Make tidying a special event, not a daily chore - Why can’t I keep my house in order?

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing - Marie Kondo 2014

Make tidying a special event, not a daily chore
Why can’t I keep my house in order?

I begin my course with these words: Tidying is a special event. Don’t do it every day. This usually elicits a moment of stunned silence. Of course, there are countless perspectives on tidying, and even though I have undertaken an exhaustive study of the subject, I don’t claim to know every method that exists. Therefore, what I say here applies only to my own method. Still, let me repeat: tidying should be done just once. Or, to put it more accurately, the work of tidying should be completed once and for all within a single period of time.

If you think tidying is an endless chore that must be done every day, you are gravely mistaken. There are two types of tidying—“daily tidying” and “special event tidying.” Daily tidying, which consists of using something and putting it back in its place, will always be part of our lives as long as we need to use clothes, books, writing materials, and so on. But the purpose of this book is to inspire you to tackle the “special event” of putting your house in order as soon as possible.

By successfully concluding this once-in-a-lifetime task, you will gain the lifestyle you aspire to and enjoy a clean and orderly space of your choosing. Can you place your hand on your heart and swear that you are happy when surrounded by so much stuff that you don’t even remember what’s there? Most people desperately need to put their house in order. Unfortunately, the majority of them fail to embrace this as a “special event” and instead make do with rooms that are more like storage sheds. Decades drag by as they struggle unsuccessfully to maintain order by tidying every day.

Believe me. Until you have completed the once-in-a-lifetime event of putting your house in order, any attempt to tidy on a daily basis is doomed to failure. Conversely, once you have put your house in order, tidying will be reduced to the very simple task of putting things back where they belong. In fact, this becomes an unconscious habit. I use the term “special event” because it is crucial to tackle this job within a short space of time while your spirits are uplifted. After all, it isn’t desirable to stay in a state of excitement forever.

You may worry that even when this event is over your space will sink back into disorder. Perhaps you shop a lot and imagine that your possessions will just pile up again. I realize that it’s hard to believe if you have never tried it, but once you have completed this dramatic cleanup, you will have no difficulty whatsoever in putting things back where they belong or in deciding where to keep new things. Unbelievable as it may sound, you only have to experience a state of perfect order once to be able to maintain it. All you need to do is take the time to sit down and examine each item you own, decide whether you want to keep or discard it, and then choose where to put what you keep.

Have you ever told yourself, “I’m just no good at tidying,” or “It’s not worth trying; I was born untidy”? Many people carry this type of negative self-image for years, but it is swept away the instant they experience their own perfectly clean space. This drastic change in self-perception, the belief that you can do anything if you set your mind to it, transforms behavior and lifestyles. This is precisely why my students never experience rebound. Once you have experienced the powerful impact of a perfectly ordered space, you, too, will never return to clutter. Yes, I mean you!

It may sound too difficult, but I can honestly say that it’s quite simple. When you tidy, you are dealing with objects. Objects are easy to discard and move around. Anyone can do it. Your goal is clearly in sight. The moment you have put everything in its place, you have crossed the finish line. Unlike work, studies, or sports, there is no need to compare your performance to that of anyone else. You are the standard. Better yet, the one thing that everyone finds hardest to do—continuing—is totally unnecessary. You only have to decide where to put things once.

I never tidy my room. Why? Because it is already tidy. The only tidying I do is once or sometimes twice a year, and for a total of about one hour each time. The many days I spent tidying without seeing permanent results now seem hard to believe. In contrast, I feel happy and content. I have time to experience bliss in my quiet space, where even the air feels fresh and clean; time to sit and sip herbal tea while I reflect on my day. As I look around, my glance falls on a painting that I particularly love, purchased overseas, and a vase of fresh flowers in one corner. Although not large, the space I live in is graced only with those things that speak to my heart. My lifestyle brings me joy.

Wouldn’t you like to live this way, too? It’s easy, once you know how to truly put your home in order.