3. The tidying process must begin with discarding—not organizing.

The key is to make the process so sudden that the contrast is clear. A stark contrast will make the decision between staying tidy and reverting to a cluttered living space (and mental space) clear as well. When you feel like you are living in a totally different world, the idea of returning to the sty is unthinkable. The discarding process typically takes about six months. That might seem like a long time, but what is half a year compared to your whole life? If the result is freedom for the rest of your life, it’s a small price to pay. Efficiency is key because it is easy to be discouraged by tidying up, so the quickest route to a clean home is the best way to avoid discouragement.

The simplest criterion for determining what you want to keep and what you are willing to get rid of is the question, “Does it spark joy?” Make sure you don’t base the judgment on mere appearance: take each item in hand and see how your body responds. This might seem like a strange suggestion, but there is a noticeable bodily response that differs from item to item. You will have a better idea of what sparks joy and what doesn’t by including touch in your assessment.

As you discard items, remember: you are not being wasteful. Thank each item for its existence. If it’s an article of clothing you liked in the store but have never worn since, thank it for teaching you something about who you are and what you value in self-expression. If it’s a treasure that’s been stashed away in a drawer so long that you forgot it was even there (which raises the question of whether or not it’s actually a treasure), thank it for whatever joy it brought you in the past. The simplicity that tidying brings is surprisingly liberating for those who have never tried it.

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