Tidying Part 1

Some folks might know that we have successfully purchased a house. We’re expecting to close in the next week or two. Before you get too excited about visiting us in our new place, the current owners requested a period of “rent-back” for 60 days. What this means is that we essentially become their landlords for that period while they begin their own home search. This is especially popular in areas where folks lack the leverage without their own home to make an offer on a new place.

I guess the point of the above paragraph is that we are going to be making a massive move in about two months (just a week after our wedding!) This will be our biggest move bar the move from the east to the west coast, and what does moving entail? Packing.

Now... if you know Liz and me, you’ll know that, while we mean well, we are not the tidiest people in the world. Both of us appreciate the feeling of being in a clean and organized environment; however, when push comes to shove, and the going gets tough in other life arenas, usually tidying takes a back seat to other concerns.


Liz and I both listen to the very excellent podcast “By The Book” in which two friends, Jolenta Greenberg and Kristen Meinzer pledge to live by the words of self help books two weeks at a time. After the two weeks are up, they record the podcast and discuss how things went. Sometimes they end up LOVING the advice in the book, sometimes they despise it with a passion. One book that they especially enjoyed was The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo.

In this book, Marie Kondo, a “tidying consultant” lays out her advice on how to put your home and thus your life back in order. She describes in detail the thinking behind each of the Six basic rules of tidying.

Well, we decided that we’d like to give the Marie Kondo technique (or KonMari for short) a shot. We went to Recycle Books, a fantastic used book store in the Bay Area with friends. They didn’t have the book! Can you believe that? Well, what they DID have was Spark Joy, the companion book to the main book... so that’s what we got.

While not the original book itself, this book actually opens with a summary of the main points of the previous one. Let’s run through the 6 rules of tidying (abbreviated) as described in Spark Joy.

  1. Commit yourself to tidying up

    This section describes the mental preparation that’s necessary before undertaking the journey of tidying up. Essentially, this section is wants you to know that it’s going to be work to do this. It’s going to be difficult.

  2. Imagine your ideal lifestyle

    This section seems on its face to be dismissible; however, Marie warns not to dismiss it out of hand. You need to envision a destination before you can start on a journey. She urges those who think visually to draw or scrapbook their ideal living space. Similarly, for verbally aligned readers, she suggests writing a description.

  3. Finish discarding first

    Before putting anything away, you must first reduce the overall quantity of stuff you’ve accumulated. The hypothesis here is that people, in general, have more stuff than they are actually able to utilize. The things that “bring you joy” (read: are your core useful staples, the underpinning of what should be your stuff based philosophy/identity) get lost in the noise of all the rest of your belongings.

  4. Tidy by category, not by location

    This section is especially interesting to me. It’s fundamentally not how I have ever attempted to clean before. Marie Kondo posits that, if you clean by room, instead of by category you will:

    Never become truly aware the current volume of stuff you have

    Ultimately just be moving things from room to room.

  5. Follow the right order

    The KonMari method tidies in the following order:

    Clothes->Books->Papers->Household Items (Komono)->Mementos

    There’s a method to this madness. You start with clothing because clothes are an item which can be demonstrably ranked by use. Each morning you are faced with the choice of which clothes you will wear today. Additionally, many people have a huge redundancy in their closet accumulated over the years.

    You start with clothes in order to hone your ability to discard that which you don’t need.

    Books are next. They are much like clothes; however, they have a little bit more sentimentality attached. In fact, to me books and mementos (the last hurdle to tackle) have a tremendous overlap.

    Papers, at this point you should have honed what makes things important to you. Papers are purely a matter of utility. Which papers do you truly need? Essentially, if it’s not already filed, it should be in the trash or filed right now. This is an easy section.

    Miscellany, or Komono, are essentially everything else in your house. This is a huge category, and I’d probably break it down further into electronics, kitchen goods, recreational goods, etc. Again, utility based, but these have a larger element of joy.

    Lastly, and most difficulty, mementos. It’s very difficult to part with mementos, which is why this section must be last. At this point you use that muscle you’ve been exercising up until now to decide which memento is most important to you. Sure, hold on to a graduation gift from your family, but perhaps ditch that convention badge hanging on your bookshelf.

  6. Ask yourself if it sparks joy

    For each item on the chopping block, you must consider if it “sparks a sense of joy” in you. I like to read this as, “does this fit into my future philosophy of belongings” If it does not “spark joy” then you should “thank it for its service to you” and say goodbye.

These points are the base tenants of the KonMari method.

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