The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing
by Marie Kondo

Read:  2017-05-04, Rating:  9/10.

My Takeaways

This long-winded, repetitive, poetic cult classic (audiobook read by Emily Woo Zeller) could be condensed into a short list. However, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up offers much more than tips for organizing and purging items. Entertaining anecdotes help the reader learn how to let go and appreciate the things we already have. I recommend this enjoyable light read for anyone interested in lifestyle design.

  1. Thoroughly donate and discard before organizing. Lay out all items, touch each individual item and ask “does this spark joy?”
  2. Tidy up, one category at a time, in sequence:  Clothing, Books, Papers, Komono (miscellaneous) and finally, Momentos
  3. Fold, don’t hang clothes; and organize all items vertically

My Notes

When you put your house in order, you put your affairs and your past in order, too. As a result, you can see quite clearly what you need in life and what you don’t, and what you should and shouldn’t do.

Success is 90 percent dependent on our mind-set.

I’m sure most of us have been scolded for not tidying up our rooms, but how many of our parents consciously taught us how to tidy as part of our upbringing? Our parents demanded that we clean up our rooms, but they, too, had never been trained in how to do that. When it comes to tidying, we are all self-taught.

Tidying in the end is just a physical act. The work involved can be broadly divided into two kinds: deciding whether or not to dispose of something and deciding where to put it.

Tidying must start with discarding.

One reason so many of us never succeed at tidying is because we have too much stuff. This excess is caused by our ignorance of how much we actually own.

Tidy by category, not by place.

The work of tidying should be completed once and for all within a single period of time.

First, start by discarding, all at once, intensely and completely.

When things pile up again, you will be caught in a downward spiral.

Quickly, means about half a year. That may seem like a long time, but it is only six months out of your entire life. Once the process is complete and you’ve experienced what it’s like to be perfectly tidy,  you will have been free forever from the mistaken assumption that you’re no good at tidying. For the best results I ask that you adhere to the following rule: Tidy up in the right order.

Do not even think of putting your things away until you’re finished the task of discarding.

The best way to choose what to keep and what to throw away is to take each item in one’s hand and ask: does this spark joy? if it does, keep it. if not, dispose of it.

The best sequence is this:

  1. Clothes
  2. Books
  3. Papers
  4. komono (misc)
  5. Momentos

This order has proven to be the most efficient in terms of level of difficulty of the subsequent task of storing. Sticking to this sequence sharpens our intuitive sense of what items spark joy inside us.

Show consideration for others by helping them avoid the burden owning more than they need or can enjoy.

Tidying is a dialog with one’s self.

Express your appreciation. You might fear you’ll have no clothes left if you use this standard.

As long as you choose clothes that give you pleasure, you’ll be left with the amount you need.

The real waste is not discarding clothes you don’t like, but wearing them even though you’re striving to create ideal space for your ideal lifestyle.

You can solve almost any problem related to storage.

Handle each piece of clothing.

Arrange your clothes so that they rise to the right.

Books: Take them in your hand one by one and decide whether you want to keep or discard each one. The criterion is, of course, whether or not it gives you a thrill of pleasure when you touch it.

Books you have read have already been experienced and their content is inside of you.

Keep only those books that will make you happy just to see them on your shelves, the ones that you really love.

Papers to be saved and papers to be dealt with.

Recommend using a vertical organizer where papers could be stored standing up.

Lecture materials: a seminar’s value begins the moment we start attending.

Credit card statements: discard all credit card statements. For most people they are simply the means of checking how much money was spent on what on a particular month. So, once you’ve checked the content to confirm that it’s correct, the statement has fulfilled its purpose and you should discard it.

Can you think of a time that you needed old lecture notes or credit card statements?

Manuals:  throw them out

Greeting cards:  read them, love them, throw them out, except for ones you still love

Used cheque books:  used cheque books are just that, used.

Komono (misc). keep things because you love them, not, “just because”

  1. CDs, DVDs
  2. Skincare products
  3. makeup
  4. accessories
  5. valuables, passports, credit cards
  6. electrical equipment and appliances, digital cameras, electric cords
  7. household equipment, stationary, sewing kits
  8. household supplies, medicine, tissues, etc
  9. kitchen goods, supplies,
  10. other, spare change, figurines,

Most gifts simply don’t suit your taste. Presents are not things, but means of conveying one’s feelings. Don’t feel guilty for parting with gifts.

It’s a shame to let a boring box take up room in your house just because you might need it some day.

If you see a cord and wonder what on earth it’s for, chances are you’ll never use it again. Mysterious cords will always remain just that, a mystery.

Spare buttons. You will never use spare buttons. In most cases, when a button has fallen off, it’s a sign that the particular shirt has been well worn and loved and has now reached the end of it’s life.

Free novelty goods. A free cell phone wipe, a ballpen engraved with your school’s name, a paper fan you got at an event, etc. None of these going to bring you any pleasure. Discard or recycle without any qualms.

Small change. “Make into my wallet” your motto.

You parents home is not a haven for your momentos.

Your feelings are the standard for decision making.

Things that give you a thrill of pleasure.

When you are choosing what to keep, ask your heart. When you are choosing where to store something, ask your house.

A counter is for preparing food, not for storing things.

Ask yourself:  Am I having trouble getting rid of this because of an attachment to the past, or fear for the future?

Discarding those things that don’t spark joy has no adverse effects whatsoever.

After tidying up, many clients tell me that their worldly desires have decreased.