Monday, July 30, 2018

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up
is a really interesting read all about being more organised and intentional with what you choose to own and how this can impact your way of thinking and perspectives on life. Tidying up and getting rid of your possessions can seem like a daunting task, but going through the detailed process in this book will help you to surround yourself with things that bring you true joy (instead of clutter, which causes unnecessary stress and headache).


Who is this book for?

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up is a really interesting read all about being more organised and intentional with what you choose to own and how this can impact your way of thinking and perspectives on life. Tidying up and getting rid of your possessions can seem like a daunting task, but going through the detailed process in this book will help you to surround yourself with things that bring you true joy (instead of clutter, which causes unnecessary stress and headache). This book is ideal for anyone who is looking to transform their life a little bit and get rid of the non-essential.

About the author

Marie Kondo is a Japanese organisation consultant and author of four popular books. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying up was a #1 New York Times bestseller. Kondo has also been named one of Time Magazines 100 Most Influential People. Her passion for organisation began as a child and she started her consulting business at the age of 19 while living in Tokyo. Kondo aimed to transform peoples cluttered homes into peaceful, welcoming spaces. She went on to develop the KonMari method which is a method based on traditional Japanese values that emphasises decluttering your life and surrounding yourself only with things that spark joy.

In this summary

This summary will discuss how Kondo suggests you get started, it’s not about aiming for perfection right away, you can start slow. The first step is to get rid of the non-essential, and from there you can begin organising and categorising and finally storing your possessions. We’ll wrap this summary up with a brief discussion on the effect tidying up can have on your life.



So many of us feel overwhelmed by the concept of tidying, it’s just too much and instead of facing it, we just ignore it and let it get worse. How many of us have that cupboard in the spare room full of junk we haven’t used in years? Kondo’s book presents the ‘KonMari Method’ and hopefully, this method will help you to understand how to ‘tidy’ a little better.

We’ve all heard the advice suggesting that you can’t tackle a big task all at once, that the best way is to make it a habit and approach it bit by bit. However, Kondo advises against this. She explains that if you only do a little bit each day, you’ll never finish, you’ll be tidying forever.
”Don’t aim for perfection. Start off slowly and discard just one item a day – What lovely words to ease the hearts of those who lack confidence in their ability to tidy.”

Storing vs. discarding

Kondo explains that there is a significant difference between simply putting things away, storing them and discarding. When you store things in cupboards, boxes, spare bedrooms, your simply creating an ‘illusion’ that the clutter has been cleared, when in fact, you are delaying the inevitable. What happens when your storage is overloaded? Then you're faced with a bigger task. This is why Kondo explains that you MUST start your tidying regime by discarding first. Get rid of all of the un-essential before you can start truly tidying.
”We need to exercise self-control and resist storing our belongings until we have finished identifying what we really want and need to keep.”
Kondo’s definition of Effective Tidying contains two key actions; discarding and deciding where to store things. And it’s essential that they are done in this order.

Two types of tidying

Kondo explains that there are two types of tidying; ‘daily tidying’ and special event tidying’. Daily tidying occurs, well, daily. Part of daily tidying is the process of using something for a period of time, and then returning it to its home/place. This could be anything from a mug to a book to a jumper. The idea is that once you are done with it, you immediately return it, therefore eliminating the need to do a ‘big tidy’ at the end of the day. Daily tidying will never be eliminated.

Kondo's book focuses on the second type of tidying, the ’special event tidying’. The idea of her book is to encourage her readers to action a tidying spree as soon as possible, to get it done so you can live a clutter-free life.


”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?”Click To Tweet
Instinctively, we like to put things away, get them out of sight as part of the tidying process. But Kondo stresses the importance of NOT putting things away until you have completely finished discarding everything you do not need. Reason being, if you start putting things away in drawers etc, then you immediately get distracted from the task at hand; discarding, and often find yourself putting things away that should really be discarded. Only once you’ve got rid of every possible thing, can you start to consider where the things you are keeping will go.
”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. This is not only the simplest but also the most accurate yardstick by which to judge.”


One of Kondo’s recommendation is that you always categorise your possessions. Before you finalise what you are discarding and what you are keeping, gather all items that are part of the same category together and assess them. Kondo suggests you lay them all out on the floor and analyse whether you are keeping to much or discarding to little.

Using the example of organising your clothes, Kondo suggests that you take every item of clothing out of your drawers and wardrobe, make sure to include the jumpers you’ve left lying on the couch or the dirty laundry basket. Lay each item of clothing onto the floor, pick them up one by one and identify if the clothing sparks any joy within you. If it does, then you may put aside and keep, but if it doesn’t, then discard immediately. You can go a step further and categorise your clothing into tops, pants, jackets etc. Examine these one subcategory at a time until you are left with only the essential pieces that truly spark joy. Continue this approach with all of the categories within your home.

What about the whole family?

'To get rid of what you no longer need is neither wasteful nor shameful.'Click To Tweet
Even if you are the one driving the tidying and nobody else seems overly keen to discard their possessions, Kondo explains that the best approach is to just continue with your own tidying. By getting rid of the non-essentials and tidying your own possessions, you’ll more than likely trigger a response from your family members who will sooner or later, want to join the bandwagon.
”To truly cherish the things that are important to you, you must first discard those that have outlived their purpose. To get rid of what you no longer need is neither wasteful nor shameful. Can you truthfully say that you treasure something buried so deeply in a closet or drawer that you have forgotten its existence?”


Kondo suggests that you begin with clothing, then books, papers, miscellaneous and your final task will be items with sentimental value. By approaching the task in this order, you will find the process more streamlined and easy. By starting with clothing, the easiest possession to part with, you will get into the groove before you reach the sentimental items, the category that most people struggle with the most. Hopefully, by the time you reach the hardest category, you will have practiced your decision-making skills, and be feeling good about the de-cluttering.

We’ll start with clothes

Kondo’s step by step approach to organising your clothing:
  1. Arrange every item of clothing on the floor in one room. Ensure that you physically look at and handle each individual piece.
  2. Do not downgrade your clothes. Kondo stresses the point that items of clothing that are old, worn out or no longer spark joy, should not be kept and downgraded as ‘casual wear’ to wear around the house. Even in your own home, you should only wear clothing that makes you happy.
  3. Learn how to fold your clothing to fit into the appropriate storage.
  4. Fold your clothing so that at a single glance, you can see each item and nothing can get ‘lost’ at the bottom of a draw. When using drawers, you can store things standing up rather than laid flat.
  5. Arranging your clothes in order is essential. On the left, hang your heavier clothes, anything long or heavy such as a coat, and anything dark coloured. Then towards the right, start hanging items that decrease in length, weight and lighten in colour. To the right, you should find things like chiffon blouses, or lightweight short sleeved shirts.
  6. Fold your socks and stockings, pair them up and neatly arrange them in your drawer. Don’t aimlessly throw them in a pile where you can never find a matching set. Store them standing up, like your clothes, so that you can see each pair of socks at a glance.
  7. Kondo’s final clothing tip is not to over-categorise. Try to avoid categories that are seasonal, e.g. summer, winter, fall, and spring. Simply put them all together in the heavy-to-light arrangement.

Now books…

  1. As with clothing, take all of your books out of cupboards and off their bookshelves and arrange them on the floor. Ask yourself whether each individual book brings you any joy?
  2. If you have books that have been unread for some time, it's more than likely that you’ll never actually read it. The intention was there but you never followed through. Let go and acknowledge you won’t read it. Discard.
  3. Keep your book collection small, and have it contain only books that have bought you informative information, or significant books. When you finish a book, if you’ll never look at it again, you can discard it instead of adding to your collection.


“Sorting papers: rule of thumb—discard everything. I recommend you dispose of anything that does not fall into one of three categories: currently in use, needed for a limited period of time, or must be kept indefinitely.”


Kondo recommends that you don’t keep things ‘just because’. It’s not enough of a reason to hold on to these items. Go through all of your miscellaneous items. And, if they don’t spark joy, discard.

Now the sentimental…

  1. It’s important to remember that your parents home does not equal a storage space for your memories. Regardless of how significant items may have been once, they are not necessarily sparking joy any longer.
  2. Kondo explains that there is only one way to organise your photos. You have to physically look at each photo one by one, as with all of your other possessions, and examine the feelings it gives you.
”Photographs exist only to show a specific event or time. When you do this, you will be surprised at how clearly you can tell the difference between those that touch your heart and those that don’t. As always, only keep the ones that inspire joy.”

Reducing your possessions

Kondo explains that as you go through the process of tidying up your possessions, and discarding the unnecessary, you will reach a state that brings comfort. You will know exactly how much ‘stuff’ you need in order to be content and comfortable.
You’ll find the point where you realise you have enough to be happy, and you don’t need anymore! This is a different ‘quantity’ for everyone, but you should come to the realisation all on your own.
”The fact that you possess a surplus of things that you can’t bring yourself to discard doesn’t mean you are taking good care of them. In fact, it is quite the opposite. By paring down to the volume that you can properly handle, you revitalise your relationship with your belongings.”


You’ll get to the point in your process where you need to make decisions about where things are to be kept/stored. Each item needs to be designated a home. This will help to eliminate clutter in the future.

Kondo explains that through the process of discarding and tidying, you will have reached a point where you are keeping on the items that will fit perfectly within your home. She calls this the magic of tidying.

The key is simplicity, Kondo explains. Don’t overcomplicate it, that will only cause more clutter in the future, you need your system to be easily maintainable. Her golden rule is;
“Store all items of the same type in the same place and don’t scatter storage space.”

Make it easy on yourself

Kondo explains that your storage system you make it easy to put things away after they have been used, it also shouldn’t increase the effort required to get them out. Don’t store everyday items in high, hard to reach areas. You’re more likely to not want to put them back. Clutter, as Kondo describes, is the result of failing to return things to where they belong.

Our default when storing items is to stack one on top of the other, Kondo, however, points out a few issues with this. First of all, you can’t reach things at the bottom, you often forget what is piled there, the bottom items can get squished and misshapen and finally, when stacked you can fit ALOT in.
And if you’re to learn anything from this summary it’s that more isn’t better. So for these reasons, Kondo recommends stacking everything that you can in a vertical manner.


“Tidying dramatically changes one’s life. This is true for everyone, 100 percent. The impact of this effect, which I have dubbed “the magic of tidying,” is phenomenal. “
If you’ve practiced discarding items that don’t spark any joy before, you’ll understand just how easy it becomes to identify which items are bringing you joy and therefore, worth keeping. Kondo explains that as soon as you touch and acknowledge an item, you should know.

How many of us hold on to an unhealthy attachment to the past, we fear the future and this, Kondo explains, effects the items that you own and that you buy. You need to decide how you want to live your life and this will determine what items you should own.
”Life becomes far easier once you know that things will still work out even if you are lacking something. Being surrounded by things that spark joy makes you happy.”
“Tidying dramatically changes one’s life. This is true for everyone, 100 percent.'Click To Tweet


Key Takeaways

  • There is an important order to tidying, first, you must discard the items you no longer need, then you must organise and store your remaining possessions. Don’t do it the other way round.
  • Categorise items in your house into the following; clothing, books, papers, misc, sentimental items.
  • Lay everything from one category out on the floor, pick up and acknowledge each item. If it sparks joy, then you can keep it. If it doesn’t then discard.
  • It’s OK to let go of items that were once sentimental.
  • Start with easier categories like clothing, that way when you reach the sentimental items you’ll be well practiced in decision making and discarding.
  • Once you start a decluttering journey, it’s likely that your family members will be inspired too.

Further Reading

It is worth checking out Leo Babauta’s book; The Power of Less. A guide on how to de-clutter your life and work to create more time for the important things. Leo explains how identifying the essential aspects of your life and eliminating all of the non-essentials can allow you to focus on goals and aspirations that can continue to change your life for the better. We live in a world that is fast-paced and very-full, this book helps show you that slowing down and having less can actually be beneficial. You should also have a read of Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life by Joshua Fields Milburn & Ryan Nicodemus
Zen to Done is Leo Babauta's response to two of the best and most popular productivity systems; David Allen's Getting Things Done and Stephen Covey's 7 Habits of Successful People. Allen and Covey's books have been summarised already on my site, Leo Babauta's guide is an interesting and new take on the two systems, taking the best concepts from each and creating what Leo Babauta describes as ‘The Ultimate Productivity System'.

Essentialism by Greg McKeown is a must read for people interested in taking the minimalist attitude and applying it to work and productivity. It’s a real eye-opener which challenges you to think about what’s important and how you’re spending your time. The book guides you through the process of saying “no” to the “trivial many” so you can focus more on the “essential few”.

Guidelines is my eBook that summarises the main lessons from 33 of the best-selling self-help books in one place. It is the ultimate book summary; Available as a 80-page ebook and 115-minute audio book. Guidelines lists 31 rules (or guidelines) that you should follow to improve your productivity, become a better leader, do better in business, improve your health, succeed in life and become a happier person.

Action Steps

  • Commit to spending some time doing a ‘Special Occasion Tidy’, follow Kondo’s step to dramatically re-organise your possessions.
  • Once your tidy is completed, commit to daily tidying – when you’ve finished with an item, put it back as soon as you are done with it.
  • 1 Month after completing the special occasion tidy, write down how you’ve felt now that you have discarded your old possessions, does your life feel emptier? Or do you have more joy?
  • Check out Marie Kondo’s website.
  • Download the complete book on Amazon.

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up

By Marie "KonMarie" Kondo

** These are my notes from the book and personal thoughts I had while reading it! I’ve pulled certain parts that resonated with me, so head to the actual book for full quotes!**


 Have you ever tidied madly, only to find that all too soon your home or workspace is cluttered again? If so, let share with you the secret of success. Start by discarding. Then, organize your space, thoroughly, completely, in one go.

 Being messy is not hereditary nor is it related to lack of time. It has far more to do with the accumulation of mistaken notions about tidying, such as "It’s best to tackle one room at a time" or "It’s better to do a little each day" or "storage should follow the flow plan of the house."

 Once you have experienced what it’s like to have a truly ordered house, you’ll feel your whole world brighten. Never again will you revert to clutter. This is what I call the magic of tidying.

Chapter 1: Why can’t I keep my house in order?

 We aren’t taught how to tidy. It’s believed that the ability to tidy is acquired through experience and doesn’t require training.

 We rebound. People think they have tidied thoroughly, but have really only sorted/stored things halfway. Clutter creeps back in.

 Putting things away properly keeps things tidy—even if you are a sloppy/lazy by nature.

 Tidying in one big go works better than tidying a little each day because it changes your mind-set and the way things look and feel. You won’t want to go back after feeling the effects of a big cleaning/purging session.

 2 parts of tidying:
o deciding whether or not to dispose of something

o deciding where to put it.

 STORAGE IS NOT THE ISSUE. You’re just concealing the stuff you do not need. Gives the illusions that clutter has been solved. But soon all those storage systems get full and you need more storage. SO tidying starts with discarding.

 Tidy by category, not location. Don’t store the same type of item in more than one place.

So, tidy by category. Do all clothes in one day instead of a bedroom in one day. Because you’ll have stuff in other places and not get to tidy the clothes all in one go. Can’t make an accurate assessment of what you have.

 2 types of tidying:
daily tidying- using something and putting it back in its place. Will always be a part of our lives.

special event tidying- putting your house in order as soon as possible. Sorting through everything you have so you know what you actually own and where it belongs.

 Once you have done the special event tidying, tiding will be reduced to the very simple task of putting things back where they belong, which then becomes an unconscious habit. (But have to do the special event tidying all at once.

Chapter 2: Finish Discarding First

 Ask yourself why you want to be tidy. Identify your ideal lifestyle; realize the point of discarding is to keep you happy!

 Instead of learning "rules" for discarding…
o We should focus on what we want to keep, not what we want to get rid of.

o Take each item in hand and ask "Does this spark joy?"

o Keep only the things that speak to your heart. Then take the plunge and discard all the rest.

 Don’t start with mementos.

 People have trouble discarding things that…
o they could still use (functional value)

o that contain helpful information (informational value)

o that have sentimental ties (emotional value)

When these things are hard to obtain or replace (rarity), they become even harder to part with.
SO, start with the things that are easy to make decisions about. Practice the decision making with the easier stuff first.


 Don’t show your family what you are getting rid of.

 Quietly disposing of your own excess is actually the best way of dealing with a family that doesn’t tidy.

 Evaluate things in quiet places. Start early in the morning.

 When it’s hard to discard something ask why you have it in the first place. Does it still need to fill the role you had for it when you got it?

o If you don’t use it anymore, that’s ok. There’s a reason why and it has taught you something about what you don’t like or need.

Chapter 3: Tidying By Category Works Like Magic

Subcategory breakdown: tops, bottoms, clothes that should be hung, socks, underwear, bags, accessories, clothes for specific events (swimsuits, uniforms) & shoes.

Place everything on the floor. (I put it all on our bed. Floor seemed unnessecary.)

For off season clothes "Do I want to see this outfit again next time it’s in season? Or "would I want to wear this right away if the temperature suddenly changed?"

Don’t downgrade stuff to loungewear. Even those pieces should make you feel happy. You probably won’t wear it as loungewear either.

Folding clothes saves space. (You can fit 20-40 ppiees of clothing in the space required to hang 10.)

Folding clothes forces you to handle and inspect clothing, moreso than hanging.

Store things standing up rather than flat so you can see everything in the drawer.

Fold everything into a simple, smooth rectangle. Things should fit the height of the drawer.

Fold thin, soft material more tightly, reducing to a small width and height. Fold thick, fluffy materials less.

""It’s like a sudden revelation—So this is how you always wanted to be folded!"---a historical moment in which your mind and the piece of clothing connect." HA!

Hang clothes that look happier hung up: soft materials that flutter in the wind, highly tailored cuts.

Hang clothes by category side by side

Don’t ball up your socks. (WHOOPS.) The drawer is their time to rest. Don’t stress and stretch them out by folding over each other. Store socks side by side.

Put ‘em on the floor. (Did not do this.) Helps you see which ones "grab you".

Can split them up into: general (books you read for fun), practical (references, cookbooks), visual (photograph collections, etc.) and magazines.

Keep it if it gives you a thrill of pleasure when you touch it. DO NOT start reading it.

Books you haven’t read yet are books you will not read.

Only by discarding a book will you realize how passionate you are about that subject.

KEEP your "hall of fame" books. Ones you read over and over and could keep reading over and over.

Papers will never inspire joy. Get rid of anything that is not: currently in use, needed for a limited period of time or must be kept indefinitely.

Does NOT include sentimental papers.

2 piles: papers to keep, papers to be dealt with (for ones that can’t be discarded). Keep "deal with" papers in the same spot.

For papers that need to be saved, categorize into "papers used frequently" and "papers used infrequently"

Three containers: needs attention, should be saved (contractual docs), and should be saved (others). Goal of "Needs attention" container is to keep it empty.

Put all warranties in one clear file. Go through them once a year.

Throw away greeting cards more than 2 years old, unless they spark joy in your heart.

KOMONO (miscellaneous items)
Small articles, miscellaneous items; accessories; gadgets or small tools, parts or attachments

Things you keep "just because"

Order of sorting komono:

Cds/dvds > skin care products > makeup > accessories > valuables (passports, credit cards, etc )> electrical equipment > household equipment (stationery, sewing kits) > household supplies (medicine, detergents) > kitchen goods/foods > other (spare change, figurines)

If you have a bunch of items relating to one hobby, treat that as a subcategory, too.

Don’t keep gifts out of guilt. Think about the feeling the giver tried to express by giving it.

Get rid of old bedding, spare buttons, broken appliances, unidentified cords, the boxes electronics came in, health craze products, free novelty goods, small change. (Put that in your wallet so you use it.)

Sentimental items---if they still spark joy---keep. Don’t keep out of guilt/sadness/just for the sake of "hanging on"

Take them all out of books, storage places, etc.

Keep only about 5 per day from a special trip. (Can’t do this.) "Really important things are not that great in number." (ouch)

Don’t wait until old age to sort through them. You’ll enjoy them so much more throughout your life if you sort through them now.

Reduce until you find the point that "clicks" for you. Will depend on YOU. Shoe lover might LOVE 100 pairs of shoes.

Chapter 4: Storing Things to Make Your Life Shine
Have a spot designated for everything. Kills the clutter.

You only need to designate a place for an item once.

Storage methods should be as simple as possible.

Store all items of the same type in the same place and don’t scatter storage space.

Define separate storage spaces for each person in family

Clutter is caused by a failure to return things to where they belong. Therefore, storage should reduce the effort needed to put things away, not the effort needed to get them out.

Don’t stack things vertically on top of each other. Makes it hard to get stuff out/put away/stuff on bottom gets wear and tear.

Shoeboxes are great for compartmentalizing drawers/shelves. Lids too.

Things that take up floor space should go in a closet: golf clubs, suitcases, electrical appliances, guitars.

Have a "power spot". Top shelf of a bookshelf filled with things that give you energy. (KonMari talks about charms, but we obviously don’t do this!)

Unpack and de-tag new clothes immediately

Chapter 5: The Magic of Tidying Dramatically Transforms your Life
Tydying can

o Help you see the types of things you really love.

o Give you confidence.

o Let you see the freedom of letting things go.

"The question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life."

Life goes on if you end up getting rid of something you need in the future.

When faced with something that brings joy, the response is usually instantaneous---gentle touch and shining eyes.

"Pour your time and passion into what brings you the most joy, your mission in life." Putting your house in order will help you do this----find your mission and spend more time doing it.

Caitlin’s Takeaways
- Loved the order she recommends and the effects of doing one big clean. Enjoyed author’s energy for cleaning. Made me want to re-fold my clothes.

- Did not love the talking to the clothes part, although, to be honest, I did try it just for kicks.

- I also don’t think we transmit energy into our clothes by folding them. I think we take wrinkles out, make them look nicer and more fresh, but I don’t think they gain energy.

- ON getting rid of stuff:

o For me, it’s not ALL about being surrounded by joyful things, although that is an awesome outlook and definitely better than being surrounded by things that stress you out or make you feel bad. Of course, I don’t want stressful things around me---that wouldn’t be healthy. BUT, while things in our home aren’t gorgeous or sentimental or rare or my most favorite possessions, they do serve important function, and I think they can be "celebrated" for that reason. Ex:

While a big huge farmhouse kitchen table would definitely spark joy for me more than my existing 4 person square kitchen table, it’s OK! There are benefits to the 4 person table too, and given our actual space situation, it’s the idea size for what we are working with. So it’s staying for this season.

o Since this book is getting to be so popular, I also feel like it needs to be shared that purging shouldn’t be done because it’s cool or noble or trendy minimalistic. For me, the discarding is GOOD and FRUITFUL because it

Helps me see what I have and be grateful for it.

Helps me see what I don’t use and think of ways to bless others with it.

Makes more room for the more important things or the things that make me happier. (See ya old tshirts that I don’t really wear anymore. Hello, front and center sweater that I wear in the winter.)

- On organizing:

o Organizing (aka giving everything a very place) helps me spend less time looking for things, more time doing the things that matter. (Ex: There are 4 places where I tend to keep scissors, so I have about a 25% chance of checking the right place every time I look. Not practical!)

Waste less time, easier for others to find.


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