Can Tidying Up Change Your Life?

Home Remodeling & Maintenance

Can Tidying Up Change Your Life?

Followers of the KonMari Method say it can drastically change your life. So, we gave it a try.


Can a strategy for decluttering change your life? Marie Kondo, a Japanese organizing consultant and author of the best-selling book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing (Ten Speed Press), claims that it can, and many of her fans agree.

SEE ALSO: 5 Myths Keeping You From Getting Rid of Your Stuff

Kondo says she offers more than just a set of rules for decluttering; her method is also a guide to acquiring the right mind-set for creating order and establishing the lifestyle you want. People who have followed the KonMari Method say they have not only dramatically reorganized their homes but also quit jobs, launched businesses, increased their sales at work, avoided a divorce (or obtained one) and—this one really caught my eye—lost 10 pounds. I was skeptical, but I’m an overweight baby boomer drowning in stuff, so I was willing to give it a try.

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Kondo says tidying involves two actions: discarding and deciding where to put things away. And discarding must come first. She calls storage a “booby trap” because you probably don’t need most of the things you’re stowing and concealing. And it can get expensive if you’re buying crates or bins at the Container Store or renting a storage unit. She emphasizes that you must undertake the discarding process “intensely and completely.”

To begin, sort your stuff by category. Because we often store the same type of item in multiple locations, we don’t realize what or how much we have or that we have multiples of the same item. Choose one category at a time, and spread out everything in that category on the floor (or some other staging area, such as the dining-room table or your bed). To hone your culling skills, begin with easy categories, such as clothes and books. Save for last items that have sentimental or emotional ties, such as photographs and mementos.


Sparking joy. Kondo’s advice struck me as perfectly practical at first, but then she began to get a little woo-woo: “Take each item in one’s hand and ask, ‘Does this spark joy?’ If it does, keep it. If not, dispose of it.” Also: “By exposing [your things] to the light of day and jolting them alive, so to speak, you’ll find it surprisingly easy to judge whether they touch your heart.” Okaaay . . .

Still, I persisted. I began with my clothes, which I extracted from a chest of drawers and two closets (a third holds vintage pieces to which I’m sentimentally attached, so they’ll have to wait). I worked through each subcategory—tops, bottoms, socks and so on. I touched each piece and asked myself if it sparked joy. Many times, the answer was no—not if I never liked it and avoided wearing it, nor if it no longer fit and probably never would again.

I found myself talking to my clothes. “Yes, blouse, I love your color, and I always enjoy wearing you!” or “No, I’m sorry, I don’t love you, but someone else will!” After about four hours, I had eliminated 75 items—clothing, shoes and accessories—that I will donate. Using, I estimate that I can take an itemized deduction of $696 on my 2017 tax return. I even emptied some space in our walk-in closet that my husband can use if he likes.

I’d heard of Kondo’s method for folding clothes, which I had pooh-poohed. But I tried it and discovered that it was brilliant! (Fold each item into a rectangle about the same height as the drawer and arrange the folded items side by side.) I could view them like the spines of books on a bookshelf and remove what I wanted without ransacking a stacked pile of clothes.

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Next, I tackled books, which proliferate in our home like mushrooms after a rain. Kondo says the most common reason to keep a book is that you might read or study it again someday, and she points out—rightly, in my experience—that that’s unlikely. She says there is no meaning in books just sitting “dormant” on your shelves. As she suggested, I asked myself, Does this book fall into my “personal Book Hall of Fame”? In a few hours, I let go of 98 books—many that had collected dust for years—that we will donate for someone else to enjoy. I even identified a few titles (using that may have value in the used-book market.

I haven’t lost any weight, but I do feel somewhat lighter. And I plan to apply the KonMari Method to the rest of my family’s belongings.

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