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Get rid of clutter and focus on joy: Advice from 'tidying freak' Marie Kondo

Bestselling author and organization guru Marie Kondo writes of decluttering, organizing and cleaning house with the kind of fervor usually reserved for religious sermons and political rallies. Her internal fire has ignited a worldwide, cult-like following and inspired her second book, "Spark Joy," the sequel to "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up."

Although Kondo, a self-described "tidying freak," preaches the gospel of less is more, it's not merely the absence of clutter but the presence of joy that she seeks.

In her new organizational how-to book, Kondo's mission is to help us identify what brings joy while simultaneously cultivating more of it.

Like any good doctrine, there is a sprinkling of mysticism and a touchy-feely woo-woo factor that readers can ignore or embrace. Either way, the message is strong, clear and ultimately inspiring: Get rid of what's bringing you down, surround yourself with what makes you happy and sparks joy.

"The real tragedy," writes Kondo, "is to live your entire life without anything that brings you joy and never even realize it."

Kondo wants us to closely (really closely) examine the possessions we live with and make mindful decisions whether to keep them or not. As far as this organizational ninja is concerned, if something isn't sparking joy it's detracting from it. (Not everything we own gives us a thrill — until we need it. Think: toilet plunger; screwdriver; vacuum. "Simple design that puts you at ease, a high degree of functionality that makes life simpler," explains Kondo.)

So, how to get started?

Kondo offers the following tips and promises the process of increasing our sensitivity to joy gets easier as we decide which items to keep and which to discard.

"I am convinced the perspective we gain through this process represents the driving force that can make not only our lifestyle but our very lives shine," writes Kondo.

The process may seem slow at first, but speed improves with practice.

How to do a "joy check" with items cluttering up your home.

Establish a vision: Consider your ideal lifestyle and the life you aspire to live. Does this item have a place in that vision?

Touch is key: "[Hold the item] firmly in both hands as if communing with it. Pay close attention to how your body responds.... When something sparks joy, you should feel a little thrill," Kondo says. Conversely, something that doesn't elicit joy creates a sensation of heaviness.

Work through one category of possessions at a time. Try this: "Pick the top three items in the pile that give you joy.... The best way to identify what does or doesn't bring you joy is to compare."

Refine your skill by starting with the easiest stuff to tackle — clothing — and then progressing to more sentimental objects that are harder to discard. "Clothes are ideal for practicing this skill, while photos … are the epitome of what you should not touch until you have perfected it."

Trust your gut. "The joy factor never lies."

Focus on the positive. Choose what to keep. Thank the discarded items for their service and send them on their way.

Don't give up. "Don't forget that the 'god of tidying up' is always on your side as long as you are committed to getting it done."

Amen to that.

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Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
A version of this article appeared in print on February 06, 2016, in the Features section of the Los Angeles Times with the headline "Less equals more joy, she preaches" — Today's paperToday's paper | Subscribe
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