'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

Dirty Air Filters

It’s important to schedule a maintenance checkup for your HVAC system every spring and fall, but in the meantime, filters need to be checked once a month. When they’re dirty, change them; dirty filters shorten the lifespan of your system. 

Photo By: ©iStockphoto.com/slobo

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.

Old Toys

Donate toys your child has outgrown, then get ideas for upcycling hand-me-downs they can't bear to part with.

Old Halloween Costumes

If they've moved on from ninjas to superheroes, go ahead and donate that old costume.

Photo By: Debbie Wolfe

Filled Coloring Books

Display your child's favorite works of art in a gallery wall or a photo album, then recycle the rest.

Photo By: Courtesy of Jamielyn Nye and HomeGoods

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

Makeup Samples

Give away anything you know you won't use. That perfume you didn't like would go great in a DIY spa gift for your loved one.

Expired or Unidentifiable Medication

Dispose of old prescriptions and anything you can't identify — but — because meds are considered hazardous waste, it's important that you follow the FDA's guidelines. Also, check with your local pharmacy or law enforcement agencies, many offer year-round or seasonal drug take-back days so you can safely drop off unwanted meds for proper disposal.

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 Gift Wrap

You probably refresh your wrapping paper supply while Christmas shopping, anyway, so go ahead and recycle the old stuff. If you can't bear to part with it, try keeping it organized in a rolling mesh laundry basket. You can also turn last year's leftovers into festive decor.

Photo By: Flynnside Out

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: Andy Vinson of Loch & Key Productions

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.

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.

Cookbooks You Never Use

Give unused to your foodie friends who will get more use out of them.

Photo By: Sarah Wilson/ Getty Images

Take-Out Menus

You can typically find menus and numbers for all your go-tos online. Keep your favorites in one place by placing them in a plastic folder and adhering the folder to the inside of your kitchen cabinet — it also works well for recipes!

Photo By: Photo courtesy of Cristin Bisbee Priest

Take-Out Condiments

How many ketchup packets to you really need?

Photo By: Flynnside Out Productions

Unidentifiable Keys

Most recycling centers have mixed metal bins you can toss old keys in. Make sure to remove any rubber coverings before you recycle.

Old Formal Wear

If you know you'll never wear it after the event, sell it or donate it — there are several organizations that will take that old bridesmaid, prom dress or tux off your hands to give to someone in need.

Old Glasses

When you get your next pair of prescription frames, donate the old ones.

Business Cards

Congrats, you just got promoted! And now you've got 300 unused business cards with your old title. Go ahead and recycle them.

Broken Umbrellas

The frustration a flimsy, broken umbrella brings is worth the cost of replacing it.

Photo By: Tomas Espinoza

Old Chargers and Cables

A friend or relative might be able to use a spare USB cable or an old charger. Anything you can't give away can usually be recycled in electronic stores or online. Keep unruly cords organized by using media boxes that are divided into "cubbies" with scraps of cardboard. Label each section, so you'll never confuse the camera cord for the phone charger again, and give the boxes a bit of color by decorating the cardboard with scrapbook paper.

Photo By: Photo courtesy of Jennifer Jones

Remote Controls

Between digital video recorders, DVD players and cable boxes, most homeowners have more remote controls than they know what to do with. Get rid of extras you don't recognize anymore.

Photo By: Flynnside Out Productions


CD collection getting dusty? Organize the ones you really want to keep and sell or give away the rest.

Photo By: AH86

Old Paint

Properly sealed (read: air-tight) paint can last for up to 10 years if kept at an even temperature and prevented from freezing. However if, like most of us, you store leftover paint in the garage or shed, the temperature swings will cause it to break down much quicker. If you have old paint cans with bulging lids, leaky seams or, once opened, a thick layer of dried paint on top, it's time to give that can the toss. But, before tossing, research safe disposal steps by contacting your local household hazardous waste center. If the paint is still usable, you may even be able to donate it to a local charity, like Habitat for Humanity or even a local scout troop or school that could use the paint for crafts.

Photo By: malerapaso


If you think you might return it or need to keep a reciept for a warranty, try scanning the receipts and keeping copies online instead of an old shoebox.

Books That Are Falling Apart

If your favorite read is falling apart, it may be time to buy a new copy.

Curtains From Your Old Place

You brought them thinking surely they'd fit a window in your new place — your new set of windows say otherwise. If you're handy with a sewing machine, old window treatments can be altered to fit your new space.

Your Old License Plate

Appliance Manuals

Most appliance manuals have an online version. Keep really important ones together in a folder.

Super-Specialized Appliances

If you've only used that fryer once since you bought it, give it away.

Soap Scraps

Unless you're really dedicated to melting down the slivers into one mega-soap, toss them out.

From: Genevieve Gorder

Photo By: Chris Amaral

Broken Picture Frames

An exception: If you love the frame but the glass is shattered, you can get a new piece cut to size at a local glass repair shop.

Bottles and Jars

Your kitchen cabinets were meant for better things. From DIY Network: 11 Ways to Upcycle Mason Jars and Wine Bottles

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

Games With Missing Pieces

It's not nearly as fun if you don't have all the pieces.

Photo By: Jacob Ammentorp Lund/istockphoto.com

Old Maps

Let your GPS do all the hard work. Try mounting keepsake maps as wall art.

Photo By: Flynnside Out Productions

Stale Potpourri

Once the scent fades, potpourri quickly turns into a dust magnet.

Disposable Cameras

Everyone's still got a couple lying around. If you've still got some that you haven't used, turn it into a game — hand them out to family and friends then get the pictures developed to see what you get!

Old Craft Supplies

When you're crafty, supplies take up space and fast. Throw away any dried up glue sticks, old paint and paintbrushes and then reorganize the supplies you want to keep.

Instruments No One's Playing

Giving up on the flute lessons? Musical instruments can be donated and given a second life to someone who needs them.

©2010, HGTV/Scripps Networks, LLC. All Rights Reserved/Image courtesy of HGTV Design Star

Plastic Storage Containers

If it's got a spaghetti stain that just won't come out, let it go.

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