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

By Marie Kondo

30-Minute Audio / 5,200 words (21 Pages)


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You get home from a long day, but somehow home does not make you feel relaxed. Just looking at the messy living room or crammed closets makes you feel even more tired, and the need to tidy up feels like an exhausting and endless chore. Or, perhaps it’s your office that makes you anxious, piles of papers and clutter that make it hard to focus or to find what you need to get things done.

A tidy and organized home will make you more productive and energized at work. Marie Kondo’s approach, the KonMari Method, shows you how to literally put your life in order. Forget doing a little every day or one room at a time; forget buying the latest fancy storage system or pushing everything into boxes that just keep piling up. This summary will show you how to tackle everything in one go, systematically working through your possessions and deciding for each item whether to throw it away or keep it, based on whether it brings you joy. Once you have purged yourself of the excess, then decide where to put the things you keep.

At the end of this process you will have discovered how to free yourself of being overly-attached to the past and how to face the future without fear.



Tidying up should not be a daily chore. By systematically sorting through all of your possessions at once and choosing to keep only that which brings you joy, you can declutter your home or office, lighten the burden of your possessions, and bring clarity to your living space and your whole life. The key is to tackle your possessions one category at a time and to first decide what to throw away. Start with your clothes, then move on to books and papers, followed by household items; tackle sentimental items and keepsakes last of all. Once you have reduced your possessions to only those things that you speak to your heart, you can then find a place for everything. The result: you will have put your house in order and with it your own self and your career.


Learning how to tidy

We all spend time tidying our homes, even though no-one has ever taught us how. And, we all find that, a short time after tidying up, our space has become messy and disorganized again. You may assume it’s because you are an inherently lazy or messy person – but the truth is, we are none of us really aware of how we deal with our possessions or of the right way to tidy effectively.

Getting in the right frame of mind about tidying won’t just give you a neat and clean home; as you go through the process, you will put your own affairs and your past in order, too. The KonMari Method is about developing the right mindset to create order in your life.


A little a day doesn’t work

Most people’s approach to tidying their home is to do a little a day – tidy up a particular corner, a table, a closet. But, in a very short time, the clutter has rebounded. It seems that tidying is a never-ending process; you’re always exhausted from the effort, but you never have a truly tidy home.

A room gets cluttered because you, the person living or working in it, have allowed it to get that way. And, maybe you’ve allowed the clutter to build up because it’s a distraction from whatever is really bothering you in life. A clean and uncluttered room leaves you with no choice but to examine your inner state of mind. Once you start tidying – really tidying – you can reset your life.

There is plenty of advice that says to start off slowly, tidy just a little at a time, throw away one item a day, don’t aim for perfection. But, for many of us who like to do assignments on the last day, right before the deadline, this just does not work. You’ll end up acquiring new things faster than you can discard and organize the old things. If you only clean up half-heartedly it will never get done.

In fact, you should aim for perfection right away – which is not as daunting as it sounds. There are really only two steps involved: decide whether or not to throw something away, and then decide where to put it. These are really quite simple steps, and if you implement them you will get to perfection. Put your house in order quickly and methodically, so you can get on with establishing the lifestyle you really want.


The storage myth

Magazines are full of articles and advertisements touting the latest and best storage solution. But, no storage method is going to really solve the problem of how to get rid of the clutter. They are only a superficial answer. You end up spending enormous amounts of time and energy putting things away, but very quickly the shelves and bins and boxes are full to overflowing. So, you go out and get the next must-have storage solution and start all over again, moving the piles of stuff from one set of boxes to another.

In fact, the storage ‘solution’ is a myth. No amount of storage will help if you don’t start the process by first throwing things away.



Most people tidy up by location – first the bedroom, then the living room, and so on. This is a fatal mistake! You’ll start cleaning out a shelf in the living room and find yourself tackling the same kind of items as you saw two days ago in the drawer in the bedroom. The fact is, we often store the same type of item in more than one place.

The only effective way to tidy is to do it by category – clothes today, books tomorrow, and so on. This is the only way you can truly grasp just how much stuff you have. Once you have everything in the category gathered together at once, then you can actually start to discard what you no longer need.



Discard first, then put away. That’s the whole secret to the KonMari Method, and it’s an approach that works for everyone. There is a whole section of the de-cluttering industry that says people should tidy according to their personality type, using different approaches depending on whether you are a lazy person, a very picky person, a very busy person, and so on. Are you a ‘can’t throw it away’ person or a ‘can’t put it back’ person?

Really however, we are all a combination of personality types and whatever the reason for the clutter in your home, the way to tackle it is the same for everyone. Throw away, then decide where to put away.



Make tidying a special event, not something you do every day. Using something and putting it back in its place will always be a part of your everyday life; here, we’re talking about a special event, the once-in-a-lifetime task of putting your home, and so your life, in order. You only have to decide where to put things once. After that, it will be easy to always put things back where they belong, on a daily basis.



Start by visualizing your destination, what you want to achieve by tidying – not general ideas like ‘I want to be able to put things away,’ but a really concrete visualization of the lifestyle you are aiming for. Make notes, if it helps. Once you have a clear sense of this ideal lifestyle, identify why you want to live this way. For example, if your lifestyle aim includes ‘being able to do yoga before bedtime’ ask yourself why – is it to relax? To lose weight? Keep asking yourself ‘why’ as you build up your image of where it is you want to be. Soon, you will realize that what you are aiming for is to be happy.

Once you have answered all these questions and have this visualization clear in your mind, then it is time to start.



The first step in tidying up is to throw things away. But, how do you decide what to discard and what to keep? You could start with throwing away anything broken; or, anything that is out of date; or, anything you haven’t used for one year. The problem with these approaches is that you end up focusing on how to choose what to throw away, not on the objects themselves. What you should really focus on is choosing what to keep.

The best way to choose what to keep and what to discard is to take each item in your hand and ask, ‘Does this spark joy?’ If it does, keep it. If not, throw it out. Try it: when you hold something that sparks joy, your whole body reacts in a positive way. You don’t want to wear clothes you don’t like, or to surround yourself at home with objects that don’t bring you happiness.

Using what sparks joy as your yardstick for choosing, you can now tackle your belongings by category.



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