Decluttering — Japanese Style

This blog is not only about weight loss and fitness.  It is also about making a better me, in any way that I can.  One area that has been nagging at my lately is my feeling stressed by having so much stuff and wanting to find a way to pare it down.  I had this thought that if I could make my surroundings less cluttered, it would make weight loss, fitness, healthy eating and everything else much easier.  The less time I have to spend on managing stuff, the more time I can spend on other things.

Also, I really hate house cleaning.  I am allergic to a lot of stuffs and can’t really vacuum and dust (my husband does that part), but I don’t even like spending time on the part that I can do.  It strikes me that if I have less stuff, the upkeep will be much easier.

And, while I was pondering how to do this, Gwen at The Sunny Coconut posted about a book:


I went and read the article about the book in Gwen’s post.  I pondered whether to buy the book, but didn’t decide.  But, Saturday was my birthday and I used an Amazon gift card to buy the Kindle version of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo.

I had never heard of the book before reading Gwen’s post and, even when I bought it, I didn’t really realize it was a best seller in the US. Turns out it is at the top of the New York Times Advice/How to list.

The book is not all that long and I read it quickly.  I haven’t yet started on the project, but this definitely provides a framework for me.  The heart of Kondo’s method is to handle each item  and “[c]hoose those things that spark joy when you touch them.”

If not, then it goes.  Another interesting thing from the book was the idea of decluttering by category, not by room.  The rationale is that similar items may be in various rooms of the house, so it makes sense to collect them all and then decide what to keep.  Also, if you declutter by room, Kondo asserts that you tend to never get finished.  And, most importantly, Kondo explains:

One reason so many of us never succeed at tidying is because we have too much stuff.  This excess is caused by our own ignorance of how much we actually own.  When we disperse storage of a particular item throughout the house and tidy one place at a time, we can never grasp the overall volume and therefore can never finish.  To escape this negative spiral, tidy by category, not by place.

I have actually worked on decluttering before.  Every time we have moved, I’ve seen that as an opportunity to declutter.  Almost 10 years ago, when we moved, we got rid of a lot of stuff when we moved.  We moved into a home that was larger and had ample storage space.  It was almost 4500 square feet and had two detached double garages plus a guest house.  When we moved, there was a lot going on and we stored about 30 boxes of stuff in the second garage.  During the first 3 years we were in the house we would occasionally need something from there and would go find the box and fish it out.

It wasn’t until we had been there about three years, that I decided to really go through them.  I found that there was very little out of them that I wanted to keep.  Still, we built up more stuff while living in that house.  Eventually, we decided to downsize as kids were getting older and starting college.  We didn’t need a house of that size any more.

We knew we would have to get rid of a lot of stuff since we would moving to a smaller place.  We aggressively went through and discarded stuff.  My husband said it seemed like I wanted to get rid of everything!  We also packed up some things and put them in storage while the house was on the market.  My idea was that I would carefully go over those things while moving into the new house and would only keep things I really wanted.

It didn’t actually end up working that way.  By the time we were moving into this house 3 years ago, I was exhausted and just wanted to get the boxes unpacked.  I did some culling out as we unpacked, but only things that were clearly obvious.  Then, a couple of years ago we went through books and DVDs and set aside those that were to go.  We actually bought on Kindle a lot of books we had in physical form and set aside the old books to go….somewhere.  Also, lots of movies are now available to be streamed so we didn’t need as many DVDs.  We set those aside as well.  We didn’t do anything with them, though, since we couldn’t decide what to do with them.  Should we try to sell them?  Donate them?  Trash them?

Finally a couple of weeks ago, my husband took them to Half Price Books.  We knew we would get hardly anything for them, but he was going to be near there so we decided that was the best plan.  Having done that, I was contemplating what to do next when I found The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

I had tried to work on my office unsuccessfully.  When we bought this house, I had bought this really nice office furniture from Pottery Barn that had all kinds of storage places. Kondo asserts that it is a mistake to focus on storage solutions — the better idea is to focus on limiting what you keep:

Putting things away creates the illusion that the clutter problem has been solved.  But sooner or later, all the storage units are full, the room once again overflows with things, and some new and “easy” storage method becomes necessary, creating a negative spiral.  This is why tidying must start with discarding.

I have a fairly good handle on how I want to handle paper.  Basically, I scan in anything that I don’t really have to keep in paper form.  Then I throw the paper way.  For receipts and stuff I want to keep for a limited time I have folders for each month of the year.  I put receipts, for example, in the folder for the month I bought the item.  Each year when I get to a particular month, I go throw the month and throw out old stuff from the prior year I don’t need any more.  I also have a few folders of things that I need to keep in paper form.

Still, my office decluttering efforts didn’t go very far.  First, I have a huge pile of paper that needs to be scanned in.  Also, the drawers are full of the dreaded items that I keep picking up and thinking I may need them some day.  At that point, I put them back, saying I will decide later.

To be clear, I am far more willing to get rid of that kind of stuff than my husband is (he has never seen a cable that he didn’t want to keep).  I seem to do OK on the big stuff, but get stymied by the little things.  The result is that I have drawers crammed with stuff and I can’t ever find anything that I’m really looking for.

Kondo suggests starting the discarding with clothes, then books, then papers, then komono (miscellany, divided into several sub-categories), and finally sentimental items.  I plan to follow this and start with clothes.

Clothes are for me a big problem right now.  I’ve actually gotten rid of a lot of clothes as I’ve been losing 56 pounds.  But, I know I still have quite a few that need to go.  I still have a lot of clothes in the closet that just swim on me now and I know I need to really go through them.  Some of that is difficult as I love T-shirts and love many of those that are too large for me.

Anyway, I’ll report back as I go through this.  I loved the book.  I thought at the time I read it that it was a little weak on how to handle the items that we “need” or “might use” which are utilitarian and don’t really spark joy in anyone.  Thinking about it, though, using the concepts from the book, I think it makes sense to focus on whether the item serves a function for you and how well it does so.  Something that succeeds doesn’t exactly spark “joy,” but does spark a sense of contentment at having something that perfectly meets your needs.



  1. says

    YAY! I’m about 60% done with the book. I read through papers, something I hadn’t planned to tackle yet, but I got inspired, hit the big bin LOADED with papers, and cleared out 80% of it before I had to stop for dinner. And by ‘cleared’, I mean saving about 20%, taking the rest to work tomorrow to throw in the various giant ‘straight to the professional shredding company’ bins. Freedom! 🙂

    Glad you are loving it, and hope it not only helps with your clutter, but transforms your life in the process. And thanks for the shout out/link. 🙂

    • says

      You’re welcome. It really is a great book. I read it all, but I haven’t start yet on the discarding. Well, sort of. I’m starting to gather some clothes up and have a load in the laundry so I can be sure and include those clothes.
      Kitty recently posted…Decluttering — Japanese StyleMy Profile

  2. says

    We served in the military and moved a lot. It was always a great time to declutter. But then again, we ended up getting particular stuff from various places. I thought it would be really hard to get rid of stuff, but you know what, 2 years ago we move into a really small home and got tons of stuff out of our life for good.

    We were scare of letting go because of our attachment but once it was gone, we found out we like to not have that in our life. Clothing is another issue, I’m keeping a lot of over size clothes in case I do some works… however I have more clothing that I have jobs. LOL
    Richard M. recently posted…The Day after the Food OrgyMy Profile

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