One category at a time - Finish discarding first

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

One category at a time
Finish discarding first

Deciding what to keep on the basis of what sparks joy in your heart is the most important step in tidying. But what concrete steps are needed to efficiently eliminate excess?

Let me begin by telling you what not to do. Don’t start selecting and discarding by location. Don’t think “I’ll tidy the bedroom first and then move on to the living room” or “I’ll go through my drawers one by one starting from the top down.” This approach is fatal. Why? Because most people don’t bother to store similar items in the same place.

In the majority of households, items that fall into the same category are stored in two or more places scattered around the house. Say, for example, you start with the bedroom closet. After you have finished sorting and discarding everything in it, you are bound to come across clothes you kept in a different closet or a coat draped over a living room chair. You will then have to repeat the whole process of choosing and storing, wasting time and effort, and you cannot make an accurate assessment of what you want to keep and discard under such conditions. Repetition and wasted effort can kill motivation, and therefore it must be avoided.

For this reason, I recommend that you always think in terms of category, not place. Before choosing what to keep, collect everything that falls within the same category at one time. Take every last item out and lay everything in one spot. To demonstrate the steps involved, let’s go back to the example of clothing above. You start by deciding that you are going to organize and put away your clothes. The next step is to search every room of the house. Bring every piece of clothing you find to the same place, and spread them out on the floor. Then pick up each outfit and see if it sparks joy. Those and only those are the ones to keep. Follow this procedure for every category. If you have too many clothes, you can make subcategories such as tops, bottoms, socks, and so on, and examine your clothes, one subcategory at a time.

Gathering every item in one place is essential to this process because it gives you an accurate grasp of how much you have. Most people are shocked at the sheer volume, which is often at least twice what they imagined. By collecting things in one spot, you can also compare items that are similar in design, making it easier to decide whether you want to keep them.

I have another good reason for removing all items in the same category from drawers, closets, and cupboards and spreading them out on the floor. Things stored out of sight are dormant. This makes it much harder to decide whether they inspire joy or not. By exposing them to the light of day and jolting them alive, so to speak, you’ll find it’s surprisingly easy to judge whether they touch your heart.

Dealing with just one category within a single time frame speeds up the tidying process. So be sure to gather every item in the category you are working on. Don’t let any slip by unnoticed.