Order of tidying up from Marie Kondo

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo, suggests a tidying-up order.

The Preface, typically used by authors and publishers to motivate readers to invest time in the rest of the book, seems to suggest starting by cutting back on the number of adults in the space:

Here are just a few of the testimonials I receive on a daily basis from former clients… “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.”

After that, the high-level sequence is 

  1. Discard
  2. Organize (find a place for each thing that managed to justify its continued existence)

With the Discard phase, use the following sequence:

  1. clothes
  2. books
  3. papers
  4. misc. items (komono)
  5. sentimental items

Komono may be tidied in the following subsequence:

  1. CDs, DVDs(!)
  2. Skincare products
  3. Make-up (nearly all of her clients are women)
  4. Accessories
  5. Valuables
  6. Electrical equipment and appliances
  7. Household equipment (stationery, sewing)

A key to the discard phase is to put everything on the floor (this method is for people with young backs!). Kondo says that only by holding the thing can one know whether it sparks joy. This may seem absurd for books, but Kondo insists.

In the organization phase, one key is to keep similar items together so that it is easy to put things back. Kondo points out that people are a lot more motivated when they need to use something so it isn’t necessary to make retrieval super easy. Another one of Kondo’s idea is to try to use what she calls “vertical storage” (arranging things like books on a shelf).

One non-obvious idea is to try to cover up or remove extraneous text, e.g., on storage drawers, boxes, bottles of detergent, etc. Her point is that a space, even if wonderfully organized, can be “noisy” with all of the irrelevant text. (Keep the Poison Hotline number handy, though, in case you get those de-labeled bottles mixed up!)

Kondo is dismissive of the value of specialized storage gear and of the very idea of being a “storage expert.” Better to discard a lot of unneeded stuff and then use a few shoeboxes as dividers within larger spaces. So you’d think that The Container Store would try to discourage folks from reading her book. Au contraire! The company is brave enough to confront the tidying expert head-on in “A MESSAGE ON DECLUTTERING & SPARKING JOY Marie Kondo and The Container Store” (from the wife of a co-founder who is now a senior executive):

I was intrigued by the similarities to our own philosophies until I got to the part where I learned that she felt it was a bad idea to shop in stores like ours! To buy organizational products is frivolous. … I finally read the book on a plane to New York this spring. I loved it!

When we opened our store in 1978, we offered multifunctional utilitarian products that were essentially “repurposed”, much like the items Marie Kondo might use. Dairy Crates, Wire Leaf Burners, Barrels, Wooden Boxes, Dishwashing Pans, Restaurant Bus Tubs, Mailboxes, Industrial Parts Bins…all very simple concepts inspiring creative ideas and solutions for our customers.

Today, The Container Store’s offerings are more specific in use, not as esoteric, but the fundamental values of our concept still exist in the product selection. We look for multifunctional items that are versatile enough to last and be repurposed for a lifetime of use. They are beautiful and functional. They enhance our lives and make us better. They help to fulfill our Promise of an Organized Life.

This letter is one of the things that I love about the Internet. It is easy to find multiple perspectives on the same topic. (And, since Trump is not involved on either side of this debate, we need not label one side evil and the other virtuous!)

More: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo

8 thoughts on “Order of tidying up from Marie Kondo

  1. I wonder if there is a “just in time” food and staples delivery store model in here someplace. You know a store where they study your paper towels and TP and chicken wings usage and then send out a weeks supply to your home. Maybe set this up on automatic so you get stuff regularly and do not need to go to the store to shop or store stuff in bulk. I know restaurants do this and have regular deliveries of items. This would save lot of space and remove bunch of clutter and most likely save money as well.

  2. That memo is a masterpiece of senior executive narrative, and why she gets the big bucks. “I loved it! … She should be one of our best customers!” Then she goes on to explain why! I hope they teach it in business schools.

    So what if the biggest cultural phenom. in Organization thinks your products are frivolous? You love it! You love her! You’re *can* and *will* HELP the people who read her books! Always have! Wakarimasu ka?

  3. Here is a simple rule that if you follow and stick to it — you don’t need a book for this — you can simplify your life and unclutter it: Put things back where they belong the moment you are done with them.

    Putting thinks back where they belong teaches you the basic rule of “responsibility” — when you are a responsible person, you are a better person for yourself, your family and your community.

  4. My toilet plunger does not spark joy, but I know if toss it, I will soon have to buy a new one.

    There is a kernel of truth in her method, that most of the obstacles to organizing are emotional and psychological, not rational or process issues, and her Shinto-inspired rituals are soothing and help with the emotional aspects. The rest (having a place for everything, keeping like things together, and reserving the most accessible spots for commonly used items) are basic advice.

    The Container Store is like kryptonite for me. They are missing an opportunity by not selling containers to hold the containers I buy from them in case I need to organize $WHATEVER but end up not using until months or years have elapsed.

  5. The discard list doesn’t include the husband. At what step should a wife consider whether to discard her husband? That of course would depend on the economic incentives in the specific state in which the wife lives. See:
    http://realworlddivorce.com/

    With her old-fashioned deadwood media, Kondo can’t include a choice box that drives a database-backed reordering of the husband-augmented discard list. Sad.

  6. I have to write the Vatican before I can do this. It’s clearly a Shinto Animist ritual. Does believing in the spark of joy in things violate trinitarianism?

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