The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: Lessons From Marie Kondo

Marie Kondo has completely changed the way people think about cleaning and organization, first with her best-selling book and now with her new Netflix special. Many of her ideas are easy to implement, but can completely change the way you manage your home. Having a clean, organized space can help you feel more productive and less stressed, so it’s worth making the effort to tidy up your home. In this article, we will discuss some of the best tips Marie Kondo offers to help you keep your home and office spaces neat and tidy.

Put your items into categories

Kondo suggests that the easiest way to sort through your stuff is to put it in categories. Many people decide to clean by area instead, but this can end up being completely overwhelming. If you decide to clean your entire bedroom, for example, what will likely happen is that you’ll end up moving clutter from room to room without ever actually dealing with it. Instead, decide to focus on all your shoes at once, for example, or all your books or all your children’s toys. This will help you create an organizational system for these items that you can apply throughout the entire house. Plus, tackling all of your books at once instead of deciding to clean out your entire office feels much less daunting.

Set personal goals, and aim to have your space reflect that

Before you start cleaning your home, you need to decide what your motivation is going to be. Your home should be a reflection of you - your interests, values, and goals. Setting personal goals can make it much easier to find the motivation to tidy up. For example, your personal goal may be living a life that’s calm and without stress. This will motivate you to organize your space in a way that makes you feel calm. Maybe your goal is to be more productive. This will motivate you to develop your space in a way that flows, so you can get things done more quickly. When you approach your home as a reflection of you, you’ll find yourself starting to care much more about what it looks like.

Take everything out of your closet (or kitchen or office)

While organizing things in categories is a very effective way to get started with decluttering, to make a real dent in your re-organizing process, you will need to do something drastic. If you want to organize your closet, you are going to need to take everything out of it and start from square one. Yes, this is going to be time consuming, but it’s not something you’re going to need to do very often. After you’ve taken everything out, sorted through your items, and decided which ones you want to keep, you can put them back in in a way that makes sense. This way, you aren’t having to work around an existing mess when you’re trying to clean.

Separate your sentimental items and tackle those last

When cleaning out your closet or another area where you’ve stored personal items for a long time, it can be easy to get stuck looking at items with sentimental value, like photos, letters, or gifts people have given you. This can distract you from the task at hand and make it very difficult to get anything done. To prevent this from happening to you, put any item with sentimental value in a separate pile. Once you’ve gone through everything else, you can allow yourself to reminisce a bit, but then decide if these items really need to be in your home going forward. In many cases, just having the wonderful memories is enough. However, if you are really attached to something, you can still keep it - the key is to find a designated place for it and keep it there. If you are going to hang on to sentimental items, you should also be sure that you are taking time to really appreciate them. There’s no point in having them around if they just sit in the back of a drawer.

Get rid of the things that don’t make you happy

One of Marie Kondo’s most popular catchphrases is, ‘does this spark joy?’ It may sound silly, but start asking if the items that you have in your home really make you happy, or if you’re keeping them around just to have them. You want to surround yourself with items that really make you feel fulfilled and happy. Go through your home and ask yourself this question, and be brutally honest with your answer. It may be hard to let go of things you’ve had for years, but if they aren’t really adding anything to your life, you won’t miss them when you are gone. If you find yourself getting nostalgic, remember that ultimately these are just material items. What matters more is your quality of life and the memories you make, not the things you have in your home. You’ll also be so surprised at how addicting this process is once you start doing it. Getting rid of items you don’t need leaves you with plenty of open space to work with, and it can help you feel like a burden has been lifted off your shoulders.

Value the things you own

Once you’ve cleaned out the things that don’t make you happy, it’s important that you value the items you do have and take good care of them. For example, make sure your clothes are properly folded and hung, wash them appropriately, and take them to the tailors if needed. This can apply to anything - furniture, books, plants, art, anything else in your home. Really take care of these items, and then they will last you for a long time and continue to make you happy. Kondo suggests thinking about how your items would feel if they had a personality - they probably wouldn’t be too thrilled to be just left on the floor or neglected in some other way. Personifying these items will help you care about them more and therefore be motivated to take care of them.

You should also make use of the items you end up keeping after you clear your home out. Take the time to sit down and read through your books and really enjoy them, and make sure you’re actually wearing the gorgeous clothing you decided to keep. When you take the time to use the items you’ve spent your hard-earned money on, you will find yourself happier and more fulfilled in your space.

Keep your clothes folded so you can see all of them in your dresser

One of Kondo’s most life-changing tips is her signature style of folding clothes. She folds clothing so that it sits vertically in the drawer, and when organized properly you will be able to see every piece that you have. When done correctly, your clothing is organized in almost a ‘file folder’ style, and you can easily pick out the item you want to wear without disrupting the rest of your organization. The fold is a bit complicated to explain, and the best way to learn is to look up a video of Kondo doing it herself. Once you’ve mastered it, you will find that getting ready in the morning is much easier.

Avoid using paper

One of the biggest causes of clutter is paperwork - bills, forms, junk mail, etc. If you have gotten into the habit of just stuffing your junk mail in a drawer, this can be difficult to change. However, cleaning them out can also make a huge difference in the tidiness of your home or office. Start by switching to paperless billing wherever you can. You might be surprised at how many companies are now offering paperless options. If you are consistently receiving junk mail from the same places, make the effort to contact them and get taken off their mailing list. Finally, take the paper clutter that you do have and shred it, then recycle it. There’s no reason for it to be sitting around in your home stressing you out. In addition to helping make your space cleaner, getting rid of paper clutter is also great for the environment.

Designate a place for everything

After you’ve gotten rid of things you know you don’t want to keep, take the time to decide where all of your items are going to go. This is the best way to make sure that clutter doesn’t start to pile up over time, because when you are done using an item, you will have an easy place to put it back. If you have trouble remembering where things go, try labeling your storage spaces as a quick reminder. This can also be incredibly helpful if you are living with a family. Giving kids an easy place to put their things away makes it easier for them to keep their personal spaces clean.

Use small boxes to keep your drawers organized

Using drawers efficiently is a huge part of Marie Kondo’s organization strategy. Instead of just dumping things in a drawer when you don’t feel like dealing with them, use drawers to create a place for items that didn’t have a home before. Inside your drawers, use small boxes and other organizational items to separate things into categories. This will make everything much easier to find, and then you will have a designated place to put things away when you are done with them. Using drawers efficiently also prevents you from having too much clutter sitting out on counter spaces.

Avoid investing in complex storage solutions

Buying a giant set of storage drawers may seem like a good idea if you want to be more organized. However, this can actually make your space feel more cluttered and just encourage you to hoard things. Instead, make use of the space you already have. Once you start cleaning your space out, you will likely find that you have a lot more room to work with than you initially thought. You should also learn to better organize each space by storing things vertically (similar to the folding technique we’ve already discussed). This is particularly helpful in the kitchen, where you typically have very limited space to work with. Don’t buy extra spice racks or silverware organizers when you can just organize your drawers and cabinets more efficiently.

Aim to tidy everything in one go

It can be tempting to just clean a little bit here and a little bit there, but with this approach, you will just end up creating more clutter again, and the problem will never really be solved. If you do everything all at once, you won’t have to tackle this issue again for a long time, and you will feel amazing knowing that everything is in its rightful place. Schedule a day to really focus on this - cancel everything else on your calendar, and enlist your partner or roommates to help you. You also might want to get a babysitter if you have kids so you can put all your focus on this task. Not only should you clean everything out that you don’t want, but you should also take the time to develop a system for where everything goes. This will result in a much more permanent change than just a quick cleaning session.

Marie Kondo is starting a tidying revolution, and you can join in to help keep your home just a little bit more organized. Once you’ve implemented these lessons, it’s much easier to keep your home tidy and prevent messes from ever accumulating. Having a clean, organized home is one of the best ways to reduce your stress levels, so you can get more enjoyment out of spending time in your space. Many of these tips are actually very easy to implement once you get started, and now is the perfect time to begin making your home a little tidier.