The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up
Marie Kondo
Contributed by Sharen Felty
Chapter 2

It is a common occurrence for an individual to think that they have tidied their space thoroughly, only to realize in the following days that the clutter is slowly creeping into their space again. With time, a person gathers more clutter as soon the previously tidied space is back to its former self of being awash with clutter. This kind of rebound happens in instances where a person uses inappropriate methods of tidying. In this regard, it is important to tidy a place all at once, and as quick as possible, to avoid the negative spiral effect of possible rebound. Tidying up a place dramatically changes the environment therein, and the change may be so profound that an individual may think that they are living a different life. This transformation impacts a person’s mindset and makes them more inclined and appreciative of decluttering and organizing their space. It is important to note that this kind of impact, or holistic transformation, cannot be achieved by regular tidying.

Furthermore, for a person to tidy effectively, they should be able to do so in the correct order — by first discarding all the things that they deem unnecessary. To this end, the said person should acknowledge the fact that discarding is the first and most important part of tidying. It is after this when an individual should begin thinking about where to put the remaining items.

It is important to set tidying goals that visualize an individual’s objectives. A person may decide to pursue a clutter-free life; hence the goal helps the individual in plotting his path towards his desires. As early on as possible, preferably before a person starts the tidying processes, an individual should be able to visualize their destination. Kondo warns against having a comprehensive goal; instead, an individual should formulate a goal that is specific and achievable. In envisioning a person’s destiny, an individual can picture their dream lifestyle and will be motivated to pursue it at all costs. As they continue to do so, Kondo notes that the said individual will come to the understanding that the primary objective of tidying is to be happy. In the pursuit of this happiness, the individual will go an extra mile to discard certain items while keeping away others. Clutter is associated with stressed and poor living standards; hence a person will take up tidying to remove the clutter from his space to achieve his visualized destination. After picturing their ideal lifestyle, a person should identify the actual reason why he would like to live like that. Answering the question of why would open a lot of possibilities to the individual as he will understand the underlying reasons of their thought processes.

Different people use different standards to decide what to discard and keep. Since discarding is a crucial element of tidying, it is important to get it right in the selection criteria. The chosen criteria should help an individual to appropriately separate the items that they need to discard, and those that the person intends to retain. However, a person should not completely focus on the criteria to the extent of jeopardizing the discarding process itself. It should be an intricate balance that helps in the discarding process and not hinder it. To this end, a person should only keep what speaks to their heart, and possibly discarding the remaining items.


Kondo recommends that an individual should sort clutter by category. In this approach, a person will localize a particular item and sort it throughout their room. Tidying by category prevents an individual from engaging in repetitive acts in decluttering and organizing, hence being convenient. A person who sorts by category can tidy holistically and finish up with one item at a time. This approach is a more orderly and efficient way of sorting clutter as it ensures that a person can see the physical results of their hard work. Also, tidying by category allows a person to have a grasp of what they own, and apply proper strategies of decluttering and organizing.

It is also important to note that starting with mementos is a recipe for failure. People have trouble discarding things that they could still use (practical value), contain helpful information (informational value), and have sentimental ties (emotional value). When these things are hard to obtain or replace (a rarity), they become even harder to part with. Therefore, the best sequence is this: clothes first, then books, papers, komono (miscellany), and (lastly) mementos. Also, a person should let their family see what they are discarding, as some individuals may be extremely stressed upon seeing what their family members are discarding. In this regard, Kondo believes that — in most instances — what you do not need, your family shares similar sentiments too. If a person is annoyed by their family’s untidiness, they should instead focus more on their own personal space, beginning the transformation from their own room. Finally, one should appreciate that tidying is an intimate conversation with one’s self.

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