Closet 101

Tidying Up

Last week, my life was taken over by a book. Actually, it’s still being taken over. I’m obsessed.

The book is The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, and I first remember reading about her late last year, in an article in the NY Times about kissing your socks goodbye (just read the article..or better yet, the book).

I finally downloaded Tiding Up last week, and devoured it all in one evening (and into the wee hours of the morning). Actually, I’ve read it twice so far – the first time I read it, I wanted to get to all the information so fast, I found myself skimming and skipping paragraphs. So I read it a second time this weekend, just to make sure I didn’t miss any gems.

tidying up

Okay, I’m beginning to sound a bit loony, but this book has changed my entire view of organizing and not to exaggerate…but even my life. I’ve always liked really clean, neat spaces with minimal clutter. I grew up in a house like that. My mom is one of the only people in the world by I know by the way, who instinctively keeps her house the way that Marie Kondo recommends, and who I’d say doesn’t need to read her book.

Anyway, I’ve always had an “idea” of the kind of space I’d want to live in. And I know what I’m drawn to. But my own apartment…has never felt that way.

Enter Marie Kondo and Tidying Up. I don’t want to give away the book, and you’d honestly just have to read it for the full effect, but I distilled three important lessons for myself from it:

1. Tidy in categories, not spaces. This was a huge change in cleaning “procedures” for me. I’ve always just done spaces…like, “I’m going to clean up the bedroom today, and living room, tomorrow!” But for some reason, I was never entirely happy with the results.

This time, I started off with all my clothing items…which are stored all over the apartment, all dumped onto the bed, and went from there. It’s amazing what dragging out all of the coats that one owns in the world looks like. I regularly do closet clean outs and consider myself far from a “volume” shopper- I tend to buy only a few items each month or so. But by the time I was finished, I still had four humongous black trash bags filled to the brim with clothes, shoes, and bags. Wow!

2. All of your items deserve respect. I’ve actually always believed that some items may have “feelings” (it’s my occasional hippy-ish tendencies…blame it on Berkeley), so it wasn’t a far stretch for me to start thanking my items for doing such a great job for me and making my life easier.

Reading Kondo’s philosophies however, made me realize that by being messy and cramming my items, I wasn’t treating them with respect. Plus, I couldn’t find them a lot of the time, and then forgot about them. Now, I’ve made sure that everything is easily accessible and neatly put away. This was made possible due to the fact that I had lots more space after giving away tons of items…

…which was made possible by Kondo’s suggestion that you say, “thank you for your service” to items before discarding them/giving them away. I know this may sounding off “CRAZY!!!” bells for some of you, but it totally worked for me. By far the bulk of my donated items were things that I just couldn’t bring myself to get rid of before…I wasn’t using them, and they weren’t making me happy…but I just felt guilty parting with them. They were maybe expensive items..or a gift from a cherished friend..or I bought them thinking I’d one day use them. But by saying “thank you” to each item, I was able to let them go without guilt. Even if it  earned me some serious side-eye from Mr. Feather in the next room.

3. It’s not about being minimalist…it’s about all your items bringing you joy and satisfaction. I like that Kondo doesn’t lecture about having lots of items, or extoll the virtues of some kind of ideal minimalist lifestyle, where all you use are Aesop toiletries and own only ten clothing items which you and mix and match from Celine and Everlane.

Instead, Kondo talks about making sure that every item you own brings you joy. Joy as in like, “Hey, I love my black Hermes Evelyne bag, I wear it all the time. It rocks.” But also joy like, “Oh there’s that Isabel Toledo dress I haven’t had the opportunity to wear for a few years…but I love seeing it.”

And then there’s the satisfaction of, “Well, there’s my canvas tote which I use for groceries every week. It doesn’t thrill me but it makes my life so much easier and I’m happier having it.”

When I was sorting through my items, I didn’t feel any pressure to get down to a certain number for my ideal “capsule wardrobe,” “minimalist kitchen,” or anything else. I just concentrated on making sure that each item brought me either joy or great usefulness, and the tidying up came naturally from there. I still have lots of items in my closet (and in fact, I just received a few more packages….) but there’s way less than before. And nothing beats the satisfaction of opening up a drawer or a door and seeing only items I adore….all tidily put away, of course!

via Japan Times

Marie Kondo hard at work at a client’s, via Japan Times

I’ve realized that I consider this book to be “life changing” – heavy words – because all my life I’d wanted to be a neat and tidy person, but I’ve never found the system to allow me to be that way, easily and naturally. Even though I just read Tidying Up last week, I already consider it a success because I’ve actually tidied up and sorted my entire house..and I’m thrilled with the results. Believe it or not, that’s never really happened before (except at a superficial level, where it all looked okay on the outside and everything was shoved into drawers and closets).

If you have any interest in organizing your own personal space…try this book. In my opinion, it’s 100% worth it (and Kondo includes some of her own chatty narrative about her own tidying experiences as well, which adds some more dimension and interest to the content). And if you’ve already read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up…I’d absolutely love to hear your thoughts!

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  • alice
    February 9, 2015 at 8:51 am

    hah I am in the process of reading this too! It made me want to go on a cleaning rampage, but then I didn’t have time. Need to get on it!

    • Katherine
      February 10, 2015 at 8:54 am

      Let me know how it goes!! I loved the book 🙂

  • natasha @ twenty-something blog
    February 9, 2015 at 10:09 am

    OI should pick up this book — thanks for sharing 🙂

    xo, tasha
    twenty-something blog

  • Sarah
    February 9, 2015 at 10:58 am

    Thank you Katherine! Will definitely get this, as a dedicated declutterer can’t wait… Will get back to you

    • Katherine
      February 10, 2015 at 9:10 am

      Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!! Enjoy 🙂

  • Sandy
    February 9, 2015 at 6:17 pm

    I just recently heard about this book and coincidently found out that Marie Kondo will be at the kinokuniya bookstore in Japantown feb 14 @2pm!

    • Katherine
      February 10, 2015 at 9:22 am

      Lucky you!! Are you going to go?

      • Sandy
        February 11, 2015 at 10:06 am

        i plan to go and have her sign a copy of her book 🙂

  • Mai Gek
    February 9, 2015 at 10:08 pm

    OMG I hope it’s not too late to get this book for Chinese New year spring cleaning!

    • Katherine
      February 10, 2015 at 9:22 am

      Not too late! Get it 🙂

  • Anonymous
    February 10, 2015 at 8:27 am

    You should do a blog sale on things you want to part way.

  • Luxuriously Frugal
    February 10, 2015 at 8:27 am

    Thanks for sharing. Love your book recommendations. Will check it out!

  • Lygie
    February 10, 2015 at 8:46 am

    I recently downloaded this book and am looking forward to reading it. Have heard so many good things about it! Glad to hear you found it useful and non-preachy.

  • Olivia
    February 10, 2015 at 12:41 pm

    I’m reading this too – Thanks for sharing your thoughts!! Did you see that New York Magazine just did a story on her as well?

    • Katherine
      February 11, 2015 at 1:40 pm

      I just read, thank you for sharing Olivia!

  • Stella
    February 10, 2015 at 1:31 pm

    Just ordered the book after reading your post. Thanks!

  • Jo
    February 10, 2015 at 4:10 pm

    Thanks Katherine! I’m definitely checking out this book. 🙂

    xo Jo

  • Diane
    February 10, 2015 at 7:27 pm

    I read this book a few weeks ago. Since I already purge things I’m not using, I have not used her system yet. I suspect that I can still rid my house of more items, but since I already have “space” in my closets, I haven’t been compelled to jump in….but I will use it next time I go on a purge.

    • Katherine
      February 11, 2015 at 1:39 pm

      Please do! I thought her “system” really made a difference.

  • P
    February 10, 2015 at 8:28 pm

    I just read the book tonight. I loved it! I have to say, sharing a studio with my partner we are pretty clutter-free already but there’s certainly room for improvement. I also found some bits unintentionally hilarious – such as when she suggested getting rid of her own book if it doesn’t meet the “spark joy” criterion!

    I agree with you completely that her nutty-sounding advice on thanking things before discarding them is actually helpful. I think it’s because thanking something is a mindful step in acknowledging the role an object has played in your life, which kind of offsets the intrinsically careless nature of getting rid of something.

    I do have to ask — as a fellow lover of clothes, did you begin with that category? She says it should be the easiest (most easily replaceable?) but I’m not sure, I might be more attached to my clothing than any old photographs!

    • Katherine
      February 11, 2015 at 1:39 pm

      I did begin with clothes…I followed her exact instructions, LOL. I am also attached to my clothes but knew that’s where I’d see the biggest payout (aka number of bags thrown out!).

  • This Gorgeous Life
    February 11, 2015 at 8:01 am

    I have definitely have to check out this book! I’m all about tidying up and getting rid of things right now. thanks so much for sharing!

  • Anna Campbell
    February 11, 2015 at 8:16 pm

    This is really interesting and thank you so much for recommending this book. I’m going to download it tonight.

    I love that ‘Tidy in categories, not spaces’ because I’m definitely a space person and I feel like I’m never getting it right. So hopefully this book will help me out.


  • TT
    February 20, 2015 at 10:25 am

    Just ordered the book
    Arrived today and can’t wait to dig in

    • Katherine
      February 20, 2015 at 6:29 pm


  • ahhhsoneo
    March 17, 2015 at 7:22 pm

    This sounds like just the book i need to read. I’ve been on a bit of a purging spree lately, but I’m not entirely satisfied with the results. I know I’m not ready to go down the minimalist/ihave3dresses route, but I do want a cleaner, less cluttered, more freeing space. I’ve never heard of this book but I will read the NYT article and download the book ASAP! thanks for the recommendation!

  • Mica
    March 25, 2015 at 10:18 am

    I’m DL tonight based on the recommendation. I kept telling myself I would wait until Garage Sale season, but honestly, I just need to de-clutter my life. Thanks for being the catalyst!