Note: While reading a book whenever I come across something interesting, I highlight it on my Kindle. Later I turn those highlights into a blogpost. It is not a complete summary of the book. These are my notes which I intend to go back to later. Let’s start!

  • Keep things because you love them—not “just because” I pull out a drawer in a client’s home and discover a strange little box, just waiting to be opened—like a tantalizing book that promises some fascinating tale. But for me there is no excitement whatsoever. I know exactly what I’ll find inside. Loose change, hairpins, erasers, spare buttons, wristwatch parts, batteries that may or may not be dead, leftover medicine, lucky charms, key rings. And the list goes on. I already know what the client’s answer will be if I ask why these things are in that box: “Just because.” Many items within the home are treated in the same way. They are placed, stored, and accumulate “just because,” without our giving them much thought. I call this category komono, a Japanese term that the dictionary defines variously as “small articles; miscellaneous items; accessories; gadgets or small tools, parts, or attachments; an insignificant person; small fry.” It’s no wonder people don’t know what to do with things that fall into such a vague and all-encompassing category. Still, it’s time to bid farewell to this “just because” approach.

  • Just as the word implies, mementos are reminders of a time when these items gave us joy. The thought of disposing of them sparks the fear that we’ll lose those precious memories along with them. But you don’t need to worry. Truly precious memories will never vanish even if you discard the objects associated with them. When you think about your future, is it worth keeping mementos of things that you would otherwise forget? We live in the present. No matter how wonderful things used to be, we cannot live in the past. The joy and excitement we feel here and now are more important. So, once again, the way to decide what to keep is to pick up each item and ask yourself, “Does this spark joy?”

  • You have probably noticed that in my method your feelings are the standard for decision making. Many people may be puzzled by such vague criteria as “things that give you a thrill of pleasure” or “click point.” The majority of methods give clearly defined numerical goals, such as “Discard anything you haven’t used for two years,” “Seven jackets and ten blouses is the perfect amount,” “Get rid of one thing every time you buy something new.” But I believe this is one reason these methods result in rebound. Even if these methods temporarily result in a tidy space, automatically following criteria proposed by others and based on their “know-how” will have no lasting effect—unless their criteria happens to match your own standards of what feels right. Only you can know what kind of environment makes you feel happy. The act of picking up and choosing objects is extremely personal. To avoid rebound, you need to create your own tidying method with your own standards. This is precisely why it is so important to identify how you feel about each item you own.

  • When we honestly confront the things we own, they evoke many emotions within us. Those feelings are real. It is these emotions that give us the energy for living. Believe what your heart tells you when you ask, “Does this spark joy?” If you act on that intuition, you will be amazed at how things will begin to connect in your life and at the dramatic changes that follow. It is as if your life has been touched by magic. Putting your house in order is the magic that creates a vibrant and happy life.

  • The point in deciding specific places to keep things is to designate a spot for every thing. You may think, “It would take me forever to do that,” but you don’t need to worry. Although it seems like deciding on a place for every item must be complicated, it’s far simpler than deciding what to keep and what to discard. Since you have already decided what to keep according to type of item and since those items all belong to the same category, all you need to do is store them near each other. The reason every item must have a designated place is because the existence of an item without a home multiplies the chances that your space will become cluttered again. Let’s say, for example, that you have a shelf with nothing on it. What happens if someone leaves an object that has no designated spot on that shelf? That one item will become your downfall. Within no time that space, which had maintained a sense of order, will be covered with objects, as if someone had yelled, “Gather round, everybody!” You only need to designate a spot for every item once. Try it. You’ll be amazed at the results. No longer will you buy more than you need. No longer will the things you own continue to accumulate. In fact, your stock on hand will decrease. The essence of effective storage is this: designate a spot for every last thing you own. If you ignore this basic principle and start experimenting with the vast range of storage ideas being promoted, you will be sorry. Those storage “solutions” are really just prisons within which to bury possessions that spark no joy. One of the main reasons for rebound is the failure to designate a spot for each item. Without a designated spot, where are you going to put things when you finish using them? Once you choose a place for your things, you can keep your house in order. So decide where your things belong and when you finish using them, put them there. This is the main requirement for storage.

  • Most people realize that clutter is caused by too much stuff. But why do we have too much stuff? Usually it is because we do not accurately grasp how much we actually own. And we fail to grasp how much we own because our storage methods are too complex. The ability to avoid excess stock depends on the ability to simplify storage. The secret to maintaining an uncluttered room is to pursue ultimate simplicity in storage so that you can tell at a glance how much you have.

  • I have only two rules: store all items of the same type in the same place and don’t scatter storage space.  
  • There are only two ways of categorizing belongings: by type of item and by person. This is easy to grasp if you consider someone who lives alone as opposed to someone who lives with family. If you live alone or have a room of your own, storage is very simple—just designate one place for storing each type of item. You can keep categories to a minimum by following those used for sorting. Start with clothes, then books, then documents, komono, and finally mementos. If you are sorting your things in this order, you can store each category in its own designated spot as soon as you have chosen what to keep.

  • A common mistake many people make is to decide where to store things on the basis of where it’s easiest to take them out. This approach is a fatal trap. 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. When we use something, we have a clear purpose for getting it out. Unless for some reason it is incredibly hard work, we usually don’t mind the effort involved. Clutter has only two possible causes: too much effort is required to put things away or it is unclear where things belong. If we overlook this vital point, we are likely to create a system that results in clutter. For people like me who are naturally lazy, I strongly recommend focusing storage in one spot. More often than not, the notion that it’s more convenient to keep everything within arm’s reach is a biased assumption.

  • Many people design their storage layout to match the flow plan within their house, but how do you think that flow plan developed in the first place? In almost every case, flow plan is determined not by what a person does during the day but by where he or she stores things. We may think that we have stored things to suit our behavior, but usually we have unconsciously adjusted our actions to match where things are stored. Laying out storage space to follow the current flow plan will only disperse storage throughout the house. That, in turn, will increase the chances that we will accumulate more possessions and forget what we already have, making life more difficult.

  • There are people who stack everything in piles, be it books, papers, or clothes. But this is a great waste. When it comes to storage, vertical is best. I am particularly obsessed with this point. I store every item vertically if possible, including clothes, which I fold and stand on edge in my drawers, and stockings, which I roll up and stand in a box. The same is true for stationary and writing tools: whether boxes of staples, measuring tapes, or erasers, I stand them on edge. I even store my laptop in the bookcase as if it were indeed a notebook. If you have storage space that should be sufficient yet falls short, try standing things vertically. You’ll find that this solves most problems. I store things vertically and avoid stacking for two reasons. First, if you stack things, you end up with what seems like inexhaustible storage space. Things can be stacked forever and endlessly on top, which makes it harder to notice the increasing volume. In contrast, when things are stored vertically, any increase takes up space and you will eventually run out of storage area. When you do, you’ll notice, “Ah, I’m starting to accumulate stuff again.” The other reason is this: stacking is very hard on the things at the bottom. When things are piled on top of one another, the things underneath get squished. Stacking weakens and exhausts the things that bear the weight of the pile. Just imagine how you would feel if you were forced to carry a heavy load for hours. Not only that, but the things in the pile virtually disappear because we forget that they even exist. When we pile our clothes one on top of the other, the clothes at the bottom are used less and less frequently. The outfits that no longer thrill my clients even though they loved them at the time of purchase are very often the ones that spent a long time at the bottom of the pile.

  • The best way to store purses, handbags, and other bags is to make sets according to the material, size, and frequency of use and to store them one inside the other, like nested boxes. All straps and handles should be left in plain view. If the handbag used for storage came in a bag, you can store the set in that. Line up these sets in your closet or wardrobe where you can see them. I stand them on the top shelf. The process of storing bags inside another bag, of finding the right combinations, is a lot of fun, much like making a jigsaw puzzle. When you find just the right pair, where the outer and inner bags fit so well together that they support one another, it is like witnessing a meeting that was destined to be.

  • There are some things you need on a daily basis, such as your wallet, your bus or train pass, and your date book. Many people see no point in taking these things out when they come home because they will use them again the next day, but this is a mistake. The purpose of a purse or messenger bag is to carry your things for you when you’re away from home. You fill your bag with the things you need, such as documents, your cell phone, and your wallet, and it carries them all without complaint, even if it is filled to bursting. When you put it down and it scrapes its bottom on the floor, it utters no word of criticism, only doing its best to support you. What a hard worker! It would be cruel not to give it a break at least at home. Being packed all the time, even when not in use, must feel something like going to bed on a full stomach. If you treat your handbags like this, they will soon look tired and worn. If you do not make a habit of unpacking your bag, you are also quite likely to leave something inside when you decide to use another bag, and before you know it, you will have forgotten what you have in each one. Unable to find a pen or lip balm, you will wind up buying a new one. The most common items found in my clients’ handbags when we tidy up their rooms are tissues, coins, crumpled receipts, and used chewing gum wadded in its wrapper. There is a real danger that important items like accessories, memo pads, or documents may become mixed up with these. So, empty your bag every night.

  • Transform your closet into your own private space, one that gives you a thrill of pleasure. Use these treasures to decorate the back wall of the closet behind your clothes or the inside of the door. You can decorate your closet with anything, whether private or not. Use posters, photos, ornaments, whatever you like. There are no limits on how to decorate your storage space. No one will complain and no one will see. Your storage space is your private paradise, so personalize it to the fullest.   
  • Think back to your own school days and the things you enjoyed doing. Perhaps you were responsible for feeding the pets or maybe you liked drawing pictures. Whatever it was, the chances are that it is related in some way to something that you are doing now, as a natural part of your life, even if you are not doing it in the same way. At their core, the things we really like do not change over time. Putting your house in order is a great way to discover what they are.

  • “Discard anything that doesn’t spark joy.” If you have tried this method even a little, you have realized by now that it is not that difficult to identify something that brings you joy. The moment you touch it, you know the answer. It is much more difficult to decide to discard something. We come up with all kinds of reasons for not doing it, such as “I didn’t use this particular pot all year, but who knows, I might need it sometime.…” or “That necklace my boyfriend gave me, I really liked it at the time.…” But when we really delve into the reasons for why we can’t let something go, there are only two: an attachment to the past or a fear for the future. During the selection process, if you come across something that does not spark joy but that you just can’t bring yourself to throw away, stop a moment and ask yourself, “Am I having trouble getting rid of this because of an attachment to the past or because of a fear for the future?” Ask this for every one of these items. As you do so, you’ll begin to see a pattern in your ownership of things, a pattern that falls into one of three categories: attachment to the past, desire for stability in the future, or a combination of both. It’s important to understand your ownership pattern because it is an expression of the values that guide your life. The question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life. 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. When a woman who is very anxious about the future chooses a partner, for example, she is less likely to select someone purely because she likes and enjoys being with him. She might choose someone she doesn’t really like simply because the relationship seems advantageous to her or because she is afraid that if she doesn’t choose him, she may not find anyone else. When it comes to career choices, the same type of person is more likely to choose a job with a large company because it will give her more choices in the future, or to work toward certain qualifications as a guarantee rather than because she actually likes the work and wants to do it. A person who has a strong attachment to the past, on the other hand, finds it hard to move on to a new relationship because she can’t forget the boyfriend she broke up with two years ago. She also finds it hard to try out new methods even when the current method is no longer effective because it worked up to this point. When one or the other of these thought patterns makes it hard to throw things away, we can’t see what we really need now, at this moment. We aren’t sure what would satisfy us or what we are looking for. As a result, we increase the number of unnecessary possessions, burying ourselves both physically and mentally in superfluous things. The best way to find out what we really need is to get rid of what we don’t. Quests to faraway places or shopping sprees are no longer necessary. All you have to do is eliminate what you don’t need by confronting each of your possessions properly. The process of facing and selecting our possessions can be quite painful. It forces us to confront our imperfections and inadequacies and the foolish choices we made in the past. Many times when confronting my past during the tidying process, I have been so ashamed I felt like my face was on fire. My collection of scented erasers from grade school, the animation-related trinkets that I collected in junior high school, clothes I bought in high school when I was trying to act grown-up but that didn’t suit me at all, handbags I bought even though I didn’t need them just because I liked the look of them in the shop. The things we own are real. They exist here and now as a result of choices made in the past by no one other than ourselves. It is dangerous to ignore them or to discard them indiscriminately as if denying the choices we made. This is why I am against both letting things pile up and dumping things indiscriminately. It is only when we face the things we own one by one and experience the emotions they evoke that we can truly appreciate our relationship with them.

  • Tidying ought to be the act of restoring balance among people, their possessions, and the house they live in.

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