“The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

It’s hard for me to throw things away. I learned to let go of things after high school, because I moved around every few years. Now that I’ve lived in one house for over 10 years, I’ve accumulated a lot of “stuff.” So I was very interested to read “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing” (2014) by organization consultant Marie “KonMari” Kondo, translated from the Japanese by Cathy Hirano.

Kondo reveals her life-long obsession with tidying, starting from when she was in grade school, and the hours she spent reading books and magazines and tidying her room and family home. She talks about what doesn’t work, and then explains “how to put your space in order in a way that will change your life forever.”

According to Kondo, when your house is tidy, you can clearly see what is important to you. It gives you confidence in your decision-making capacity. It helps you see what you really need by getting rid of what you don’t need. It makes the home easier to clean. The air in home will be fresher. You will feel less stress about cleaning. You will buy fewer things and only buy things that make you feel happy.

The KonMari Method of decluttering is deceptively simple: “Start by discarding. Then organize your space, thoroughly, completely, in one go.” Tidying up is about simplifying your life and surrounding yourself with things that make you happy.

Kondo offers 12 basic decluttering tips:

  1. For each item, ask yourself: Does this spark joy?
  2. Sort by category, not place. We often store the same type of item in more than one location.
  3. Make tidying up a special event, not a daily chore. You can even dress nicely to show your respect.
  4. Finish the process of discarding before you decide where to keep things.
  5. Choose what you want to keep, not what you want to get rid of.
  6. Start with clothes, then books, papers, miscellany, and lastly mementos.
  7. Keep your garbage out of your family’s sight. It reduces the anxiety of hurt feelings, the lure of picking up discarded items, and the guilt of wasteful spending.
  8. Discard only your own things.
  9. Resist “keeping” clothes as “loungewear” (only worn in the house). What you wear in the home impacts your self-image. Only wear clothes that make you happy.
  10. Put all your clothes together so you can see what you have and what you really want to keep. When you put your clothes away, fold them standing up (not laid flat) and arrange your clothes by category, rising to the right, with heavy items on the left and light items on the right.
  11. Sort “komono” (miscellany) in this basic order: CDs/DVDs, skin care products, makeup, accessories, valuables, electrical equipment and appliances, household equipment, household supplies, kitchen goods/food supplies, hobby supplies, and other.
  12. Find your “just-right click point” – the point where you suddenly know how much is just right for you.

In addition, Kondo offers 5 practical and efficient organizing tips:

  1. Designate a place for each thing. Clutter happens because we don’t know where things belong.
  2. Keep storage solutions simple and out of sight.
  3. Categorize your belongings by item (one place for each type of item) or person (one storage area for each family member).
  4. Store things vertically – don’t pile things up.
  5. Remove tags and product labels right away and take things out of packages.

Kondo also recommends that you greet your house or apartment when you come home, showing your appreciation for the shelter and comfort it gives you.

Though I like a little clutter in my life – it makes a home feel lived-in – I can see how decluttering helps you appreciate what you have. It is a little easier to accomplish when living alone, mainly because Kondo warns us not to declutter someone else’s “stuff.” Decluttering seems especially helpful for people who live in small homes and apartments, to make the space feel larger and more of a sanctuary.

Kondo writes, “A dramatic reorganization of the home causes correspondingly dramatic changes in lifestyle and perspective.” It’s a bold claim, and after reading this book, I believe it.

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