Have you read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo?  If you haven’t, you really should, it’s quite a game changer in regards to organization and letting go.  I had put off reading it for some time.  I  figured I had enough experience helping clients purge that I didn’t need a book to tell me how to do it.  It wasn’t until a client put a copy in my hands that I cracked it open and found out what has been making this book such a sensation.

Despite my ability to keep my wardrobe pretty well culled, or so I thought, after reading this book and applying the simple tip of only keeping what “sparks joy”, I was shocked to find that I had managed to rid myself of three huge hefty bags of clothing donations plus some additional bags of clothes that went directly in the trash.  I was left with just about nothing in my wardrobe, and was completely happy about this.  I organized my drawers in ways that will ensure they will never get messy again (something I always struggled with) and have been able to keep everything neat.  I actually get this odd thrill from carefully putting my clothes away and even folding my thong underwear.  Seriously, I had no idea that thongs could be folded!

At times the book gets a bit goofy and I found that some of it didn’t translate from Japanese to English very well, but I am willing to overlook any of the books quirky shortcomings for what I have gotten in return, like socks that no longer look like messy potato balls and clothing that no longer topples over in my dresser!  Vertical stacking <face palm>, how obvious!

Yet there is another benefit to reading this book that even the book doesn’t mention, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up can help you find your own personal style.  Let me explain how.

The whole premise of the book is to let go of anything that doesn’t spark joy.  While the book goes well beyond just the clothing, a lot of time is spent on this topic.  With the goal of getting rid of the non-joy-sparker pieces, think about what you are left with after your purge: clothes that make you excited and happy to wear.  What could be a better road map for finding your personal style than that?

So if you are looking to discover your style and feel that you don’t know where to begin?  I seriously recommend going through the purging process found in this book and then use these additional thoughts to create a style that sparks joy.

How to find a style that sparks joy

#1- Take a breath

Invariably, you’re going to hit the stores at some point after doing a Konmari style purge.  Although, I personally recommend waiting a bit before you stock pile your closet again.  Let yourself live with what you have, recognize how little you really need and more closely hone in on what is missing.  Force yourself live with less clothing for a while.  It’s really liberating.  I waited at least a month before adding any more clothes and it made a huge difference when I went shopping.  As a result I was able to get clearer on what I really needed and shopped based on that.

#2- Take inventory

Now that your closet is down to the minimum, look at the pieces and identify what about them sparks joy.  This is likely the first time your closet won’t be cluttered with pieces you’ve kept around simply out of guilt or for some made up reasons that you know are total lies.  Look for the messages in all the clothing you have left.  Maybe it’s color, maybe it’s a particular style, maybe it sparks joy because it is something that plays a part in your life and you are grateful you have it.  Notice the fit of things you have kept, the prints and patterns you are drawn to.   These are all cues that you don’t want to ignore.  Truly, there is no better way to identify what you love than looking at what you love.

#3- Shop for what you love and need

When shopping for new, just because something sparks joy doesn’t mean you should buy it.  Haphazardly buying things that spark joy sort of defeats the purpose of streamlining.  In order to avoid duplication or overbuying, if you already have something in your wardrobe that sparks joy and fills a need, there is no point buying more of it.  As you have probably learned from your time of living with less, you really don’t need an excessive amount of any one thing, no matter how much joy it sparks.  Of course, if you find something sparks more joy than a similar item that you already own, consider taking the new item home and ditching the old.

The goal when shopping is to make your wardrobe more comprehensive and well rounded.  Instead of going deeper into these already well covered areas, ask yourself what you can bring in that would make these existing pieces more wearable and versatile in your closet.

#4- Don’t be afraid to fail

The one thing I will say about the success of reading Marie Kondo’s book is I have become a bit of perfectionist.  When putting laundry away I will actually pull out my husband’s sock, t-shirt and underwear drawers and refold everything to make sure it is as neat as the first time I did it because he has little to no interest in folding as neatly as I do.  Admittedly, I have become a little obsessive.

The other downside is paralysis through perfectionism and fear of failure.  Now that you have gotten your wardrobe whittled down, are you afraid that you’ll relapse into chaos again or that you will load your closet with unnecessary buys?  This is understandable, yet you have to remember that there is an ebb and flow to an effective wardrobe and that you’re never done, you will fail and you may create some momentary chaos.  Yet the good news is you’ll be able to easily figure your way back.   Don’t be afraid to explore and play with your wardrobe and to discover yourself through elimination and some failure.  What’s the saying?  Progress not perfection.

#5- Does everything have to spark joy?

sparks joy

I really laughed when I saw this graphic on Facebook.   You have to admit, it does make you wonder if it is possible to be responsible if with your wardrobe if sparking joy is the only requirement.  If you’re worried that after purging your wardrobe all you’ll be left with is a tutu a pair of cowboy boots a little black dress and a trendy handbag, I wouldn’t be.  What I have learned is that different things spark joy for different reasons.

For example, that pair of black pants that aren’t all that exciting but incredibly useful and fit you well will probably spark joy for a very different reason that funky blazer with the cool lining and buttons does.  We all understand to a degree that not all our wardrobe pieces are meant to have the same function and some are supportive players and others are stars.   So instead of asking simply if something sparks joy, try to figure out why it does and look for those cues when developing your own personal style further and adding more to your wardrobe.

If the journey to finding your own style has been a difficult one, stop looking and let it present itself to you.  After reading Marie Kondo’ book and leaving behind only what sparks joy my guess is that your style will be hanging right there in front of you.