Starting with mementos spells certain failure - Finish discarding first

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

Starting with mementos spells certain failure
Finish discarding first

You launch into your day all fired up to tidy, but before you know it the sun is setting and you’ve barely made a dent in your belongings. Noticing the time with a start, you feel yourself sinking into self-reproach and despair. And what are you holding in your hands? More often than not, it’s one of your favorite comic books, an album, or some other item that brings back fond memories.

My advice to begin tidying not by room but by category does not mean that you should start with any category you like. The degree of difficulty involved in selecting what to keep and what to discard differs greatly depending on the category. People who get stuck halfway usually do so because they start with the things that are hardest to make decisions about. Things that bring back memories, such as photos, are not the place for beginners to start. Not only is the sheer volume of items in this category usually greater than that of any other, but it is also far harder to make a decision about whether or not to keep them.

In addition to the physical value of things, there are three other factors that add value to our belongings: function, information, and emotional attachment. When the element of rarity is added, the difficulty in choosing what to discard multiplies. People have trouble discarding things that they could still use (functional value), that contain helpful information (informational value), and that have sentimental ties (emotional value). When these things are hard to obtain or replace (rarity), they become even harder to part with.

The process of deciding what to keep and what to discard will go much more smoothly if you begin with items that are easier to make decisions about. As you gradually work toward the harder categories, you will be honing your decision-making skills. Clothes are the easiest because their rarity value is extremely low. Photographs and letters, on the other hand, not only have a high sentimental value but also are one of a kind; therefore, they should be left until last. This is true for photographs, in particular, because they tend to turn up at random while sorting through other categories and in the most unexpected places, such as between books and papers. The best sequence is this: clothes first, then books, papers, komono (miscellany), and lastly, mementos. This order has also proven to be the most efficient in terms of the level of difficulty for the subsequent task of storing. Finally, sticking to this sequence sharpens our intuitive sense of what items spark joy inside us. If you can dramatically accelerate the speed of the decision-making process just by changing the order in which you discard, don’t you think it’s worth a try?