A How-to-Guide on Decluttering: The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up

As Spring cleaning season is here, I’ve decided to declutter my space to start the year right. I’ve struggled with maintaining cleanliness of my space, so I decided to read a book called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up that a Bun recommended. The author, Marie Kondo, runs a consulting business in Tokyo where she transforms her client’s workspace into a space of serenity by organizing and decluttering their belongings. With the rise of the Minimalism movement, she became an international phenomenon with more than 7 million copies of her book sold around the world.

Here are the 4 key takeaways:

1. Organize your space in one go.

Marie claims that people are usually motivated to clean in the first couple of weeks, but get discouraged when they’re unable to maintain the habit. From her experience with clients, clutter happens because people mistakenly think that they've finished organizing all their things, even though they’ve merely sorted a fraction of them. The root of the problem is that people can’t see the results or feel the effects immediately. This is why she believes that we must dedicate a time where we organize and declutter our space in one sitting. Doing so will help you keep your space clean and orderly, even if you’re naturally lazy or untidy.

“Tidying is a special event, not a daily chore”

2. Decluttering your space will transform your life.

Through her own and her clients’ experiences, she is convinced that tidying up your living or working space will bring a fundamental and permanent change that will transform your life. Her reasoning is that when your space is visibly messy, it distracts us from real problems that need to be tackled immediately. For example, when we have an exam, we tend to look around our room and clean instead of studying. She believes that when our living space is clean and uncluttered, then we’d have no choice but to examine ourselves and prioritize what is important. You’ll be able to see problems in your life that need to be tackled and feel forced to resolve them. To further support her claim, I found that numerous studies back up her theory, showing a correlation between a school’s classroom condition and student achievement.

“A messy room equals a messy mind”

3. Get rid of things you don't need.

She boils down the act of tidying into two possibilities: the first is to decide where you want to place the item; the second is to decide whether to discard it or not. She tells a story about how she used to be obsessed with organizers and storage units but was never able to maintain cleanliness despite her best efforts. She later realized that she had merely been concealing the items out of sight, thus creating the illusion that her clutter problem was solved. As she went back to her daily life, the storage units filled up, and the room became a mess once again. This is why she believes that tidying must start with discarding (or in our case, Bunzing).

“To truly cherish the things that are important to you, you must first discard those that have outlived their purpose”

4. Focus on things you want to keep.

What I find most profound about Kondo’s philosophy is the idea that your space should only be filled with things that make you happy. I’m sure everyone has had this experience where you find a piece of clothing that you haven’t worn in forever--- and yet you put it back in the drawer, making all these excuses that you’re going to wear it for some imaginary occasion. Weeks go by and the clothing remains untouched.

What Kondo suggests is that you should physically take each item in your hand, and ask yourself: “Does this object make me happy? Does it spark joy?”. You must be honest with yourself and really pay attention to the initial feelings that arise from holding it. If the item triggers positive emotions, then keep it. If it doesn’t, throw it out. It’s as simple as that. She recommends cleaning your space by categories, not location. She suggests that you should start with clothes, then move on to books, miscellaneous items, and finally mementos.

Once you’re done with this process, you will be surrounded by things that truly makes you happy. Doesn’t that sound really nice?

“Does this spark joy? If it does, keep it. If not dispose of it. Simple as that”

How Bunz Comes Into the Picture

As I wrote the blog, I decided that instead of talking the talk, I should walk the walk. So I started to declutter my room --- picking up objects and feeling the emotions that they give me. Was it joy? Was it guilt? Was it embarrassment? The only difference with my experience is that instead of throwing out the objects, I listed the items on Bunz --- either to give it away or trade them for something that I need. Like a bag of coffee. I always need coffee ☕️.

The aftermath:

How my drawers look now--- no clothes overflowing!

The state of my room:

Here are some of the things I’ve posted on Bunz:

Feel free to message me if you see anything you like @aprimalinstinct

Keeping my living space organized is definitely something that I’ve always struggled with, but Kondo’s advice really helped me overcome this problem by providing me with practical solutions. I highly recommend reading her book, but if you don’t have 10 hours to spare, here’s my tl;dr of her philosophy:

1) Clean your mess in one sitting
2) Discard/give away things you don't need
3) Surround yourself with things you love.
4) Doing so will bring a transformative change in your life.

Finally, here’s a video of Marie folding some clothes! There’s something very satisfying in watching her do her magic.