The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing
September 08, 2020
I’ve read this book shortly after moving, which was great timing to be able to organise storage in the new flat in a new way. Of course, it would have been even better if I’ve read this book before moving and got rid of more stuff before packing it into boxes. It focuses on letting stuff go, but it also does offer various interesting tips and techniques on how to deal with what remains.
Philosophy of tidying
Tidying up is not a chore that we should do every day (or week), but rather a mindset and a relationship with “stuff”. We shouldn’t have to deal with things that we don’t need and that don’t have a clear place in our lifes (and homes). The hoarding mentality of “might be useful one day” is toxic. Of course, letting go of something that we end up needing in the future might mean a financial loss when we have to buy it back (rarely happens), but whenever we get rid of an item we get an instant gain of more space (both physical and mental), less responsibilities (cleaning and stuff management) and sometimes even a financial one from selling what we don’t need.
A good method of figuring out whether we should keep something is to ask yourself a question whether this item sparks joy. If it doesn’t, let it go. If you can’t let it go (for example, it’s essential to do a task that you have to do), try to find a replacement that will spark joy (it will make the activity more pleasurable), or find a way not to need it anymore.
Reducing the amount of stuff (which is mostly clutter) in our lives is key to maintaining a tidy house/office/garage/shed/life.
Things that might be difficult to let go
- Oftentimes, we feel bad getting rid of books. Especially ones that we haven't read yet (even though we bought them ages ago). However, we don't have to feel bad about getting rid of a book that maybe one day we'll need (or want) again. They're easy to replace (available and inexpensive), so you can just buy it again, or get it from a library.
- The purpose of a gift was to bring you joy when you received it, not to bring you sorrow when you have to manage it. If it has practical applications in your life apart from the joy that it brought you - great, keep it. If not, let it go, its function has been served the moment you received it.
- It might be hard to let go of clothes that we feel like we should like. Or, ones we don't like anymore. However, we don't need clothes for the person that we used to be, or for the person that we might be in the future. We only need them for ourselves. Somebody else will be happy to wear them.
- Old photos
- Those are difficult to let go, because oftentimes they can't be replaced. If you love them, keep them. If you don't have a connection with them, let them go. If in doubt, you can always digitalise them (you probably should digitalise the important ones anyway).
- Designate storage place “by person”. They need to own their space to keep it in order. Shared spaces don’t work.
- Store clothes (t-shirts, pants, etc.) in drawers, not in stacks. It’s easier to choose the write one and not always the one from the top. Easy access also means it’s easy to remove an item you no longer use.
- Use shoeboxes as drawers in closets, instead of stacking things on top of each other.
- Everything should have a place in your home, preferably out of view. Daily bags should go to a wardrobe, wallet and keys into a drawer. Not in a pile next to the door.
- When you get home, unpack your daily bag / pockets and store things in their place. Yes, also keys, wallet, and any other things you carry with you daily. Then store the bag / backpack you use. Next day, take out the bag and pack it. This helps to make sure you have everythign you need and you don’t carry things you don’t.
- Don’t pack away winter clothes. Clothes are just clothes and weather is unpredictable. It will help you use them more and experience how much you have if they’re all visible straigt away. Same for shoes.
Stuff management tactics
- De-brand (take stickers and labels off) new products to reduce visual noise and welcome them to your life.
Written by Wojciech Ogrodowczyk who takes photos, climbs mountains, and runs Brains & Beards to help companies deliver better mobile applications faster.