The Magic of Tidying Up, Even (Especially?) for Non-Minimalists

Everything you hear about The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up claims it is different from other de-cluttering books. And guess what, yup, it is. FINALLY a way to be happy with the stuff  I love (and there’s a lot); to get rid of what I don’t (a lot of that, too); and how to decide which is which. With no guilt. Srsly.

The LIfe-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo

The book has developed a cult-like following, with Facebook groups and Instagram  hashtags and God knows what. It’s sold more than 2 million copies, been written up in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and been on all the TV shows except possibly Game of Thrones. (Am I the only person you know who does not watch Game of Thrones?)

It’s that good. I posted this on Instagram a few weeks ago, when the frenzy began…

Garage at Rancho la Zaca gets the “KonMari” treatment

Japanese author and orgaznizer Marie Kondo‘s Magic is the guilt-free getting rid of stuff, including that pesky “perfectly good” that is no longer perfect for you. The aim, she says, is to  keep only what  “sparks joy.” 

So she is not telling you you don’t need 4 olive oils, 5 weird Asian-y sauces, and 7 vinegars. If they spark joy for you, so be it. Just get a few lazy Susans to organize them while you’re at it.

Condiments organized on lazy Susans at Rancho la Zaca

For our office supplies at the ranch, these Container Store bins with zinc tags written on with a chalk marker have made life easier for all of us.

Office bins at Rancho la Zaca

You keep what truly brings you joy now, today, and let go what may (or may not) have done so in the past,  even if it is “perfectly good,” you’ve never used it, your old boyfriend made it for you, or your nona gave it to you. And you do it guiltlessly. Here’s how, and stay with me now…

Linen closet at Rancho la Zaca

 Using the author’s “KonMari method,” you let it go with love. You thank it for what it once meant to you, or did for you, or how it made you look thin. You also organize, fold, and store your things with love, again thanking them for all they do for you. It sounds goofy, I know, but it absolutely works. 

Rancho la Zaca tent linens. Because a guest house would be way too convenient.

I feel a new clarity and lightness that I attribute directly to this process. Who knows what inspiration I might have made new space for?

But listen, before you get nervous…

Cocktail napkins, Rancho la Zaca

All this talk about de-cluttering and getting rid of things,

Art in our New York apartment

does not quite,


Yes I do need three pairs of leopard pumps.

make me

My scarf drawer, NYC

a minimalist.

 My NYC coffee table. Charlotte Moss’ Garden Inspirations and Piet Oudolf’s Humello are two of my fave garden books of the season. More on Charlotte at bottom of post.

If you see what I mean.

Despite my admiration for those who are. They also make me nervous. I wrote with gushing admiration last summer about Everything That Remains espousing a minimalist  lifestyle, but I had my disclaimers. I’m not 100% positive those guys would get that, yes, I actually do need twelve china patterns, thank you. Besides, most of them are just the dinner plates. That is totally minimal.

China cupboard, NYC

Few of us truly are minimalists or want to be, frankly; hence the trouble with tidying up and staying that way, which Kondo also addresses.

And yet, there are people who want nothing to do with it, and that is okay. They’re not going to buy the book anyway. If you have a minute and want to laugh out loud, read this  April 26 piece in the Financial Times, ”Minimalist v Maximalist,” by FT columnists Lucy Kellaway and David Tang, written in letter form after visiting each other’s houses.

I drastically paraphrase, but to give you an idea:

“Dear Sir David…thank you for showing me all three of your splendid London homes…I hope you won’t be hurt if I tell you I was relieved to get back to my own empty kitchen…sat quietly trying to collect myself…I had been warned that your approach to interior design was maximalist, but nothing prepared me for the sheer volume…Your wife tells me there is not room to unroll a yoga mat…I gathered you have five further houses…and three warehouses to store additional belongings…What is it all about?…What, I wonder…would happen if you gave your stuff the Kondo treatment?… Lucy

Minimalist vs. Maximalist in FT – Lucy Kellaway squares off with David Tang

My dear Lucy…First, I only have three more homes…thank you for showing me your own one home, whose manicured tidiness offered, I admit, a sense of calmness but also a feeling of tedium… confirmed to me your embrace of Kondo for her dubious principle of joy through decluttering. Doesn’t that make you a slave to possessions when possessions should be our slaves? … Also, as a Chinese, I have never really trusted the Japanese…Just think of the anti-climax of opening a large drawer only to find…a few rolled-up bundles of your husband’s monochromatic underpants… Stuff the Kondo… Masses of love, Sir Anthony Prise Wing-Cheung Tang, KBE, OBE etc etc

He has some points, and more in the full article. He also has more Goyard suitcases that Bergdorf Goodman, and strangely enough I don’t envy that.

Here’s another good, though not funny, article in the Wall Street Journal, and a YouTube video of Kondo with a translator.  She is so cute… “Today, I going to tell you how to change your life forever… I am crazy, tidy, fanatic.”

Now you, too, are crazy, tidy Kondo expert. 

Order the book via your local indie bookstore here, or Amazon, or Barnes & Noble. I look forward to hearing back from y’all on this.

P.S. If you are not busy Kondo-ing and are within a 50-mile radius of Long Island, please come to Madoo Gardens in Sagaponock and hear Charlotte Moss, Madoo director Alejandro Saralegui, and me carry on for a bit and have lunch with us afterward. David Tang’s got nothing on Charlotte, I tell you ๐Ÿ˜‰  Saturday, June 20, at noon. Tix here.  Great house-and-garden shopping, too.


All endorsements in are non-remunerative.


  1. You had me at tent linens. ๐Ÿ™‚ Great post! I have bought multiple copies of the Kondo book and passed it around to friends loving the “joy-giving” theory. My girls have yet to embrace it when I say you must get rid of things that don’t give you joy, they respond, “But all these things give me joy!” We are working on it. Looking at your linen and scarf cupboards, you and my girls have much in common.
    Xo C.

  2. One woman’s de-cluttering is another woman’s OMG look at all her stuff! Hope you are having a wonderful summer. Love your blog! XXOO

  3. Frances, I bought and read this book several months ago. Like you, I have several of one thing: i.e. black turtlenecks. Do they bring me joy? Not particularly but one must have several turtlenecks. Sometimes you need a cashmere one, sometimes a cotton one, a tight one, a loose one, etc. So I revised her instructions to suit me. I did, however, totally purge my closet, keep the pieces that currently bring me joy and toted the rest to the consignment shop. Have received a total of $850 for very few designer brands. It was my spending money in NYC. Alas, thanks for recapping and telling how her book applies to you. Now I need to know this-what are your cocktail napkins hanging on? Good idea. xx

    1. Trรจsor, Sounds like you did just right thing! Obviously “necessities” may not be the most “joy bringing” i.e., wax paper,brooms, tweezers, Spanx, black turtlenecks, but I suppose the joy is that we need them and we have them–woo-hoo! And I know that $850 brought you joy, hun. As for cocktail napkins, they are in a drawer and lain flat in layers, not, alas, rolled Kondo style. She did not seem to have a chapter for cocktail napkins. ๐Ÿ˜‰ xox

  4. What a wonderful post! I am still in the middle of moving from Atlanta to Cashiers and have been desperately trying to organize and eliminate. Thank you for the kick in the pants and this book. BTW I don’t watch GOT either.
    xo, lissy

    1. Okay so we are the only TWO people anyone knows who do not watch GoT… And congratulations on your move! A big one–which we lucky followers of your fab blog have been privy to. A perfect time to clear the way. You won’t believe how easy this wil make it. Let us know… And good luck xox F

  5. Having been in major reorganization mode since September, I totally get the minimalist concept and have managed to part with a lot. That being said, a lot of stuff still brings me joy (white china, books, big purses, scarves, pillows (sleeping and pretty), champagne glasses, old flatware, REAL napkins, did I mention books and more books?) and it is all staying put. Glad to know I am in good company re: Game of Thrones. Do love the dragons though. Still laughing over “tent linens. Because a guest house would be way too convenient.” Always love your posts!

    1. Thank you, EB. I knew there was a Community of Anti-Clutter, non GoT-watching, Maximalists out there! Four of us and counting! ๐Ÿ˜‰ Sounds like you are doing a good job. Thanks for writing as ever, xo Frances

  6. Dear Frances, you are so wonderful! reading your blog brings me such joy that I share it with others on a regular basis. I must say that one thing I love the very MOST about your blog is that I can look forward to receiving it because it does NOT arrive every day (except when you have something so important to say that it is necessary to WRITE daily, which is different – THEN I rush to my email to see if you are writing about France or whatever exciting thing you are covering). Those other blog postings persist in clogging up my inbox and making me feel guilty for having not had the time to read them. Thank you also from the bottom of my heart for revealing that you, too, in one house, have twelve china patterns, three pairs of leopard print heels, stacks of old tea towels and cocktail napkins, much, much more, and do not watch GoT. So refreshing. xoxoxoxoxox happy

  7. So…I wanted to purge my office/archives this summer and finally succumbed to the Kondo book, thinking she might have a few relevant tidbits. Oy! Not being a Rules Girl, I am nonetheless following her process and it is cathartic! Have completed Clothing, Books, now undertaking Paper portion, i.e., the office. Daunting! And also starting the Bee Cottage book, as I suspect there are many seemingly-unconnected parallels. To be continued….
    P.S. You would have loved a scene from the clothing purge, Frances. So exciting to to still fit (kinda/sorta) into iconic retro party dress….even though my bestie had to force-zip…like Mammy lacing Scarlett into her flirting frock for the Twin Oaks barbecue! Do not think the office purge will be as fun/festive….

  8. You can add me as a non GOT watcher although I fear I am approaching hoarder status now due to the deaths of two relatives and moving my mother-in-law here as well. I certainly need to adopt SOME of the minimalist strategies and maybe get rid of a couple of my 12 motorcycles, maybe, ok maybe not.

  9. Fabulous article – a kindred spirit “I actually do need twelve china patterns, thank you. Besides, most of them are just the dinner plates. That is totally minimal.”

    Daughter pointed out that I own 4 dinner services (she thankfully missed some others โ€ฆ ) but to my credit, they are all neatly stacked, loved & used. Luckily she missed my hoard (neatly organised of course) of vintage fabrics โ€ฆ.

  10. This is the first time I am on this and it truly is fun. I recently learned about your book from the Velvet and Linen post so know it must be truly special… and will definitely be making a purchase. Also mimimalizing sounds like a good idea since I have three rooms of furniture left over from storage from a recent apartment move to my basement on Cape Cod. Hm…..guess you could say, I can really use some assistance, not to mention the filled to the brim walk in cedar closet….oh am I in trouble…..will keep you posted!

  11. Your china brings you joy. It is because you are an artist, and delight in colour and pattern. I understand (I confess to having similar wiring, and would own a dozen patterns if I had room to store them ;)). There is no one way to live. You have to choose for yourself. I purchased your Bee Cottage book last week and am savouring it. I find myself nodding in understanding, and find it a great inspiration in my own search to redefine and redo my now “empty nest”. Best, Mary

    1. Hi Mary! Thank you for this lovely note and for your kind words. Am happy also to meet a fellow โ€œmaximalistโ€ sympathizer, and to know that my little Bee Cottage book has brought you joy. Warmly, Frances

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