If you own one of the six million sold copies of Marie Kondo’s book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, you know that a clean, organized house can bring joy, peace, and even good health. It can even help you save money! But if Kondo is your guru, proceed with caution. Her single-minded approach has one goal: Neat spaces. Many of us want to be thrifty as well as tidy, and those goals don’t always meld in her universe.
Kondo’s decluttering method is based on looking closely at your possessions and only keeping what brings you joy. Everything else goes out the door almost immediately — to a Goodwill bin or the landfill. If you’re aggressive about tidying up, you may then give away or toss a good portion of your stuff. But to those of us with thrift in mind, that’s a waste of resources.
How to Tidy Up and Make Money While You’re at It
Instead of immediately getting rid of things, take your time. Pile up what you don’t want and sell it.
Of course, it is easier and faster to just dump things. But by selling your items, you’ll make a few dollars in the process.
Reselling apps like Let Go and Facebook Marketplace make it convenient to find buyers in your area. Or set yourself up at a flea market one weekend. If the market charges a fee for a table, you can lower the cost by going in with a friend. Once you get started, you’ll learn how and where to best market your items for quick sale.
Don’t Just Toss It — Use It!
Another problem I have with Kondo is her advice on dealing with excess or stockpiled items. One client, she said, had accumulated 60 unused toothbrushes. Another had 30 boxes of plastic kitchen wrap.
Her recommendation is to “get rid of excess stock all at once. Give it away to friends who need it, recycle it, or take it to a donation shop.” Again, that’s the fast route. Kondo wants you to see a big change, and see it quickly.
But I say use it. Or better yet, sell it! Whatever you do, just stop buying. Overbuying isn’t thrifty unless it truly is an item you use often and you’re getting a good deal.
Beware of Tidying Up Too Much
Here’s another quibble: It’s entirely possible to tidy up too much and toss things you need. Let’s say your hammer doesn’t bring you joy. It’s ridiculous to throw it away. And if you do, you’re going to wind up spending money to buy another one. Not thrifty.
It’s also possible to give away things that are of sentimental value to someone else. I know because I’ve done it. I once sold my brother’s stuffed animal “Sam the Eagle,” the mascot of the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. A few weeks later, he went looking for it!
I bought it back on eBay — along with several other “Sam” items — and gave them all to him as a Christmas gift. You might say that I would have bought a gift no matter what. But for a person trying to save money, it’s agony to buy something that you already had.
Kondo’s Best Advice for Tidying Up
To be sure, Kondo has some good advice for us thrifters. One of my favorites is that you don’t need to spend a fortune on fancy storage systems. Drawers and boxes are all you really need if you reduce what you buy and keep it orderly.
Another gem? Don’t let spare change sit around at the bottom of your gym bag or under the couch cushions. It’s cash. Gather it up and use it.
And then there’s the big picture: The best way to tidy up is to stop bringing new things in.
Stop buying. And if you’ve allowed your possessions to become so overwhelming that you have to pay for extra storage, take a good look at what’s going on there. You’re spending money every month to keep things you barely use. Of course, life does sometimes generate circumstances that require storage. But it should be temporary.
If you’re paying to store boxes upon boxes of stuff that you never touch, it’s time to eliminate that extra cost. Do whatever you can to cut that line item from your bills. And if that means reading Marie Kondo’s book and tossing the junk ASAP, then ignore this column and get to work. Tidy up now and stop giving your money to the storage company!