The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing

Marie Kondo
Rating: 7.6


“A literal how-to-heave-ho and I recommend it for anyone who struggles with the material excess of living in a privileged society. (Thanks to Ms. Kondo, I kiss my old socks goodbye.) To show you how serious my respect for Ms. Kondo is: if I ever get a tattoo, it will say, Spark Joy!”
-Jamie Lee Curtis, Time

What to keep

Go from easy items to more difficult ones when figuring out what to keep.

What decluttering comes down to is examining your relationship with each and every single item in your home. Each relationship is different. Your history with your coffee maker has begun at a different point in time than your relationship with that postcard a friend sent you, and so on.

Do you know how thinking of some people instantly reminds you of the happy and exciting times you shared together? Possessions are the same, which makes some more worth keeping than others.

However, some relationships with things are more complicated than others. That’s why it’s best to start with easier categories of more functional items, like clothes, books, technology, documents, and other miscellaneous items. Most of these serve a clear purpose and don’t hold as many complex memories as your more sentimental items.

Save photos and memorabilia for the very end, because by then you’ll already be in decluttering mode and figure out what to do with these special memories a lot faster. Keep those where you distinctly remember creating or getting them – those are your longest lasting memories, which you can re-live over and over, and gratefully let go of the rest.


You Only Declutter Once (if you do it right).

Most people don’t even get started on decluttering, simply because they think it’s a lifetime job. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Marie Kondo says you only have to tidy up once – if you do it right – to leave a lasting impact on your life.

It takes her around six hours on average to clean a client’s house, and she’s a pro, so you should probably take a weekend to give yourself enough time. In fact, if you make it a special event, tidying up goes from tedious task to fun and life-changing experience.

Once you’ve thrown a thorough cleaning party, you’ll not only have the biggest part behind you, but also emerge with a new mindset. Chances are, you’ll buy a lot less in the future, to keep your space neat and clean, which makes future clean ups simple and easy.

For example, I threw out 75% of my clothes, all of my video games, DVDs and BluRays, some of my books and most of my old school supplies and notes in 2013. I felt so free afterward that the last thing I wanted was to fill up all those empty shelves again with the same clutter, so I’ve never had to do another big clean out since then.

Now it’s mostly just tossing an item here and there, while my space remains forever organized.

How to make decisions

Don’t overcomplicate tidying up, just use a few simple questions.

But how the hell do you even decide what to keep and what to toss? This is where most people overcomplicate things, but not you. Not after you’ve read this, anyway.

Konmari suggests a few simple questions which you can use, moving from a rational to a more emotional approach, depending on the item and the complexity of the relationship you have with it.

Start with these:

  • What is the purpose of this object?
  • Has it fulfilled its purpose already?
  • Why did I get this thing?
  • When did I get it?
  • How did it land in my house?

For example, a DVD that’s still in its packaging has likely not fulfilled its purpose yet, but if it’s been sitting on your shelf for a year, chances are it’ll be better off in someone else’s hands.

But, for some things, rational reasoning won’t win over your powerful gut reaction to keep them. When you find you’re emotionally attached to an item, switch to examining how it contributes to your happiness:

  • Does this thing make me happy when I see it/hold it?
  • Do I see/hold it on a regular basis?

For example, gift cards are nice messages from friends and loved ones, bringing you joy and happiness. But even though you keep them around, you probably never look at them again. You’ve received the message, and therefore you can now let them go.

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