Does it give you joy? Life-changing tips, tidying up

Tidying for Joy-01

This is a perfect time to talk about a book that’s been out a while. As you organize your closet to transition from summer to fall, let’s look at “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Organizing and Decluttering” by Marie Kondo.


Personally, I think I am already a tidy person. So only after this little book was on the bestseller list for 44 weeks did I finally decide to investigate this phenomenon.

Here’s the line that hooked me to read it: “You only do this tidying up process once.” Could this be true? The author, a famous Japanese cleaning consultant, has conducted hundreds of sold-out seminars and high-priced private consultations. She claims that no clients or students who complete the tidying up process and follow her instructions have suffered from “rebound” – reverting to their pre-training clutter and disorder. Intriguing!

The author is truly an expert in the area. Throughout the book are anecdotes about a childhood spent organizing items – hers and other people’s – at home, at school, everywhere. I’ve never heard of anyone who’s spent more time thinking about sorting, discarding and storing. This woman has studied books, analyzed theories, experimented with all kinds of techniques and models, and practiced her ideas on thousands of clients.

The result is this unusual and highly specific how-to guide. First she encourages you to find your motivation for changing old habits. That’s where the magic comes in. She gives lots of examples of how a less cluttered house can lead to a less cluttered life and a realignment of priorities.

It is a cleverly written book – rather charming, even. She suggests having a relationship with your stuff: appreciating your T-shirts as you fold them, thanking your shoes for their service as you place them by the door, finding the right place for an item to feel most comfortable.

While I could give you a summary of the tips, I think you really have to read the book to have her ideas to sink in and be infused with the “KonMari” process. It boils down to holding an item and asking yourself: “Does this item give me joy?”

I’m pretty sure the thought process that is going to help me the most is the author’s perspective on thanking an item for the joy it gave you at one point and then letting it go, regardless of why you’ve held on to it for years.


Someone special may have given it to you, you might have worn it on a special occasion or you feel guilty that you’ve never worn it – whatever. The author says it served its purpose, even if that purpose was learning what not to buy in the future. It’s OK to get rid of it now.

While reading, I couldn’t help wonder how this process might work on other members of your household. My husband Sammy is a keeper of things. I am a “throw it away pretty quickly” person – and, then, dog gone it, often I need that item right after I throw it away. Sammy doesn’t seem to have that problem.

Last weekend I started asking Sammy, “Does that item give you joy or can I ditch it?” Sammy replied that he needs and finds joy in everything (!) he has.

I haven’t started any tidying up, but I have a friend who just finished the book and spent a whole weekend getting started. The KonMari method, which the author says can take up to six months, is all about following a sequence of discarding. You start with your off-season clothes. After years of trouble parting with clothes and accessories, my friend surprised herself, filling six garbage bags of items to give away.

As you will discover, the author is a fanatic about folding. The key is not stacking things horizontally in a drawer, but folding them to stand up vertically, so you can see everything. My friend followed the folding guidelines and was amazed at the space that opened up in her dresser!

Encouraged by her success, she went through her purses, shoes and socks: no problem. But when she gathered all 84 of her scarves and shawls, she ran into a bump.

Following instructions, she spread them all out, sorted them by material and color and then held each one and asked herself if it “sparked joy.”

When all was said and done, she could part with only two. There’s no guarantee that this method will work for all your belongings!

If you’ve read this book, I’d love to hear your feedback. Who has followed the instructions, and are you happy with the results? Is it true you never need to “tidy up” again?