Marie Kondo, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

How Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Is Changing My Life (And My Running)

A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece for Well+Good about how you can essentially use a tidying technique to get over a breakup.

I’ve been wanting to clean and purge our itty bitty apartment for months (OK, years) now. Neither Brian nor I like “stuff,” and yet it somehow accumulates, making two otherwise simple people seem like hoarders in the 200-square-foot apartment we share with four bikes, one puppy, and a giraffe.

This assignment — breakup excluded; happy wife, happy life — was the kick I needed to finally get Marie Kondo’s “must-read” book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

Marie Kondo, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up
Post-bath, pre-dinner reading. In the lap of luxury!

The book, if you somehow haven’t heard of it, read it, or seen it at the top of every bestseller list, is by Japanese “cleaning consultant” (AKA the dream job I didn’t know existed) Marie Kondo, and it’s all about how to tidy your living space in order to live a happier life.

A whole book about cleaning?



Marie Kondo, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up
I don’t believe you…

The premise of Kondo’s technique — which is known as the KonMari Method but I like to call it Kondo-ing — is to basically go through all your shit (categorically, not by room, she says) and go through each item, discarding anything that doesn’t “spark joy” along the way.

She literally wants you to pick up that Arden B tank top you used to wear to the bar every Thirsty Thursday in college, and instead of questioning how it has made its way from your various college dorms then back to your parents’ house after college and then to multiple post-collegiate adulthood homes, simply hold it, touch it, feel it, and ask, “Does this spark joy for me?” If the answer is no, you toss it. If it sparks joy — and you’ll know if it does, and if it’s that filthy tank top, the answer is probably no — you get to keep it.

Marie Kondo, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up
Pre-purge. #itgetsbetter

This weekend, I decided to Kondo the apartment, starting with shoes and clothes.

I can’t believe how the very simple concept of “sparking joy” changed my entire perspective on life.

I did a ton of purging. I got rid of 22 pairs of shoes and six bags + two boxes (and counting) of clothes. I can finally move the hangers in my closet and can see the things I own.

Marie Kondo, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

I’ve “cleaned” my apartments probably hundreds of times over the years. But this was the first method that got me to stop rationalizing why I keep stupid, outdated, useless things. Like that ridiculous sequined dress I bought “as a joke” but secretly loved for one night only, or the chunky platform flip flops that “might come back in style someday,” or the dress that’s gorgeous but doesn’t fit but “I should keep it in case it fits someday.” It’s never going to fit.

During the KonMari-ing process, I kept calling my mom from inside the closet, excitedly telling her about this life-changing thing I was doing. And she’s so nice and pretended to care and be genuinely interested, all the while probably secretly wondering how long it’ll be before a U-Haul filled with my “discarded” junk arrives at her house for storage.

But no! That’s not part of it! You are not allowed to send stuff to your mom and dad’s house. There’s an entire chapter about how that’s not the point.

Marie Kondo, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up
THAT’S TOO MANY SHOES. They’re piled too high!

Once I was done with the clothes and shoe piles, I looked at what was left of my closet and felt good about the remaining contents. I felt, in an ohm-y spiritual sense, cleansed. With every item I tossed into the “to-go” pile, I felt so much better. So much lighter. So much more in control.

Here’s where the KonMari Method started really getting into my head…

Marie Kondo, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up
SO MUCH BETTER. Even if it looks the same to you…

Soon it was 2:30 PM. It was a gorgeous Saturday, and even though I was having an actual blast Kondo-ing, I knew it was in my best interest to spend an hour outside running.

Running, as you may know, hasn’t really sparked joy for me in quite some time.

Marie Kondo, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

After last year’s Brooklyn Half Marathon, I stopped caring much about running. I felt over-trained, burnt out, and over it. So I kept running as a form of cardio, but I was really lazy about it. I would stop every mile or so on almost every run to to check my phone, stand around, or walk even the slightest inclines. I would spend three hours in Central Park on a Saturday morning, only to run six miles. (Six miles should not take me three hours.) I was wasting time and wasn’t doing anything effective. I was bored and I didn’t really care, because it didn’t really matter.

This Saturday, with a semi-tidied living space waiting for me back home, I happened to have the best run I’ve had in years.

Marie Kondo, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up
Morning walks have replaced morning runs. I can’t really complain…

I set out with a goal: Run the five-mile loop of Central Park. Without stopping. No email. No Instagram. Hopefully no bathroom stops. No walking up Cat Hill. Start running, and stop at the end.

For five miles, I just ran. I didn’t wear a watch, and every time I wanted to walk or stop and take a pretty picture, I thought about my goal.

And when I returned to my starting point at Engineers’ Gate, I celebrated like I had just won the Olympics. Or the lottery. The Hamilton lottery! Maybe I ran a marathon in the Olympics and at the finish line was a winning lottery ticket and the cast of Hamilton.

Marie Kondo, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up
Post-run SnapChatting DUH.

It felt so good to just run. I survived five miles without stopping — my longest continuous run since May 2015.

The joy was sparked.

After my run [and a shower] and some more Kondo-ing, I set out for my first haircut since August. And I went for more than “keep the length, just a trim” this time. You know what doesn’t spark joy? My nasty dead split-ends.

Marie Kondo, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up
CHOPPED! Kondo made me do it.
...and then I went out with Brian and his cycling teammates and NO ONE (Brian included) noticed my haircut. FOUR INCHES gone. Marie Kondo would care. BOLD Racing did not.
…and then I went out with Brian and his cycling teammates and NO ONE (Brian included) noticed my haircut. FOUR INCHES gone. Marie Kondo would care. BOLD Racing did not.

I let the very nice hairdresser remove 4+ inches from my hair. More cleansing. More lightness.

With Kondo’s mindset, everything else seems so simple now. Why keep anything in your life that doesn’t spark joy? Forget shoes and clothes and that copy of the warranty from the 2003 Dell laptop you were forced to buy freshman year of college.

Marie Kondo, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up
And we’ve only just begun…

Toss it all. Toss everything that doesn’t make you feel amazing. Toss shoes that are ugly or too worn to wear. Toss that pint glass with a huge crack in it. Toss photos that make you cringe and coloring books you’ll never actually use. Toss relationships that don’t lift you up. Toss negativity. Toss the job you hate and find a new one. Toss the accounts you hate-follow on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Toss your rent bill and your phone bill and your health insurance payment! (Maybe JK on those ones.)

But definitely toss that tank top.



38 Responses

  1. While in spirit I think this is a wonderful post; I hope we can all agree it is VERY privileged in general.

    Quotes like “Toss shoes that are ugly or too worn to wear. Toss that pint glass with a huge crack in it. Toss photos that make you cringe and coloring books you’ll never actually use. Toss relationships that don’t lift you up. Toss negativity. Toss the job you hate and find a new one.” are the very much the ideas of the wealthy within a global perspective.

    I think it’s great to minimize ones possessions (something I need to be much better at) and to dig through your relationships to find the right ones. However, most in this world aren’t afforded the luxury to quit a job because they aren’t happy, or go buy new clothes because they tossed out the “ugly” ones”.

    I just hope people know that sometimes you will have a job that doesn’t make you happy, and may in fact make you miserable, but you do it because it puts food on the table for yourself or your family and that’s OK. While it may not “spark joy” for you while you are doing it, it keeps the spark alive.

    1. Yes there is of course a big difference between frivolous possessions and necessities. You’re right and I agree — this post is just about sifting through the physical junk we keep around and seeing how it filters into the rest of our lives. I like the idea of using the “spark joy” technique in all different areas of our lives, even if we can’t always execute on it. Good comment, thanks for sharing!

  2. I love how you tied Kondo-ing back into the rest of life, not just the material stuff that fills our lives — that’s something I’ve noticed too after doing my own clothing/shoes/books/papers purge. After learning how to let go of that tangible stuff, I’m finding it much more freeing to only keep (and to focus more on!) relationships, life and work stuff that sparks joy, too. It feels so liberating to look around and be surrounded by things, people, projects you love. Provides a good rule to live by! Thanks for sharing your experience. Also, I would second the rec for!

  3. YES TO ALL OF THIS. Love that book, though a year or so later after reading it, I go through phases of accumulating again. It’s a good one to reread.

    Do I need 25 NYRR race T-shirts I never wear because they’re uncomfortable but it’s proof I ran them but I never wear them? NO.

    I am surrounded by boxes and bags to bring to Goodwill or the trash as my move from NYC is imminent. But I gotta say, it feels amazing to let go of sweaters or dresses I’ve held onto for YEARS for no reason except “I might wear it one day though” or “but I bought it in Italy!” Who cares – TOSS IT ALL.

    Love the haircut!

  4. This reminds me how I need to get on that New Years resolution of “Clean Out Closets”. It is such a great feeling to downsize and declutter! Having 2 kids, there is always a toy somewhere which has been outgrown but we’re still hanging on to it. Too much stuff!

  5. Dang it! Everyone keeps talking about how amazing and life-changing this book is! And considering my husband and I just down-sized from a 3-bedroom house to a tiny apartment, we still have a lot we could stand to get rid of! I guess I need to go out and buy this book.

  6. I’ve hear wonderful things about this book, should probably read it soon. I’ve moved around a lot, so I’m used to purging, but lately I’ve felt the need to not only get rid of stuff because I’m moving somewhere, but because I only want to own things I absolutely love (AKA would want to wear it every day). That has also helped me a lot with shopping in the sense that I spend less, since I don’t LOVE everything — also a little harder to shop because I have never been so picky, so finding things has been a little hard.

    LOVE LOVE LOVE your new hairstyle!!! You look gorgeous!
    Good luck with running! My knee has also been a little weird, but I’ve pushed through a little, am getting a MRI next week, so should find out soon. How did you get over the knee pain??

  7. I just moved from the Midwest to a much smaller place in Upstate NY, so lots of mandatory purging occurred. I finally got rid of everything that I didn’t truly love, and it was so liberating! Everything I own, I love! And have a place for it all! Isn’t this just the best feeling ever?!

  8. I just bought this book last week but haven’t touched it yet. Is your advice to read the whole book before tackling stuff?

  9. I read this book in the fall and did a major purge of stuff and it felt amazing. And I even thanked my stuff for bringing me joy at one point just how she says in the book.

    Congrats on having a great run! That’s always the best feeling.

  10. I haven’t run since a race I did in October- I’ve forced myself to push through not wanting to run, and then after the race, I just decided that I don’t want to right now, and that’s ok. I know I will go back eventually, and it’s so nice to take a break and work on other things- like my basket headstand (also share your love for Baptiste yoga). Good for you for your great run though, I can’t wait for my first amazing run in years!

  11. YES i love this. i just did the same thing to my closet- even though i have less stuff now, getting ready each morning is a lot easier because i actually like all of my clothes now.

  12. I periodically purge things. Sunday I did jewelry because I have SO many costumey pieces and my style has changed and for years have only worn gold. I might need to read the book to get the full scope of this project; but I have always been very good at donating (for the most part).
    And the hair is gorgeous! Why is it so hard to part with though? I really need a cut but have been putting it off for months.

  13. So great enjoyed your post. I always throw/give too much away and then regret it later! A careful balance is needed

  14. I used to have an excessive graphic t-shirt collection (150+). There were so many that I didn’t wear anymore but I really didn’t want to part with them. My sister-in-law took all of the ones that I’m not wearing anymore (I’m down to about 50 now) and is making them into a quilt!! How about that? That will definitely bring me joy! 🙂

  15. Hi Ali, Unless L-One is a guy that makes me the first dude to post a comment. BTW, I’m L-Two and proud to read your blog and sorry i also didn’t realize you got a haircut. I have to do this. Thanks for the enlightenment and encouragement. However, when it comes to clothes my standard may be whether or not the item can be tagged as grassroots gear. Cheers!

  16. I love this SO much! I recently did this and still feel like I could do more, especially with work out clothes. Curious – did you donate the stuff or did you use one of the sites to send/sell it?

    1. The plan is to get rid of as much as possible at girl’s night (“Hi, welcome, drink this champagne and take these clothes and shoes from me!”) and donate what’s left. There’s SO MUCH stuff — it would take forever to photograph and post it all to try and sell it. (Plus, I’d rather donate anyway.)

  17. Love this!! I am ready for all of the above tossing. Except maybe the “just a trim, keep the length” part. Need more time on that one..

  18. Love this! We’ve been massively decluttering our house for a while now, and it really does feel amazing. I haven’t read the book yet, though… I’m going to buy it today! 🙂

  19. PUMPED to try this. I’ve been in semi-organizing moods and let’s be honest, I would love to be a personal organizer and dolphin trainer and call it a day. P.S. gorgeous hair, even at 6:30 am. That flow.

  20. I LOVE this post! Laughing about the u-haul to your parents’ house – I totally loaded up my car when we moved to California and left half of what I owned there. WHY?? I’m literally never going to use that stuff. I actually cleaned out our entire apartment a couple weeks ago and got rid of about 5 bags of clothes using that “does it spark joy” method. It felt so great. I love getting rid of stuff! P.S. the haircut looks beautiful!

  21. I read that book last month right before moving cross-country (again) in an effort to toss enough stuff to fit everything into my small crossover SUV. I’m staying with family for now but will need to do the same thing again in my parents’ garage when I move into my own spot. I tend to be a bit of a hoarder, but it felt so good! Awesome to hear you had such a great run afterwards, too! 🙂

  22. so glad you had such a great run that filled you with joy over running again, for the first time in a while. i love that feeling. my roommate read this book last year and really got into this concept for a bit too, and i tried to think about doing it, but haven’t quite gotten there yet. i definitely have too much “stuff” and want to purge more clothes at some point (so thankful the Salvation Army is right near my apt, as i drop stuff almost every month). good reminder to let go of things we really don’t need. love the haircut!

  23. I just heard of this book and I’m super intrigued! I’m definitely a TOSS EVERYTHING kind of person. My kid is a hoarder, but I’m working on it.

    Congratulations on your awesome run!

  24. I read this book over the New Year (while flying over the Atlantic on the way home from Iceland, actually) because I’m tired of having so much STUFF in our apartment. It’s everywhere and I can’t stand it…and I never want to have people over because I think our apartment looks messy all the time, but we really just don’t have enough room to put everything. (Why don’t New York apartments have more closets?? We have 1.5 clothes, it’s ridiculous. Anyway.) I donated five bags of clothes/shoes/purses to Goodwill and got rid of a bunch of stuff I was holding onto because of “memories” but 1) Never looked at the stuff because it was in a bin under my bed and 2) The memory was way bigger than whatever object I connected to it. We still have a long way to go – my boyfriend isn’t totally on board with the project, so that doesn’t help. (The shopping bag full of old birthday/Easter/Christmas cards? Keep or no? It’s not like they ever get looked at. Do we NEED 12 gaming systems? DO WE?) The KonMari folding method really helped me…my running clothes are no longer shoved into a drawer, which helps me see them better and not wear the same thing every single time I run, or leave me rummaging through the drawer wonder where that specific pair of black pants is. I still have to do the bathroom and the kitchen. Luckily, we only have two bikes, so that’s nice.

    Love the hair! I’m debating chopping mine, but can’t bring myself to do it. Even though it obviously grows back…

  25. It is now complete. Your blog now officially has everything.

    I am purging and organizing and using the no joy no keep method (have not read the book yet though) right now. For me it is a slow process and I have to ask the husband about too many things to see if they spark any joy in him (he is not on board so much), but I am loving the results!

    And last but never least I love your hair!!!

  26. I haven’t left a comment in forever but I have to say YES to all of this. That book changed my life. I know some of it is ridiculous, but I just ignored the silly parts like talking to my house and kept the amazing advice and it totally changed my life for the better. And your hair looks awesome, I love it!

  27. Love Love Love this! I haven’t read the book yet but have heard wonderful things about it and clearly it’s a must read. I’ve never thought of it in the sense of “bringing joy” but I love the idea! Bring on the Kondoing!

  28. I just bought this book and I am excited to give it a try. However, I once went through a cleaning spree and got rid of my favorite red going out top from college. Would I have ever worn it again – nope, but to this day I wish I kept it!

    Christina :: Simple and Delish

  29. I haven’t had a haircut since July!
    My dead ends are not sparking joy for me that is for sure.
    Ironically I though I would be unemployed back then but just when I started cleaning out my closet I got a call for a long term freelance gig which I am still at. So messy closet has been put on back burner but when I do clean it I’ll try this technique.

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about ali

I’m the creator of the Ali on the Run blog and the host of the Ali on the Run Show podcast. I’m also a freelance writer and editor, a race announcer, a runner and marathoner, a mom, and a huge fan of Peanut M&Ms, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (way better than the first one!), and reliving my glory days as a competition dancer in the early 2000s. I’m really happy you’re here.
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