as wanting to redesign your backyard by adding a pool and a multi-tier deck. The common denominator? Having a clean, organized space.
Home improvement shows, magazines, and even blogs can have you believe that you need to invest a lot of money into your yard to make it functional. Usually, all you need is a more organized space to get your outdoor areas to better fit your needs. (Well, except for an olympic-sized pool. Those do cost quite a bit of money.) An organized, decluttered space allows you to do things like build a pathway from your deck to your garage, or add an outdoor heater to enjoy your patio space well into the fall.
3. Hold an item with both hands and ask yourself, “Does this spark joy?”
Perhaps the best known and most controversial part of the Konmari method is only keeping items that bring you joy. You probably don’t want to uproot all of your plants, put them in a pile, and then only keep the ones that spark “joy” when you look at or touch them, but who is to say you can’t pile together all your gardening or home improvement tools, or pool toys, or grilling implements and do that?
When combing through items to keep and discard, start with the obvious throw-aways. Anything that fills you with dread, is broken, or is more trouble to keep than it’s worth should be discarded, recycled, or given to someone else who will make use of it. A big element of the Konmari method is to not feel bad about getting rid of these things. Each item has taught you a lesson. Maybe that lesson is that you should always check your tool box before buying one more wrench, or that lime green pots don’t look great against the backdrop of your house.
Next, decide what you definitely DO want to keep. This is sometimes easier than deciding what to get rid of, but accomplishes the same thing. Man-made objects in your yard, like large pots or statues, can create a great focal point, but too many make your yard look cluttered. Decide what looks best in your space and what your favorite items are, then let the rest go.
4. Organize by category, not by space
As discussed in the first point, tackling the entire garage at once should be your goal – insert “yard,” “deck,” or “shed” in place of “garage” as needed. In addition to that, though, you need to recognize if you have… shall we say… collections that are popping up in multiple areas. It won’t do you much good, decluttering-wise, to spend time concentrating on your herb pots that have been stored in the garage only to find larger pots in your shed at a later time and have to repeat the process.
Go in a reasonable order. This might mean tackling the problem that has been most vexing first, such as your inability to find where you’ve put your tools whenever you need a hammer or a screwdriver. It could mean simply taking what’s first – perhaps the patio furniture that’s blocking your path to everything else in the garage – and dealing with it before moving on.
Also, finish discarding what you’ve already decluttered. Neat is not simply an absence of clutter. Neat means organized and serene. Neat means you’ve bagged and separated what you’re getting rid of and actually get rid of it! Piles of bags labeled to go to recycling, the trash, or your sister’s house that are stacked to the garage ceiling is just another form of clutter.
5. Find your clickpoint
Everyone will likely get to a point where their space finally “clicks.” The clickpoint is when you can look at your space and experience that perfect moment of joy that the view and experience of being in the space brings you. Maybe you just needed to get rid of 90% of your lawn gnomes and add a fresh coat of paint to what remains to make your yard a perfect reflection of your personality. It’s possible you really DO need to add that life-sized zombie statue in your yard this Halloween to fulfill your home’s haunted house potential. Does your lonely rose bush need 3 others in similar color to create an English garden oasis? Getting rid of some items may help you realize that you should conscientiously add new items, or it could make you much happier with what you have left. Regardless, decluttering should reveal your best self, whether or not the space would “click” for anyone else.
6. Finally, be grateful for what you have.
No, maybe you can’t afford that huge pool yet, but that doesn’t mean a hot tub, plunge pool, or even kiddie pool are out of the question. Konmari isn’t about decluttering to make room for more things, though – that just continues and compounds your problem. When you get rid of what you don’t need, you’ll start to notice and appreciate what you have left over. Notice a common denominator in what you’ve saved. Are the items all neutral in tone? Similar in size? Your plants, tools, and even deck may have been around for a while, but everything is serving a function – appreciate what they do for you and your outdoor space. Just because something is utilitarian doesn’t mean it can’t be charming, too!