Tidy a little a day and you’ll be tidying forever - 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

Tidy a little a day and you’ll be tidying forever
Why can’t I keep my house in order?

“If you tidy your house all at once, you’ll rebound. It’s better to make it a habit to do a little at a time.” Although this advice sounds very tempting, we’ve already seen that the first part is wrong. How about the suggestion that we should do only a little a day? Although it sounds convincing, don’t be fooled. The reason you never seem to finish is precisely because you tidy a little at a time.

Changing lifestyle habits acquired over a span of many years is generally extremely difficult. If you have never succeeded in staying tidy to date, you will find it next to impossible to develop the habit of tidying a little at a time. People cannot change their habits without first changing their way of thinking. And that’s not easy! After all, it’s quite hard to control what we think. There is, however, one way to drastically transform the way we think about tidying.

The subject of tidying first caught my attention when I was in junior high school. The catalyst was a book called The Art of Discarding by Nagisa Tatsumi (Takarajimasha, Inc.), which explained the importance of getting rid of unnecessary things. I picked the book up on my way home from school, intrigued to see a topic I had never encountered before, and I can still remember the shock of surprise I felt as I read it on the train. I became so absorbed that I almost missed my stop. Once home, I went straight to my room with a handful of garbage bags and stayed closeted for several hours. Although my room was small, by the time I finished I had eight bags full of stuff—clothes I never wore, textbooks from elementary school, toys I had not played with in years, my eraser and seal collection. I had forgotten that most of these things even existed. I sat motionless on the floor for about an hour afterward staring at the pile of bags and wondering, “Why on earth did I bother keeping all this stuff?”

What shocked me most, however, was how different my room looked. After only a few hours, I could see parts of the floor that had never been revealed before. My room seemed to have been transformed, and the air inside seemed so much fresher and brighter that even my mind felt clearer. Tidying, I realized, could have far more impact than I had ever imagined. Thunderstruck by the extent of the change, from that day on I turned my attention from cooking and sewing, which I had thought were the essentials of a well-kept home, to the art of tidying.

Tidying brings visible results. Tidying never lies. The ultimate secret of success is this: If you tidy up in one shot, rather than little by little, you can dramatically change your mind-set. A change so profound that it touches your emotions will irresistibly affect your way of thinking and your lifestyle habits. My clients do not develop the habit of tidying gradually. Every one of them has been clutter-free since they undertook their tidying marathon. This approach is the key to preventing rebound.

When people revert to clutter no matter how much they tidy, it is not their room or their belongings but their way of thinking that is at fault. Even if they are initially inspired, they can’t stay motivated and their efforts peter out. The root cause lies in the fact that they can’t see the results or feel the effects. This is precisely why success depends on experiencing tangible results immediately. If you use the right method and concentrate your efforts on eliminating clutter thoroughly and completely within a short span of time, you’ll see instant results that will empower you to keep your space in order ever after. Anyone who experiences this process, no matter who they are, will vow never to revert to clutter again.