The Life Changing Magic of Knowing What You Need So You Can Tidy Up

Raise your hand if you are reading or have read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up?

My hand is raised.

Whenever I read a book like that, I know I need to be in the right frame of mind first.

For example, this is not a book to read while you are on vacation staying someplace away from your home–because you will find yourself organizing and decluttering the guest house you are staying in–you want to be home and apply the lessons as you read.

rope shelf

I don’t want to commit to making lots of decisions about getting rid of and decluttering my decor, when I feel like I haven’t finished decorating the spaces in my home. It seems premature.

I don’t have a lot of emotion about my stuff, I’m barely sentimental, so for me “sparking joy” is when I have something I enjoy in a place where it looks great and I use it.

My problem isn’t letting go of something because I’m attached to the emotion or memory, but because I’m afraid I might need it later.

My dirty little secret is, when we were renting I NEVER felt like I could get rid of anything because I didn’t know what our next move would bring us–would the house be bigger, smaller, would I need those extra sheets, chairs, mirrors or pillows?


Looking back I wish I would have felt more free to allow things to move out of my life and trust that I would have what I needed when the time came. Because of my hoarding of cute stuff “just in case” our move here involved twice as much stuff that would fit in our home, and I am still going through my decor stuff and realizing I need much, MUCH less than I realized to create pretty and comfy space for our family.

I was stuck in the collecting phase where more was better and if there was space– I had to fill it. I’ve written post after post about how I was in the habit of grabbing a few cute things every week at yard sales or the goodwill–and that’s great for a season, but I forgot to stop.

painted furniture

Like in that photo above, I still love it. I think each of those things individually is pretty. But, I can now see that I could accomplish the exact same feel or style of this vignette and use only half the stuff–or LESS.

And if I have the choice to use two or three times as much stuff OR use just enough stuff, I’ve decided I’ll use just enough thankyouverymuch.

Why was I making life more difficult for myself?

Of course, choosing to use less stuff was a challenge because that involved me having to make actual hard decisions. Which cute stuff should I keep, which stuff should I pass along to another happy home?


long way home

And really, in a way our homes are never finished. Which is true, but also, does that mean I can never get rid of any of my decor because my house isn’t finished yet so I have to hold onto everything just in case? I don’t like what that leads to.

Since we’ve moved to this house, I’ve been much more strict with myself about what is needed here in our home.

I want a pretty home that represents us. I want it to be a style I love–rustic with quirk. But I want to use the very least possible things to accomplish my goal.

My focus has been on

  • seating
  • surfaces
  • lighting
  • rugs
  • drapes
  • wall art

…in that order and then once I have those things in place am I allowed to make choices about all my cute tchotchokes.

Do you know what the choice usually is?

I don’t need them.

I have a tendency to overcompensate with little junk/geegaw/smalls/set arounds: tchotchkes.

And I am over it.

Or at least getting over it.

Now I’m a Cozy Minimalist.

And it is making my life and home SIMPLE.




  1. Thanks for this post. I felt similarly when we were renting, and then during the packing process, I ended up decluttering a ton of stuff that I didn’t want to move. Now, I’m trying to add only things I love to our home, in hopes of creating spaces that I enjoy but that are calm and uncluttered. Sometimes, I’m more successful than other times, but it’s a work in progress! Thanks for the reminder to refocus. :)

  2. I gave away bags of books after reading that book. I wasn’t thrilled with the folding clothes in a drawer but it caused me to reorganize my closet so I have everything I need to dress in there and it makes dressing so easy and convenient. I wrote a post about it here ~

  3. I love this!! “Looking back I wish I would have felt more free to allow things to move out of my life and trust that I would have what I needed when the time came.” That is exactly what I needed to hear! We have moved from house to house very similar to you. I have been way too consumed with worrying about what we might need down the road…It’s very freeing to let go of that!!

  4. I made the small investment today for me…because I know it will free up my space and my mind. Looking forward to making my space the best it can be with just a little! Thank you, Nester!

  5. I’m right in the middle of a move to a little house just a few minutes from the sea. And instead of asking ‘do I need it?’ or ‘do I love it?,’ the million dollar question has become this … ‘can I live without it?’

    And more often than not, the answer is yes. I do not need this _________!

    I’ve lost track of how many bags and boxes and trunk loads have been donated here and there. I feel free-er and lighter! And I can’t wait to see how our new home will unfold …


  6. I am such a sentimental fool – I hold onto things I don’t even particularly like because it belonged to someone in the family. I also hold onto things I might need later. I have the book about tidying up and have read it and loved it, but have not put it into practice yet. I want to, but feel frozen to actually begin. I have become very good at rearranging stuff without actually getting rid of stuff. I need help! True confession. :) I need a support group…..

  7. Yes, I have read the book. I had to draw the line at talking to my things and to her suggestion to get rid of all my books. And I still struggle to get rid of things. But I’m getting better. My husband lost his job and that really snapped me to attention in a lot of areas.

  8. After reading the book you mentioned in the post, I cleaned out clothes and got rid of so many that I’m down to just a few outfits that I was already wearing all the time anyway. I LOVE my neat closet. I also went through all my books and was surprised to find that I could part with them easier than I thought. Books are my passion. Going through papers was tedious, and I’m still working on that part. Cleaning out bathroom drawers and cabinets was not something I looked forward to, but it was something that was very rewarding in just an hour. By the way, I NEED to know how to find a small leather sectional like the one in your photos. :-)

  9. I see what you mean about the vignette. I could definitely do with a declutter!

    Jess at Wallpaper Ink

  10. I think I need to say, “Hello, my name is Leslie…and I’m a hoarder.” Or very close to it!!!! I’ve been working several months de-cluttering a little at a time. And my question was also, “Can I live without this?” Three weeks ago I took something I really liked and placed on consignment..because I could live without it. This weekend I realized that it would be perfect for my mom’s new apartment in assisted living. So back to the consignment shop I went….but it had been sold. Doesn’t it always seem to work out that way? I hold on, and hold on, and store, and keep…..and then I no sooner let go of something, and I need it! I thought, “What a vicious cycle!” And yes, it is hard for me to let go. I’m older and sentimental, and a lot of my things are family heirlooms passed down thru several generations. Yet I don’t want things to feel cluttered. I have not read the book you mentioned but I do have it on reserve at our public library….so it is next on my list. I’m so like Teresa—yes, we need a support group! Thanks for the post.

  11. I finished reading it last week and now have a huge pile of clothes ready to donate. I like her suggestion to store things where they are easiest to put away as opposed to get out. And my drawer of unidentifiable cords: out they go! Another question to ask yourself is “would I want to bother packing it if I moved?”

  12. One of the biggest lovely limitation in my home is that it’s small with small rooms. There’s no room for ornamental tables or flat surfaces for pretty things to collect on. It’s made me be very, very mindful about what I decorate with. I’ve got one or two decor items that are there because they are pretty. Everything else is there because it’s meaningful to me–a pair of Japanese dolls from my parents, my grandmother’s hand worked handkerchiefs framed on the wall, family photos everywhere. When I see pretty homes on blogs I sometimes get sad that I don’t have a mantle to decorate, and then I remember how much simpler my life is because I don’t have to redecorate my mantle every three months. :) It’s much easier to avoid collecting pretty things when you don’t have anywhere to put the pretty things in the first place.

  13. Elizabeth says

    I just read this book and it really inspired me to make some changes. So far, I have only done the clothing portion of the “KonMari method” and got rid of half of my closet items! Very rewarding. But it’s funny you posted about this book because I just started following your blog after reading your book a couple months ago and have noticed how you’re putting an emphasis on minimalism and selfishly, I’ve been hoping that doesn’t mean you’re changing what you’re so great at…which I think is layers and textures and bringing life into a space. That’s the only downside to minimalism. I like the idea of it but it often results in stark, uninspiring spaces. Anyway, you do whatever you’re inspired by but just know that I love your look, tchotchkes and all :)

  14. I’ve started shifting toward the minimalist style too and I’m loving it. I haven’t started the book yet, but it is sitting on my coffee table (styled all nice and pretty). I love that you made the point about not necessarily getting rid of stuff when your house isn’t finished. Truly a house isn’t ever finished, but mine REALLY isn’t, as we just moved in about 3 months ago! It’s getting there though and I’m excited to continue the journey to minimalism and an “it doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful” kind of home. :)

  15. When I was a teenager, one of my weekly chores was dusting the whole house, thoroughly, with furniture spray. Every surface had little… “stuff”… all over! When I moved out on my own, I swore NEVER to have to spend that much time dusting again. I have a few small items on my surfaces, but the fewer the better because I just refuse to spend that many hours of my life with a dustrag in my hand.

  16. I can’t believe that’s the same room. Well done, Angela.

    Clutter. My nemesis. Stuff is a close second. I am so dang sentimental and want to purge but need help. It helps me so much to have a friend around asking questions. I did that with one room last year and it was golden. I wish she’d come back from overseas to do it with me again in every room of my house!

    • RIGHT! She should get an award!

      • Thanks, Guys! I am catching up on my blog reading today and am so excited to see my room here. Would you believe behind the camera was a closet spilling over with clothes? I started reading the Konmari book not long after and now the closet matches the rest of the room. I still have a lot of things to purge but the Cozy Minimalist class has been a life changer. It showed me how freeing and peaceful living with less can be. Now to cozy up the rest of the house, one room at a time.

  17. That book. *Sigh* I’m a natural declutterer, and I read books like that for fun (don’t hate me), but I don’t recall any other that spurred me into frenzied action the way “The Life Changing Magic…” did. Besides the feeling of freedom I got from getting rid of things that I had been hanging onto for years — just because — despite my penchant for tidying, I think the most valuable take-away for me was extending the “Does it spark joy?” question to things I’m considering buying, as well as things I already own. Break the cycle!

    • Anonymous says

      Me too!! To Everything you just commented! I’ve never had an easy time decluttering. It was hard and scary and ultimately I’d end up regretting the few things I parted with. But after reading her life-changing book, I’ve gotten rid of stacks of clothes, accessories and have also been applying the question to purchases. It’s helping me make better buying decisions too. I’d it doesn’t bring me joy I don’t need it. And with a clean tidy closet I actually know what wardrobe pieces I need:) Whew! It’s so freeing!

  18. Well now I HAVE to get the book. Because when you and Emily both love the same book, it’s a no-brainer. But first I have to finish reading Essentialism {which I also got because you told me to.} I do hold on to things because of emotional attachment and also because I’m a historian by profession. I save every letter and way too much memorabilia because it’s my personal history.

    I’m definitely on a simplicity journey though. I now do the capsule wardrobe and I love it. Maybe KonMari will help me break through my emotional hoarding…especially since we’re gearing up for a move. {Hold me.}

    • I can’t believe we wrote about it on the same day! We actually recorded our hope*ologie podcast the day before and talked about the book–so it was fresh in our minds. but yes, just go ahead and buy it Marian!!


  19. The video that plays in the side bar keeps bouncing the page up to itself every time it reloads… which is frequently. It makes it extremely annoying to attempt to read your blog post. In fact, I did not finish reading it. And in the short time it took to write this… it jerked me away 4 times.

  20. I can so relate to the fear of letting things go because I may want to repurpose it in anyother room. I read The KonMari method and it has helped me. I do like the idea of tackling things by category because I have certain things scattered in different rooms. I also felt I’d accomplished more this way rather than working on a room or drawer at a time. I still have a long way to go to becoming a minialmist because I ❤️ buying home decor accessories. The older I get though the more I collect and it can weigh me down. I want to be at peace with letting things go and truly enjoying what I have.

  21. Love your blog, writing, message, etc. Have to comment about Kondo, as I feel, while I am constantly hurling my stuff, we have started to pathologize collectors and fetish tidyiers (not a real word). I’ve always considered myself pretty organized, but there’s no way I could ever keep my sock drawer together. The idea I like the best is to keep what sparks joy. When you have young kids, it’s nearly impossible to be super neat, so I try not to get obsessive about it.

  22. Oh Nester – your words, like always, totally hit the mark with me. You know I’ve quieted/hushed but the “treasures” were just piled up in the garage. No more, another full trunk load to Goodwill this afternoon. I love that with my rooms quiet I know exactly if I’ll have a REAL use of an item rather than hoarding due to my fear of WHAT IF?!!! Between your course balancing out KonMari’s thoughts I really feel like I’m coming into MY own and I love that feeling. Thank you!

  23. Thanks so much for writing this. I am currently moving to another rental and hesitant to get rid of the things I won’t be needing just in case I’ll need them for future houses. Glad to hear your thoughts.

  24. Literally in the middle of reading it now. Have a pile of bags ready to be donated out tmrw. My drawers look awesome and I cannot wait to get to other areas….especially paper!

  25. ‘Read the book a couple of weeks ago. The best take-away for me was sorting through things by category. I had used this method successfully in a couple of categories but it hadn’t dawned on me to use it in other areas. Other than that, I thought the book just kept getting “curioser and curioser”!!

  26. I have a terrible time getting rid of “stuff.” To top it off, I’m somewhat of a shopaholic, particularly with clothes/shoes/handbags. If you saw my bedroom, you’d think I was a hoarder, and I guess I am in a way. I read the tidying up book and seriously cannot imagine myself sitting down and handling and talking to anything. Truthfully, I thought the writer was a little cray cray. Sorry.

    • yeah, I won’t be speaking to my stuff.
      but I do kind of like to pretend that my stuff has a personality and wants to be in a home where it’s appreciated ,so I’m probably slightly crazy too!

  27. Love the tips of what to focus on! And question- what sort of curtain rods did Angela use for that window??? (I could not know less about hanging drapes. Or anything for that matter, really.)

    • Hmm, that’s a great question, click on her name right above the photos and it will take you to her website, I’m sure she’ll be happy to share! xo

  28. We are moving into our new house in 3 weeks after 10 years of renting. Ive been getting rid of stuff like crazy. I do not want to haul a bunch of clutter! Its soooo refreshing to know what I have now and not wonder whats in “those boxes” in my laundry room. I love a simpler home and with baby #5 on the way it will be easier to keep up!

  29. I just finished reading the book as well. The suggestion that helped me a ton is to take all of the items you’re decluttering (books, clothes, toys) out at one time, put them where you can see them all, and then ask “what do i want to KEEP?” usually i ask myself what i want to get rid of? and i’ll look at the bookshelf or closet and think i don’t want to get rid of any of it because i like it and it’s mine. but if i ask “what do i want to keep?” that somehow shifts my focus and makes me be selective about what’s my favorite or brings me joy.
    It was obvious that the writer does not have small children and there are definitely some Japanese cultural differences, and no I cannot clean out my entire purse every night, but overall I think she had some great ideas and a few mental shifts that were very helpful to me.

  30. I just finished reading this book and loved it. My closet was already pretty pared down thanks to Madame Chic’s “10-item wardrobe”, but with Kondo’s advice to only keep the things you love, I was able to let go of a few more items guilt-free. That’s one of the great things about this book: giving yourself permission to let those things leave your life that you were holding onto for the wrong reasons, and doing so with gratitude (whether thanking the item, as she suggested, or thanking God for it, as I like to do). What’s eye-opening to me is the many things in my home that have a negative or even just a “meh” memory or aspect to them, and these things would cross my vision day in and day out, not even realizing my subconscious was soaking these things up (yes, I’m one of those sentimental types!)

  31. Great minds….. I just wrote a post about this book and 5 things I learned from it.
    I loved this book! I feel like it changed me. Once I began tossing things I felt more free and less stressed. I felt like my life, that was getting out of control, was starting to get under control. It’s an awesome book!

  32. It seems some of this is age related or life stages related. When you are younger and just setting up and having a family, figuring out life and your own life style, a lot of stuff is a Wonderland, you can’t get enough. You automatically gravitate to what you had at your growing up home and also want what is attractive to you personally. When you get older, it’s just Please Move All This Stuff On and Out!!! I loved the book, it’s very exciting.

  33. I love this blog so much!
    Question: How did Angela hang her drapes? They look like they are almost attached to the ceiling? And where are they from? So cute! Very inspired.

    • Hi Besty, The drapes are from Ikea and the bamboo looking blinds are Ikea placemats and a table runner for the big window, just thumbtacked to the wall. I used a 10 foot conduit pipe ($1.50) for my curtain rod that we bent to fit the window shape (you can just step on it and pull and it bends pretty easily.) Ikea had these curtain brackets ($1.50 a pair) that happened to fit the conduit pipe perfectly. The design allowed me to hang it right at the ceiling. Our ceilings are an inch shy of 8 foot, so hanging them high helps them feel taller. I hope that helps and if you don’t have an IKEA I’m so sorry. There’s a ridiculous amount of Ikea in this room.

  34. I just started reading the book. I didn’t realize how much useless stuff I have at home. I have filled every blank space that I had. Now it’s time for cleaning. Your book inspired me to get rid of all unnecessary stuff, to change my way of thinking and to make more reasonable purchases.

    Thanks a lot!

  35. I read “The Magic Art of Tidying” about a month ago on a friend’s recommendation. I consider myself an organized person and am always looking for the next great storage solution. After reading the KonMari method, I have emptied my life of the things that have served their purpose. I find myself enjoying getting dressed in the morning because I like all my clothes – so it is easy to put an outfit together. I find myself more content, more thankful, and more grateful. It has also helped me to think about my purchases more and what I really want to bring into my home. It has been so freeing!!!! I also passed it on to my mom and she is busy tidying now too. Hoping my husband sees and appreciates the changes too. Thanks for the great post!

  36. I absolutely love your blog. I was given your book twice by friends of mine that knew I would love it. thanks for your honesty and sharing your gorgeous space x

  37. Just ordered this book! I’ve been in the middle of a massive whole-house remodel for almost two years now and am living in hoarder type conditions. We have stuff piled everywhere and are paying $100 a month for a huge storage unit. This is partly due to my lack of conviction to just get rid of things which is partly due to the remodel because I might need it someday which is partly due to growing up with nothing and being so dang sentimental. (long, loud sigh)
    I’m hoping this book is what I need for the next phase of my remodel : to find the calm after the storm. All four bedrooms are nearly complete (this is mostly DIY so it’s really taking a long time) and I look forward to the time when I am no longer sleeping in the formal dining room near my front door. I was going to wait to purge but I now realize I need to get that job done.
    Thank you for this post!

  38. Such a great book! I’m overcoming my own tendency to keep things “just in case” – I prefer to call it frugal rather than hoarding ;) – and I came across this book a few months ago. We’re still working on our purging of all the extra stuff – it takes so much longer with children – but we’re getting there. I love the author’s suggestion for us to focus on what to keep, not on what to get rid of. It was just the shift I needed to be able to confront some things that I really like but just don’t have a place for in my home.

  39. I can’t see the near side of the picture of after shot of the bedroom, but from what I can see,
    it is totally out of balance with all of the ‘heavy’ objects like the sofa crammed together on the far wall. While I don’t need rooms to be symmetrical I do need some balance. Is it pretty, yes,
    but I would be in there immediately moving things around the room for balance.

  40. Thank you for posting about this book. I read it a few weeks ago and devoured it. The book was just what I needed. I thought it went well with what you have to say about “space clearing” when doing decor. I am almost done “tidying” but have a few more categories to tackle. My life has already drastically improved. All I need now is to take your online “cozy minimalist” class when you offer it. Cheers!

  41. I have now been going through your website like a mad woman and can not seem to find anything that says where the 3 pictures (in the first picture of this post) of antlers were purchased! I love them!! Thank you!

  42. Prasenjeet says

    Shifting to my new home and organizing the home was really messy task for me. I was also confused about the home decor ideas as well. I too was confused on finding a perfect home furnishing products as well but online shopping with Maspar helped me to get my ideal choice of home decors at affordable price simultaneously reducing my stress as well.

  43. Hi.

    I’ve only just discovered your blog and I’m loving it! You have a beautiful home, the pictures are gorgeous, so light and airy. I’m working on my home and have the exact problem you talk about as a renter, everything feels temporary and I don’t want to put in too much work (or money) making it home. Which is rather silly since we live here, and have done for five years! I’ve got my newborn son’s room looking nice and I’m enjoying that room so much now. I just need to expand to the rest of the house ?

  44. And….posts like this are why you are my favorite home decor (among other things) blogger, and the only one I really follow. We’ve been renters our whole married life (almost 7 years) and I strongly identify with keeping things because you “might need them at the next place.” I just finished both of your courses a little while ago, and they were amazing! I’m not sentimental at all, but I am pretty frugal, and while I’m always tempted to just throw stuff out and buy more later, I can’t justify it. I think you struck a good balance here. I’m (re) decorating my current home one room at a time, and using your “principles” and a little help from Pinterest, and I’m slowly getting the look I love, even while living in basically just a box shaped house. :)

  45. Thank you, space is very neat and airy. I will study and design my own house

  46. Keep up the good work; I read few posts on this website, including I consider that your blog is fascinating and has sets of the fantastic piece of information. Thanks for your valuable efforts.

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