Excerpt from The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up
In this book, I have summed up how to put your space in order in a way that will change your life forever.
Impossible? A common response and not surprising, considering that almost everyone has experienced a rebound effect at least once, if not multiple times, after tidying.
ever tidied madly, only to find that all too soon your home or workspace is cluttered again? If so, let me share with you the secret of success. Start by discarding. Then organize your space, thoroughly, completely, in one go.
If you adopt this approach—the KonMari Method—you’ll never revert to clutter again.
Although this approach contradicts conventional wisdom, everyone who completes my private course has successfully kept their house in order—with unexpected results. Putting their house in order positively affects all other aspects of their lives, including work and family. Having devoted more than 80 percent of my life to this subject, I know
that tidying can transform your life.
Does it still sound too good to be true? If your idea of tidying is getting rid of one unnecessary item a day or cleaning up your room a little at a time, then you are right. It won’t have much effect on your life. If you change your approach, however, tidying can have an immeasurable impact. In fact, that is what it means to put your house in order.
I started reading home and lifestyle magazines when I was five, and it was this that inspired me, from the age of fifteen, to undertake a serious study of tidying that led to my development of the KonMari Method (based on a combination of my first and last names). I am now a consultant and spend most of my days visiting homes and offices, giving hands-on advice to people who find it difficult to tidy, who tidy but suffer rebounds, or who want to tidy but don’t know where to start.
The number of things my clients have discarded, from clothes and undergarments to photos, pens, magazine clippings, and makeup samples, easily exceeds a million items. This is no exaggeration. I have assisted individual clients who have thrown out two hundred 45-liter
garbage bags in one go.
From my exploration of the art of organizing and my experience helping messy people become tidy, there is one thing I can say with confidence: A dramatic reorganization of the home causes correspondingly dramatic changes in lifestyle and perspective. It is life transforming.
I mean it. Here are just a few of the testimonies I receive on a daily basis from former clients. After your course, I quit my job and launched my own business doing something I had dreamed of doing ever since I was a child.Your course taught me to see what I really need and what I don’t. So I got a divorce. Now I feel much happier.Someone I have been wanting to get in touch with recently contacted me.I’m delighted to report that since cleaning up my apartment, I’ve been able to really increase my sales.My husband and I are getting along much better. I’m amazed to find that just throwing things away has changed me so much. I finally succeeded in losing ten pounds.
My clients always sound so happy, and the results show that tidying has changed their way of thinking and their approach to life. In fact, it has changed their future. Why? This question is addressed in more detail throughout the book, but basically, when you put your house in order, you put your affairs and your past in order, too.
As a result, you can see quite clearly what you need in life and what you don’t, and what you should and shouldn’t do.
I currently offer a course for clients in their homes and for company owners in their offices. These are all private, one-on-one consultations, but I have yet to run out of clients. There is currently a three-month waiting list, and I receive inquiries daily from people who have been introduced by a former client or who have heard about the course from someone else. I travel from one end of Japan to the other and sometimes even overseas. Tickets for one of my public talks for stay-at-home parents sold out overnight. There was a waiting list not only for cancellations but also for the waiting list. Yet my repeater rate is zero. From a business perspective, this would appear to be a fatal flaw. But what if my lack of repeaters was actually the secret to the popularity of my approach?
As I said at the beginning, people who use the KonMari Method never revert to clutter again. Because they can keep their space in order, they don’t need to come back for more lessons. I occasionally check in with graduates of my courses to see how they are doing. In almost every case, not only is their home or office still in order but they are continuing to improve their space. It is evident from the photographs they send that they have even fewer belongings than when they finished the course, and have acquired new curtains and furnishings. They are surrounded only by the things they love.
Why does my course transform people? Because my approach is not simply a technique. The act of tidying is a series of simple actions in which objects are moved from one place to another. It involves putting things away where they belong. This seems so simple that even a six-year-old should be able to do it. Yet most people can’t. A short time after tidying, their space is a disorganized mess. The cause is not lack of skills but rather lack of awareness and the inability to make tidying a regular habit. In other words, the root of the problem lies in the mind. Success is 90 percent dependent on our mind-set. Excluding the fortunate few to whom organizing comes naturally, if we do not address this aspect, rebound is inevitable no matter how much is discarded or how cleverly things are organized.
So how can you acquire the right kind of mind-set? There is just one way, and, paradoxically, it is by acquiring the right technique. Remember: the KonMari Method I describe in this book is not a mere set of rules on how to sort, organize, and put things away. It is a guide to acquiring the right mind-set for creating order and becoming a tidy person.
Of course, I can’t claim that all my students have perfected the art of tidying. Unfortunately, some had to stop for one reason or another before completing the course. And some quit because they expected me to do the work for them. As an organizing fanatic and professional, I can tell you right now that no matter how hard I try to organize another’s space, no matter how perfect a storage system I devise, I can never put someone else’s house in order in the true sense of the term. Why? Because a person’s awareness and perspective on his or her own lifestyle are far more important than any skill at sorting, storing, or whatever. Order is dependent on the extremely personal values of what a person wants to live with.
Most people would prefer to live in a clean and tidy space. Anyone who has managed to tidy even once will have wished to keep it that way. But many don’t believe it’s possible. They try out various approaches to tidying only to find that things soon return to “normal.” I am absolutely convinced, however, that everyone can keep his or her space in order.
To do that, it is essential to thoroughly reassess your habits and assumptions about tidying. That may sound like far too much work, but don’t worry. By the time you finish reading this book, you will be ready and willing. People often tell me, “I’m disorganized by nature,”
“I can’t do it,” or “I don’t have time”; but being messy is not hereditary nor is it related to lack of time. It has far more to do with the accumulation of mistaken notions about tidying, such as “it’s best to tackle one room at a time” or “it’s better to do a little each day” or “storage should follow the flow plan of the house.”
In Japan, people believe that things like cleaning your room and keeping your bathroom spick-and-span bring good luck, but if your house is cluttered, the effect of polishing the toilet bowl is going to be limited. The same is true for the practice of feng shui. It is only when you put your house in order that your furniture and decorations come to life.
When you’ve finished putting your house in order, your life will change dramatically. Once you have experienced what it’s like to have a truly ordered house, you’ll feel your whole world brighten. Never again will you revert to clutter. This is what I call the magic of tidying.
And the effects are stupendous. Not only will you never be messy again, but you’ll also get a new start on life. This is the magic I want to share with as many people as possible.
Copyright © 2014 by Marie Kondo. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.