5 Lessons from The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

Several months ago, my dear friend Annie texted me pictures of her neatly organized drawers and told me to stop what I was doing and read Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.

When Annie says, “Read this book. Do it now.” I do it.

I have been battling with my stuff for a long time. A few years back I announced a massive project in which I was going to declutter and inventory my entire house. Never happened. I tried going room by room and intensely declutter. Never happened. 

I would walk around my house and feel like the piles of stuff were mocking me. I would spend weekends purging and organizing but never feeling like I got anywhere.

I was exactly what I didn’t want to be. I was a stuff manager

The problem was I thought I already knew everything there was to know about organizing. What could Marie Kondo possibly teach me?

Turns out. A LOT.

My former "junk" drawer.

My former "junk" drawer.

1. Everything I knew about organizing was wrong.

Tackling organization a little bit at a time? WRONG. Going room by room? WRONG. Finding just the right “system” for organization? WRONG. 

Marie Kondo throws out all the classic organizing advice bit by bit until she’s left with one simple truth. 

2. We should be choosing what we want to keep, not what we want to get rid of.

That is POWERFUL insight right there. 

For YEARS, I spent all my energy using my space to keep what I had. If I had an empty drawer, I filled it. If I collected extra supplies, I stored them. If I had space, why not?

Because the space in your house represents the space in your life and there is only a FINITE amount of it. 

Even the very back corner of a little-used closet represents mental energy and how do you want to spend your mental energy? Managing stuff? 

Well, NOT. ME.

My t-shirt drawer. BELIEVE in the vertical fold.

My t-shirt drawer. BELIEVE in the vertical fold.

3. Every item in your home should spark joy.

The KonMari method requires you place every single item in your hand and ask does it spark joy? If it doesn’t, it goes!

I know that sounds extreme and she makes allowances for items that you use on a daily basis or need to but can’t afford to replace. 

However, I still think those things bring joy. My little boxcutter tool doesn’t necessarily spark joy when I hold it in my hand. But you know what does? Having it perfectly stored in its own space and seeing that space occupied by something that I use almost daily!

4. It’s about the EMOTIONS - not the stuff.

When you come across something that’s hard to discard, consider carefully why you have that specific item in the first place. When did you get it and what meaning did it have for you then? Reassess the role it plays in your life. If, for example, you have some clothes that you bought but never wear, examine them one at a time. Where did you buy that particular outfit and why? If you bought it because you thought it looked cool in the shop, it has fulfilled the function of giving you a thrill when you bought it. Then why did you never wear it? Was it because you realized that it didn’t suit you when you tried it on at home? If so, and if you no longer buy clothes of the same style or color, it has fulfilled another important function—it has taught you what doesn’t suit you. In fact, that particular article of clothing has already completed its role in your life, and you are free to say, “Thank you for giving me joy when I bought you,” or “Thank you for teaching me what doesn’t suit me,” and let it go. Every object has a different role to play. Not all clothes have come to you to be worn threadbare. It is the same with people. Not every person you meet in life will become a close friend or lover. Some you will find hard to get along with or impossible to like. But these people, too, teach you the precious lesson of who you do like, so that you will appreciate those special people even more.
— Marie Kondo
No. More. Stacking.

No. More. Stacking.

That passage fundamentally changed how I feel about my belongings. First of all, I realized that discarding something didn’t mean I thought it was worthless. Feeling like a once precious object was now worthless kept me from getting rid of it. Now, I realize I can say thank you for an object’s role in my life and then let. it. go.

The sweater I loved to snuggle up in our first winter back in Paducah? Thanks for the memories and goodbye. The book that changed my worldview in college? Thank you for the insight and goodbye. The CDs I listened to a thousand times in 2007 but never since? Thank you and goodbye.

5. Practice makes perfect.

Marie Kondo has a specific order in which you tackle your clutter - category by category. You begin with clothes then go one by one until you finally sort sentimental belongings.

Over the past few months, I’ve worked through each category with only kitchen accessories and the sentimental belongings left.

It has been FREEING.

She’s right. You get better and better at understanding which items bring you joy and which you can let go.

And, as I get better at it, I feel less like I live among my stuff and more like my home is a place of peace and joy. 

If you’ve felt weighed down by your stuff, this book truly is life-changing. 

Any of y'all already KonMarie converts?