5 Things I Learned From Tidying Up

A blog about tidying up, really? Really. It’s a game changer. If you do it properly.

Your Must-Read Tidying Manuals

Looking to overhaul your lifestyle and take it up a notch in 2018? You might want to start  by putting your house in order.  In fact, I highly recommend you do.

I read Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up a few years ago. I partially applied the information, as I do with so many books and resources, and got partial results. Still, I was hooked in. This woman is clearly onto something.

Towards the end of last year I had a niggling sensation that I needed to put my stuff in order, properly. Once. And. For. All. The accumulation of stuff that I didn’t need or find joy in was creating a lot of background noise and taking up bandwidth I no longer had to spare with an energy and attention-hungry seven month old around.

I re-read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying over Christmas along with her companion book Spark Joy. Spark Joy goes over the same approach but gives  lots of practical tips on how to go about the process. The two books were just the inspiration I needed to get my house in order. I’m about half way through, but already I can see some big shifts.

If you too are feeling like life could be simpler and more joyful in the process, like you’ve accumulated too much stuff and it’s weighing you down unnecessarily, I highly recommend reading either, or both, of these wonderful books!

The Basic Tidying  Principles

There are a few basic principles to tidying that MUST be adhered to, at least if you’re looking to follow the KonMarie method and do one mother-of-all-tidies, and then be done. For good. Ahhh the dream!

  • Commit to this one big-mother-of-all-tidies. It’s a bit of effort yes, but committing a few days or weeks now will save you hours and hours of time of daily and weekly tidying and sifting through unnecessary bumf for the rest of your life. It’s an investment. Plus, you’ll love your environment, and all the things you choose to keep in it will bring you joy. Now doesn’t that sound nice? Hold onto that vision. Things will get a little messy before they get clearer.
  • Tidy by category NOT by location. The order of categories to be tackled is clothes, books, papers, miscellaneous stuff, and finally sentimental items.  DO NOT stop to tackle sentimental items sporadically along the way. This will derail you, for sure. Leave it until the end. Follow the order and all will be well.
  • In order to tidy by category you have to gather all your possessions within that category to deal with them in one go. Only by doing this can you realise just how much stuff you have. I never realised, for instance, that I have about a billion hairbands. Because I’ve never tidied properly, nor do I have one location for such items, so I end up buying more. I also found about 5 iPhone chargers, 5 Kindle chargers,  and 3 spare working headphones. My partner had bought more of these items as they kept disappearing, into the murky underworld of my unorganised stuff.  Oops.  Time and time again I kept finding things that could be in use but that had been forgotten about buried under other things. There is literally no point in owning more stuff than you can keep an eye on and actually use. If it’s buried and forgotten it might as well not be there.
    All or the pencils I found stuffed in books as I was sorting my book collection. Now is that any way to treat your books?


  • The order of categories is also important as you must start with the easiest items and move your way along to the more challenging i.e. those tough sentimental items (I’ve yet to tackle this category thoroughly). The criteria for tidying is that you first decide what to keep and what to discard. You take each item in turn and ask ‘Does this spark joy?’ So actually you’re just choosing what to keep. If it sparks joy you keep it. If it doesn’t, you thank it and discard it. This is a key point with the method; don’t focus on what to discard, focus on what to keep, focus on what brings you joy.

Another reason it’s good to gather all your possessions by category is that you can work out what sparks joy through comparison.  If you’re struggling to decide what sparks joy pick out your three favourite items in the category, for example, your three favourite items of clothing.  Your house is burning down and you can grab three items of clothing. Which do you salvage?  Once you have these notice how these make you feel. Compare other items to these. You quickly work out what really brings you joy.

  • Another important point is not to put things away until you’re done selecting what to keep. Only then can you see how much you have left and find each item a suitable home.

5 Things I Learned Through This Process

  1. By God I love the Japanese.  There’s a concept in Japan called Ikigai, it’s your raison d’etre, your purpose or mission. This is one of the things that keeps the Japanese living long healthy lives. They find something they are passionate about and they dig in deeeeeeeep. Marie Kondo has been obsessed with tidying since she was little, only by following this passion allllllll the way has she been able to illuminate so many lives by showing us the impact of something seemingly mundane such as tidying. So, whatever it is that really floats YOUR boat, whatever your deep interest is, follow it, follow it, follow it, follow it. The world needs people to dive deeply into whatever they love and share the jewels they find in that particular spot.
  2. This process of tidying is really a deep look at your life, at who you are,  and how you want to live. Confronting your stuff is really about confronting your Self. What  do I love? How do I want to spend my time? What brings me the most joy? What struck me most as I was going through my clothes was that I’d never really, really, contemplated what brings me, me personally, joy. How odd is that? I’ve been accumulating stuff pretty much unconsciously. I went through many items of clothing that were nice, in good condition, looked good on me, that I’d bought myself, and realised that there were lots that just did not spark joy.  I now have a clearer idea of what brings me joy.  I find it much easier to let stuff that’s served its purpose go, even if its purpose was just to teach me ‘you idiot stop spending money on stuff you don’t really need or love!’
  3. Each item has a spirit and wants to bring  its owner joy. We are doing our possessions a disservice if we cling on to items that cannot spark joy in us. We are depriving them of the opportunity to fulfill their function and spark joy in someone else. As I pulled out clothes that had been buried and unused for months, or years even, I apologised to these items and put them on the ‘set free’ pile to be sent back out into circulation and continue their journey. If you’re finding it hard to let go of something even though you don’t use it and it doesn’t spark joy, ask yourself, would you give this item to someone who had nothing and really needed it? Then let it go with that intention in mind, sending it on its way with blessings and butterflies.
  4. For those items that bring you joy and you choose to keep, Marie Kondo suggests thanking them regularly for how they work to support you. The more love and appreciation poured into each item the more they sparkle. So, yes, it’s a bit weird, but as I put my clothes neatly away at the end of the day I thank them, ‘good job guys’.  By clearing out all the stuff that doesn’t really bring me joy I’m also noticing my relationship to the stuff that’s remained has changed. I’m more careful about how I fold and put clothes away (there is A LOT of information about folding in the books :-), I’m also noticing  when an item of clothing has a hole in it and I find myself taking the time to sit down and stitch it back together again. I’m using the things that remain more. I have more time and energy to use, enjoy and properly care for the things I’ve chosen to keep. That feels nice.
  5. I learned all about poverty consciousness and letting go of fears about not having enough. There’s a lot of trust involved in letting go of possessions. Trust that if you need something in the future you will have the means to acquire it again. Letting go of ‘just in case’ items is letting go of our poverty consciousness. Trusting that we have what we need now and if our needs change in the future they will be met then also.

“When you wear and surround yourself with the things you love, your house becomes your own personal paradise”  – Marie Kondo

How’s your space looking? Have you ever had a tidying festival and put your house in order?