There are really only a few practical tips in the book:
- Don't be afraid to do a big purge. Your stuff is just that, stuff.
- Do the big purge all at once. "Ongoing" tidiness should simply be putting your stuff away, not constantly revisiting different parts of your home looking for stuff you can throw away.
- Look up "konmari folding" on YouTube for a new idea about how to fold and store your clothes. For those who are already fairly tidy, this is the only real "new" idea in the book that may interest you.
- Be affluent enough to have these problems in the first place. None of the advice is for people who are simply slobs, it's for people who have accumulated too much stuff and who feel it dragging down their life.
1. When deciding what to keep/discard, keep things that "spark joy in your heart". That is, don't use rules like "If I haven't worn this in X".. The book's explanations around this are pretty helpful.
2. Do the big purge in order of type-of-thing... not room by room. I think the specific order prescribed is something like Clothes, Books, Papers, [I forget, I forget], Keepsakes. Going by type makes it easier to make sound decisions, and the sequence of types warms you up for hard purges (keepsakes, etc) that will otherwise likely hang you up in room #1.
All of that said, I only really got through Clothes, books, and papers... but even just that was massively helpful.
In the end, buying will not change lives as much as we think. Change has to come from within and from connecting with others. I really doubt that "300,000 things" will achieve that change.
I think the authors of http://www.theminimalists.com have some great answers regarding the question "if not consumerism, what will add value to my life?". While most of you already know the answer "friends, health, passion, etc.", and are tired of the platitudes, I am sure that it is easy to forget the values in a world surrounded by messages of consumption. If you are interested, I would recommend starting with this article http://www.theminimalists.com/21days/ about how the authors Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus got started on their journey to minimalism.
I also take issue with the implicit suggestion in your comment that most people genuinely think that consumerism will add value to their lives; I see that attitude a lot in `minimalist' blogs and discussions, and I realise that they're selling a narrative and a lifestyle, but it's very condescending.
People end up buying things to try and facilitate change or to bring happiness often because they don't know of any other method, or because other avenues have failed them, or they don't have access to them in the first place. When asked, most people will admit that a new gadget or purse or pair of shoes or a second helping of cake will bring them some kind of joy, perhaps fleeting, but will also admit that family and health and following their passions are more worthwhile goals. It's not either/or dichotomy that it's so often set out to be by `minimalists'.
In my own experience, I know and work with people for whom many of these things are impossible to follow for whatever reason. Some have abusive families and still deal with the fallout of that. Many have passions but simply don't have the money to follow them as much as they'd like, or at all. Some people have chronic health issues which they cannot overcome. I'm certainly not going to harangue them or judge them for buying another DVD, or another book, or another pair of cheap trainers because they can't follow more `worthwhile' paths.
Inversely, I've come across a lot of `minimalists' --- mostly online, but some in real life --- who fetishise their lack of possessions the same way many collectors fetishise their collections. Minimalism-as-less-stuff is just as informed by consumerism as maximalism-as-happiness is; it's simply the opposite side of the same coin.
Disclaimer: I am extremely untidy and also collect scale models and miniatures. My house is a mess, but that's a personality flaw (my kitchen is also very untidy, and that has to do with being a slob, not with the number of things I have in it). Of course, none of my stuff is "essential", but life is made up of nonessential things too.
I understand the criticism of mindless consumerism (for example, I couldn't be less interested in having the latest gadget, smartphone, etc, and I don't understand the people who are), but I really don't get the fetishism about not owning stuff.
Consumption adds a lot of value to my life. Buying a washing machine buys me time which I can invest in other things I care about.
That's quite the generalisation, right there. One thing I learned a long time ago is to (try) not to assume the inside of everyone else's head is the same as mine. We're all wired differently, sometimes slightly and sometimes profoundly.
-- The "spark of joy" test (hold the object in your hand and ask yourself, does this thing give me a spark of joy? if not, get rid of it)
-- The consistent idea of respect for your things. This reminds me of older generations that more consistently mended clothing and fixed small home appliances. They understood that value of treating their possessions nicely (folding them well, storing them correctly) because it saved them time and money in later care. Many of us don't understand how to maintain our stuff -- we just get new socks when there's a little hole in the old one or wear the sock until the little hole is too big to fix. Kondo's book doesn't address fixing things, but it does address proper storage so that clothing lasts and performs better.
-- Honestly, I love her folding methods and my sock and underwear space went from 2 drawers to 1. All my shirts now fit on one shelf as well. As someone who needs to see everything in order to process that totality, I was always accused of being messy before, because I'd rather keep all things things in view instead of in some stupid "storage solution." Now I can keep it all visible and look neat. Now how could I do this in my office?!
We all have some sort of either adhoc or (rarely) a well-planned system of digital organization, but having a nicely written guide would be great for some things we haven't thought about (e.g., useful scripts, clever tricks, backup strategies, etc).
I've looked online for tips and tricks, but I haven't come up with much.
I've even been tempted to read some books on library science to come up with ideas for organization, taxonomies, etc, but I haven't done it yet.
I have an idea for a small app that would help in sorting digital files easier (kind of like symlinks to a bunch of disparate folders based on context, with drag and drop support), just to make my own sorting process easier, but I haven't really sat down to work on it yet.
One thing I like about the book is that she didn't write it until after years of experience helping people solve the way-too-much-junk problem, so it's based on what actually worked for a variety people who were failing to solve the problem on their own, unlike many self help books that are written only based on the author's experience of being naturally good at something.
I was offered some advice last year by a monk who had been living at a monastery that resonated when I read this book:
"Our surroundings have a profound impact on our psyche. If you want to do good deeds, consider surrounding yourself with good people. If you want to work hard, consider surrounding yourself with hard workers.
And if you’re feeling sad, down, and kind of messy? Clean your room."
Is this a proven fact?
Statements like these make sense intuitively but I would rather see scientific evidence for this statement than just accept it.
If I broke everything down into its components, that figure wouldn't even be close. In fact, I know of so few people who would come close, I'd question where this figure came from. I'm not in the US, btw.
I see you also have too many mugs.
I have that many books plus 500 CDs and 200 vinyl albums. My wife has a couple of hundred handbags and a similar number of coats and jackets.
But books are by far the largest class of thing in my house. I can't imagine having 300k items, even 30k seems rather unlikely in a house where you can see the floor!
Edit: I'm not in the US either so my house is probably smaller than the average US on though possibly larger than the other Brits commenting here; I'm in Norway.
I know the classical exaggerations of these items, but I had no idea someone would actually gather such a collection.
A few hundred handbags and coats? That is an incredibly large number. Could that not be reduced by an order of magnitude?
There aren't that many in actual stores... this can't be right.
The number is clearly an estimate, as getting the real number would be a colossal undertaking for no real benefit.
A rational person does not count the pill bottle as 251 things because it contains 250 pills. But that's the only kind of bloody-mindedness that could ever get you to an "average American home" filled with 300k "things". If you have any LEGO sets, each one of those little one-stud circular pips would have to count as a separate thing. But your dining room table would also be one thing.
We already have cromulent measures for the muchness of one's stuff in terms of kilograms (or pounds) and liters (or cubic feet).
If I plug an old ATA drive into an old chassis, does my thing count decrease by one, because I have the same number of computers but fewer loose hard drives? The volume remains the same, though it is arranged more efficiently. You traded empty space inside the case for empty space outside of it--in theory, you could store baby clothes in there instead of hard drives. The mass also remains constant.
In any case, I would not get that number from an anti-hoarding or de-cluttering consultant. I would objectively measure the change in mass of a moving truck after a household has loaded all their possessions essential enough to move between houses, but not essential enough to keep it under direct supervision. And by assuming that the truck is packed as densely as possible, you can also get a subjective estimate of total volume of possessions.
That would be a really easy way to estimate the median mass of possessions in an American home, without any of the temporary clutter that gets trashed instead of moved. And there would be no thing-equivalence between a dining room chair and a pencil stub, or between a television and one coupon in the junk mail, or between a refrigerator and an ice pack. Mass: x kilograms. Volume: y liters. Numbers where an average actually makes sense.
tl;dr - The figure seems to come from Regina Lark, a "Professional Organizer" who "specializes in working with people with chronic disorganization, ADHD, and hoarding disorders, as well as folks who have way too much stuff," although she suggests 30,000-300,000 items. I still think 30,000 is way off, however. I'd struggle to get to 3,000.