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A few months ago I was suddenly flooded with messages from the universe that I should read a little book I’d somehow never heard of, even though it had already caught fire, called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I couldn’t have imagined what it would really mean once I did it, but suffice to say it was life-changing.

The Japanese author, Marie Kondo—dubbed the “guru of tidiness and a warrior princess in the war on clutter” by The Times of London—is the real deal. She’s been organizing since the age of 5, when the rest of us had to be nudged repeatedly to clean up our bedrooms, and she’s on a mission to free us from the tyranny of our stuff.

But the method is less about getting rid of as much as possible and more about loving what we have. Surrounding yourself with quality rather than quantity. And the quality is based on what your heart feels about it—not your mind.

This is the magic of the “KonMari method,” as it’s known. It’s not an intellectual process; it’s closer to a meditation.

If you have been holding onto things for emotional reasons (or use the H-word to joke about your relationship to your things), then the KonMari method is perfect for you because it calls on you to rely on your intuition and it honors how you feel about your possessions. The method is not clinical or cold.

Here are the most important points to follow, plus all the ways my own life changed when I tried it out. —Jennifer Kass

For more information, visit tidyingup.com

 

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tidying_up_kondo_quoteThe book is short and sweet—reflective of Kondo’s mission: simplicity. And if you haven’t done it, I recommend you read the whole thing before taking action, but here’s a quick overview of the KonMari method:

• Tidy all at once—which was a six-hour day for me, in a small one-bedroom Brooklyn apartment.

• Tidy in the correct order: clothes first, then books, papers, komono (miscellany), and lastly, mementos. Kondo explains that this sequence “sharpens our intuitive sense of what items spark joy inside us,” which accelerates the speed of our decision-making.

• Tidy by category, not room (this is one time when “location, location, location” isn’t correct).

• And then, the big one: Hold each piece and ask yourself, “Does this spark joy?” If the answer is no, let it go.

• Finally, throw out the old stuff before organizing what’s left. My favorite organizing tip was to hang light colors and fabrics to the right to energize your closet.

 

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tidying_up_kondo_closetThe method is so divinely guided and so thorough that I ended up with only things I love or which are necessary for me to thrive. On the items I felt confused about, I was willing to just let them go, trusting that my big “yes” items were all I needed. I haven’t missed a thing, except my favorite swimsuit, which accidentally ended up in a giveaway bag.

Now, besides the sheer liberation of having exactly what feels right in my apartment, here are five unexpected ways tidying up did magically change my life.

1. My self-care elevated. The energy shift in my home was palpable the morning after, and without even realizing it I was doing exactly what I needed to do without getting distracted or lazy with my self-care. I breezed into the kitchen and made myself a glass of water with fresh lemon—a first in months—and I found myself tidying everything up before leaving the apartment so I could come home to calm and order.

2. I felt more mindful in really practical ways. Since I was a little girl I learned how to take care of my things from watching my mother. I watched her hand-wash her delicates and hang dry every item of clothing she owned. Everything she did, she did with love and presence. Cooking, putting outfits together: all of it held a high-quality energy. Over the years, I got lazy and would let clothes I tried on pile up, and I didn’t always put things away because there was no real place for them. Everything has a place now—it takes two seconds to tidy up because there’s no excess and it all has a home. A new appreciation—not attachment, but gratitude—poured in for my belongings, and I take pride in what I own again.

3. My wardrobe got upgraded. I’ve always loved beautiful things. I used to care about the little things like handmade lace undergarments. But over the years everything started feeling very “practical” and uninspired. I woke up to get dressed the next day to discover I had no bras, so I put on a sports bra and made a trip to my favorite lingerie store for the first time in a year. Before I knew it I found myself slowly, joyfully building a new wardrobe that feels creative, uplifting, and inspiring.

 

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tidying_up_kondo_check4. I tied up loose ends in every area of my life. The process triggered a ripple effect into the parts of my life that went beyond my apartment. I realized I was ready to pay off unnecessary credit card debt and I gave my ex-boyfriend a really important surprise check for the money ($10K!) he gave me five years ago when I moved out during our breakup.

5. I took up tennis. Creating space in my physical world created space for more of what I love, including new passions. Tennis has been the most fun surprise in my life after making room for it to find me. —Jennifer Kass

 

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