Storage: pursue ultimate simplicity - Storing your things to make your life shine

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

Storage: pursue ultimate simplicity
Storing your things to make your life shine

When I first started this business, I assumed that I had to demonstrate my ability to come up with miraculous storage designs—clever solutions that you might see in a magazine, such as a set of shelves that fit perfectly into a tiny space that no one else would have thought to use. I had some strange notion that this was the only way to satisfy my clients. In the end, however, such clever ideas are almost always impractical to use and serve only to gratify the designer’s ego.

Just to give an example, once when I was helping to organize a client’s home, I came across a turntable, much like those used underneath revolving tabletops in Chinese restaurants. It had originally served as the base of a microwave, but the oven was long gone. As soon as I saw it, I had the brilliant idea of turning it into a storage item. I was having trouble deciding where it could be used as it was quite large and thick, but then my client happened to mention that she had so many salad dressings she could not keep them organized. I opened the cupboard she indicated and, sure enough, it was filled with bottles of salad dressing. I took them all out and tried inserting the turntable. It fit perfectly. I loaded it up and voilà! I had a storage space that looked as neat and fancy as a store display. She could get at the bottles in the back simply by turning the table. How convenient! My client was thrilled and everything seemed perfect.

It was not long before I realized my mistake. At our next lesson, I checked her kitchen. While most of it was still neat and tidy, when I opened the door of the cupboard under the sink, I saw that the inside was a mess. When I asked why, she explained that every time she spun the turntable, the bottles slid and fell over. In addition, she had too many bottles, so she rested the extra on the edge of the turntable, making it harder to spin.

As you can see, I had been so focused on using the turntable to create an amazing storage space that I had failed to really see what I was storing—bottles that slide and topple easily. When I thought about it more carefully, I also realized that no one needs frequent access to stock at the back of a cupboard, so there was no need for a turntable. Besides, round shapes take up too much room and create wasted space, which makes them unsuitable for storage. In the end, I removed the turntable, placed the bottles in a square box and returned them to the cupboard. Although plain and conventional, according to my client this method was far easier to use. From this experience, I came to the conclusion that storage methods should be as simple as possible. There is no point in thinking up complicated strategies. When in doubt, ask your house and the item being stored what is the best solution.

Most people realize that clutter is caused by too much stuff. But why do we have too much stuff? Usually it is because we do not accurately grasp how much we actually own. And we fail to grasp how much we own because our storage methods are too complex. The ability to avoid excess stock depends on the ability to simplify storage. The secret to maintaining an uncluttered room is to pursue ultimate simplicity in storage so that you can tell at a glance how much you have. I say “ultimate simplicity” for a reason. It is impossible to remember the existence of every item we own even when we simplify our storage methods. There are still times in my own house, where I have worked hard to keep storage simple, that I notice an item I had completely forgotten about in a closet or drawer. If my storage were more complex—for example, if I divided my things into three levels according to frequency of use or according to season—I am sure that many more items would be left to rot in the darkness. Therefore, it makes more sense to keep storage as simple as possible.