Kathy and Darrel Tanaka found themselves in a tricky situation when they decided to downsize their three-bedroom home and move into a smaller house just for the two of them. Their children had moved away long ago, starting their own families around Southern California, which made the once bustling house feel a bit too empty. They also wanted to plan for the future, out of concern for having to care for large house when they get older. However, the hardest part of the process was not choosing where to move to next, but how to move everything the Tanakas had accumulated over time. The couple found they had too much “stuff” — in other words, clutter.

This is not an unheard-of dilemma. Many older adults in our community find themselves and their homes packed with too many items, whether or not they choose to downsize. The idea of having a home full of belongings could be attributed to the traditional Japanese value of mottainai. Not being wasteful, and using our resources wisely has been a value handed down from generations in the Japanese culture. As a result, many older adults in Our Community may find they have a lot of things: clothes, family portraits, and memorabilia such as newspaper clippings, baseball cards, souvenirs, etc. Despite the feelings and attachments we may have to all our belongings, too much of anything may actually be more harmful to our health both physically and mentally.

Japanese cleaning consultant Marie Kondo brought the decluttering movement to the forefront in late 2014 with her best-selling book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, which introduces “The KonMari” method of cleaning. Kondo, using an item category-by-category style of decluttering, promises that “if you properly simplify and organize your home once, you’ll never have to do it again” (Book of the Day, 2015). The KonMari method is only one of many ways you can choose to clean your home, however. Other professional organizers call for using either little-by-little or room-by-room approaches, which may be easier for some. While any method you choose to declutter your home is important, it is only as useful as your determination to transform your living space into a place of peace that adds to your quality of life.

To learn more about how to get started on decluttering your home, visit our fact sheet.


Book of the Day. (2015, March 21). The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up – Marie Kondo. Retrieved March 2, 2020, from