The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying summary
This was a rather endearing book, solely on the virtue of just how genuine Marie Kondo is and just how much passion she has for tidying! There were bits in the book that I didn't quite know what to make of (I'm not sure I'll ever be able to talk to my belongings out loud), but a lot of it offers excellent, indispensable advice for how to effectively declutter your life. This book talks about Marie's experiences and her philosophy, contains anecdotes from her projects with clients and also gives practical advice. There's an accompanying book to this one called Spark Joy which includes helpful illustrations to make it an even more of a practical how-to guide.
Here are some snippets from the book that I found useful.
Tidying brings visible results. Tidying never lies. The ultimate secret of success is this: if you tidy up in one go, rather than little by little, you can dramatically change your mindset. This brings about a change so profound that it touches your emotions and will irresistibly affect your way of thinking and your lifestyle habits.
Visible mess helps distract us from the true source of the disorder. The act of cluttering is really an instinctive reflex that draws our attention away from the heart of an issue. If you can’t feel relaxed in a clean and tidy room, try confronting your feeling of anxiety. It may shed light on what is really bothering you. When your room is clean and uncluttered, you have no choice but to examine your inner state.
...tidying must start with discarding.
When we spread storage of a particular item throughout the house and tidy one place at a time, we can never grasp the overall volume and therefore can never finish. To escape this negative spiral, tidy by category not by place.
Effective tidying involves only two essential actions: discarding and deciding where to store things.
When you tidy your space completely, you transform the scenery around you. The change is so profound that you will feel as if you are living in a totally different world. This deeply affects your mind and inspires a strong aversion to returning to your previously cluttered state. The key is to make the change so sudden that you experience a complete change of heart.
Do not even think of putting your things away until you have finished the process of discarding.
To summarise, the secret of success is to tidy in one shot, as quickly and completely as possible, and to start by discarding.
Before you start tidying, look at the lifestyle you aspire to and ask yourself: ‘Why do I want to tidy?’
...focusing solely on throwing things away can only bring unhappiness. Why? Because we should be choosing what we want to keep, not what we want to get rid of.
...what is the point in tidying? If it’s not so that our space and the things in it can bring us happiness, then I think there is no point at [all]
Gathering every item in one place is essential to this process because it gives you an accurate grasp of how much you have.
In addition to the physical value of things, there are three additional factors that add value to our belongings: function, information and emotional attachment. When the element of rarity is added, the difficulty in choosing what to get rid of multiplies. People have trouble discarding things that they could still use (functional value), that contain helpful information (informational value) and that have sentimental ties (emotional value). When these things are hard to obtain or replace (rarity), they become even harder to throw away.
The best sequence is this: clothes first, then books, papers, miscellaneous items (komono) and, lastly, sentimental items and keepsakes.
If you feel annoyed with your family for being untidy, I urge you to check your own space, especially your storage. You are bound to find things that need to be thrown away. The urge to point out someone else’s failure to tidy is usually a sign that you are neglecting to take care of your own space.
...it is essential to create a quiet space in which to evaluate the things in your life.
The best time to start is early morning. The fresh morning air keeps your mind clear and your power of discernment sharp.
When you come across something that you cannot throw away, think carefully about its true purpose in your life. You’ll be surprised at how many of the things you possess have already fulfilled their role. By acknowledging their contribution and letting them go with gratitude, you will be able to truly put the things you own, and your life, in order.
To truly cherish the things that are important to you, you must first discard those that have outlived their purpose. To throw away what you no longer need is neither wasteful nor shameful.
Start with clothes then move on to books, papers, miscellaneous items (komono) and finally things with sentimental value.
For the first category – clothing – I recommend dividing items further into the following subcategories to increase efficiency:
- Tops (shirts, sweaters, etc.)
- Bottoms (trousers, skirts, etc.)
- Clothes that should be hung (jackets, coats, suits, etc.)
- Socks Underwear Handbags, etc.
- Extra items (scarves, belts, hats, etc.)
- Clothes for specific events (swimsuits, uniform, etc.)
The act of folding is far more than making clothes compact for storage. It is an act of caring, an expression of love and appreciation for the way these clothes support your lifestyle. Therefore, when we fold, we should put our heart into it, thanking our clothes for protecting our bodies.
The goal is to fold each piece of clothing into a simple, smooth rectangle. First fold each lengthwise side of the garment towards the centre and tuck the sleeves in to make a rectangular shape. It doesn’t matter how you fold the sleeves. Next, pick up one end of the rectangle and fold it towards the other end. Then fold again in halves or in thirds. The number of folds should be adjusted so that the folded clothing when standing on edge fits the height of the drawer.
The most basic rule is to hang clothes in the same category side by side, dividing your hanging space into a jacket section, a suit section, etc. Clothes, like people, can relax more freely when in the company of others who are very similar in type and therefore organising them by category helps them feel more comfortable and secure.
Arrange your clothes so that they ‘rise to the right’.
By category, coats would be on the far left, followed by dresses, jackets, trousers, skirts and blouses. This is the basic order, but depending on the trends in your wardrobe, what counts as ‘heavy’ in each category will differ.
...organise the clothes within each category from heavy to light.
Divide your clothes roughly into ‘cotton-like’ and ‘wool-like’ materials when you put them in the drawer. Categorising by season – summer, winter, autumn and spring – or by activity, such as work and leisure, should be avoided because it is too vague.
...divide them [books] into four broad categories:
- General (books you read for pleasure)
- Practical (references, cookbooks, etc.)
- Visual (photograph collections, etc.)
For books, timing is everything. The moment you first encounter a particular book is the right time to read it.
My basic principle for sorting papers is to throw them all away. My clients are stunned when I say this, but there is nothing more annoying than papers. After all, they will never inspire joy, no matter how carefully you keep them. For this reason, I recommend you throw out anything that does not fall into one of three categories: currently in use, needed for a limited period of time, and must be kept indefinitely.
Papers are organised into only three categories: needs attention, should be saved (contractual documents), and should be saved (others).
The basic order for sorting komono is as follows:
- CDs, DVDs
- Skincare products
- Make-up Accessories
- Valuables (passports, credit cards, etc.)
- Electrical equipment and appliances (digital cameras, electric cords, anything that seems vaguely ‘electric’)
- Household equipment (stationery and writing materials, sewing kits, etc.)
- Household supplies (expendables like medicine, detergents, tissues, etc.)
- Kitchen goods/food supplies
- Other (If you have many items related to a particular interest or hobby, such as ski equipment, then treat these as a single subcategory.)
You only need to designate a spot for every item once. Try it. You’ll be amazed at the results. No longer will you buy more than you need. No longer will the things you own continue to accumulate. In fact, your stock will decrease. The essence of effective storage is this: designate a spot for every last thing you own.
One of the main reasons for rebound is the failure to designate a spot for each item. Without a designated spot, where are you going to put things when you finish using them? Once you choose a place for your things, you can keep your house in order. So decide where your things belong and when you finish using them, put them there.
Clutter is caused by a failure to return things to where they belong. Therefore, storage should reduce the effort needed to put things away, not the effort needed to get them out. When we use something, we have a clear purpose for getting it out. Unless for some reason it is incredibly hard work, we usually don’t mind the effort involved. Clutter has only two possible causes: too much effort is required to put things away or it is unclear where things belong.
...store things vertically and avoid stacking for two reasons. First, if you stack things, you end up with what seems like inexhaustible storage space.
The other reason is this: stacking is very hard on the things at the bottom. When things are piled on top of one another, the things underneath get squashed.
The key is to put the same type of bags together. Sets should consist of handbags made from similar material, for example, stiff leather or thickly woven cloth, or of purses for special occasions, such as weddings and funerals. Dividing by material and/or by type of use means that you only need to take out one set whenever you need a handbag. This is much easier. Keep in mind, however, that you should not store too many handbags in one. My rule of thumb is to keep no more than two in any one
I put all the dishes I wash into a large bowl or colander and place this on the veranda to dry. I can wash them in the morning and just leave them outside. Depending on the weather and where you live this approach might be right for you too.
...you are going to buy clothes, then choose them with the intention of welcoming them into your home and caring for them. When you buy them, remove the tags immediately. In order for your clothes to make the transition from store products into personal possessions, you need to perform the ritual of cutting the ‘umbilical cord’ that links them to the shop.
...start by removing the product seals from your storage containers. This is absolutely essential, just as you remove the tags from new clothes to welcome them as your personal belongings. Tear the printed film off packages that you don’t want to see, such as deodorisers and detergents.
Express your appreciation to every item that supported you during the day. If you find this hard to do daily, then at least do it whenever you can.
During the selection process, if you come across something that does not spark joy but that you just can’t bring yourself to throw away, stop a moment and ask yourself, ‘Am I having trouble getting rid of this because of an attachment to the past or because of fear for the future?’ Ask this for every one of these items. As you do so, you’ll begin to see a pattern in your ownership of things, a pattern that falls into one of three categories: attachment to the past, desire for stability in the future or a combination of both. It’s important to understand your ownership pattern because it is an expression of the values that guide your life. The question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life. Attachment to the past and fears concerning the future govern not only the way you select the things you own but represent the criteria by which you make choices in every aspect of your life, including your relationships with people and your job.
Everything you own wants to be of use to you. Even if you throw it away or burn it, it will only leave behind the energy of wanting to be of service. Freed from its physical form, it will move about your world as energy, letting other things know that you are a special person, and come back to you as the thing that will be of most use to who you are now, the thing that will bring you the most happiness.
For this reason, when you discard something, don’t sigh and say, ‘Oh, I never used this,’ or ‘Sorry I never got around to using you.’ Instead, send it off joyfully with words like, ‘Thank you for finding me,’ or ‘Have a good journey. See you again soon!’