Five Things I Love About “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” and the KonMari Method

In keeping with the can-do spirit of the New Year--and in light of Netflix’s recent launch of the reality show “Tidying Up With Marie Kondo”--I’ve decided to take this opportunity to list five things I love about Kondo’s 2011 mega-bestseller, “The Life-changing Magic of Tidying up.”

It teaches you to tidy by category, not by room.

If you’re unfamiliar with the KonMari method, one of its foremost dictums is “Tidying by category works like magic.” Once I decided to embark on my own KonMari decluttering adventure two years ago, I found this to be absolutely true. Sure, tidying by category (clothes first, then books, papers, miscellaneous items, and finally mementos) requires a significant time commitment, but since it’s so much more efficient than tidying by room, it’s definitely worth it: instead of picking through a siloed, random assortment of items, you’re sorting through everything in a single category at once, enabling you to store all items of the same type neatly in one place once you’re done discarding. Also, when you sort through your clothes all at once by putting them in one big pile, it allows you to see how many you actually own--and never wear.

Pure genius.

The sense of accomplishment (and calm) you feel once you’ve finished tidying.

My motivation for tidying came from the realization that the out-of-control accumulation of clutter--on practically every surface in my living space--was making me far more anxious and irritable than I needed to be. Though tidying has by no means been a panacea for my anxiety, it’s certainly helped: not only do I feel much calmer and more in control of my home environment, but I’ve also experienced an incredibly satisfying sense of mastery and accomplishment as a result of my four-month decluttering process.

Does this mean that clutter no longer accumulates in my house? Well, no, unfortunately not. But when it does, I have a highly effective system on hand for dealing with it.

Kondo’s practice of thanking your belongings before discarding them.

Guilt is the number one reason why I hold onto things I don’t need, but Kondo has a neat trick for circumnavigating that. If an item doesn’t spark joy, she instructs you to tell it “thank you” and then let it go. I personally found this very freeing, because it’s hard to feel guilt while simultaneously expressing appreciation and gratitude for something in your life--and hoping that it will move onto a more loving and appreciative owner.

The KonMari folding method.

Opening my dresser drawers and seeing everything folded in a smooth rectangle, standing upright in a row, is very pleasing for several reasons: 1) it makes your drawers incredibly neat and organized; 2) everything is visible, making it easy to quickly grab whatever you need; and 3) it saves a lot of storage space.

I’ll never go back to my old way of folding again.

Kondo’s Shinto-infused approach to tidying.

Those who are familiar with Shinto, Japan’s indigenous religion, know that this animist faith teaches that there is a spirit, or essence, in all animate and inanimate things--a philosophy that has clearly influenced how Marie Kondo approaches decluttering and organizing. Readers of her books and viewers of her show can see this in the way that Kondo greets the houses of her clients before tackling tidying in earnest, talks about feeling “the spirit” of a room once it’s been decluttered, and instructs her readers not to ball up their socks--because clearly they deserve some rest after being squished between your feet and the ground all day. While the more hard-nosed realists among us might find this kind of approach preposterous, kooky, or just plain off-putting, I personally find it charming--and feel that it cultivates mindfulness and gratitude for the inanimate objects in our lives.

Though it’s certainly not for everyone, “The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up” proved to be pure decluttering gold for me. I urge anyone who has not yet read it (or Kondo’s 2016 follow-up, “Spark Joy”) to check it out today.