The pro: Marie Kondo, author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying UpOur tester: Dianna Mazzone, beauty assistant and makeup hoarder
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“I’m a longtime lover of ‘stuff.’ It was stuff that made my first apartment in N.Y.C. feel like a home. But now that I’ve found my way in the big world, stuff no longer brings me comfort. My overflowing drawers and bursting vanity make me feel like I might suffocate, and should the shelves ever give way, I probably would. My profession doesn’t help the hoarding: I test at least two or three new beauty products a week—tough job, I know—which adds to the pileup.

"So, like more than 2 million others worldwide who have embraced The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up ($17;, I turned to the KonMari Method of decluttering. It works like this: Pick up an object, hold it close, and if it sparks joy within you, keep it. If not, donate or discard it. But, short of letting out a yelp of delight, how would I know if an object sparks joy? ‘You will feel a pulse in your body, sometimes big, sometimes not so big,’ Kondo told me through a Japanese translator. ‘The feeling will be different for each item, but in some way your body will let you know. If you feel nothing, then you have your answer.’

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"I started by applying the test to my vanity. After I checked expiration dates on skin-care products and tossed mascaras I’d opened more than six months prior—use them any longer and they become hotbeds of bacteria—much of my beauty arsenal, especially aesthetically pleasing items like eye-shadow palettes, passed the joy test. Kondo told me that was OK: ‘If you are sure that each of these items brings you joy, then keep them,’ she said. So I did—but she advised storing my stash in a way that I could actually see what products I had and remember to use them. A tall stack of translucent acrylic drawers from Muji fit flat items like blushes, while a set of deep clear bins I scoped out at the Container Store proved efficient for bulky items like shampoo. I next applied Kondo’s principle to my closet, getting rid of sweaters and long-forgotten bags that sparked buyer’s remorse more than joy.”

The results: “I can only describe the way I felt afterward as an organizational high. I had a sense of being more in control of my life than I ever had before, which inspired me to maintain the order in the months that followed. Not bad for a Sunday afternoon.”

How to Kiss Clutter Good-Bye

Kondo has got it down to an art form. Here’s how you can become a master of her method.

1. Divide and Conquer
Discard pieces by category, not location. Items like outerwear and accessories might be stashed in various closets, so this will give you a more realistic view of what you have.

2. Get Real About Gadgets
They’re going to become outdated, so no need to keep them around if you haven’t used them in the past six months. A service like eBay Valet is a good place to sell them.

3. Pass on Sentiment
Don’t dwell on items given to you by relatives or ones with emotional ties. Instead, think about the happiness they could bring to others.