Expert Marie Kondo: how to tidy up so it stays tidy
In case you were wondering…yes, home sellers, potential buyers are looking in your closets and cupboards and passing judgement.
It’s the hard truth of the matter. If you’re trying to sell your home and you’re already feeling like “spring” cleaning has become a weekly, not seasonal event to keep your closets, counters and cupboard in tip-top shape, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo suggests that there’s a better way to tidy up.
Kondo says, “The objective of cleaning is not just to clean, but to feel happiness living within that environment.” If you’re selling your home, the other objective is to help a potential buyer begin to dream about how wonderful it would be to live in your spacious, clean and organized home.
Follow these five steps to tidying up so that it stays tidy and leaves a positive impression on potential buyers.
- Set your mind to it and do it once and for all
- Tidy up by category, not by room location, in the order prescribed by Marie Kondo
- Decide whether each possession you own serves a purpose or brings you joy
- Create spaces where creativity can flourish
- A pretty place for everything and everything in its pretty place
Step 1: Just do it…even if you’re doing it again
Whether you need to tidy up because your home is for sale, or you have simply set your mind to it, keep that frame of mind consistent until the job is done. I know it can be a frustration if you feel like you’ve just organized and tidied up your space to get your home ready for sale to have to tackle it again, but Marie Kondo insists that if you do it properly, you won’t have to keep redoing it. In the end, you’ll save yourself time. Marie Kondo suggests that if you don’t keep at it and tidy everything up now… EVERYTHING…it likely won’t get done. Set aside a full weekend dedicated to organizing and sorting. Or if you only have weeknights, be prepared to work away each night for a week or two until you have tackled your home from top to bottom.
Step 2: Follow this simple process – and it’s not what you’re expecting
Many people think they will start by sorting through miscellaneous items first because there will be so much they can get rid of, but then they stumble upon old photographs or keepsakes and get tangled up in a web of emotion that just leads them to keep all sorts of things they shouldn’t. Begin by gathering everything in your house from one category at a time and sorting it. According to Marie Kondo, sorting should take place in this order:
- Begin with closets and drawers filled with clothes where you most likely have the least sentimental attachment.
- Next, tackle books and papers. (Marie Kondo keeps a limit of 30 volumes of books at one time, but you can decide for yourself what your magic number is.)
- Then, miscellaneous items like kitchen and bathroom supplies.
- Finish by sorting through the sentimental stuff. Whatever you do, do not sort by rooms!
Clothes and shoes and accessories could be in multiple locations throughout the home. Gather them all together and then begin your purging process.
Step 3: [Insert Frozen theme song here] Let it go!
This next principle is wrapped in some fluffy packaging (“spark joy theory”) which was touched on in the previous blog but is solidly grounded in some very practical wisdom. If you strip away all of the stuff about treating inanimate objects as though they have feelings, you’re essentially taking a moment to think about each object you own and ask yourself if it is of any use to you and does it bring you joy. If not, you may be bringing joy to someone else who can use it by giving it away. The first task is to simply purge. Get rid of as much as possible and then you can worry about how to organize it all after.
“Attachment to the past and fears concerning the future not only govern the way you select the things you own but also represent the criteria by which you make choices in every aspect of your life, including your relationships with people and your job,” says Kondo.
As we’ve all heard many times, setting something free doesn’t mean having to let go of the memories it holds. Maybe it was that book with a hand-written note in it or a kitchen utensil your grandmother gave you. The memory of those objects will be something you always cherish, but if you are not actually using them, then they are only taking up space.
Step 4: Create areas where inspiration can flourish
Spaces such as an office and kitchen should inspire creativity. This is particularly critical if your home is for sale because you want to spark the creativity of potential buyers.
Marie Kondo suggests that desktops and kitchen counters remain free from clutter, with the exception of a few necessities. The same goes for your bathroom vanity and dresser top. Why would stuff need to be on the counter when there are designated drawers and cabinets to put things in (see step 5 below)?
- Decant products like hand soap, face wash, body wash and shampoo in simple, brandless containers/dispensers so you don’t have to deal with the “noise” that branded products add to your space.
- You don’t actually need a tchotchke – even a pretty one like a lovely vase or a succulent – on every surface. Don’t be afraid of space.
- Trying to get stuff off the counter that you actually need? Try going vertical and using wall space.
Step 5: Find a pretty place for every category,
and then put every category in its pretty place.
Are you struggling with getting things out of or into wherever you’re storing them? This is the first sign of clutter. According to Marie Kondo,”Clutter is caused by a failure to return things to where they belong. Therefore, storage should reduce the effort needed to put things away, not the effort needed to get them out.”
What does this mean? There are a few rules:
- No more smattering of books all over the house and cleaning products in three locations. Store all like items together in one location.
- Store them so that they’re at-a-glance and accessible. You shouldn’t have to go rummaging through boxes to find things.
- Store them beautifully. This will improve the aesthetic of all areas of your home and make things easier to see, find and put back.
- Each person living in your home should house all of their belongings exclusively in their own room/space to prevent clutter creeping all over the house. For parents, this will mean your children should be invited into the process of reorganizing your home.
- Schedule time to put stuff away properly every day. If you’re reading a book and you’re done, put it back on the shelf or if you’ve left it out, pick a time when you do a 5-minute sweep. If you take your jewelry off when you get home, put it where it goes instead of leaving it on the kitchen counter.