'The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up': 6 Things I Learned (and Loved!) From the Book

The Japanese art of not being a hoarder, demystified.
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White Girl's Bedroom Closet with Yellow Accents

White Girl's Bedroom Closet with Yellow Accents

Organizing can be fun...really.



Surely by now you’ve heard of it. The KonMari Method. The Marie Kondo book. The cult-like obsession that has thousands of people thanking their socks for their service and asking themselves if a colander sparks joy. Sound familiar? Well, here at HGTV Headquarters, we are not immune to this phenomenon. In fact, I have been working on KonMari-ing (totally a word) my home for the past 6 months. And I’m still not finished. But I have learned some valuable lessons and it truly has changed the way I think about my stuff. To wit:

Just because something was expensive/a gift/is valuable does not mean you have to keep it. This seems like such a no-brainer, right? But I would bet you money you have some things taking up space (in both your home and your head) that you don’t really like, but feel like you should keep. Marie Kondo gives you permission to get rid of it. Thank these items for their service and pass them along.

Cutting Fabric for DIY Felt Tablet Case

Cutting Fabric for DIY Felt Tablet Case

Craft supplies: Use 'em or lose 'em.

©Brklyn View Photography

Brklyn View Photography

Craft supplies: Use 'em or lose 'em.

No, you aren’t going to use that for something one day. That fabric (I might need it for a Halloween costume!). Those corks (surely I can make something from these!). Those floral shop vases. Do I need to go on? If you haven’t used it in the 6 months since you set it aside for “one day”, you aren’t going to. And here’s a secret, if in a few years you DO need some fabric, you can buy exactly what you want rather than having something take up valuable storage space.

It’s easier to get rid of things if you know someone else will want it. A lot of what I purged was sent straight into the recycling bin or trash, I’ll admit. But I have also sold a ton of clothing on consignment and donated some great home items. Knowing that something you don’t need might make someone's day at the thrift store makes it so much easier to get it out of your house.

Muffin Pan Organizer

Muffin Pan Organizer

Even in a junk drawer, everything has its place. 

Photo by: Heather Dutton

Heather Dutton

Even in a junk drawer, everything has its place. 

Junk drawer no more. I do not have junk drawers any more. And I used to have…3? That’s kind of embarrassing. But tidying up and having a place for everything has meant every item in every drawer has a purpose and place. And I’m proud to say, 6 months later, this has held true.

Does this spark joy? Possibly the point that resonated most with me, even if it sounds a little silly. But truly, if you hold EVERY item in your home and ask yourself: Does this spark joy? It suddenly becomes so easy to let go of things. That cardigan that is perfectly fine but not really my style? Goodbye. Food storage containers that have faulty lids but work well enough? Banished from my cabinets. Asking myself this one little question made it so easy to clear out cabinets and closets.

Bright Yellow Kid's Desk Area

Bright Yellow Kid's Desk Area

The dinosaurs definitely stay. 

The dinosaurs definitely stay. 

You CAN KonMari with kids! This is the criticism I’ve read the most: there’s no way this will work with children. And while Marie Kondo does not have kids (though she is pregnant now!), I still think her principles can work in a household with children. Even my 6-year-old daughter Lulu is able to go through her toys and give away the ones that don’t bring her joy. Once you have tidied your home it is so much easier to put away kids clutter, and I find that we have less clutter overall because the kids know where their toys belong. That said, I do hope that Marie Kondo writes a KonMari with Kids companion book once her bundle of joy arrives.

Conquer Kid + Pet Clutter

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Doggie Daycare

No need for a trip to the kennel. Constructed by Washington, D.C.-based Four Brothers Carpentry, this built-in dog kennel and spa is located in a spacious mudroom that includes the family’s laundry facilities. Two comfy cages hold large dogs. A bottom drawer reveals a hide-a-way bed for a tiny pooch.

Bone Appetit

Dogs can dine in style with built-in dog bowls at the base of a kitchen island designed by Artisan Kitchens Inc. in Osterville, Mass. Drawers with dog bone cutouts conceal pet food and treats. 

Vintage Storage

Turn floor clutter into wall art with this vintage-style storage system from Restoration Hardware’s RH baby & child. Keep books, homework, pens and pencils off the floor and in this industrial wall-mounted storage solution. 

Wired Wall

Display books, knickknacks and other small items on this wired wheel from Restoration Hardware’s RH baby & child. Mount three horizontally or vertically for a dramatic, yet functional storage solution. 

Welcomed Wagon

Make clean-up fun with this adorable retro wagon from Restoration Hardware’s RH baby & child. With classic details like wood railings and cast-iron wheels, this wagon can roll along with your child as they tidy up the room. Park it and it’s decor. 

Dine-In Storage

Kids gravitate to the kitchen whether it’s dinnertime or not. Northern Virginia-based AV Architects and Builders designed built-in storage under the window seat and beneath coat and hat hangers.

The Family Tree

This wooden tree is part wall art and part family coat rack. Designed by Jessica Risko Smith Interior Design and fabricated by Boma Design of Santa Barbara, the tree provides an artisanal place to hang your hat.

Whimsical Detail

An owl-shaped hook adds a playful touch to this family-friendly coat rack.

Canine Clean Zone

Cleaning your dog is easier with a floor-level pet shower. The large opening takes the hassle out of luring rover into the shower. Splash-friendly flooring also make this an ideal area to clean pet dishes and toys.

Pre-School Cubbies

Manage the mad morning rush and simplify getting off to school with a storage area that keeps books, bags and outerwear neatly arranged near the door. This type of organized storage is perfect for busy families.

Players Pantry

Not enough party ware to fill your oversized pantry? Consider using that extra space to organize sports gear. Gloves, shoes and caps fit neatly in this corner area of the pantry created by New Jersey based Cory Connor Designs.

Ball Baskets

Plastic baskets, pullout cages and wired bins offer affordable and practical storage for winter caps, baseballs, footballs, gloves and other sports gear.

Laundry Room/Pet Center

Laundry rooms make good spaces for pet centers. The floors are easy to clean, a water source is nearby and most mudrooms or laundry areas are located near an exit. Tour this swanky pet area from HGTV Smart Home 2014.

Photo By: Eric Perry © 2014, Scripps Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved

Pet Feeding Station

Transform old crates, boxes, stools or other wooden materials into a feeding station for Fido. Use a jigsaw to cut holes the size of your pet’s bowls. Get step-by-step instructions for building this pet feeding station.

Catch-All Closet

Free up garage space for your car and create a catchall closet in the house. Use any hall closet, empty pantry or old computer armoire to mount wall shelves and hang hooks. Store pet food and accessories, cleaning supplies and a large container to “catch all.” Then, shut the door on clutter.

Photo By: Lowe’s

Book Tree

Lowe's provides an easy-to-follow pattern for this DIY book tree. Customize to fit any child’s bedroom or playroom. Place small books and soft toys on limbs. Hang night cloths on pegs. Get step-by-step instructions for building this DIY bookshelf tree from Lowe's.

Photo By: Lowe’s

Window Seat Pet Bed

A cozy window seat with a pet bed below allows your furry friend to curl up near you as you take a break. It also keeps your pet’s sleeping quarters out of house traffic. Get step-by-step instructions for building this window seat pet bed.

Hanging It Up

Machine washable woven fabric baskets can be mounted and on the wall or hung on hooks. Place attached loop over a doorknob for extra storage in bathrooms. 

Photo By: IKEA

Bedside Manner

Here's a simple multi-pocket solution for kids who like to take smartphone, computer tablet, book or favorite play toy to bed. Hung on the side of the bed, it provides a safe place for small electronics.

  1. green photos

Photo By: IKEA

The verdict: I will admit I rolled my eyes a bit at tidying up changing your life. I thought surely this was hyperbole. But honestly, this book did change my life! My home feels less chaotic, I don’t find myself as overwhelmed by messes, and my closet has never been cleaner. I still have work to do, but I look forward to it, rather than dread it. 

Ready to start your decluttering journey? Here are 15 things you definitely don't need. (Really.) 

15 Things to Get Rid of Now

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Cardboard Food Boxes

Ditch the cardboard boxes and plastic bags that go with your cereal, snacks and dry goods. They're ugly, take up lots of space and don't keep your food fresh. Instead, opt for glass jars (like HGTV Magazine did here) or airtight food storage containers.

Photo By: Lincoln Barbour

Wire Hangers

Mommie Dearest said it best: No more wire hangers! Ditch those dry cleaner hangers for matching plastic or wooden versions.

Your Dish Sponge

When was the last time you replaced the sponge in your kitchen sink? If it's been more than a month, toss it. In between, sanitize it with a spin in the dishwasher.

Photo By: Photo courtesy of Natalie Wright

Old Shoes

Get rid of any shoes that are broken beyond repair, worn out or missing a mate. Can't remember the last time you wore a still-good pair? Donate to a thrift store.

Clothing You've Never Worn

Donate or sell any items of clothing you've had for more than a year without wearing.

Too-Small Kids' Clothing

The same goes for clothing your children can no longer wear: Unless it's an heirloom, donate or sell to free up the space.

Socks Without a Mate

We all have that bag of socks without their, ahem, sole mate. If you've done a full round of laundry without finding their partner, it's time to let them go.

Expired Makeup

How long have those cosmetics been lurking in your makeup bag? Mascara should be replaced every three months. Foundation and concealer are good for about a year, while lipstick, eye shadow and blush should be replaced every two years.

Photo By: Photo courtesy of Melissa Hruska

Old Spices

Most ground spices should be replaced after 12 months. A simple test? Give each one a wiff. If there's no scent, there will be no flavor. Go ahead and toss it!

Photo By: Faith Durand ©© Elana's Pantry

Your Toothbrush

The American Dental Association recommends replacing your toothbrush once every three months for maximum brushing power.

Last Year's Holiday Cards

You've enjoyed them, now it's time to let them go. Record any addresses to your phone or computer before chucking them into the recycling bin.

Last Year's Calendar

Embrace the current year by recycling last year's calendar. The same goes for a dated datebook.

Unidentified Frozen Objects

Toss any unidentifiable objects in the refrigerator or freezer.

Photo By: DK - House Works ©2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Movies You Don't Love

If you'd only give a film one thumb up or you wouldn't watch it again, give it away or sell at a used electronics store. And those VHS tapes? If you don't have a player, let those go, too.

Photo By: DK - House Works © 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Expired Food

Throw away any canned goods past their expiration date. If you discover still-good packaged food you didn't like or won't eat, donate to a local food pantry.

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