The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up


How to organize your stuff.

By Marie Kondo | Reviewed by Deb Gulbrandson, PT, DPT

The book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, may seem like a strange choice to review in a physical therapy journal but many of us are perennially challenged by “stuff” in our lives. This can impact our efficiency and decision-making ability. As business owners it is becoming more challenging to run a successful private practice. The fewer distractions we have, the more we can focus on the important things. The author Marie Kondo takes a Zen-like approach to the art of “tidying up” or reducing clutter. Whether our office, home, or even car, we all work and feel better when there is open space. Putting our physical environment in order positively impacts other aspects of our lives. We start by discarding; then we organize our space. 

An interesting aspect is to keep only things that spark joy in our lives. We hold onto unused items because they are still serviceable or we might need them someday. Kondo’s rule is to sort by category, not location. We assume we should organize by room or area. Kondo’s explanation is that we all have too much stuff. We need to collect everything in one place. For example, at home, search all areas to find items in the same category. For clothes search the laundry room, storage closets, etc. By collecting one category (and if you have too many clothes, subgroup into tops, pants, etc.), we really see how much stuff we have. In many cases there are duplicates that we do not even realize. Handle each item and see if it sparks joy. Keep only those that do. 

Discard in the following order: 

  1. Clothes
  2. Books
  3. Papers
  4. Miscellaneous
  5. Mementos

This order runs from least emotional to most emotional. We want to create momentum by working quickly through the discard phase so that when we get to the really hard stuff, we have honed our skills for what makes us happy. Kondo says in her book, if you start with mementos, you are doomed to failure. It is just too hard. 


This approach includes conversing with the item, thanking it for its service to you. Now that may seem a little weird to us Westerners, but I like that idea. It seems to make it easier to let it go; even those purchases that I regretted. They taught me that I should not do that again. Kondo reports that by handling each sentimental item and deciding what to discard, you process your past. If you store or hide things away, before you realize it, your past becomes a weight that holds you back and keeps you from living in the here and now. This technique can be applied to our office, our files, and our email. 

Once you have discarded as much as possible, only then do you decide where to put things. Everything should be in one place, rather than multiple sites such as screwdrivers in the garage, kitchen, and/or laundry room. It is easier to remember and retrieve.

By reducing the clutter in our environment, we can see where to focus our attention. This allows us to put energy into making our businesses and lives as successful as possible.

Ben Montgomery, a former journalist, applies years of copywriting and message development experience toward serving physical therapist through BuildPT, the recently developed marketing services arm of Vantage Clinical Solutions helping private practice clinicians develop media relations, email marketing, and online engagement strategies. He can be reached at

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