Clean, Organize, and Declutter with Marie Kondo's Magic: Part 2

Marie Kondo's book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up has, in fact, changed my life. Here's more information about her awesome method and why I think it works.

Stever Robbins
4-minute read
Episode #374

When we left our prior article, Marie Kondo, author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, had taught us several things about obsessively, er, I mean, reasonably cleaning your apartment, house, houseboat, or cardboard box. Using her method, shmoopie and I went from having an apartment that looked like a war zone to one that looked like the happy, spotless isolation chamber of a mental ward. Please don't ask how I know what that looks like.

We learned from Marie that we shouldn't clean by room. Rather, we should clean by category, and we start by discarding everything that doesn't bring us joy. But that brings up the obvious question: how do we deal with things we want to keep that don't bring us joy?

You know that third grade finger painting your child did of the neighbor's dog climbing the sycamore tree that you still have on your refrigerator even though your children are away at college and have been begging you to throw it away for years? Time to toss it. "But I'm throwing away my children's lives!!!" your inner parent screams. Your inner parent is wrong; it's time to declutter your house.

Organize Your House According to Emotion

When you choose the categories to declutter, do them in order of increasing emotional attachment. Your first category should be one that you hardly care about at all. Clothes. We're used to getting rid of clothes when we've had them for a long time, or we've torn them, or we've accidentally dropped an entire Oreo ice cream cake on them. (My therapist and I are still processing that one.)

Next choose a category you care about a bit more. For me, it's electronics. Silly, stupid electronics all over the frickin' apartment. Do I really need to keep that 1st generation iPod? The Palm Pilot? The 300 baud modem? The TI Silent 700? I feel nostalgic looking at it, but at this point, I can't even get thermal printing paper, so it's not like I'll ever turn it on. A bit more nostalgic than clothes, but still tossable.

But the time you get to your children's finger painting, you'll have more and more practice throwing away things you have an emotional attachment to. When your child comes home from college, they'll be delighted to see the painting gone from the fridge. When they see that you also threw away everything in their bedroom and turned it into a mini-greenhouse for your Audrey IIs, they might get upset and start yelling. You'll be so serene from all the organizing that you can simply look at them and say, "I am getting rid of everything in the house that doesn't bring me joy. Think twice before raising your voice."

Don't Let Shmoopie Watch

How to organize your room is ... alone. There may be all kinds of things that are fun to let shmoopie watch, like pots of boiling water, or your child's ballet recital, or your kimbaku lessons. But cleaning isn't one of them. You see, your shmoopie—or your mother or father or sister or brother—will heckle. Mine did. I was going through my immense pile of books, putting several of them in the discard pile, and shmoopie was picking them up as fast as I put them down. "This one's signed! We can't get rid of this!" "This one is by someone we know!!!" "It was the guy who rear-ended my car and then refused to pay for the repairs when his insurance premiums had lapsed." "Yes, but we know him!!!"

Your loved ones, and even the ones you just pretend to love for the inheritance, all have opinions on what you should and shouldn't keep. Do your sorting and discarding alone, and it will go much more smoothly.


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.