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De-cluttering and Marie Kondo

Earlier this year I read the life-changing manga of tidying up by Marie Kondo. This is a wonderful story written as a comic book. Just in case you don’t know anything about Marie Kondo, she is a professional organizer from Japan. Her first book: The Magic Art of Tidying Up is one of the bestselling organizing books of all time. I had not previously read any of Marie Kondo’s books and just loved this comic book. The primary character is a young woman, Chiaki, who has a very cluttered apartment. Marie teaches Chiaki, through a series of lessons, how to de-clutter her apartment. Chiaki learns the benefits of being organized go beyond the obvious – being able to find what you’re looking for and saving money.

I have always taught my clients to have only things they love and use in their homes. However, during the de-cluttering process, I would generally have my clients remove from the area in which we were working the things they didn’t want. I learned from Marie Kondo that it can work better to look for things you DO want; the things you love, the things you use.

Marie Kondo teaches her clients to keep the things that bring you joy. She does not ask her clients to remove what they don’t want rather to only put away the things they DO want in a certain area. For this to happen, the client must first empty the closet or chest of drawers of everything it contains.

This is where she and I differ. I do not have my clients take everything out of the space we want to organize. Together we sort in place. However,  I have changed the way I ask my clients to sort their belongings. I now ask my clients to look for the things they love; the things they use and the things that make them happy. These things we organize, removing the things they no longer want.

This puts a completely different spin on the organizing process for me. The focus is still on creating order however, I no longer ask my clients to focus on the negative but on the positive.

Identifying the belongings to keep quickly separates those to remove for recycling, donating, or tossing. It’s a much more positive approach as we focus on what the client loves and uses instead of what is broken or not loved – for whatever reason.

My clients still identify things they want to donate, recycle, or toss but these things are found organically as we organize the belongings they are keeping.

When you are overwhelmed in a space ask yourself what is in this space that I love? What is in this space that I use?
The things that you love and use will pop out at you.

It is so much easier to reduce what you have when you first acknowledge that you no longer want or use the things you are removing from the space.


  • I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, but I didn’t know she’d written a “Tidying” manga. Some organizers love to hate her. As I said in one of my blog posts, “I believe Marie Kondo to be 90% just like any other organizer (with fantastic PR and timing), 5% lost in translation, and 5% unique. My problem is not with Marie Kondo. It’s with the media hype surrounding her.” Bottom line, though? It never hurts to focus on the positive!

  • Seana Turner says:

    I think it makes the whole process more fun to emphasize that we are focusing on what you want to keep, not what it might be time to shed. It is about prioritizing your space to accessibly hold everything that you want to see or use. I do prefer to empty a space when possible, if only because it is easier to look at. That said, if I’m working with someone who lives in a six bedroom house, we probably aren’t bringing all the clothing in the whole house out to one place for review.

  • It’s pretty amazing what a huge impact Kondo’s latest book had on you and your organizing approach. It sounds like you’ve had great success with focusing on the “brings joy” part. Kudos to you for continuing to learn and adjust how you work as you try other ideas.