Posted in Of Life

Of Tidying Up

photo of plants on the table
Photo by Designecologist on

Now that everyone with a Netflix account (or not), or with a copy of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo (or not) has considered the possibility of tidying up their spaces and lives, if not followed up on it, I thought I’d come on here and give you the lazy girl’s (and guy’s) short guide to Kondo’s method of giving yourself a functional yet warm space to explore your future in. My list below is by no means an exhaustive (or even necessarily useful) yet concise treatment of Kondo’s method, but I believe there’s some useful wisdom in what she does, a great deal of heart in all the methodical organizing.

1) Pass on the things in your life you don’t see yourself using. Her mantra of “Spark Joy” can have some of the English-speaking world confused. Her process is to take each item from each category in your life and ask whether it sparks joy in you. If it does, keep it. If it doesn’t, pass it on. It may inherently be useful or not, brand new or not, but the point is whether it makes you happy. Now, if you’re anything like me, the words “spark” and “joy” when placed next to each other remind you of multiple scoops of ice-cream resting in a cone that can barely contain them on a hot, summer day when you were ten. In other words, a very infrequent occurrence, at any age. I can hardly summon such an emotion even for a perfectly usable spectacle case.

But, without massively generalising, (and without knowing or being Japanese), I guess the idea of “joy” in East Asian culture is a few degrees lower than Western commercials for potato chips. I have a perfectly functional and perfectly ordinary watch that I will NEVER get rid of, simply because I’ve been through so much with it, and so much of who I was growing up is reflected in it. Others may not see it, but I do feel a sense of joy remembering who I was when I used to wear it all the time, and measure my actions now against who I was then.

close up photo of pictures on wooden box
Photo by Lisa Fotios on

I’ve struggled with the sentimentals, but Kondo suggests allotting a special box to them. I used to have a much more brutal, practical approach to this. I always thought of what I would take with me if I were moving, and this did help me keep some of the clutter down. Having a special box just for sentimental items means decisions around moving get so much easier, and it’s usually just your essentials and your box full of keepsakes that go with you. Now, if you’re sentimental about a broken four-poster bed…well, you’d have to have a greater think on that one. I won’t be the one to tell you to throw it away, or find a vehicle and a room big enough to move it.

I’m still in the midst of the long-term process of tidying up myself, and what I’ve found most exhilarating is to use the things I wasn’t using before. I have about eighty unread physical books. Marie says to get rid of unread books because they have served their purpose – even if that purpose was to not be read by you. It makes sense, but then last year I read a book that I’ve had for over twelve years, and thoroughly enjoyed it. I’ve tweaked my approach to reading those eighty books: not buying too many books until I have read them, and passing on the ones I don’t see myself reading again.

2) Have a designated space for everything. Kondo relates a delightful coming-home-from-work routine in her book where she has a specific place for everything: her shoes, her handbag, her work clothes etc. It might seem mystical and a lot of hard-work to some, but I’ve pretty much done the same my whole life. Kondo also says that the excuse, “I don’t have the space” doesn’t work, because you can always make space for what matters to you. I always applied this to activities in my life, such as making time for learning a skill daily, or doing certain chores, but I also understand how it can apply to our living spaces. When I’m struggling with my mood or my health I get messier, but I usually have my bag organised, my clothes ironed the night before. When I get home, I immediately place my shoes in the shoe rack, my bag in its designated space, and my clothes on hangers or in the laundry bag. I always struggle with finding loose change before I go out. Kondo talks about how she finds coins in the most unlikely places when she’s helps her clients in tidying, but never when they need them. If you just designate a place, like a bowl, to keep loose change in as and when you find them, you wouldn’t be scurrying around when you are pressed for time in the morning. The idea is so simple, and with lifelong experience, I can assure you that it is the easiest way to keep your space tidy.

And that’s it, really. Only have things around you that you use, and have a designated space for each of them. I am not a generally messy person, but I struggle all the time with keeping my space clean. Kondo dismisses the notion of being inherently messy or organised, or the idea that tidying up on a regular basis takes a lot of time. Unlike my brutal “What if I were moving…” approach to tidying, Kondo suggests the more gentler approach of visualising your future, and asking which items go into it. Do you really need that CD you hated and still don’t see yourself loving anytime soon? There are, when you think about it, very few things you actually need to have a warm and comfortable life. Some people like it messy, as long as it is a reflection of who they are as people. What I like best about Kondo’s method is that she has no intention of making your home look like an interior design catalogue. Not unless that is what you want.

Have you tried tidying up through Kondo’s method?


Writer, Blogger, Kate Bush Fanatic

12 thoughts on “Of Tidying Up

  1. I laughed when I read this. Because I had just read a post about this person’s methods of folding clothes. Twice in one day, I meet up with this cleaner!
    Seriously, I just tidy things up and if it isn’t needed anymore, I donate it. I try not to buy more than groceries or something I really think I need. Everything has a usefulness, even if they are not a joyful one! Being around mum’s stuff has made me wary of too much debris. It will be difficult to get rid of some of the things she has had, but no one in the family wants them…no matter if they are antique.

    1. There was an episode on tidying a loved one’s belongings who has passed away. I think you might find that useful, Kris, though it was very emotional. I like your philosophy too, though I can get very sentimental. I was decluttering pens, and I was really sad to let some of them go!

      1. I totally agree on how hard it is sometimes! I’ll have to look for that episode, I am in so much need of help there!

    1. I am hoping the break is still on, and that you’ve been able to clean a great deal! And also had time to enjoy doing other things as well. We have the festival of colours, i.e. Holi, coming up next week, so I’m looking forward to some free time too!

  2. When we visited once a flea market, there was a guy who had uncluttered his living space and sold all his redundant stuff. The end of the flea market was already approaching and he started to give away stuff. One of his last items to give away was his feng shui guide about how an uncluttered living space was also leading towards an uncluttered mind. We’re still working at it.

  3. First I would be remiss without saying hi! Feels like it has been forever since we talked via out blogs! I have yet to see the show but I am intrigued. I think I could see myself adapting her approach. It could never be an absolute one though. Like the watch you mention…or the books. I cull through my CD’s and books etc every so often to part ways. As well as my beloved tshirts! So I think I get the idea but only when it works for you.

    1. Absolutely! There continues to be controversy on the subject of books and Marie Kondo. She shared her personal number – 30 – and people just assumed she meant that for everybody! Obviously, she’s not going to recommend that number to teachers, professors, book critics, voracious readers etc., though those are the very people protesting on high profile news outlets and such. Which just goes to show they haven’t read her book! Don’t we all have books, magazines and the like lying around taking up space that we know we’re never going to read? I regret the money I spent on a new copy of The Bridges of Madison County, and that is the only reason I still have it around (the movie’s good though).

      Nice to talk to you again too. I know I’ve been AWOL on the internet the last few months. All my accounts are private now, except for this. I hardly check my blog email either, and usually I get emails that have nothing to do with this blog! I am sorry for being such a crap blog friend. I will try to be more communicative from now on.

      1. I have two copies of Lark Rise To Candleford. One I have kept more pristine, and one I use for reference! And don’t get me started on compilation CD’s I buy only for a few unreleased tracks from a band! I suppose I should attempt seeing the show before commenting further however!

        Don’t worry about being AWOL. Do what you can, when you can. I have been easing back on my social media interactions because I realized they were consuming me a bit too much. But the time gained from doing that freed up some more time and thought process to writing again. I just wrote a series and some other posts recently, and the creative juices are flowing again. About to read and comment on your latest post as well.

      2. I would advice you to read the book if you can. It’s really short and simple, and would clarify rather than confuse as some of the other media has done. I read it on Kindle, so that’s space I don’t have to worry about!
        She doesn’t advise you to give away things that are special to you. She herself said stationery is off limits for her and she has way too many notebooks that she knows she’ll never use. You should definitely hang on to every CD and book if they still bring “joy” to your life.

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