the big sort

Organize Your Home by Categories

If previous attempts to declutter your home have left you longing for a more permanent sense of order, it might be time to try a new trick. You’ll find that many of the creative tips in The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo go against the standard solutions of the past, which is why they may be worth a shot.

In one section of her #1 New York Times best-selling guide that became an international sensation, Kondo recalls tidying her home when she was in junior high and admits it took her three years to come to the realization that you should sort by category not location. “The root of the problem lies in the fact that people often store the same type of item in more than one place,” she writes. “When we tidy each place separately, we fail to see that we’re repeating the same work in many locations and become locked into a vicious circle of tidying.”


To avoid this type of scenario, Kondo recommends organizing or tidying by category. For example, instead of putting your focus on a particular room or a specific drawer, she suggests setting goals like sorting through your clothes one day and your books the next. Kondo believes that one reason many people never fully succeed at tidying their homes is because there is simply too much stuff. And that’s a tough point to argue.

Though organizing your belongings by category typically contradicts the common steps taken by many professional organizers and home experts who tend to go room by room, there are some advantages. First, it always helps to find a new strategy when your former process falls short of being successful, especially long-term.


Another potential bonus of the author’s revolutionary KonMari Method for simplifying, organizing, and storing is that it allows you to see what you have in each category, which for some could come as quite the surprise. For instance, if you keep your shoes in more than one location, it may be difficult to spot duplicates or dated pairs that can be donated or sold. The same can be said for the clothing you no longer wear that can be consigned for cash.


In her book, Kondo writes about the fact that she likes her clients to put all of their clothes on the floor, which helps them to see the sheer volume that they have compared to what they need and what they use. In addition, folding your clothes as opposed to hanging them can free up a lot of closet space and her way of folding them vertically so that each piece is visible is sheer genius. It can also help to prevent wrinkles while creating more room in your drawers for storage.

According to Kondo, a category that’s tough for people to part with is books. When deciding whether to keep books (and other items) she believes in asking, “Does this spark joy?” If there are simply too many books for you to focus, Kondo suggests dividing them into general (books you read for pleasure), practical (references, cookbooks, etc.), visual (photograph collections, etc.) and magazines. By touching each book, one at a time, you should be able to decide if it’s worth keeping.


Another category that people often struggle with is paper. Kondo believes there is nothing more annoying than papers and she says in her book that her basic principle for sorting them is to throw them all away. “I recommend you dispose of anything that does not fall into one of three categories: currently in use, needed for a limited period of time, or must be kept indefinitely,” she writes. This does not include papers with sentimental value, which she suggests sorting separately.

Whatever personal items seem to be bursting at the seams in your rooms, you can address them in a whole new way that may sound counterintuitive to what you’ve heard before, but this method could hold the key to getting and staying organized. In fact, sorting your home by categories might be just what the doctor ordered.

Written by Jeanine Matlow. Photography by (clockwise from top left) ©, ©, ©iStockphoto. com/123ducu, ©

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