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I’d heard about Marie Kondo, a Japanese organizing consultant, from friends who spoke evangelically about her methods and how they’d transformed their lives. In case you haven’t, here’s the gist: with her little turquoise book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, Kondo set off a decluttering craze across the globe.

Kondo’s services command a waiting list a mile long in Japan, but for the rest of us, her book breaks down her radical, two-pronged approach to tidying. First, put your hands on everything you own, ask yourself if it sparks joy, and if it doesn’t, thank it for its service and get rid of it. Second, once only your most joy-giving belongings remain, put every item in a place where it’s visible, accessible, and easy to grab and then put back. Only then, Kondo says, will you have reached the nirvana of housekeeping, and never have to clean again.

All of this sounded wonderful. But as a working mother I can barely keep up with the demands of daily life (laundry! groceries! deadlines!). But once I read Kondo’s book, I got totally sucked in. It turns out, tidying really may be the way to bliss. Here’s what I learned.

Lesson #1: Tackle Categories, Not Rooms


I’d always tackled clutter by room—take on the office first, the bedroom next. Instead, Kondo’s first rule is to tidy by category—deal with every single one of your books at once, for example, otherwise they’ll continue to creep from room to room, and you’ll never rein in the clutter. She advises beginning with clothing, since it’s the least emotionally loaded of one’s things (books come next, old photographs are much later), so as soon as I found a free afternoon, that’s exactly what I did.

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