Changing the Tide with "Tidying Up"

I’ve read a lot of opinions and been asked my own opinion of the new(ish) best seller The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. Have you read it? It’s all the rage! I get it, but I was never able to speak to why exactly (I think) people are drawn to it. It’s another organizing book with another organizer’s methodology – sometimes great advice and sometimes a little weird, in my opinion. Hey, if it works go for it and it seems to work for Ms. Kondo and her clients.

Just the other day I read an article by The Undercover Economist, Tim Harford on this subject and I’d like to share it with you. Here’s the article.

Why More and More Means Less

Status quo bias means that most of your stuff stays because you can’t think of a good reason to get rid of it

I love his reasoning on why Tidying Up has struck a chord with people.

The first mistake was simple status quo bias — a tendency to let things stay the way they are. When you’re trying to clear stuff out of the house, it’s natural to think about whether to throw something away. Perhaps that’s the wrong question, because it places too high a barrier on disposal. Status quo bias means that most of your stuff stays because you can’t think of a good reason to get rid of it.

Kondo turns things around. For her, the status quo is that every item you own will be thrown away unless you can think of a compelling reason why it should stay. This mental reversal turns status quo bias, paradoxically, into a force for change.

This is what we practice with our clients. We offer ask “Do you love it?” or “Is it useful to you?”. I think one thing that draws Americans into Kondo’s mythology is the use of the word JOY, as in “does it bring you joy?” We all know what it means. It’s just that it is a unique word that we don’t use often and when used, it makes us stop and think. I have asked clients “What’s your intention with this item?” Again it’s a different way to ask the same question, but using the work “intention” is unique and makes you stop and think.

What Harford points out is correct. People often look to the negative (throwing things away) when decluttering – Do I really need this? No, but what should I do with it? Marie Kondo suggests we look to the positive – pick the things that bring you JOY and eliminate the rest. Simple, right!?

Have you read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up? What did you think of it?

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Janet Schiesl

Janet has been organizing since 2005. She is a Certified Professional Organizer and the owner of Basic Organization. She loves using her background as a space planner to challenge her clients to look at their space differently. She leads the team in large projects and works one-on-one with clients to help the process move quickly and comfortably. Call her crazy, but she loves to work with paper, to purge what is not needed and to create filing systems that work for each individual client. Janet is a Past President of the Washington DC Chapter of the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals (NAPO) and was voted 2016 Organizer of the Year by the Washington DC Chapter of NAPO.


  1. Janet Barclay on May 1, 2019 at 4:15 pm

    I haven’t read it, but I’ve heard so many different opinions that I may have to!

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