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We Tried It: the Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

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The life-changing magic of trying to tidy up.

Food52 Office

If your office or your coworkers or your friends are anything like ours, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Upa book that is equal parts organization inspiration, Zen philosophy, and obsession—has probably popped up once or twice or thirty times in conversations, emails, or Instagram photos. There's a lot of "Oh, yeah, I read that," and "'Life-changing' is not a lie!" and "Magic! Magic! Magic!" when it does come up—and no wonder: Marie Kondo's book is a number-one New York Times bestseller, has given her a spot on of Time's list of the world's 100 most influential people, and has sold two million copies. 

The KonMari Method, as her strategy is called, started to come up so often at the Food52 office that we decided we had to investigate further. We passed around a copy of the book, which is slim enough to read in a sitting or two, traded opinions and tips, and generally worked ourselves into a tidying tizzy.

Here's what you should know if you haven't read the book:

  • KonMari's biggest point is that, in getting rid of belongings, you should pick up each item individually and ask if it sparks joy in you. If it does, keep it; if not, give it away.
  • She also recommends that when doing this, you should do it all at once: Take everything out, category by category, of your pantry, closet, boxes, or bookcases—and put it on the floor. Proceed from there.

We asked a couple of team members what their experiences with the KonMari method were like. From tips and criticisms to bits of gratitude, here's what our team had to say:


Ali, Associate Editor

What did you think of the book?
I felt that the philosophy made sense, but the fact that the book is so adored is really interesting because I feel it would only work for certain kinds of people. Some people don’t have a lot of emotional ties to their things—I think I fall in that category. Does this object bring me joy? I don’t know, but I kind of needed something on that table...

How did it go? 
I only planned to apply it to my clothes. (I've never had enough stuff to do everything, and I was moving anyway.) Though when I did it to my clothes, I was automatically inspired to go at the rest of my house and just sort of go rogue based on the principles Kondo gives.

What worked? What didn't? 
I love getting rid of stuff. It was definitely satisfying, and I like that the book gives you a barometer for getting rid of things: There's only one question for getting rid of things—"Does this spark joy?" It made the deliberation process much quicker. But her tip about getting rid of all your papers terrified me. I don’t know if I could do that. 

Lauren Locke Lauren Locke
Our VP of Sales, Lauren, in the midst of KonMari: left, putting everything on the floor; right, setting out bags of donations.

Lauren L.
, Vice President of Sales

What did you think of the book? 
For me, using the "bringing joy" philosophy each time I looked at an item helped a lot. The bigger aha! moment for me was releasing my "gift guilt," scarves and cookbooks being prime examples. I had kept every scarf anyone ever gifted me because I felt badly about getting rid of a gift. But the KonMari method opened my eyes to the fact that a gift is given to bring you joy in the moment! When I opened, received, and used the various scarfs or cookbooks over the years, they had reached their full purpose. Keeping something forever is not a required action after accepting a gift.

How did it go? 
My husband and I have done our clothes, jewelry, personal books, cookbooks, the kids' room, our bathroom products (I used to hoard mini shampoo bottles), kitchen items (did I need 15 mixing bowls?), blankets, extra sheets, and winter accessories. I had three boxes of scarves for our family of four—and now we have half of one!

What worked? What didn't? 
The phase we have been putting off is papers. Oh, how we file, put things in clear plastic sleeves, containers... And don't get me started on children's artwork! We've sworn we'll get to it after vacation—because really, doing this all in one day, as KonMari recommends, is not at all realistic with small children and a job. But her philosophy on papers—that you don't need to keep them—is really great. We keep every financial and credit card statement. But KonMari so astutely points out that it would take no time at all to log onto our accounts online, find the statements, and print what we needed in an emergency. The storing is clogging our physical and emotional lives! 


Bobbi, Photographer

What did you think of the book? 
I was obsessed with the book when I was doing it—maybe too obsessed. I thought she had a lot of great points, but it’s really hard to throw everything on the ground when you finally decide to do it. It’s like total commitment. And when I did that with my closet, I actually got really angry—like an emotional reaction to change. I also don't think the KonMari process is right for everyone. (Another great decluttering read is Karen Kingston's Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui.)

How did it go? 
I did a lot of what the book recommends. I did my closet; I did my papers—I really got rid of most of them. I did a lot of kitchen stuff, but couldn't get rid of my cookbooks. And I’m not ready to do photos and mementos.

What worked? What didn't? 
The biggest thing that I got out of the book: She says that when you start doing KonMari, you'll start making similar [joy-based] decisions in other parts of your life. And I think that’s true. Before I did KonMari, if an annoying email came through, I’d take such a long time figuring out how to respond nicely and worrying about how the person might respond. After, I’d just gone through so much clutter-clearing that I'd still try to respond nicely but stopped stressing about how the recipient might react.

But I also think I threw away too much. So, this is what I’d suggest: It’s important to define what "sparking joy" means for you. There were so many things that maybe didn’t "spark joy" for me but were still connected with really good memories. Is the fact that the thing triggers a great memory enough? Or does the thing have to bring joy right now? Maybe this is the antithesis of what she says, but I think you need to define it for yourself. 


Lindsay-Jean, Contributing Writer & Editor

What did you think of the book? 
Even though I’m pretty tidy to begin with, I devoured this book and let Marie Kondo work her magic in my home; her KonMari method helped me take my penchant for organization to a whole new level.

How did it go?
Before I read the book, every time I opened my closet doors I looked at lots of clothing that wasn’t getting worn. I ended up purging a lot of clothing, and I have a lot fewer items now, but they’re items that I’m excited about. They fit, they feel good on, and they get worn. Now when I add new items to my wardrobe they need to meet the "does this spark joy?" requirement, or they stay on the rack in the store.

What worked? What didn't? 
Some of Kondo’s suggestions were smaller ones: I used to ball up my socks, and was skeptical when Kondo claimed that those "potato-like lumps" take up more room (and are harder on your socks), but she was right.

And when I removed a bunch of my clothes, I was left with a lot more space: I was able to add a dresser inside the closet, which is great for non-hanging clothes storage, but the addition left an awkward space above it. Kondo had an answer for me there, too: "Transform your closet into your own private space, one that gives you a thrill of pleasure." Due to the layout of our house, we don’t have many spots for knick-knacks, so my collection of bird figurines was living in a box in the basement. With the addition of a couple of shelves, that awkward space was transformed into a display space. I now smile every morning when I open my closet doors—it’s such a happy space for me!

Have you tried the KonMari method yourself? What did you think? What worked for you? 

Photo of clothing rack by Madelynn Hackwith Furlong; KonMari photos by Lauren Locke; photos of corner cushions, spices, and living room by Mark Weinberg

Tags: DIY Home, Home Hacks, Home Decor, Food52 Life, Life Hacks