Page Turner: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

Page Turner: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up


Cleaning may seem a banal, tiresome topic—a necessary evil—to most, but not to Marie Kondo, a Japanese cleaning consultant who boasts consistently happy clients and a long waitlist for her services. Fortunately, thanks to her debut book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, you don’t have to wait to learn her tried-and-true method.

Though tidying is Kondo’s passion, she understands many people (myself included) kind of detest it. Using her method, she promises, will result in a lot more than a tidy home. She says, “A dramatic reorganization of the home causes correspondingly dramatic changes in lifestyle and perspective. It is life transforming.”

I was skeptical, but she cited past clients who have launched businesses, strengthened marriages, and lost weight after going through her intense cleaning course. So, I figured—glancing around my messy apartment—what do I have to lose?


Kondo breaks down her method into two parts: discarding and tidying. She stresses that discarding absolutely must come first.

At first, the idea of discarding things made me squeamish. When I recently prepared for a move, these thoughts popped into my head: I can’t possibly get rid of my memory-filled college planner. This mini Bop-It keychain will be great once I replace the batteries. If I want to dress up as Esmeralda for Halloween, I’ll need these earrings. (Side note: I look nothing like Esmeralda.)

Fortunately, Kondo acknowledges how hard getting rid of (even seemingly meaningless) stuff can be. She offers an overarching method for discarding: “[...] take each item in one’s hand and ask: ‘Does this spark joy?’ If it does, keep it. If not, dispose of it.”

"Take each item in one’s hand and ask: ‘Does this spark joy?’ If it does, keep it. If not, dispose of it.”

If that sounds overwhelming, don’t worry—she gets impressively specific. She shares a categorical order you should use when sorting your belongings. Through her years of work, she knows you shouldn’t start the difficult process with the sentimental box of old photographs. Her special order: clothes followed by books followed by papers followed by miscellany, and mementos last.

She even breaks those categories into sub-categories, but you’ll have to read the book to see those. And she provides encouragement for getting through those categories and pruning them successfully!

Related: The Power of Positive Thinking


A few of my favorite discarding tips:

  • “My basic policy is to discard all papers.” This made me laugh, as my counters are often flooded with useless mail.
  • “Keep things because you love them — not ‘just because.’” This is where I wondered why I had approximately one thousand pens.
  • “No matter how wonderful things used to be, we cannot live in the past. The joy and excitement we feel here and now are more important.” Whoa! Getting deeper than I expected from a tidying book.

I love Kondo’s no-nonsense approach, but also her respect for our belongings and the purpose they have served in our lives. To her, an unworn dress is not useless. It has served the purpose of showing you what not to wear. She recommends thanking the dress (literally), discarding it, and then moving on.

I love Kondo’s no-nonsense approach, but also her respect for our belongings and the purpose they have served in our lives.

After you follow her method for drastically downsizing your possessions, she helpfully delves into the specifics of maintaining a tidy home. If you were inspired by the homemaking hacks in Brit Morin's Homemakers book, Kondo shares lots of tangible advice, too. For example, empty your bag everyday, keep things out of the bathtub, and please never, ever ball your socks!

If you follow her method, Kondo promises only good will come. She says, “one of the magical effects of tidying is confidence in your decision-making capacity.” As a 26-year-old experiencing somewhat of a quarter-life crisis, any way I can become more decisive is appealing to me. She also explains how discarding possessions can help you deal with accepting the past or anxiety over the future. {Click to Tweet

She concludes with many compelling stories from clients who have transformed their lives after transforming their homes, since “The question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life.”

Related: 5 Ways to Get Rid of Anxiety Without Medication

So, what do you think? Will you give it a try?