The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: Apartment Edition

Living alone allows for a lot things – I mean, it’s basically free reign over your mini kingdom. But, living alone in D.C. usually means you’re doing it in a studio. While I (T) think living alone has a lot more ups than downs, one thing is for sure – it can be tough to keep it tidy.

Now, this may surprise you – I mean, isn’t a lot of mess caused from roommates in the first place? Yes and No. Because roommates create a balance – sure, they might make messes sometimes but they also hold you to a higher standard and expectations. You don’t want to be a bad roommate, afterall. But, living alone means there aren’t any checks and balances, and no one but yourself to hold accountable.

Recently, it was suggested that I read the slightly infamous book “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo, a Japanese author who takes tidiness and minimalism to the next level. The book was a zip to get through (seriously, under 250 pages), but it is definitely more targeted, in my opinion, at people with more “stuff” – people with houses or families or almost-but-not-really hoarders. So, below are the 3 best tips I learned from the book tweaked slightly to fit apartment-style living.

  1. Put your hands on every non-essential thing you own: One of the first tasks assigned to you by Kondo is to touch everything you own, and if it doesn’t bring you joy to throw it away. Apartment living, and living alone in the city on a budget, doesn’t really allow for you to put your hands on your ikea table and throw it away because you don’t feel joy. So, put your hands on everything that isn’t essential – like all the old nail polish bottles and books cluttering your precious empty spaces. We tell ourselves that this kind of clutter makes our house cozy, but really it can suffocate us.

2. Tackle Your Belonging in Categories (not rooms): This is one tip I didn’t have to tweak at all – because it is perfect for people in small spaces! Like I said earlier, many people who live alone in D.C. live in studios…so we don’t have rooms to tackle and declutter one by one in a systematic way. This can make it hard to know exactly where to start, especially when your workspace, living room, bedroom, and storage area are often all in one single room. She suggests going through things from less personal to most personal. so – start with your “collections” of things – clothes, books, beauty products and then work your way towards more sentimental items.

3. Make Your Closet a Sanctuary: Although Kondo advises against hanging, I’m going to suggest it. Why? Because dressers and armoires can be bulky and take up precious space in your already-cramped living area. I’d suggest buying a free-hanging clothing rack in addition to a closet and displaying your favorite pieces that give you the most joy (something that is of the utmost importance in Kondo’s teachings) right in the open. You can easily pick up an affordable one (this is the one I got, a steal at 12.99) and it can be used to maximize space while also acting as a kind of artwork that gives you joy while reminding you of your personal style. As for your actual closet, repeat tip #1 above – go through every piece you own and if it doesn’t give you joy and isn’t a necessity get rid of it. Then, figure out your personal style and what colors, styles, fits, and patterns make you happy. Hey – you can even declutter and replace pieces you need in your wardrobe right here in the district for an affordable price. We wrote a guide for shopping at Crossroads, but you can also sell clothes there for store credit and score some new joy-giving pieces.

I grew up thinking that purging meant getting rid of things you ‘don’t’ need and things that are useless. While that is true to an extent, Kondo taught me something important: to be happy, you have to surround yourself with things that give you joy. Although it seems materialistic to go in with the mindset that objects gives us joy, at the end of the day – it’s true. Embracing the joy we get from things — whether it be clothes or books or mugs from Anthrpologie — can actually lead to a tidier apartment.