The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying

Domestic Cleaning Tips from Marie Kondo

I first heard about the Japanese organising consultant, Marie Kondo and The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying: A simple, effective way to banish clutter forever when my partner rang me in hysterics. She was flustered that the mess from a recent social gathering, had (slightly) got out control and we had family visiting in a couple of days. For many, the obvious thing to do was to start cleaning but instead, I tried something different; I picked up a book.

Here are the lessons I have learnt either directly from Kondo’s best-selling book or indirectly through my own experience using her methods.

1 – Tidy by category, not by room

I would go from room to room, tidying and moving things around – starting with my bedroom, then the office, then the dining room and so on. Instead, Kondo recommends organising by category (clothing, media, mementoes, miscellaneous etc.). First, realise how much stuff you actually have which is cluttering up space. Get out all of your clothing, look and assess how much space all of these items will actually take up. Separate them firstly by things you want and things you don’t want, throw out or give away the items you’ll never use and are just hanging onto. Not sure what to hold onto? Ask yourself how much happiness it brings into your life, how often do you actually use it and can you live without it.

2 – Understand your items

I felt a little silly when the book advised me to start empathising with inanimate objects. Kondo, suggests you consider how would your items feel being crumpled up in the bottom of a cupboard or your nicest clothes being stuffed into a wardrobe. It wasn’t until this point that I realised if I had been treated in the same way, I’d feel miserable and it was time for a change. I started to display items rather than hide them away. I separated my smartest clothes from my gym clothes. I changed the overall presentation of the items and suddenly they burst into life and I started looking at my organisation with a new perspective.

3 – Do things quickly or in short bursts

Putting off cleaning for weeks to then do hours and hours of cleaning isn’t a healthy way to live, and you don’t need this book to appreciate that fact. Kondo suggests that even just 10 minutes here and there will be all you need to de-clutter a home, don’t take long deciding what you’re going to keep and what you’re going to throw away (you may begin to over-think it). Doing short bursts, little and often makes the chore of work seem an almost care-free task with little excuses to not get things done if you have a spare 10 minutes – I usually race the microwave or oven. Overtime it becomes habitual and I even race the kettle sometimes!

4 – Don’t become attached too easily

The idea of throwing things away to some seems unbearable, rid yourself of that or you may never live the de-cluttered life you deserve. For me, I was sceptical about throwing anything away – I gathered a lot of items over the years as a student which I would always keep at the end of our tenancy for unexplainable reasons. When I uncovered a box of memorabilia under my bed I was amazed at the memories that came flooding back, I didn’t want to throw any of it away. But linking back to tip number 2 – why was it under my bed in the first place if they are so important to me? I took a couple of items out and displayed them and threw the rest away, now I couldn’t even tell you what those items were!

5 – Embrace the good feelings

After the purge, I felt a mix of emotions. I started to question whether or not I’d done the right thing by throwing away so much and keeping so little. It wasn’t until I opened my wardrobe that I realised how good living a de-cluttered lifestyle can be. I could see every item of clothing for the first time in my life and the novelty never wore off. Suddenly I wasn’t questioning whether or not I’d done the right thing, I started to question why I hadn’t done a purge years ago.

6 – Folding, learn how to do it properly and take advantage

Kondo, advises to utilise folding rather than hanging all your clothes. I thought I could fold clothing, then after reading this book I watched a YouTube tutorial where Kondo shows you how to fold any piece of clothing. If you don’t read this book or follow any other tip then I would definitely recommend looking at the tutorial – especially men and students!

After learning how to fold properly I now just have my smartest shirts hung up in the wardrobe, my staple jumpers and a few pairs of every day jeans for quick access. The rest of my clothes are folded neatly away in my dresser.

7 – Don’t be afraid to spend a little money

If you don’t have dressers or other storage then make sure you invest some money into crates, tote bags or some cheap storage boxes. I purchased some Plastic Storage Boxes from Amazon which I had been putting off for months, these little beauties have transformed my under-bed swamp into a safe haven for extra items.

8 – Appreciate

With your home looking a lot less de-cluttered than before, take the time to appreciate what you’ve done. Each category you have chosen to tidy should now have a rightful place and it’s useful to take the time and appreciate the organisation. Remember, organisation isn’t a chore but a way of life.

9 – Reinvent your style

With summer just around the corner it’s easy to want to go out and buy a whole new wardrobe. With the techniques outlined by Kondo I suddenly found myself looking at my clothes in awe again. Vibrant colours that looked seemingly dull before no longer looked plain and boring. Think of it this way, when you walk into a shop and if like me you’ve made an impulse buy why did you do it? Was it because you really couldn’t live without making that purchase or could there have been something else at play? Retail stores do a great job of organising and making things look appealing to encourage you to want to buy something, using Kondo’s methods you can start to appreciate how retail stores do it as well. You’ll find yourself grabbing things you thought you’d never wear!

10 – Seek items that spark joy

I kept reading the question “does it spark joy?” and it never really sank in until recently, but first I’ll explain that the idea is that you can pick something up or look at something (in my case, it was my disorganised chaos) and ask yourself, (and try not to imagine being laid on a psychologists couch) how does that make you feel? One feeling is what you’re after and that feeling is joy.

So I started picking things up, putting things down again and I felt… Well, I felt nothing! At first, I didn’t quite get it. It wasn’t until I picked up my favourite pair of board shorts from a pile of clothes on the floor that I began to feel joy. I felt like I had freed them from a dungeon and they could breathe again!

The idea here isn’t to go through each and every object you own but to just have an understanding of what sparks joy and what doesn’t. Things that sparked joy for me were my favourite clothes, books, gadgets, my artwork and the things that didn’t were half scrawled on notes, whiteboards, half broken furniture and most surprisingly old shoes! Everything that didn’t bring me joy was immediately thrown away, now I’m left with the items that spark joy and I continue to seek items that spark joy – every month I do three quick 10 minute bursts (usually when I’m waiting for the oven!) to double check that I’m happy with my organisation. After a few months now, I can confidently admit that I am.

For more information, I recommend hearing from the author herself in her talk that she did for Google or pick up a copy of the book and apply what you learn – some of it may not be relevant but the beauty is, there’s something for us all to learn from Marie Kondo and The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying. If you live in the North East of England, consider hiring one of our Newcastle cleaners to do your dirty work!