The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing

by Marie Kondō

Tidying up isn’t just about cleaning the house; it’s also about detoxifying the space you live in so you can have a clear, healthy mind. When you tidy up, you hone your decision-making skills by deciding what to keep and what to discard, learn a little bit more about your gut instincts and yourself, and give yourself a nice environment in which to spend time. Plus, once your home is clean, you will be able to focus on the things that really matter to you without the distraction of unnecessary clutter.

Summary Notes

Chapter 1: Why Can’t I Keep My House In Order?

Tidying brings visible results. Tidying never lies.

There are classes on almost everything—from meditation to economics to cooking, nearly every skill has a teacher willing to teach it and students willing to learn it—except for the skill of tidying. It is generally assumed that knowing how to properly tidy up is an innate ability, or that it is naturally learned when growing up. However, this is not the case, most people have no idea how to properly tidy up after themselves.

The biggest problem most people have with tidying up is that the neatness they achieve rarely lasts for long. Soon enough, their house is in the same mess it was before they started tidying. Proper tidying skills will ensure that your living space is always tidy, which reduces your workload in the long run.

What truly holds people back from tidying properly is their mindset. It’s often difficult for us to part with the things that are cluttering up our homes, but when we discard them, we free ourselves from the mess they bring. We need to learn to throw away the things we don’t need and the things that don’t bring us joy. After all, once you get into the right mindset to tidy up, you’ll have no problem keeping your house neat and free of clutter.

Actions to take

Chapter 2: Finish Discarding First

“It is essential to create a quiet space in which to evaluate the things in your life.”


The best way to reduce clutter is to simply have fewer things. Before you begin putting things away, discard everything that you do not need. Remember, your goal is to tidy in one shot, as quickly and completely as possible. This means that you need to efficiently reduce the clutter in your house, and not just find a different place for it. 

Of course, it is challenging to know what to throw out and what to keep. The important thing to keep in mind is that you are tidying to improve your mood and become happier. There are several strategies you can use to determine what you will be discarding, but they all boil down to this: does it spark joy? If not, throw it out.

Another bonus of discarding the things you don’t need is that it will spur the rest of your family into tidying up! Once they see how efficient and simple your method of tidying is, they will follow suit. After all, everyone wants to live in a neat and tidy space, but more often than not, they don’t know how to keep it that way. 
 

Actions to take

Chapter 3: Tidying By Category Works Like Magic

The process of assessing how you feel about the things you own, identifying those that have fulfilled their purpose, expressing your gratitude, and bidding them farewell, is really about examining your inner self, a rite of passage to a new life.

Tidying is fun! When you tidy by category, starting from the easiest to the hardest things to tidy up, you make the process a whole lot simpler and you will definitely enjoy yourself. While it may seem like a daunting and impossible task at first—and this is especially true for those with particularly messy houses—as you go through the process of tidying up and begin to reduce your belongings, you will come to a point where it all just “clicks.” Basically, you will instinctively know how many of your belongings are necessary for you to be happy. Then, you will have no problem discarding the rest.

Moving from category to category when tidying up will help you understand the magnitude of the items you have in each category. You will then be able to evaluate the need for each item of that category. Take toiletries as an example: Let’s say you keep razors, soap samples, and toothbrushes in your bathroom, and you also store a few extra sets of these toiletries in your bedroom. If you’re sorting by category, you’ll be able to immediately identify the unnecessary extra sets and discard them. However, if you sort by location, the sets in your bathroom may slip your mind by the time you move to the bedroom.

It is also important to sort your items alone. If you tidy around other people, you run the risk of getting distracted by their opinions on what you should keep and what you should discard—this only leads to more clutter!

Tidying up can also provide insight into what you really like and who you truly are. As a big part of tidying is discarding the things that do not bring us joy, what we are left with will show us what does bring us joy. Plus, tidying up will hone your decision-making abilities and as a result, turn you into a more confident person. It will reduce your stress as you will no longer panic when you can’t find something. When you have a tidy home, you know exactly where everything is! Truly, keeping a neat and tidy home has benefits far beyond the aesthetic appeal.

Actions to take

Chapter 4: Storing Your Things To Make Your Life Shine

Clutter is caused by a failure to return things to where they belong.

Designating a specific spot for everything that you own is absolutely essential in maintaining a tidy home. You must establish a routine to follow every time you step into your house that involves storing each item of yours in a specific spot. Not only will this make it a lot easier to find things when you need them, it will reduce clutter and keep your house neat and tidy at all times. The key thing here is to keep items in their spot immediately - when you get back home with the groceries, for example, put them away immediately! 

Another factor in maintaining a tidy home is learning how to store your items. For example, storing things side by side will ensure that your items are easy to view and retrieve. Properly folding your clothes will maximize the space in your closet. When you begin to view the act of storing your items as choosing a home for the belongings which bring you joy, tidying up will become much easier.

Actions to take

Chapter 5: The Magic of Tidying Dramatically Transforms Your Life

"At their core, the things we really like do not change over time. Putting your house in order is a great way to discover what they are."

What do you like to do? That's a question that doesn't have an easy or clear answer for most people. However, when you start tidying up and only keeping what sparks joy, you gain a lot of insight into who you are as a person. For example, after you've finished tidying your books, you may realize that most of the books left share common themes. These themes are what sparked the most joy in you - you can use this deeper understanding of yourself to guide future decisions. Although you can get to know yourself better by analyzing your characteristics or listening to other people's opinions of you, your possessions reflect the history of decisions you have made in life. Tidying takes stock of what you really like, and what really matters to you. 

Tidying up also increases confidence in decision-making skills. As you develop a clear standard of how you judge things, it gets easier to make the right decisions, and your self-confidence will naturally increase. When you really think about the things that are holding you back from discarding something, it is usually due to an attachment to the past or a fear for the future. Either one of these two motivations will manifest in other forms in your life, in your relationships, your career, etc. For example, you may realize you find it hard to move on from past loves. Effectively tidying up will get rid of these behaviour patterns - the sooner you confront your possessions, the better. 

Actions to take

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