16 Decluttering Tips from The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up

by Kelvin Belfon

Kondo 16 Decluttering Tips


I recently read the highly popular The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by 30-year old, Japanese consultant and home-organizing guru Marie Kondo. It was an amazing read!

Kondo has attracted a cult like following on tidying up. She promises that, “When you put your house in order, you put your affairs and your past in order, too.” As a result of her popularity among those who are looking for order in their lives, she has sold over 2 million copies of her book worldwide.

Once I picked up The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I couldn’t stop reading. The content was bold, provocative, unconventional, yet easy to implement. To say the least, everything I’ve learned about decluttering was challenged.

On a negative note, The KonMari Method might be a little unrealistic for large families. In my experience, decluttering is an ongoing process, not a one-time event when you have children. The book also didn’t address how to deal with children and their toys, a major source of clutter.

Overall, I highly recommend the book and would like to share 16 decluttering tips from it.


16 Tips from The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up

  1. Declutter in one shot, not little by little. If you tidy a little each day, you’ll be doing it forever. When it’s done in one go, you’ll see how much stuff you really own. This can create an emotional shock value which can alter our behavior.
  1. Discard first, organize later. “Do not even think of putting your things away until you have finished the process of discarding,” says Kondo. Decide where things should go only after you’ve discarded what you don’t need.
  1. Sort by category, not by location. We are trained to tidy the bedroom, living room, kitchen and rest of the house. But Kondo says this is a fatal mistake. When we declutter by location, we repeat the vicious cycle in other locations. Purge by category such as: all your clothes, books, and so on.
  1. Begin with the end in mind. Ask yourself, “What do you hope to gain by decluttering?” Visualize your destination because tidying up is just a tool, not the final destination says Kondo!MarieKondo
  1. Choose to keep only what “sparks joy.” Most minimalists and decluttering experts emphasize elimination or discarding. A much better approach, argues Kondo, is to focus on keeping the things that “spark joy” or makes you happy. In essence, the true art of minimalism is removing the non-essential so we can enjoy those things that do matter.
  1. Handle each item then let go with gratitude. Pick up each item, feel it through our fingers and ask the question “Does this spark joy?” If it does, keep it. But then express your gratitude to the things that fulfilled their role or purpose in your life. “Thank you for giving me joy when I bought you” or “Thank you for teaching me what doesn’t suit me.” This anthropomorphic treatment of our possessions, argues Kondo, will make it easier to release our sentimental possessions.
  1. Start de-cluttering the easy stuff. People get stuck and self-sabotage their efforts by purging sentimental belongings first. But when you begin with the easier things, you are better prepared to tackle the mementos later on. Kondo recommends simplify in the following order:
  • Clothing
  • Books
  • Paper
  • Miscellaneous
  • Mementos such as photos, love letters, childhood stuff, etc
  1. Resist the urge to repurpose clothes into loungewear. Avoid keeping torn or worn-out clothing just because you may use them later to relax around the house or use them as pajamas.
  1. Don’t let your family see. Once you’ve decluttered, avoid getting your family involved because they’ll want to keep your stuff because of their sentimental value.
  1. Focus on your own clutter. Getting rid of other people’s things (i.e. family members or friends) without their permission won’t help them. Instead, it could risk jeopardizing the relationship. Lead by example, tidy up our own stuff!
  1. Remove your books off the shelf and put them all on the floor. Books you’ve read have been experienced argues Kondo, so let them go unless they “spark joy” when you touch them. Release unread books as well, since maybe their purpose was to teach you that you didn’t need it in the first place.
  1. Discard the majority of your paper clutter. To help decide what to keep, Kondo provides 3 categories: papers currently in use, paper that need to be kept for a limited period and those that need to be kept forever. This does not include love letters or journals. All legal documents should be kept, if unsure, seek the counsel of a professional.
  1. Storage experts are hoarders. Expensive, sophisticated commercial organizing storage methods don’t help us reduce clutter. They are only temporary solutions at best. Kondo write, “The secret to maintaining an uncluttered room is to pursue ultimate simplicity in storage so that you can tell at a glance how much you have.”
  1. Store things vertical, never pile. When items are stacked, storage possibilities become endless, things in the bottom get lost and squashed. Vertical storage encourages you to notice the clutter as it develops because it takes up space.
  1. Don’t scatter storage spaces throughout the house. Clutter accumulates when we fail to return items where they belong. Thus, store items of the same category in the same location vs. throughout your home because of convenience.
  1. Give every possession a home. Clutter will develop when items do not have a designated storage location. Decide where you are going to put things after they’ve been used.

Have you read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying? If so, what were your thoughts?

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16 thoughts on “16 Decluttering Tips from The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up

  1. Gabriele says:

    Love love love your blogs! I keep showing them to my friends who love them equally as much!

  2. Liz Smith says:

    Great wrap up of the book Kelvin and yes I’ve read it and enjoyed it. I applied the concept to my daughter and her bedroom. I explained the principals behind joy being a motivator for what stays and what goes and she made the decisions about her belongings. She is 8 though 😉

    I think Kondo’s approach gets to the heart of the matter, we acquire and hold on to stuff mostly out of fear (not joy). When you apply the joy approach, you might not be left with much…just what you need and love.

    • Kelvin Belfon says:

      Yes Liz, I totally agree.

      I really appreciate the whole “Does it spark joy?” concept. Things can get lost in all the clutter. Minimalism helps us eliminate the unnecessary so that we can treasure the things we enjoy. Thant is the key to this book and I totally love it.

  3. Lahai S. says:

    Great tips! Thank you for sharing and enlightening us!

  4. Calla says:

    I have found that decluttering in one go doesn’t work for me. I have found doing a little every week works best for me. Often I’ll do one area and then decide I need to tackle an area that I previously thought was done. Different methods work for different people, so I’m a big supporter of doing what works for you.

    I like to read books on decluttering, and will wait for the e-book to go sale thanks for such a good review!

    • Kelvin Belfon says:

      Me too Cella…do what works for you!

      Minimalism doesn’t look the same for everyone. In some areas decluttering in one go works for us but in others like our children’s clothing and toys it’s an ongoing process.

      Glad you enjoy the review. Thanks for reading!!

  5. Calla says:

    I just watched a video on the folding & vertical storage. I have to admit I will be joining her cult following! Just downloaded the book. Lol
    Thanks for the spark Kevin!

  6. Calla says:

    Ok, so I am a full on follower!
    I stayed up and handled most of my clothes. Got rid of some to donate, tossed the pieces not good enough to donate and folded & stored vertically the rest. Got rid of 5 storage containers so far.
    On to the clothes that are hanging. I just can’t believe how much space is saved with the KonMari folding &storage method.

    I completely changed my belief that it was better to do small daily decluttering instead of a one time push. Also had a change of heart about area vs category. I can’t thank you enough Kevin for your motivating review.

  7. Sharon says:

    Great summary of the book Kelvin. I have read it and must admit found it strangely compelling. I’m not sure the approach would work for me. I think I would find it hard to declutter all in one go. I’ve found it best to do it in smaller bites. I also found the anthropomorphic treatment of her possessions rather odd (it’s the scientist in me). I know I would feel silly talking to stuff that way. Still the overall message of the book is bang on and valuable.

    • Kelvin Belfon says:

      Thank you Sharon! Yes, I would have to agree. Some of Marie’s approach are a little extreme…like talking to your possession. It’s just too out weird for some.

      This is one of those cases when you have to determine what works for you and your family. Thanks for sharing.

  8. […] “16 Decluttering Tips from The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up”- The “KonMari Method” is taking the world by storm and has been written about on many blogs (including this one – see here, here, and here). If you’re intrigued by Marie Kondo’s process but don’t want to take the time to read her book (or simply want a review), check out this post from Going Uncomplicated.  If you implement the 16 decluttering tips presented, I believe you’ll see a dramatic decrease in your clutter – and an increase in your satisfaction with your stuff and your living space. […]

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