Spring is here, and with it the overwhelming and uncontrollable desire to clean every nook and cranny of your house, from baseboards to ceiling fans to everything in between. Or maybe you are more immune to the call of the cleaning. But few can resist some kind of spring overhaul going down this time of year. With a little help from tidying superstar Marie Kondo, organizing consultant and author of the recently released Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up, here’s how to break it down into doable chunk
Imagine your ideal lifestyle
Life begins after you put your house in order, says Kondo. She says only two skills are necessary to put order into your house: the ability to keep what sparks joy and chuck the rest, and the ability to decide where to keep each thing you choose and always put it back in its place. But before you start to declutter, you need to realize that tidying up is much more aspirational than most people realize. The big picture is identifying the kind of life you want to live once you have finished tidying up, says Kondo. “The tidying process thus represents a huge turning point in a person’s life.”
Purge first, tidy second
The purging process is rigorous—and ruthless. The biggest problem with tidying, says Kondo, is “attempting to store everything without getting rid of anything.” You need to discard and declutter before you get into the nitty gritty of cleaning, or things will very quickly “relapse.”
Ixnay on the might-come-in-handy ethos—you can always manage without it. Her words to live by: “For those embarked upon a tidying marathon, the phrase “it might come in handy” is taboo.
Many people feel so overwhelmed by the discarding process that they want to quit mid-purge. When you feel an acute case of purging fatigue—like there is no end in the sight—that’s the time to step back and take stock. Take inventory of all your storage spaces in your home and figure out what’s kept there. You can use your inventory break to make a mental note of the volume of every storage space, estimate how long it will take to tidy, and most importantly to visualize the end result (including where everything will be kept).
Organize by category, not room
Tidy by category is one of Kondo’s hard and fast rules. If you are decluttering your closet, go through all the clothes at once—such as those in boxes in your basement, your coat closet, your clothes closet, everything. Gather all of your clothes in the entire house into the same spot. This lets you see with great clarity how much exactly you have—and how much you can live without.
Go toward joy
Kondo encourages readers to only surround themselves with things that "spark joy." But in order to determine whether a blouse or book passes muster, you need to examine it carefully before deciding. Kondo recommends holding each item in your hand. Commune with the object, even if it’s just for a minute, to feel out its joy factor. Joy is tactile and bubbly, she says. When something doesn’t bring you joy, your body feels heavier. She also suggests deciding an object’s joy factor through the process of comparison. Looking at something by itself tells you much less than comparing it with a bunch of similar items. That’s why she recommends sorting only one category at a time.
Ultimately tidying is a journey of self-exploration—it’s about confronting yourself. It’s your present self meeting your past self, your future self meeting both past and presents selves. It’s nothing less than a spiritual journey that is at stake. So when you launch your own spring cleaning initiative, give it the dignity—and time—that inner and outer purification deserve.