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Spring Cleaning: Surprising Strategies for Finally Organizing Your Space

Tough_Love_BSPThis spring you might be planning to declutter. Because after multiple attempts to get organized, you’re still not seeing much progress.

Or maybe you decide against decluttering because you think you’re disorganized by nature. Maybe you think you don’t have time to make big changes in your home.

According to Japanese cleaning consultant Marie Kondo in The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, you might have a hard time organizing or feel like you’re spinning your wheels, because you’ve adopted some tidying untruths as facts.

For instance, one untruth is tidying up one drawer or room at a time. Another untruth is tidying up a little every day. A third is needing special storage.

In fact, according to Kondo, we only really need to tidy up once. Yes, once — in one fell swoop. This is different from daily tidying, which is simply putting items back where they belong, like a shirt in the closet and a book on the shelf.

The tidying she’s talking about is a special event. She calls it a “once-in-a-lifetime task.” This includes two parts: discarding and deciding where to keep your things.

Below are four tips from Kondo’s book for decluttering your space once and for all.

Explore why you’re tidying up.

Before you start tidying, think about what motivated you to do this in the first place. As Kondo asks, “what do you hope to gain through tidying?” Statements like “I want to live clutter-free” are too broad.

Instead, she suggests visualizing your ideal lifestyle, and getting very specific. Create a vivid description of how you want to live. Then delve deeper. Identify the reasons you want to live this way.

Discard first.

Kondo is adamant about discarding items before putting anything away. When thinking about what to eliminate, she suggests taking each item in our hands and asking: “Does it spark joy?” If it does, keep it. If it doesn’t, toss it.

As Kondo writes, “I chose this standard for a reason. After all, what is the point in tidying? If it’s not so that our space and the things in it can bring us happiness, then I think there is no point at all.”

She advises us to keep only the items that speak to our heart.

Tidy up by category.

Because most of us don’t store similar items in the same place, organizing by location isn’t helpful. That is, don’t start organizing by your bedroom or the dresser in your home office. Forget place. Instead organize by category, such as clothes. This prevents you from having to reorganize things when you find the same type of item somewhere else in your house.

Collect everything that falls within the same category. Put all the items in the same spot. Pick up each item and ask yourself if it sparks joy. Do the same for every category. And if there are too many items in one category, create sub-categories, such as socks, bags and tops.

Kondo suggests following this sequence when tidying up: clothes, books, papers, miscellany and then mementos (since these have emotional ties and are harder to discard).

Have a place for everything.

According to Kondo, “the reason every item must have a designated place is because the existence of an item without a home multiples the chance that your space will become cluttered again.”

She suggests storing the same type of items in the same place. She also suggests not scattering storage places throughout your home, because this encourages clutter. Don’t store things based on where it’s easiest to take them out. This, too, cultivates clutter.

While not all of Kondo’s tips may work for you (or me), I believe her method is a valuable one. (For instance, I won’t be following her ruthless approach for getting rid of books.)

Our homes are our sanctuaries. This is where we seek solitude, unwind, spend time with our loved ones, have heart-to-heart talks, and become vulnerable. It’s where we reveal who we really are.

It’s certainly worth it to simplify our stuff and create a space that is sacred, soothing and satisfying, and filled with only the things that spark our joy.

Spring Cleaning: Surprising Strategies for Finally Organizing Your Space

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Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S.

Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S. is an Associate Editor and regular contributor at Psych Central. Her Master's degree is in clinical psychology from Texas A&M University. In addition to writing about mental disorders, she blogs regularly about body and self-image issues on her Psych Central blog, Weightless.

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APA Reference
Tartakovsky, M. (2018). Spring Cleaning: Surprising Strategies for Finally Organizing Your Space. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 26, 2020, from
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Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 13 Mar 2015)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
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