Book notes: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo book summary notes.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo



“Japanese cleaning consultant Marie Kondo takes tidying to a whole new level, promising that if you properly simplify and organize your home once, you’ll never have to do it again.

The KonMari Method, with its revolutionary category-by-category system, leads to lasting results. In fact, none of Kondo’s clients have lapsed (and she still has a three-month waiting list).

With detailed guidance for determining which items in your house “spark joy” (and which don’t), this international bestseller featuring Tokyo’s newest lifestyle phenomenon will help you clear your clutter and enjoy the unique magic of a tidy home-and the calm, motivated mindset it can inspire.” -Audible

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Opening thoughts:

I first heard of Marie Kondo when she appeared on the Tim Ferriss Show podcast. I thought the discussion was phenomenal and quickly looked up her book to see if it was available on Audible. Turns out, this book had more ratings than any other book I’ve seen! (I think it was close to 20k reviews). Usually, that’s a good sign, combined with a great average score. I immediately threw this into the queue for this month’s reading list.

This book appearing in my life is also timely because I’ll be moving out of my current apartment at the end of June (I’ve been here for 1 year and 8 months), so I’ll need to downsize my stuff dramatically. I think having a good framework for discarding and reorganizing my stuff will greatly help with the moving process. I’ll have a solid month to get my stuff in order. My goal is to be able to fit everything I have into my car, which I think is very doable.

Key notes:

  • Organizing your home helps with other aspects of your life such as work and family
  • The root of the problem lies in the mind
    • Success is 90% dependent on our mindset
  • The KonMari method is a guide to acquiring the right mindset for creating order and becoming a tidy person
  • Tidy all at once. Trying to do it little by little will be a never-ending process
    • Success depends on experiencing tangible results immediately
    • You will never get your house in order if you only clean up half-heartedly
    • If you aren’t the diligent, persevering type, then she recommends aiming for perfection just once
  • The act of cluttering is really an instinctive reflex that draws our attention away from the heart of an issue
    • When your room is clean and uncluttered, you have no choice but to examine your inner state
    • You can see any issues you’ve been avoiding and you’re forced to deal with them
  • From the moment you start tidying, you will be compelled to reset your life
    • As a result, your life will start to change. That’s why the task of putting your house in order should be done quickly
    • It allows you to confront the issues that are really important
      • Tidying is just a tool, not the final destination
  • The true goal is to establish the lifestyle you want most once your house has been put in order
  • Storage methods do not solve the problem of how to get rid of clutter. They are only a superficial answer
  • Sort by category, not location
  • Effective tidying involves two essential actions:
    1. Discarding
    2. Deciding where to store things
      • Of the two, discarding must come first
  • Make tidying a special event, not a daily chore
    • It may sound difficult but it is quite simple. When you tidy, you’re dealing with objects which are easy to discard and move around. Anyone can do it. Unlike work or sports, there is no need to compare your performance to anyone else
  • Finish discarding first. Start by discarding all at once, intensely and completely
    • On a personal level, quickly could be about six months
    • But once it’s finished and you experience what it’s like to be perfectly tidy, you will have been freed forever from the assumption that you are no good at tidying
  • For the best results, adhere faithfully to the following rule:
    • Tidy in the right order
  • Begin by identifying your goal. What was the motivating reason that made you want to tidy in the first place? What do you hope to gain from tiding?
    • Before you start to get rid of things, think this through carefully
  • The whole point in keeping and discarding things is to be happy
    • You have to look at the lifestyle you aspire to have to find why you want to tidy
  • Selection criteria: does it spark joy?
  • The first step is to examine what you have
    • There are several common patterns when it comes to deciding what to discard
      1. To discard things when they ceased to be functional. For example, when something breaks down beyond repair or One part of a set is broken
      2. To discard things that are out of date, such as out of fashion clothes or something from an event that has passed
  • She realized that it wasn’t all about discarding. It was about deciding what you want to keep and cherishing it
    • Take each item in one’s hand and ask yourself, does this item spark joy?
    • If it does, keep it. If it doesn’t, dispose of it
      • This is the most accurate and simple yardstick by which to judge
  • Repetition and wasted effort can kill motivation, and therefore must be avoided
  • People often make a mistake by starting with the category of things that bring back memories and our hardest to get rid of
  • In addition to the physical value of things, there are three other factors that add value to our belongings:
    1. Function
    2. Information
    3. Emotional attachment
      • When the elements of rarity are added, the difficulty in what to discard multiplies
  • The correct category sequence:
    • clothes -> books -> papers -> komono -> miscellaneous -> mementos
      • If you can dramatically accelerate the speed of the decision-making process just by changing the order of which you discard, it makes it worth a try
    •  Pro tip: leave your family out of this process and don’t let them see what you throw away
  • To quietly work away at disposing of your own excess is actually the best way at dealing with a family that doesn’t tidy
    • Cleaning quietly on one’s own generates another interesting change: the ability to tolerate a certain level of untidiness among your family members
    • Once she was satisfied with her own room, she no longer felt the urge to dispose of things belonging to her family
  • Secret: putting your house in order is fun!
    • The process of assessing how you feel about things you own, identifying those that have fulfilled their purpose, expressing your gratitude, and bidding them farewell is really about examining your inner self
  • Clothes subcategories: tops, bottoms, clothes to be hung up, socks, underwear, bags, accessories (scarves, belts, hats, etc.), clothes for specific events (swimsuits, kimono, uniforms, etc), shoes
    • What you wear in the house does impact your self-image
  • Clothing storage. Fold it right and solve your storage problems
    • You can hang or fold your clothes for storage, but folding should be your main form of storage
      • Hanging can’t compete with folding for saving space
    • Folding is really a form of dialogue with our wardrobe
  • When it comes to folding and storage of clothes, the goal should be to organize the content so that you can see where every item is at a glance, just as you can see the spines of the books on a bookshelf
  • Arranging clothes: the secret to energizing your closet
    • The most basic rule of organizing clothes on hangers is to hang clothes in the same categories side by side, dividing your closet into different sections
    • Clothes, like people, can relax more freely when in the company of others who are very similar in type
    • Hang heavy items on the left and lighter items on the right so it forms a line that rises to the right
      • It makes you feel lighter and comfortable, and make the contents more exciting
  • She noticed that having fewer books actually increased the impact of the information she reads
    • She recognizes necessary information more easily
  • For books, timing is everything
    • The moment you first encounter a particular book is the right time to read it
    • To avoid missing that moment, she recommends keeping your collection small
  • Sorting papers
    • Rule of thumb: discard everything
    • To her, there’s nothing more annoying than papers
      • After all, they will never inspire joy, no matter how carefully you keep them
    • Only keep the following three categories:
      1. Currently in use
      2. Needed for a limited period of time
      3. Must be kept indefinitely
    • Papers, by the way, does not include papers with sentimental value like old love letters or diaries
    • For the papers, she divides into two categories:
      1. Papers to be saved
      2. Papers to be dealt with
  • The real value is the seminar itself live, not the notes or printed material
    • Go in with the intent to put what you’ll learn into practice
  •  Komono = “just because”, small articles, miscellaneous items, accessories, gadgets, small tools, parts or attachments
    • Sorting order: CDs and DVDs, skincare, makeup, accessories, valuables (passports, credit cards), electrical equipment and appliances, household equipment, household supplies, kitchen goods, other
    • Special categories to note: disposables & gifts
      • The true purpose of presents is to be received
      • They aren’t things but a means of conveying one’s feelings. Therefore you don’t need to feel guilty for parting with a gift
    • Motto for coins: “into my wallet
  • Sentimental items
    • By handling each sentimental item and deciding what to discard, you process your past
    • If you just stow them away, before you realize it, your past will be a weight that holds you back and keeps you from living in the here and now
    • It is not our memories, but the person we have become because of those past experiences that we should treasure
      • This is the lesson these keepsakes teach us when we sort them
      • The space in which we live should be for the person we are becoming now, not for the person we were in the past
    • It’s important to save photos for last when you have honed your intuitive sense of what brings you joy
      • Usually only a small number of photos from a particular event or experience is needed to feel the joy from the memory
      • The true meaning of a photo lies in the excitement and joy you feel when taking it
        • In many cases, the prints developed afterward have already outlived their purpose
    • Don’t wait until old age to sort photos
      • Do it now and you’ll enjoy them later when already sorted
  •  Get rid of excess stock all at once
    • Either give it away to friends, donate it, or trash it
  • Reduce until you reach the point where something “clicks”
    • The “just right” click point is when you feel like you don’t need any more to live comfortably and be happy
      • The satisfaction that envelops your whole being at that point is palpable
      • Interestingly, once you have passed this point, you’ll find that the amount you own never increases
        • And that is precisely why you will never rebound
  • As you put your house in order and decrease your possessions, you’ll see what your true values are, what is really important to you in your life
    • But don’t focus on reducing or efficient storage methods
    • Focus instead on choosing the things that inspire joy and on enjoying life according to your own standards. This is the true pleasure of tidying
  • Storing your things to make your life shine. Designate a place for each thing
  • The reason why every item must have a designated place is that the existence of an item without a home multiplies the chances that your space will become cluttered again
    • Discard first because it will make deciding where things belong much easier when your possessions are reduced to 1/3 or 1/4
  • Storage: Pursue Ultimate Simplicity
    • The ability to avoid excess stock depends on the ability to simplify storage
      • Ultimate simplicity allows you to see at a glance how much you have
    • Two ways of categorizing belongings:
      1. By type of item
      2. By person
    • Not having a space you can call your own is dangerous
    • Everyone needs a sanctuary
    • Clutter is caused by a failure to return things to where they belong
      • Therefore, storage should reduce the effort needed to put things away, not the effort needed to get them out
  • Never pile things. Vertical storage is the key
    • She recommends storing things vertically as opposed to stacking for two reasons:
      1. It mitigates the risk of over-accumulation
      2. Stacking is very hard on the bottom items. Stacking weakens and exhausts the things that bear the weight of the pile
    • There’s no need to buy storage dividers or any other gadgets. You can solve your storage problems with things you already have in the house
      • Her favorite go to is a simple shoebox which she has not found something else more cost-effective and more functional
    • The best way to store bags is inside other bags
    • Items that usurp floor space should be stored in the closet
    • Bedding is best stored on the upper shelf of the closet less exposed to humidity and dust
      • Bottom space can be used to store electrical appliances like fans and heaters
    • She advocates not storing anything in the bath, and instead wiping whatever you use afterward and then storing back in the cupboard with each use
      • This seems like more work but it is actually less
        • It’s much quicker and easier to clean the bath without these items cluttering the space and less slime build up
      • The same principle applies to sponges in the kitchen sink and condiments in the kitchen area or table. They should be put away after each use
    • Make the top shelf of your bookcase your personal shrine
    • If you have personal items or possessions you want to enjoy but don’t want your friends to know, transform your closet into your own private space, one that gives you a thrill of pleasure
  • Unpack and de-tag clothes immediately after purchase
    • Start by removing the product steals from your storage containers
  • It is important for our belongings to have the same reassurance that there is a place for them to return to
    • Possessions that have a place where they belong and it to which they are returned each day for a rest are more vibrant
    • Her clients tell her that when they learn to treat their clothes of them are respect, they notice that they last longer
  • Her clients tell her that when they put their house in order, they discover what they really want to do
    • For the majority, the experience of tidying causes them to become more passionately involved in their work
    • Some enter on companies, others change jobs
    • Others take more interest in their current profession
    • They also become more passionate about their other interests
  • Sometimes letting go is even more important than adding
  •  One of the magical effects of tidying is confidence in your decision-making capacity

Readers note: I love that the central theme surrounding her tidying philosophy is gratitude and respect for all of her possessions and material objects. By doing so, and surrounding yourself with things that spark joy, you create a life and environments in which you can thrive. It also helps you identify what you value and helps you figure out who you are.

  • When we delve into the reasons why we can’t let something go, there are only two:
    1. An attachment to the past
    2. A fear for the future
  • It is important to understand your ownership pattern because it is an expression of the values that guide your life
    • The question of “what you want to own?” is actually the question of “how you want to live your life?
  • The best way to find out what we really need is to get rid of what we don’t
    • Discarding those things that don’t spark joy has no adverse effects whatsoever

Readers note: another central theme that’s pretty apparent is the idea of less is more. By simplifying your life, you strip it down to the essentials and can really see who you are and what your values are.

It’s like cleaning and wiping away all of the fluff, superficial, and unnecessary things from your life. I imagine this has as much of a psychological effect as is doing the physical act of cleaning. I guess it’s a sort of “mental cleaning”.

  • It is by putting one’s own house in order that one’s mindset is changed
  • The first homework assignment she gives her clients at private lessons is to greet their house every time they come home

Readers note: I feel like using the concept of greeting your home and treating it like a person you appreciate, you develop empathy for the house and its contents. This makes it easier for you to identify where it needs more attention. This, in turn, makes you take better care of your home. As a result, your possessions last longer and makes you noticeably happier in your home.

  • Without exception, all the things you own share the desire to be of use to you
  • When we reduce our belongings and essentially detox our house, it has a detox effect on our bodies as well
    • When you reduce the clutter, you tend to clean more often and create a healthier environment in which you live in, which does affect your health
  • Owning only what we love and what we need is the most natural condition
  • Tidying also has the magic effect of increasing contentment with what you have
  • Things that are cherished shine
  •  If you can say without a doubt “I really like this” no matter what anyone else says, and if you like yourself for having it, then ignore what other people think
  • Your real life begins after putting your house in order
  • Tidying can be done thoroughly and quickly, all in one go
    • The only tasks that you will need to continue for the rest of your life are those of choosing what to keep and what to discard, and of caring for the things you decide to keep

Closing thoughts:

Hands down, one of the best books I’ve read in the last couple of years! I have nothing but high praise for what I’ve learned, the frameworks I’ve adopted, the perspective she gives, and deep wisdom that comes from following the principles in the book. It’s honestly very difficult to give a concise account of why I love this book.

As I’ve mentioned in my “opening thoughts” section, this book came into my life at a very timely point, as I was in the process of getting ready to move next month and needed to downsize. The fortune of this great timing is that I was able to put the principles, tactics, and strategies I was learning while I was getting through the book. Each I followed the recommended steps and mindsets when sorting and discarding my things. From tidying by categorykeeping only the things that spark joy, and following her storage principles, I was able to reduce my possessions by 1/2 and greatly remove clutter from my room.

The effect of tidying, even just the first couple of steps, was so immediate and gave me such a great feeling that I was instantly addicted. I couldn’t wait to get through and learn the next steps, as well as finish tidying. This was the probably the first time I’ve ever felt EXCITED to clean my room (discarding, organizing, and some cleaning).

Overall, I’m so happy to have come across this book and thank Marie Kondo for putting these principles in a book for people all over the world to benefit from. I especially loved the huge theme of gratitude that ties everything together. I can’t wait to use this framework for the rest of my life as I move into new places and maintain my living space.


How the KonMari method of tidying can really have drastic effects on your life and well-being.

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14 thoughts on “Book notes: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo”

    1. Same! After reading it, I also decluttered a lot of my possession, but I also decluttered how I spent my time. So now I only do things that “spark joy” as well as only own things that do 🙂

      Glad you also enjoyed the book!

      Liked by 1 person

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