If you keep your fingers on the pulse of DIY literature, chances are you’ve already heard of Marie Kondo’s book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. (available, here on Amazon)
For those unfamiliar with the book, Marie Kondo is a Japanese woman who specializes in helping people tidy up and declutter their lives. Her theory is that by decluttering your stuff and your space, your life becomes inherently and naturally better. Tidying Up is a step by step guide of how to do that, including tips and helpful insights, along with plenty of myth-debunking about keeping spaces clean. About a month ago I took the challenge to tidy up my space, so I thought I would share how the experiment went, and how things are looking a month later.
You only tidy-up once
The first myth that Kondo obliterates is the oft-recited idea that if you just tidying up a little (say, five minutes) each day is the easiest way to stay clean and organized. Kondo laments this theory, because if you think about it, that means that you will essentially be cleaning up every day for your entire life! She claims that if you tidy up the correct way one time (which admittedly takes time) you will never have to tidy up again. Sound too good to be true? I thought so too.
Her method for cleaning things out is super heavy in Japanese cultural ideology, especially in how much personification she does of inanimate objects. But it’s hard to argue with her logic. Essentially what she says is this:
You should only surround yourself with things that bring you joy. If you own something that doesn’t bring you joy, get rid of it.
I found this method super insightful. Often I’ve tried spring-cleaning with methods like “If you haven’t used it in 1 year get rid of it” or other ideas. My problem (and I’m sure many other people’s problem) is that I always think, “Well, I didn’t use it last year, but what if I need it this next year?” etc, etc. But Kondo says that by keeping things that don’t bring us joy, even if we think we might maybe one day possibly need it, we are suffocating our happiness.
Another objection to throwing things out or giving things away is often that something was expensive and I feel guilty for not having used it enough or that something was a gift and I feel like I owe it to the giver to keep their gift. Kondo’s ideas about this problem are also very interesting. She asserts that everything that comes into your life comes into it to bring you joy. If you bought an expensive clothing article but never wore it sense, then it has fulfilled its purpose because it brought you joy when you bought it. If someone gave you something but you no longer want to keep it, it’s purpose was fulfilled, which was showing you that someone loves you, but now it’s purpose is done, and you aren’t doing anyone any favors by keeping it out of obligation. (Granted, some things are of extreme sentimental value, but that is totally different)
Putting tidying to the test
I was fascinated as I read Kondo’s book while out of town, and was admittedly excited to test out her ideas upon returning home. I am moving to a new apartment in about a week, so I figured that cleaning up would not only make my move easier, but would help me make my new place better from the very start. So I did what Kondo recommends: I started with my clothing, bringing everything into one big pile, and one by one asking myself if each article brought me joy or not. If it did, I kept it. If it didn’t, I didn’t feel guilty getting rid of it. And boy, did I get rid of a lot of clothes! I then followed the same process for my books, my papers, my miscellany, and my sentimental objects. It took about 4 days, but by the time I finished I had 5 big black trash bags full of stuff to throw or give away, which was pretty surprising considering I’m a college studying with only one small room of things!
Once you have gotten rid of stuff, you need to learn how to store things that you have kept. The biggest trick here is that everything should be stored standing up, never stacked. Check out some of my pictures to see what this means. It’s been really handy so far having things stored this way, because it saves tons of space and everything is so easy to find!
My first feelings immediately after cleaning out was like a big weight off my shoulders. I was able to get rid of a trashy bookshelf that had been storing my junk, and my entire room felt bigger, brighter, and cleaner. Even though I have less clothing, I am more happy with it, because when I look in my closet or drawer, I know that every single item brings me joy, and I don’t have to skip over all those things that looked bad, were now too small, or simply no longer matched my taste. It felt great!
There’s no place like home (for you or your belongings)
Another part of Kondo’s method is giving every single object a home. No object should go on a counter or desk or table. Everything needs a place where it can live. If you do that, when you arrive home instead of throwing things on the floor or the table, they go back where they belong. This is why she claims that you’ll never have to tidy again if you do this process the right way. And, one month later, I can see why she would be right.
When I come home and I’m taking off my shoes, it is just as easy to put them in my shoe-sorter as it is to throw them on the ground. It takes about 2 seconds longer to put my clothes back into the drawer instead of throwing them on my bed. Although I admit that my room isn’t always as impeccably clean as it was after my tidying up rampage, it is still always ten times cleaner than it used to be.
As I sat down to write this I looked at my desk and had to really fight the urge to stop writing and clean my desk off, because I was ashemed that the tidying up magic hadn’t been 100% effective. I still have my school papers scattered around my desk, I still have random candy wrappers in the corner, and some random supplies are sitting next to my printer. But as I look around my room, I realize that I’m still doing a great job of being tidy, and it doesn’t even feel like work or cleaning. I just naturally live cleaner now that I only have things that I love, and now that every single thing I own has a “home”.
So, all in all, do I recommend Tidying Up? Absolutely. It really has made a difference in how I treat my space, and in how happy I am in it. Although I haven’t gotten the results Kondo claims of never having to tidy again, when I do need to tidy up (which only happens about once a week) it takes about 2 minutes and then my room is back to being spotless. I’ll probably take those 2 minutes right after I publish this, in fact. If you’re feeling like you need a positive change in your life, you might just need to tidy up.