The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing - Marie Kondo 2014
Tidying by category works like magic
Eliminate the need to store off-season clothes
June in Japan is the rainy season. It is also traditionally the month for koromogae, when people change to summer clothes. This is preceded by several weeks of cleaning and packing away winter clothes and bringing out summer clothes. Whenever this time of year approaches, it reminds me that I used to do this, too. For years, however, I have not bothered to put away off-season clothes. The custom of koromogae originated in China and was introduced to Japan as a court custom during the Heian period (794—1185 AD). It was only in the late nineteenth century, when workers and students began to wear uniforms, that the custom was introduced in businesses and schools. Companies and schools officially switched to the summer uniform at the beginning of June and to the winter uniform at the beginning of October. In other words, this rule was only applied within organizations, and its extension to the ordinary home was not really necessary.
But like every other Japanese, I, too, was convinced that I had to store and unpack seasonal clothing twice a year in June and October. I spent these two months busily emptying and refilling the contents of closets and drawers. To be honest, I found this custom a nuisance. If a dress I wanted to wear was stored away in a box on the top shelf of the closet, it seemed like far too much trouble to get it down and dig it out. Instead, I would compromise and wear something else. There were some years when I didn’t manage to unpack my summer clothes until July, and I would realize that in the meantime I had bought clothes similar to those I already owned. Often as soon as I got out my summer clothes, the weather would suddenly turn cold again.
The custom of storing seasonal clothes is behind the times. With the introduction of air-conditioning and heating, our homes are less subject to the weather outside. It’s not uncommon now to see people wearing T-shirts indoors even in winter. So it’s time to abandon this custom and keep all our clothes ready to be used year-round, regardless of the season.
My clients love this approach, especially because they can grasp at all times exactly what clothes they have. No difficult techniques are required. All you need to do is organize your clothes on the premise that you aren’t going to put off-season clothes in storage. The trick is not to overcategorize. Divide your clothes roughly into “cotton-like” and “wool-like” materials when you put them in the drawer. Categorizing by season—summer, winter, fall-and-spring—or by activity, such as work and leisure, should be avoided because it is too vague. If my client’s space is limited, I have them store only small, specific off-season items, such as bathing suits and sun hats for the summer season, and mufflers, mittens, and earmuffs for the winter season. Although not a small item, winter coats can also be put away in the back of the closet during the off-season.
For those of you who still don’t have enough space, let me share a few tips for storing your off-season clothes. Many people store their off-season clothes in plastic cases with lids. These, however, are the hardest type of storage units to use effectively. Once in the closet, something is bound to be placed on top of it, and pulling the case out and opening it up seems like too much extra work. In the end, it is all too easy to forget the case is even there until the season is almost over. If you are planning to buy storage units in the near future, I recommend that you get a set of drawers instead. Be careful not to bury clothes in the cupboard even if they are off-season. Clothes that have been shut up for half a year look wilted, as if they have been stifled. Instead, let in some light and air occasionally. Open the drawer and run your hands over the contents. Let them know you care and look forward to wearing them when they are next in season. This kind of “communication” helps your clothes stay vibrant and keeps your relationship with them alive longer.