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The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

Many of you have likely heard about Marie Kondo, the Japanese organizational consultant whose radical methods for de-cluttering swept across the world a few years ago, unexpectedly turning her into the cleaning guru for our era. (To date, her wildly popular book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing has been translated and published in more than 30 countries.) After reading about her trademark KonMari method, and hearing from other people about how it changed their approach to organizing their homes, I decided to give it a shot myself.

Like many people in the Western world, I have a fair amount of stuff around my house. Some of it is definitely necessary, some of it is occasionally useful and some of it has real sentimental value. Some of my stuff, perhaps more than I’d like to admit, has just kind of accumulated without any real reason. This is true for most of us, as surely Kondo knows.

This is why KonMari breaks down into two easy steps.

The First Step

First, go through everything you own—I’d recommend devoting a long weekend to this, as it takes quite a while to get through all of your stuff—and then ask yourself if it honestly gives you joy. The Japanese word that Kondo uses is tokimeku, which can roughly be translated to “flutter, throb or palpitate,” so she doesn’t mean a superficial and fleeting kind of joy. Your object, whatever it might be, needs to spark a genuine and permanent joy when you see it or hold it!

The Second Step

Once you pinpoint all of your joy-providing stuff, and get rid of the rest, the next step is to find a new place for everything. Kondo says that all of these joyful objects should be put into spots around the house where they’re visible, accessible and/or ready to use. In other words, no more junk crammed into boxes or piled up in your hallway closet. If it’s hidden away, she claims, it can’t be all that important to you. The things that give you that feeling of tokimeku should be on display and part of your daily life.

Lessons Learned

Beyond just organizing the objects in my life and finding a way to keep my house seriously tidy, I took away lots of practical lessons from Marie Kondo’s approach to cleaning.


— Treating your belongings with real respect helps you keep things clean and also helps your things last longer. If your closet is tightly jammed with clothes on hangers, for example, you’re creating clutter and you’re wearing down all of this nice material. By getting rid of what you don’t want/need in the closet, you can give these clothes enough room to breath.


— It’s easier to get rid of things by categories than it is to do it by room. Kondo knows that if you go from bedroom to office to living room, you’re going to run into all kinds of distractions. (Try stumbling onto a box of forgotten stuff from high school and just ignoring it, I dare you.) By starting first with all of your clothes, then all of your books and then working your way through until you get to sentimental things like old photographs, you can stay focused and not succumb to wishy-washy emotional reactions.


— Once I got on a roll with the KonMari process, I kind of started to love organizing my stuff! The whole thing began by feeling like yet another chore, but I gradually started to feel relief from the process of purging all of the unwanted things around the house. It was freeing rather than stressful and brought me a deep sense of relief.

Above everything else, though, I learned that by keeping only the items that give me joy around the house, I’ve created more room for a broader form of joy in my life. Ever since I’ve applied Kondo’s ideas to my everyday stuff, there has been a more mental space for finding new inspiration around me.

Here are a few photos of the finished process.

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