The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up


by Marie Kondo
ISBN: 1607747308
Finished 1/3/16
Amazon page for details and reviews


Instead of organizing our homes only to have junk pile up again and again, Kondo’s approach to tidying up is a one-and-done affair. Her method involves actively deciding whether each item really adds value and discarding the rest. It is about living in the present, prioritizing the things that we need and that make us feel good. It is a minimalist approach to minimalism. This can lead to improvements in other areas of life, namely more confidence, better relationships, and a reduced sense of need.

One might get the impression that all the junk being discarded is bad for the environment. While many things will inevitably end up in the landfill during the initial purge, there is a potential to sell or donate clothes, electronics, and other items. After the liquidation, the individual is much less a consumer, actively deciding whether new items are truly necessary. The person can live more humbly, in a smaller home that requires less energy to operate. The reduced mental load allows the individual to channel his or her energy to more productive or creative pursuits.

The stuff we own tells the story of our past interests, pursuits, and needs. Tidying up is about respecting every object, thanking it for the role it has played in our lives, and deciding how we want our current and future lives to be. This approach can help alleviate the stress of discarding items that no longer add value, while making those objects we decide to keep last longer.

I can’t wait to read Kondo’s second book, which is supposed to provide illustrations to help implement her approach. Some of the clothes-folding techniques presented in the first book seem especially difficult to implement without visuals.

Update: A Recap of Spark Joy, the follow-up volume, is now available here.


KonMari method

Tidying once has positive impact on other areas of life – life transforming
People who follow this method will not have to re-clean
– “never revert to clutter again”
– continue to declutter but never rebound

Involves discarding unnecessary items
“art of organizing”

Kondo offers a course, probably mostly in Japan

approach is not a technique – but putting things where they belong

root of problem in mind – problem of mindset
adopting the mindset is a technique – KonMari method

Little at a time not an effective approach

Cleaning in one fell swoop prevents rebound, empowering to keep space in order ever after

Aim for perfection because we are bad at commitment

Two decisions: what to discard, and where to put the thing

Storage solutions not the answer, hiding things we don’t really need
Exercise self control and resist storing until after evaluation

Tidy by category not location: “clothes today books tomorrow”
– otherwise we can’t grasp the overall quantity of stuff

3 types of people
– can’t discard
– can’t put away
– both

2 types of tidying
– special event – what this book pushes for
– daily use and putting away – inevitable part of life

Finish discarding first
Don’t even think of putting things away until discarding

Begin by identifying goal
Deep visualization of outcome
Ultimately to be happy

When deciding to keep or discard, ask for each item “does this give me joy?”

Lay all items in a category out.

Things stored out of sight are dormant.

Do not start with items that are hard to decide about, e.g. mementos

3 qualities an item can have
– Function
– Information
– Emotional attachment

Don’t let others interfere or even see what you discard, especially parents. Extra especially for mother-daughter.

Getting family to tidy up: tidy your own space first. This will inspire them. Do not try to force them.
– also allows one to tolerate a different level of tidiness among family members

If you want to give something to others, consider if they would actually like it before offering

Tidying can be meditative. Quiet space, potentially don’t even listen to music. Shoot for early morning

Two types of reasoning: intuitive and rational.
Rational actually causes problems since we can rationalize keeping something, while intuitive is more straightforward.
Examine things like when you bought it, how often you wear it, etc.
That item has completed its role, even of only to teach what does not suit you.

Express gratitude for things you get rid of. They played a role in your life.

Follow this order: Clothes, books, papers, misc., mementos

Clothing subcategories
– Tops
– Bottoms
– Hanging clothes (jackets, suits, etc)
– Bags
– Accessories
– Specific clothes (swimsuits, kimonos)
– Shoes

If you do not wear it out, do not demote that item to loungewear

Fold clothes correctly

Prefer folding over hanging

Store clothes vertically and compactly.
Rectangular shape
Clothing should match height of drawer
All clothing stands on edge, adjacent, not stacked
Organize by category

Kimonos have always been folded into rectangles to fit a matched storage solution

Never bunch up socks. They need a chance to rest.

Store clothes so they rise to the right. Heavy on the left, light in the right.
Heavy = dark, long, thick
Light = bright, lightweight
Do this within each category as well

Do not store off-season clothes separately
Keep all clothes ready to be used year-round

Do not over-categorize, e.g. by season or activity
Better to store more generally, e.g. cotton-like and wool-like
Only store truly seasonal items like swimsuits and mittens

Remove all books and put on floor

Categories of books
– General
– Practical
– Visual
– Magazines

Unread books: sometimes means never
Same with half-read books

Does the book move you?
Get rid of moderate pleasure books

Do not transcribe books that you aren’t currently reading

Get rid of all but those required legally to keep
No need for filing system

For necessary but infrequent store in file folder
For more frequent store vertically but do not subdivide. Continually refer these to “needs attention”

Seminar materials. Be more present at the seminar potentially taking notes. Otherwise plan to discard.

Do not keep billing statements and the like

Sort one by one
– Skincare/Makeup
– Accessories
– Valuables (passports etc)
– Electronics
– Household tools
– Household supplies
– Kitchen tools
– Other

Save gifts that bring joy

Gifts that don’t bring joy: discard
Gifts are meant to be received, if they are not really “received” by the person they should not be kept around

Get rid of electronics boxes and miscellaneous cords

Spare buttons discard, but for coats sew another to the lining

Do not send unused things to parents/friends. That is not truly tidying up.

Keepsakes: treasure how we have grown through past relationships, not the specific items

After tidying you will know exactly how much you need. Different people will have different amounts. You will realize what gives you joy, and will not rebound

Everything has its appropriate place
For families, each person has one spot for his/her stuff, and no communal space

Forget about flow planning. Better to have distinct, individual space.

Never pile things including books and clothes. Vertical storage is much better:
– stacking can be done nearly infinitely, there is a limit when things are side by side
– things at the bottom of a pile have a lot of pressure on them, and we are less likely to access the item

No need to buy storage solutions. Use what you already have.
Shoeboxes and their lids are one of the best solutions

Small Apple products like iPhones have ideal size boxes for drawer dividers

More important to finish organizing than to go out and buy a storage solution. Then when finished, can go out and buy solutions you really like

Empty bag every day

Keep things out of the bath and kitchen sink
Dry shampoo bottles with towel and put in cupboard to prevent scum buildup
Store dry sponges and soap under sink
Squeeze sponge after use and dry. She recommends no dish rack but dish rack is probably best for drying in temperate regions
Store oils, salt, etc in cupboards, not near stove. Easy to clean and looks neat

Top shelf of bookshelf is personal shrine
Transform home into sacred space

Decorate closet with very personal items

Unpack and organize new clothing immediately

Do not buy things in bulk. More economical to consider storage space. Better to buy as needed

Information takes a lot of space. Remove labels from things

Appreciate belongings, even with verbal affirmations for their support

Just as we need a home to return to, giving our objects a home gives them the respect they deserve.
When you treat belongings well they will respond in kind.

Tidying helps people discover what they really want to do

Our possessions recount our decisions, tidying lets us decide what we really like.

It’s about subtracting, removing invisible weight, instead of adding.

More effect than feng shui etc.

Lives of those who tidy are dramatically altered.

When having trouble deciding, consider if it is an attachment to the past or fear of the future

Even mass-produced items are unique to us

Without clutter, easier to clean. We want to clean and do it more often. Better for health. We also learn to become content.

Feng shui
Organize by color, lighter in the front darker in back has calming effect
Owning only what we love and need is the most natural state

Things that are cherished shine

“Life truly begins after you put your house in order”