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The Economics of Tidying Up


"In this book, I have summed up how to put your space in order in a way that will change your life forever."

This is the ambitious first sentence of Marie Kondo's best-selling manifesto, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Direct and devoid of clutter, this sentence rings true to her philosophy. Unlike most self-help books, there are no extraneous words, no pandering—the lack of "wink wink" gesturing reads as an appealing, authentic statement.

Though Kondo's book was published in English in October of 2014, a search on Google Trends still puts interest in her near an all-time high. (A search for her name in Japanese produces a similar result, though her book was originally published in 2010.) If Google searches are any indication, interest in tidying is also at an all-time high, and some of this interest must be attributed to the rise in Kondo's method—which is to hold onto only items that "bring joy." Following the purge, Kondo provides clear directions for how to store all your belongings in a way that makes them easily accessible and hard to mess up. A good number of journalists swear by her methods, and effusive referrals of "She changed my life" abound. During Kondo's AMA on Reddit, one superfan asked her how to teach her method to children under 10.

In the introduction of her book (and several times throughout), Kondo quantifies the power of her advice—she estimates that she's helped her clients (a group that doesn't include her countless readers) dispose of no fewer than a million items. This number is astonishing, but a key element of Kondo's argument is that hardly anyone is aware of how many items he or she owns. Most wouldn't even notice if some of those items are gone, she argues, but the problem is that throwing things out and putting belongings in the right place requires jumping through some psychological hoops.