3 years of tidying up in places, of paper, and on people—and I have never felt better for it

March 09, 2019 – Chelsea H. Luckham

Before people started recognizing the Netflix show “The Magic of Tidying Up,” I learned about the KonMari method from a friend whom I met during my internship back in 2016. She told me how it helped her become a minimalist and be more mindful of her belongings. I was immediately attracted to the idea. So I went to the nearest bookstore and bought the book with the same name. That was the start of my decluttering journey using the KonMari method.

But ever since I could remember, I’ve always been into cleaning and organizing. I grew up in a household where clutter was absolutely unacceptable. My mother taught me early on that each of our belongings had its proper place in our home. Even though I truly appreciated my mom’s influence with regard to cleaning and organizing, I would say that she went a little overboard at times. She would scrub our stairs using a toothbrush. She would even wash our fruits with soap. Those were just some of my mom’s extreme cleaning habits that I probably won’t apply personally.

I’ve come to a point where decluttering to me is synonymous to someone getting a haircut, because whenever I would start to clean and organize my room, I would feel like a renewed person.

I had hoped that the book could help me the same way it helped my friend. Besides the obvious expectation that I wanted to have a really clean and organized room, I wanted to be somewhat of a minimalist, to live more simply, and to appreciate the things that I already have. 

I followed the process described in the book, which is to declutter category instead of per area. The problem with decluttering per area (which was what I did before) is that you could have items of the same category in another room and you would have to repeat the process all over again. It could get tiresome and draining. By decluttering per category, cleaning up becomes more efficient. In the Netflix show, Marie Kondo explains that you place all your items of that category on the floor, take each one, and ask yourself if it sparks joy in your life. If it does, you keep it; if it doesn’t, you donate it or throw it away.

The categories are as follows: Clothes, Books, Papers, Komono, and Sentimental Items. The reason why sentimental items come last is that we have the most attachment to the objects in this category. It would be difficult to declutter. Whereas if we start with the items we are least attached to, we could get the ball rolling and it would be easier to declutter.

When I started placing all of my clothes on my bedroom floor, I was surprised to see how much clothes I actually had. I honestly felt bad because I had so much and there were times that I would complain that I didn’t have anything to wear. I also felt like I was so materialistic, because whenever I would walk around the mall, I would always want to buy new stuff. It was as if what I already had were not enough.

So off I went with decluttering, holding each and every one of my clothes and asking myself if it sparks joy. I had clothes that instantly gave me a jolt of happiness. However, there were also a lot of clothes that, once held, made me feel heavy inside. I knew I had to let them go. I did have a few items that I wasn’t so sure how I felt about. In the end, I still followed the principle that if it did not spark joy, I would just let it go.

After that, I would start sorting and organizing the items. The KonMari method says that every item should have a “home.” I always thought that my closet was too small to fit my clothes in, only to realize I was not storing them the right way. I followed the way Marie Kondo folds, and to this day, I still do. By having my clothes folded upright, I could see every single one and it is easier to choose.

As for the items that I worried I would
regret discarding, I never looked for
them again. Neither did I revert back
to the clutter I once had.


The next category is books. I had a little trouble with this category because I have around two hundred books. I am the type that likes to collect books from the same author. I have books from authors such as Mitch Albom, Lemony Snicket, Paolo Coelho, David Levithan, and Nicholas Sparks.

I’ve always wanted to have my own mini-library. I started with old schoolbooks because those were easy to let go. As I eased my way to the books I actually liked, I let go of some. Most of the books that I discarded were novels that were required readings from school. The books that I kept were ones that I genuinely enjoyed reading and those that I actually bought myself. Apparently, despite one’s love for reading, there were some books that simply did not spark joy. 

When I first read the chapter on books, it seemed as though I was going to throw away almost everything I had in my collection. She explained that once you read a book once, the chances of you reading that specific book again is unlikely. Therefore, you should discard them. This was something I absolutely could not do. This was one category wherein I did not fully follow the book; rather, I compromised by only keeping the books that I truly loved.

Papers were easier. I only kept the ones that were relevant to my study or career and gave the rest either to my friends or to the junk shop for recycling.  What particularly struck me in this category was what Marie Kondo says about business cards: if you genuinely wanted their contact details, you would have placed them in your phone in the first place. This made total sense to me. As I rummaged through the many business cards that I’ve kept over the years, I placed in my phone the contact details that I believe I would need sometime in the future.

There’s also Komono, a category that involves miscellaneous items like paper clips, CDs, old electronic cords, craft supplies, and the like. I personally enjoyed letting go of items in this category because I saw so many things that were no longer useful. I’ve always wanted to throw these away but I just never got around to doing so.

Lastly, it was time for me to rummage through my sentimental items. These include letters, photos, and other items that I hold near and dear to me. I thought that I wouldn’t throw anything away, given that I had such an emotional attachment to the items in this category. I was always the type that would look back and just reminisce.

As I went through old letters, I was surprised to actually have a discard pile. I held letters from people whom I no longer have contact with, either because we grew apart over time or we purposely ended our friendship. I got most of them during the yearly required retreat in school. I threw away the letters or palancas from people who were mean to me and wrote degrading things about me. I actually had an experience wherein I had my bus mates write me a letter explaining why they didn’t like me and why they wanted me to change. I even had someone write 50 reasons why she didn’t like me. I still kept them because I always thought that those were memories that I’d want to remember. When I did throw them away, these memories remained irrelevant.

I threw away the letters from people whom I ended friendships with. It was either because I felt like they were bringing me down, they were toxic, or they didn’t help me grow. Despite the letters coming from a time when things were good between us, I felt a heaviness when I held them, which was a clear indication that I had to let them go. 

Once I finished decluttering, I had around 10 trash bags worth of items to be donated or thrown out. I didn’t do all this in one sitting though. I decluttered in a span of two months. I took the process seriously because I slowly saw a change in my mindset during and especially after discarding. I no longer bought clothes “just because,” I was already happy with the clothes that I had. This did not only apply to clothes, either! I no longer felt the need to buy so many shoes, makeup, and bags. I seldom bought things that I wanted, and if I did, I made sure that it was something that I would definitely use or it was a replacement for another item that was no longer useful.

As for the items that I worried I would regret discarding, I never looked for them again. Neither did I revert back to the clutter I once had. I even applied this method to people. I let go of toxic people, those who were affecting my mental health and, therefore, did not spark joy. I lessened my communication with these people and kept things civil, and I felt better for it. 

The beginning of the book provided some testimonies of Marie Kondo’s previous clients whom she helped. Some of them said that their relationships with people improved; some also said that their sales improved or that they launched a business because their mindset was clearer from the decluttering. Others said they succeeded in losing weight—and I did, too. It also made me focus on having a healthier lifestyle. The clearer mindset, better relationships, and improvement in my career all held true for me as well.

I discovered the book in 2016. I understood it as a method to help me clean or organize my things. Three years later, I learned that it’s a complete lifestyle change. I still apply the KonMari method to every aspect of my life, and I’ve never looked back ever since.