The Magic Art of Tidying Clutter

<center>The Magic Art of Tidying Clutter</center>
tidying clutter
Bookshelf after using the KonMari Method

My friend Theresa (of August’s Happy Housewarming fame) has been diligently tidying clutter, getting rid of clutter here and clutter there, for months now.  She keeps telling me about the book about getting rid of clutter by Marie Kondo, “The Life-Changing Art of Tidying Up. “So you put every piece of clothing you own on the floor and then you hold it up and ask yourself if it brings you joy in your heart,” Theresa tells me. I smile, but inside I’m thinking Yeah Right.

Fast forward to the day I’m looking around our house and notice that every piece of furniture we own, every table and side table, coffee table and dresser is covered with clutter (an occupational hazard of being a thrifter).  I can’t take it for one more hour, so I begin tidying. Not ‘the art of tidying’ type of tidying, but but just plain, old-fashioned tidying. You know – straightening up – the run-of-the-mill variety of home organization.  One week later, I notice not much has changed.

That little seed that Theresa planted about the magic potion of tidying book takes root inside my brain, and I hit the library to see if they have a copy. After all, buying one more book in a home overflowing with them will not solve our ‘tidying’ problem. Best to borrow it for a short time from the library.

A miracle occurs and I find the popular book in between check-outs.  My next task is to get my husband on board  – after all, he’s half the battle.  I must have look flabergasted when he says, “I’ve been wanting to get rid of some clutter around the house for a long time now.”  And, so we begin.  We follow the Marie Kondo method of tidying to a “T.”

#1.  We start with our clothes.  We do exactly as Marie tells us, after all, she warns that to veer from her specific chronology will result in a tidying failure and we must get rid of clutter. We pull all of our clothes out of closets, dresser drawers, gym bags, laundry baskets – anywhere an article of clothing may be lurking – and we dutifully ask ourselves those critical five words:  Does it bring me joy?  This process goes rather quickly and we are amazed at how much we are saying “No” to:  dozens of bags filled with joy-less clothes are then hauled off to Thrift Town, our local thrift store. We feel jubilant. Lighter. Like we’ve just each lost 10 pounds.

tidying clutter
Marie’s method of tidying clutter is to stack horizontally, not vertically

I stare into my closet admiring how I can actually see every article of clothing now hanging there.  My socks have been neatly folded in the KonMari method (not rolled up into little potato balls – a no no!).  We’re getting rid of clutter! And, it’s so easy! After a rewarding day of tidying, I reach into my dresser and find with ease the exact pair of pajamas I want to wear that night because they’ve been stacked horizontally, not vertically, just as Marie has instructed.  “What’s next?” husband asks, now completely inspired.

tidying clutter
Socks should be folded not rolled into potato balls

Well, funny he should ask because according to the magic art of tidying ala Marie Kondo, the next thing on the list after clothes is: #2. Books.  Like clothes, you must take every book off of your bookshelf and place it on the floor. I know what you’re thinking. Um, would’t it be much easier just to comb through your shelves of books and remove them from their resting place? Well, yes, that would be much easier, but that is not what the goddess of tidying, Marie Kondo has instructed.  Her method is magic because it makes you actually touch each and every item you are tidying so that you can get a visual of just HOW MUCH STUFF you have that is weighing you down psychologically. And, it works. Once we got all of our books on the floor in the office, we had to make room on the dining room, den and living room floors because we’d run out of floor space. There was literally a stack of books so high that we could have made a fence out of them and wrapped them around our entire house. Clutter, indeed.

Off we went to the bookstores to sell all of our leather bound antique books we’d found thrifting over the years, the first editions, the signed copies of Anne Rice books, the cookbooks we’ve never opened, the books from our college years we’d obediently carted from temporary home to home all these years and the various and sundry other tomes that we hardly ever look at. And, that was our first mistake. We started at Half-Price Books in Berkeley. We queued up with all the hopeful others, hoping to rake in the cash by selling off pounds and pounds of books. “It looks like we can give you “$12.63 for all of these,” the not-so-nice bookseller told us. We blanched. We bargained. “But, did you see the signed Anne Rice books?” we ask. “Oh, yeah, I saw those, but we only buy what we think we can sell,” he says in a monotone, I-could-give-a-shit voice.

Somewhat fazed, but still completely undaunted, we gather up our remaining hundreds of pounds of books and head down the street to Pegasus books on Shattuck Avenue. Surely, this lovely little independent bookstore will have some umbrage upon us. “Sir, I’m sorry but we won’t be able to take any of these,” they call out to us from across the store while we try not to get interested in any books for sale. So, off to Saver’s in Berkeley we go – donating years of book collecting. Pounds and pounds and pounds of books are tossed into the green Saver’s collection bins. At the last minute, I pull out a vintage copy of “Please Don’t Eat the Daisies” just because I loved that show growing up and because I love the graphics on the book jacket.

As we drive away from our books, a kind of subtle elation begins to set in. “Let’s go celebrate.” I say. This tidying feels so good, and we need to reward ourselves for all of our hard work.

tidying clutter
Take all your books off the shelves to tidy them

Back home, I stand before our bookshelves – now neat and organized and looking very happy. No more books stacked sideways on top of other books because the shelves are no longer overflowing. And, I smile. I can hardly wait until our next tidying session.

After clothes and books, it’s on to what Marie describes as a Japanese term for miscellaneous stuff, called Komono.   Komono consists of the following, and this is the precise order of tidying to follow:


  1. CDs & DVDs
  2. Skin Care products
  3. Makeup
  4. Accessories
  5. Valuables (i.e. passports, credit cards, etc.)
  6. Electrical equipment and appliances (including digital cameras, electric cords, anything that seems vaguely “electric)
  7. Household equipment (i.e., stationary, writing materials, sewing kits, etc.)
  8. Household supplies (expendables like medicine, detergents, tissues, etc.)
  9. Kitchen goods/food supplies (spatulas, pots & pans, blenders, etc.)
  10. Other (spare change, figurines, etc.)

Last on the list are Photographs and sentimental items.  We haven’t quite gotten there, yet, Marie, but we’re working on it!

You can buy Marie’s book below, if your bookshelves will allow it!





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