Introduction: 16 Tips to Keep Your House Tidy Once and for All

I had a hard beginning with my second child in 2014. Once I was sure he was finally surely alive, I found my life was out of control. Anything I needed small or big, I needed to search the whole house and often I couldn't find it but later I came upon it when I was looking for something else, which frustrates me. So one of my 2016 resolutions is to make my house tidier. My ultimate goal is to go and get it when I need something, not searching the house for it. Shortly after that, I stumbled upon Marie Kondo's book: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art Of Decluttering and Organizing. I got the surprise of my life time when I checked if the city library has it. There were 249 active holds on the book which means there were 249 people ahead of me waiting for a chance to read the book for free (kind of if not considering tax paying duty).

I placed a hold on it with the conviction that I wouldn't have a chance to read the book from the library in this life and forgot about it and went ahead, organized my clothes. Then I did a bit tidying up in the entrance of my house where a visitor sees when they first enter my house. Maybe next I should organize my books, I wondered? Then I got a second surprise from the library that the book was available for me. I'm guessing because there was such an amazing demand for this book, maybe the library bought more copies of the book and I got lucky this time. I immediately picked up the book and started to read because I noticed in my account I didn't have renew privilege for this book while every book I have borrowed before has three renews.

Before I say a word about the book, I strongly recommend you check out the book immediately from your library, purchase a copy, or sign up Amazon Audible to listen to it for free.

The author is a tidying consultant for 30 years, runs an acclaimed consulting business in Tokyo helping clients transfer their cluttered homes and offices into spaces of serenity and inspiration. Her service has a three-month waiting list, her customer return rate is zero and she has yet run out of clients.

If you are ever going to read just one book in tidying, I'm sure this is the one. I didn't know someone can write such a common affair as tidying their house in such a philosophical essence. The author also made me laugh in many places with either examples of her clients or her personal stories. I have seen many tidy and spotless houses but none to the degree of what is described in the book. This book also helped me answer my husband's question for me: Every time I reuse a glass jar or cardboard box, I painstakingly remove the label or flip the box's blank inside out before reuse, my husband confronts me with why. This book not only can help someone master the art of discarding, the art of letting things go and be happy, but also benefit the life change magic of putting one's affairs and past in order. I can't recommend it enough you check out the book immediately from your library, purchase a copy, or sign up Amazon Audible to listen to it for free. Let the Celebration/Discarding/Tidying/Organizing) begin today!

In this Instructable, I'll sum up 8 reasons why people can't keep their house tidy,8 rules of the art of tidying/discarding, and give an account of where I'm now with it if anyone cares, after quickly read the library copy, returned it and then listened to the Amazon Audible copy for free.

Note: This article may contain affiliate links as references for the same or similar products used in this project. If you click on the links and make purchases I could receive a small percentage of commission from the advertising company with no extra cost to you.

Step 1: 8 Reasons Why People Can't Keep Their House Tidy

Never Learned How. "Do people need lessons in tidying?" You may ask. While instructors and schools offer courses in everything from cooking, to sewing, to yoga and Zen meditation, it is assumed that tidying doesn't need to be taught but rather is picked up naturally through experience and therefore doesn't need training. Well, it's a misconception. Do people who have been tidying for more years than others tidy better? The answer is no. Many of them who have spent so many years applying erroneous conventional approaches that their houses overflow with unnecessary items and they struggle to keep clutter under control with ineffective storage methods. How can they be expected to know how to tidy when they have never studied it properly? (I'm guilty on this charge!)

Not proper mind-set. "I clean up when I realize how untidy my place is, but once I'm done, it's not long before it's a mess again." This is a common complaint, and the standard response touted by magazine advice column is, "Don't try tidying your entire house all at once. You'll just rebound. Make a habit of doing a little at a time. Even if you heard or read such advice many times, don't assume it's true, don't assume if you tackle the job all at once, you'll get discouraged. A tidying marathon doesn't cause rebound. Rebound occurs because people mistakenly believe they have tidied thoroughly, when in fact they have only sorted and stored things halfway. The root of the problem lies in the mind. If you have never succeeded in staying tidy to date, you'll find it next to impossible to develop the habit of tidying a little at a time. People cannot change their habits without first changing their way of thinking. How to acquire the right kind of mind set? There is just one way. Paradoxically it is by acquiring the right technique. A dramatic reorganization of the home causes correspondingly dramatic changes in lifestyle and perspective. It is life changing. If you use the right method and concentrate on eliminating clutter thoroughly and completely within a short span of time, you'll see and feel the instant results that will empower you to keep your space tidy ever after.

Not aimed for perfection. "Don't aim for perfection. Start off slowly and discard just one item a day." What lovely words to ease the hearts of those who lack confidence in their ability to tidy. You will never get your house in order if you only clean up half-heartedly. Casting off one subject a day doesn't compensate the fact that when people shop they buy several items at one time. In the end, the pace at which people reduce couldn't keep up with the pace at which they acquire new things. Tidying brings visible results. Think about this way, the moment you begin moving furniture around and getting rid of garbage, your room changes. It's that simple. If you put your house in order properly, you'll be able to keep your room tidy, even if you are lazy or sloppy by nature. I recommend aiming for perfection just once. Many people may protest when I use the word "perfection", insisting that it's an impossible goal. But in fact, tidying in the end is just a physical act. The work involved can be broadly divided into two kinds: deciding whether or not to dispose of something and deciding where to put it. If you can do these two things, you can achieve perfection. It is not hard to tidy up perfectly and completely in one fell swoop. And if you want to avoid rebound, this is the only way to do it.

Storage experts are hoarders. What is the first problem that comes to mind when you think of tidying, for many the answer is storage. A booby trap lies within the word "storage". Storage methods do not solve the problem of how to get rid of clutter. Putting things away create the illusion that the clutter problem has been solved. But sooner or later, all the storage units are full, the room once again overflows with things, and some new and easy storage methods become necessary, creating a negative spiral. This is why tidying must start with discarding not storage. (I'm guilty on this charge!)

Not sort by category, but by location. Tidying up by location is a fatal mistake. Don't be ashamed to admit if you are guilty on this charge. It took the author 3 years to see this. The root of the problem lies in the fact that people often store the same type of item in more than one place. When we tidy each place separately, we fail to see that we're repeating the same work in many locations, and become locked into a vicious cycle of tidying. To avoid this, I recommend tidying by category, not by location. (I'm guilty on this charge!)

Changing tidying method to suit different personality. Handbooks for tidying often claim there are different tidying methods for different personality. In fact when it comes to tidying, the majority of people are lazy. They are also busy. As for being picky, everyone is particular about certain things but not about others. Everyone fits all of them. There is no point whatsoever in changing tidying approach to suit your personality. Tidying must start with discarding and finish discarding first regardless of personality type.

Not tidying in the right order. For the best results, it's essential to adhere faithfully to the right order to tidy. There are only two tasks involved: discarding and deciding where to keep things. Just two, but discarding must come first. Be sure to completely finish the first task before starting the next. Do not even think of putting your things away until you have finished the process of discarding. Failure to follow this order is one reason many people never made permanent progress. In the middle of discarding, they start thinking about where to put things. As soon as they think:" I wonder if they'll fit in this drawer", the work of discarding comes to a halt. We need to excise self control and resist storing our belongs until we have finished identify what we really want and need to keep. To summarize, the secret to success is to tidy in one shot, as quickly and as completely as possible, and to start by discarding and finish discarding first. (I'm guilty on this charge!)

Not make tidying a special event, but a daily chore. If you think tidy is an endless chore that must be done everyday, you are gravely mistaken. Tidying a little a day, you'll be tidying forever. There are two types of tidying, daily tidying and special event tidying. Daily tidy which consists of using something and putting it back in its place will always be part of our lives. Until you have completed the once in a life time event of putting your house in order, any attempt to tidy on a daily basis is doomed to failure. Conversely, once you have put your house in order, tidying will be reduced to the very simple task of putting things back where they belong. In fact this becomes an unconscious habit. Therefore, the work of tidying should be completed once and for ever within a single period of time.

So how many charges are you guilty of?

Step 2: 8 Rules of the Art of Tidying/discarding

Visualize your ultimate destination. Begin by identifying your ultimate goal. Visualize the ideal lifestyle you dream of. Goals like "I want to live clutter free" or "I want to be able to put things away" are too broad. Think in concrete terms. So that you can vividly picture what it would be like to live in a clutter free space. For example, floor is clear from clutter, rooms are as tidy as hotel suite with nothing obstructing the line of sight, pink bedspread and white antique bed light...fall asleep with a feeling of unhurried spaciousness. It's important to achieve this degree of concreteness when visualize your ideal life style. Identify why you want the ideal life style you just visualized.Repeat the process of why and the answer of every item on your ideal life style list 3 to 5 times. You'll realize the whole point of both discarding and keeping things is to be happy. When you come to this simple realization, you're ready to move on to the next step: examining what you own.

Selection criteria: does it spark joy? What standard do you use to decide what to getrid of? It's easy to discard something when there is an obvious reason to do so, such as something ceases being functional, out of date, or things that related to an event that has past. It's much more difficult when there is no compelling reason. Various experts have proposed yard sticks for discarding things people have found hard to part with, such as "Discard anything you haven't used in a year". However, the moment you start focusing on how to choose what to throw away, you have veered significantly off course. Focusing solely on throwing things away can only bring unhappiness. Because we should be choosing what we want to keep not what we want to get rid of. The best way to choose what to keep and what to throw away is to take each item in one's hand and ask: Does this spark joy? If it does, keep it. If not, dispose of it.

You may wonder about the effectiveness of such a vague criteria. Are you happy wearing clothes that don't give you pleasure? Do you feel joy when surrounded by unread books that don't touch your heart? Do you think owning accessories you'll never use will bring you happiness? The answer to these questions should be no. Now imagine yourself living in a space that contains only things that spark joy. Keep only those things that speak to your heart, then take the plunge and discard all the rest.

One category at a time. Search every place in the house.Collect everything that falls in the same category at one time. Take every last item out. Lay everything in one spot. If you have too many items in one category, you can make sub categories. Gathering every item in one place is essential to this process because it gives you an accurate grasp of what you have. By collecting things in one spot you can also compare things that are similar, makes it easier for you to decide whether you want to keep them. Another good reason to move all items in the same category is that things stored out of sight are dormant, making it much harder to decide whether they spark joy or not. By exposing them to light of day, making them alive, you'll find it's surprisingly easy to judge whether they touch your heart. Dealing with just one category within a single time frame speeds up the tidying process. Be sure gather every item in the category you're working on, don't let any slip by unnoticed.

Follow the right category order. Starting with mementos spells certain failure. To begin tidying not by room but by category does not mean you should start by any category you like. The degree of difficulty involved in selecting what to keep and what to discard differs greatly depending on the category. The process of deciding what to keep and what to discard will go much more smoothly if you begin with items that are easier to make decisions about. As you gradually work toward the harder categories, you'll be honing your decision making skills. The best sequence is this: clothes first, then books, papers, miscellaneous, and lastly mementos.

Don't let your family see. The one disaster that can rake more havoc than an earthquake to your marathon tidying is the entrance of that recycling expert who goes by the alias of "mother". (It could be "husband", or "wife" depending on your situation). Don't let your family see the heap of garbage you produce if that's all possible. It's especially recommended not to show one's parents what they are going to throw away or donate. Keeping your garbage out of sight is considerate. It also protects your family from acquire more than they need or can enjoy by retrieving items from your pile of discarding. (Let me tell you this could be what makes or breaks your tidying effort.)

Start by discarding only your own things not your family members'. "Even if I tidy, the rest of my family mess things up again". "My husband is a pack rat, how can I get him to throw things away?" If this is you, if you are mad at your family, your room maybe the cause. If you feel annoyed with your family for being untidy, you're urged to check your own space, especially your storage. The urge to point out someone else's failure to tidy is usually a sign you're neglecting to take care of your own space. If you really want your family to tidy up, there is a much easier way to go about it. To quietly work away at disposing of your own excess is actually the best way to deal with a family that doesn't tidy. When someone start tidying, it sets out a chain reaction. As if drawn into your wake, they'll begin to weed out unnecessary belongs and tidying without you have to utter a single complaint. Cleaning quietly on one's own generates another interesting change: the ability to tolerate a certain level of untidiness among your family members. Once you're satisfied with your own room, you may no longer feel the urge to dispose of things that belong to your family members. This is why you should start by discarding only your own things. You can leave the common space to the end. The first step is to confront your own stuff.

Don't make a family member your handed-me-down victim. What you don't need your family doesn't either. If you want to give something away, don't push people to take it unconditionally or pressure them by making them feel guilty, find out in advance what they like, and if you find something that fits those criteria, then and only then should you show it to them. You can also offer to give it to them on the condition that is something that they would have been willing to pay for. By "gifting" this way, you avoid making a family member your handed-me-down victim.

Make tidying a dialogue with yourself. The work of carefully considering each object you own to see if they spark joy inside you is like converse with yourself through the medium of your possessions. For this reason, it is essential to create a quiet space in which to evaluate the things in your life. Ideally, you should not even be listening to music. Listening to a TV is of course out of question. Tap the power of the atmosphere in your room rather than relying on music.The best time to start is early morning. The fresh morning air keeps your mind clear and sharp for a dialogue between you and your belongs.

Step 3: Is My House Tidy Once and for All Now?

The answer is not yet. But here are what I have achieved so far:

I have tidied my clothes. Now I know exactly what I'm going to wear every day and for every activity. No more wondering what to wear,, where are they? (The one thing I wasn't able to figure out is to fold clothes so that they stand on edges like what was described in the book instead of stacking them. So I'm hoping the author's other book: Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up may shed some light on that.)

I have placed all my children's clothes in their designated closet. One Sunday morning, my daughter couldn't find her shrug. I took her to my closet and showed her how to solve the problem once and for all. So she sat in her room for the rest of the day dealing with her messy closet instead of bugging me to arrange play date with her friend.

I have collected all my husband's clothes which were everywhere in the house and placed them in one single closet. (He hasn't tidied his clothes yet. On the contrary, the first thing he did coming from work that day was to take some of the clothes hat had been hung in basement back to basement. Surprisingly I didn't fight with that. I let it be. Once the whole house is tidy one day, he'll have no ground to not discard his unnecessary things.)

I have tidied all the books in the house, left with probably less than one-tenth of what was originally in the house. Surprisingly books were easier than clothes to part with in my house. Maybe due to now days we heavily reply on internet or digital information.

Next category to work on is paper and cardboard. I believe my heaviest work hides in cooking and sewing things. So much of work and progress is yet to come. The one shot time frame to tidy a house once and for all is at least six months. I positively believe I'll reach my ultimate goal: go and get it when I need something, not search the house for it and can't find it.

So far I haven't suffered rebound or inconvenience because I have much less clothes or books than before, which is a quite pleasant experience. And I have been talking about this tidying affair to almost everybody I know.

Please vote this Instructable for Home Hacks Challenge. Thanks.

Note: This article may contain affiliate links as references for the same or similar products used in this project. If you click on the links and make purchases I could receive a small percentage of commission from the advertising company with no extra cost to you.

Comments

author
parisusa (author)2016-06-03

This sounds interesting. I have strongly believed in the 15 minute idea. Www.flylady.net

author
debra.ridleyhurst (author)2016-05-05

Yes~~~anything with Bill Clinton's mug on it needs to be put in the dung bin. Had a hard time downloading this just because of that. Ugh!

author

Sorry to know you have trouble downloading. I don't remember I have taken a different photo of the book pile but I'll check. If you need a PDF file of this instructable, let me know.

author
YourMagesty (author)2016-04-27

BRAVA!!! I have read her book and...she terrifies me! lol. I see the truth of her precision, and fear I cannot meet her rigid, yet necessary rules/plans of action. But I'm working on it...a little change/adjustment/improvement may, I'm hoping, birth a second level of compliance...and third, etc. Your take on her book is spot on! Your comments fit who and where we are. (standing up to announce: ...) I, your queen, have a monkey on my back: deliberately-purchased attractive tissue boxes, for every room, then can't trash them when empty. There, I said it! My first layer is discarding trash is...PACKAGING! Reusable containers (that aren't presently holding items). Seeing the usefulness in packaging is a curse, and unnecessary in this day of municipal recycling; there need not be the guilt of trashing packaging...(I keep telling myself). Your Instructable is candid, gentle and strong. My crown is off to you!

author
babybayrs (author)YourMagesty2016-04-28

Considering tidying is her profession for 30 years, it's only natural to fear we cannot meet her level of end result in just one round of her approach.

How we people who make an untidy house are the same! I once bought tissues with attractive design on the box too thinking I would use the box to make something else, maybe cards...I eventually stopped doing that and threw out the cardboard boxes. I simply have more ideas than time in my nine lives. But my basement is full of cardboard boxes from things we bought in the past, thinking they are perfect sizes to fit the things in when we move or they would sell better with the original package when we don't want them one day, while ironically we're trying our best not to move and our initial intention of buying something was to use it not to sell it. It's just funny.

The author and her clients are Japanese. I'm Chinese. You and many others who read this Instructable are probably American. It made me laugh many places in the book how closely we can relate to each other on the subject matter. None is alone.

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