One really useful gift I received last Christmas was the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Japanese tidy guru Marie Kondo. This book was such a timely gift because I am finally done with reading the book and Chinese New Year is just round the corner. I’m all ready to start Spring Cleaning – KonMari Style.

“Homes are for free expression, not good impressions”

Ever since watching the movie “Yours, Mine and Ours” in 2006, the quote “Homes are for free expression, not good impressions” became my mantra. I always thought that “organized mess” was my style. Although my room’s a mess, I could always mostly find what I wanted. Tidying, to me, meant rearranging everything so long it looked neat. That said, I have never been able to keep my room neat for more than a week. On my chair, which I never used, would always be a mountain of clothes and extracting a t-shirt from it was akin to toppling a Jenga tower. Who’s with me?

If it wasn’t for the fact that I needed to create a work area in my room, I wouldn’t have found the need to grudgingly spring clean.

But this book, this lady, this Goddess of Tidy, Queen of Clean totally changed my impression on tidying. What Kondo is selling isn’t just a book, she’s selling happiness. Decluttering is just an approach she used to make us readers feel intrinsic joy. And no one can’t say no to JOY!

Here are some things I learnt from this book.


1. Choose what to keep, not what we want to get rid of

Hold each item in your hands and ask yourself “Does this item spark joy?”. If it does, keep it. If it doesn’t, get rid of it. Learn to cherish the things you love and the things you want to keep. Do not fall into the rabbit hole by asking if the item deserved to be gotten rid of, once you do this, you will find 101 excuses to keep it. Which brings us to the next point.

2. Never aim to be a storage expert

Storage experts are actually hoarders. Hoarders who choose quick and convenient ways to hide visible clutter. But to successfully tidy your space, stick to the KonMari mantra – First “Discard”, then “Find where to keep them”. Discarding must always come first. Only when you have the items that make you happy, do you decide where to keep them.

3. Follow a strict order of operations for tidying

Tidy your house in this order of category: clothing, books, documents, komono (miscellaneous), and finally, momentos. If you realised, the ease of disposal decreases with each category. Kondo knows that photos and memories are the hardest to dispose, so keep it till the end.

4. Know how much you actually own

Continuing from Point 3, pile everything (emphasis needed) you can find from each category (eg. clothing) in the middle of the room and realise how much you actually own and feel guilty about your materialism. One main reason we never succeeded in tidying is because we have too much stuff. This excess is cause by the ignorance of how much we own, so we keep buying and buying. By putting everything into a pile, we get to see how many similar items we actually have.

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5. Have your clothes standing instead of stacking them up

By folding your clothes KonMari style and having them stand by themselves in a drawer, you get to see all your clothes at once. Every piece of clothing gets an equal chance at being chosen to be worn. If you lay them flat and stack them up, the ones at the bottom of the pile get forgotten almost immediately.

6. Respect the things you have

Before discarding an item, thank it for the service it had rendered to you. To your prom outfit you can no longer wear, or the teddy bear your first boyfriend gave you, thank them for the joy you got when you first wore/received them, then discard immediately. By respecting and thanking them, you will feel at peace with its disposal.

7. Make tidying a celebration

Be surrounded by things that bring you joy. Everything you see, you wear, you own should make you happy. 😀

8. Once you are done tidying, life goes on

Because tidying is not the purpose of life.

At the end of being Kondo-ed, I filled up 15 bags of items that do not spark joy, emptied 1 wardrobe, 1 chest of drawers and half my room. The best stuff went to other family members who needed them and the decent stuff went to charity. And that chair that I never used, it’s still in my room, except it’s missing Mount Laundry.