5 tips on starting and finishing the Tidying process

PART III of the Konmari Series

KonMari, minimalism, tidying


As Marie Kondo suggests, I would definitely take the time to sit down, close your eyes and imagine your ideal life going forward. This will immensely help with the decluttering decisions you make along the way. Sometimes it’s not quite clear if something sparks joy. Maybe it did in the past and now you’re not sure. Having a clear image of your ideal life will make it much more obvious whether or not something still has a place in your future home and life. Here are some questions to help you imagine that ideal life of yours:

  • What does your ideal home look like?

  • What are you wearing?

  • What activities do you do throughout the day?

  • What don’t you do anymore?

  • Who do you spend time with?

  • What do you care about?

Take the time to fully visualize what you want, be honest with yourself and don’t try to recreate someone else’s ideal life. This can be a major stumbling block, so authenticity is really key here.

TIP 2 — Use the categories to your advantage

The Tidying process follows along five major categories:

  • Clothes

  • Books

  • Papers

  • Komono (Miscellaneous)

  • Memorabilia

There are plenty of checklists out there that you can use to help in your process, for example you can check out this one by Lisa Tselebidis. In fact, I’d recommend you use some sort of checklist to (a) keep you on track and (b) make sure you don’t forget anything that’s stored away somewhere. Try gathering everything at once, don’t forget the attic, basement, garage or wherever else you might have things stuffed away!

My main tips here are as follows: First, finish each category before moving on to the next. It may sound obvious, but oftentimes one can rush through the process only to find that big bag of out-of-season clothes lying around somewhere, forgotten. Take the time to go through your home, physically and mentally, and collect every item that belongs to a category. Finish sorting that category completely before moving on to the next. Don’t just hop on over to the Papers category if you haven’t finished your books yet. Otherwise, you’ll just end up with a big mess. Try to strike a balance between taking your time with each category and then moving swiftly on to the next one.

Second, use mini-categories. Most checklists will have them. Using mini-categories will prevent overwhelm and ensure that you don’t give up prematurely. It will help you see your progress and motivate you to complete the whole category. Also, it helps with identifying how much stuff you have in each sub-category relatively to the other ones. For example, you might have a lot of workout wear, but nothing fancy to go out in. Or maybe you have an excessive amount of cookbooks, but lack some good reading material for nighttime. Having uneven sub-categories isn’t a bad thing per se, but it can be useful to have the awareness of where your time, money and energy go the most.

TIP 3 — If it’s not a clear yes, it’s probably a no

This one’s a tough one. I know, I’ve been there. But actually, when you think about it, this totally applies in the broader sense of your whole life as well: If it’s not a clear yes, that is, if you don’t feel drawn to something, excited, energetic, but instead you feel boredom, annoyed or even dread — then it’s probably a no. Most of us already feel those things naturally, while some of us still have to learn to tune in and recognize our emotional and physical cues. The hardest part usually is to act on it. The Tidying process can be a wonderful experience in terms of learning to say yes and no. It can empower you to face future challenges as you learn to (a) listen to your inner voice and (b) follow through and make some tough calls where necessary.

As you tidy, just try it out: If it’s not a clear yes, it’s probably a no. And see how you feel. Can you let go more easily? Do you hear the ‘yeses’ more clearly? Do you feel immediate fear there will be nothing left you do like? Sometimes, this process has us confronting our guilt. It’s uncomfortable, but eventually a good thing. Letting go of the shoulds and holding onto the yeses will eventually lead to a much happier life.

tip 4 — don’t skip the folding

Folding seems to have gained popularity by now, but it still can feel like the lesser part of the KonMari method, compared to all that decluttering. So you might be tempted to just skip the folding. So did I at first. It just didn’t seem worth the hassle. But what I learned in my 3rd round of Tidying was how much space a good folding can open up. Suddenly, I had whole drawers in my dresser where new room seemed to have magically appeared. I could combine the contents of two drawers into one and it still looked much neater than beforehand. Folding goes hand in hand with decluttering, as you only display those things that are left and that spark joy. Presenting them to yourself in an orderly and deliberate way each day reinforces the notion of a curated and centered life.

For me, folding has even become a fun pastime! Something relaxing I do while listening to a podcast or an audiobook or just thinking about this and that. So in terms of organizing, creating space as well as the whole KonMari lifestyle, I would definitely recommend giving folding (and upright storage) a fair chance! Also, try to reimagine your storage space and to explore new solutions. You don’t have to put things back the way you took them out.

TIP 5 — define your finish line

When I finally reached that last category, memorabilia, I sorted my remaining keepsakes into a pretty little box and lived happily ever after — or did I? The truth is, I still didn’t feel quite finished. Had I folded all my clothes into neat little rectangles? Yes. Had I successfully sorted out the overflowing pantry situation? Yes. Did I like the remaining clothes I had? Hmmm… I realized that finishing the KonMari method of Tidying is actually just the beginning. It illuminates our blindspots, our indulgences, but also sheds light on what’s truly important to us and what we need to thrive. Some people realize they hated all their clothes and only kept a minimal amount to get by. That’s ok. Sometimes, we might discard whole hobbies and notice a sort of emptiness we don’t know what to do with yet. That’s ok, too. The KonMari method can certainly upend things, not only around the house, but also mentally.

This just means that now the fun part starts: Designing, curating, manifesting that ideal life from step one. It may seem daunting at first, but step by step, we can get there. Because we made space for new things to come into our lives. So in terms of the Tidying process, set a finish line for yourself. Make sure you know when you’re done tidying. Is it with that last item in the memorabilia category? Or maybe it’s after you have done the laundry and folded everything away neatly. Maybe you want to celebrate your Tidying success by having a nice meal or doing something else that’s fun. Either way, define a finish line — so you know you’re done tidying and now, you can starting creating and living that new life.