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The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo - Summary and Book Notes

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying up is Marie Kondo's simple manifesto on tidying. With over 4 Million copies sold, her message resonates with many--we all have too much stuff.


Kondo's approach, often called the KonMari method, is a drastic, do-everything-at-once method. Everything you own gets taken out, handled, and either discarded or placed in its own spot. If you're like me, and would rather take an incremental approach to decluttering, other methods might be more suitable. Still, the practice of handling every item you own is powerful, leading one to more thoughtfully consider the value of their posessions.

I recommend this book for:

  1. Anyone who wants to live with less clutter
  2. People who like to tackle projects head-on and do them all at once

If you'd rather watch a presentation, the author gives a great Google talk. There's also now a show on Netflix, featuring families going through this process.

Book Cover

KonMari method tl;dr

  1. Pull out every item you own in a category: the first category is clothes
  2. Hold every item, and decide if it 'sparks joy' in you.
  3. Repeat for books, papers, small items, and lastly, mementos
  4. For everything you didn't discard, designate a place for it. Make it easy to put away.

Tada! Your life is tidy.

Buy The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up on Amazon

Book Notes

The following are rough notes I took while reading. These are mostly paraphrased or quoted directly from the book. My notes are in italics

The only way to live a tidy life is to do a once-in-a-lifetime tidy incremental cleaning will never be a sustainable solution

Need to change your relationship with 'things'

Two steps:

  1. Discard
  2. Put everything in it's place


Visualize your ideal lifestyle

Explain why you want to live like that, ask 'why?' for each answer

The point of discarding and keeping things is to be happy

Ask, 'Why do I want to be tidy?"

Take each item in one's hand and ask: "Does this spark joy?" If it does, keep it. If not, dispose of it

  • The key is to handle every item

Discard one category at a time, NOT one location at a time.

Suggested order: clothes, books, papers, 小物 (small items), and lastly, mementos

When you come across something that's hard to discard, consider carefully why you have that specific item in the first place. When did you get it and what meaning did it have for you then?

Things to say to your discarded items:

"Thank you for giving me joy when I bought you" "Thank you for teaching me what doesn't suit me"


She suggests specific ordering for clothes, to me it looks like she's trying to get the client snowballing (easy items first)

Again, handle every item

Don't downgrade clothes to loungewear

"...it doesn't seem right to keep clothes we don't enjoy for relaxing around the house. This time at home is still a precious part of living. Its value should not change just because nobody sees us...what you wear in the house does affect your self-image"

Store things standing up rather than laid flat/stacked

  • Need to see everything in a drawer at a glance


Put every book on the floor. Handle each one. Discard if it doesn't bring you joy

On unread or half-read books: "Sometime" means "Never"

"having fewer books actually increases the impact of information I read. I recognize necessary information much more easily"

The moment you first encounter a particular book is the right time to read it.


Rule of thumb--discard everything

If it is not currently in use, needed for a limited period of time, or needed indefinitely: discard

Papers does not include sentimental items

One place for papers you save

One place for papers you need to deal with <- constantly aim to empty this (like inbox zero)

On lecture materials: value is the seminar itself, you won't look at notes again, "I believe that precisely because we hang on to such materials we fail to put what we learn into practice"

Komono (Small Items)

Some categories of komono: CDs, Skin care, Accessories, Valuables (passports, creditcards), electrical equipment, household equipment, household supplies, kitchen goods, food supplies, hobby specific, other

"The true purpose of a present is to be recieved. Presents are not 'things' but a means for conveying someone's feelings"

Sentimental Items

Save the hardest items for last, when you've developed your ability to discard.

Your parents' home is not a haven for mementos

"No matter how wonderful things used to be, we cannot live in the past. The joy and excitement we feel here and now are more important."

To put your things in order means to put your past in order too.

When to Stop

Reduce until you reach the point where something clicks

"As you ...[tidy], you will come to a point where you suddenly know how much is just right for you"

Designate a place for each thing

choosing a place for each thing is easier than the discard process it enables you to keep your space tidy effortlessly

Storage rules:

  1. Store items in the same category near to each other
  2. Don't scatter storage space

Pursue ultimate simplicity in storage so you can tell at a glance how much you have.

Clutter is caused by a failure to return things where they belong. Therefore storage should reduce the effort needed to put things away, not the effort needed to get them out.

Don't buy storage containers. Make do with what you have lying around, until you complete the entire process. Then think about looking for storage items you really like

The magic of tidying dramatically transforms your life

When tidying you make thousands of decisions, making you a better decision maker

The things you choose to keep reveal who you really are

"The question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life"

When we look at reasons why we can't let something go (that does not spark joy), it can only be an attachment to the past or fear for the future not having to search for things is a huge stress reliever

"life becomes far easier once you know that things will still work out even if you are lacking something"

Buy The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up on Amazon

Additional Reading: