Marie Kondo and the KonMari Method have been a total game changer in the world of organization, showing people how to tidy up and declutter once and for all! If you’re still trying to decide whether or not tidying up is for you, this post has all of the KonMari information you need to know!
This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.
Back in 2015, I stumbled upon a little book called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo.
At the time, I was living in a little townhouse with my husband Donnie and our two boys, who were about 6 and 3. I had become fed up with the fact that our house always felt like a cluttered disaster area. And even though it was small, I knew I could do a better job of making it an organized, more enjoyable place for our family to spend our time.
Reading Marie Kondo’s book was a huge “aha” moment for me. I didn’t completely agree with everything it said. But it prompted a mindset shift that has totally changed the way I have organized and operated our home over the last several years.
If you really want to dive deep into the KonMari method, I highly suggest reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and its companion, Spark Joy. But if you’re not yet sure if this whole tidying craze is right for you, I hope to help with that by giving you a basic rundown of all things KonMari in this post!
Who is Marie Kondo?
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up shares Marie’s story of how she got into tidying. It also lays out the principles of her tidying process (aka the “KonMari Method”).
Spark Joy is billed as “an illustrated master class on the art of organizing and tidying up.” It goes into greater detail on the finer points of the KonMari method. This includes how exactly to fold clothes and store various items.
How did Marie Kondo become a tidying expert?
In her books, Marie explains that she became obsessed with tidying and organization at a very young age. She’d spend hours in her room testing out different organizing strategies and techniques. Some were more effective than others.
At one point during her experimenting, she realized that the key to organizing was not only arranging things neatly, but also discarding items (particularly those that did not “spark joy”). This became the focus of her work.
She even went so far as to discard some of her family’s items in secret. When she was found out, she was forbidden from tidying anyone’s items but her own.
(She now recommends focusing your tidying efforts on your own items rather than on family members’ belongings! 😉 )
As an adult, Marie began giving tidying lessons in clients’ homes. Her results were incredible. She soon had a months-long waiting list of people clambering for her services!
In an attempt to help more people, Marie wrote The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up to explain her KonMari Method to the world. It has been a huge success. She followed up with Spark Joy a few years later.
What does KonMari mean?
” KonMari ” is a combination of Marie’s first and last names.
- Kon- Kondo
- Mari- Marie
What is the KonMari Method?
The KonMari Method is a tidying process that Marie Kondo created after years of tidying up. She began first in her own home as a child and teenager. Then she worked with clients to help them declutter and organize their homes.
In a nutshell, the work of “tidying up” boils down to two basic steps:
- deciding what to keep and what to discard
- deciding where to put the items you choose to keep
To complete the KonMari process most thoroughly and have the smallest chance of rebound, you will want to follow…
The Six Basic Rules of Tidying
These are the major tidying rules that Marie lays out in her books.
1. Commit yourself to tidying up.
I recently re-read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and Spark Joy. One thing that really stuck out to me this time that I think often gets missed is the mindset portion.
Everyone loves to focus on piling up everything in the middle of the room and folding clothes a certain way. (Both of which I think are helpful!) But without the mindset piece, I think people will be more likely to return to a clutter-filled lifestyle in the long run.
Marie’s first rule is that her students need to be very committed to the KonMari method. Completing the entire process won’t be an easy task. It will take a lot of hard work. But when people have finished the entire process, the rewards are great.
2. Imagine your ideal lifestyle.
For those who are absolutely committed to the tidying process, Marie has seen incredible results that encompass much more than just creating an organized home.
In The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, she claims, “A dramatic reorganization of the home causes correspondingly dramatic changes in lifestyle and perspective” (pages 2-3).
Her clients have envisioned their ideal lifestyle, learned to make definitive decisions, and turned their focus on the things that they really love. People who have completed the KonMari course have reported improved relationships, more success at work, and the ability to take action on goals they had been putting off forever.
It seems that a lack of clutter in their lives freed them up to focus on the things that were really important to them. They can then make the lifestyle they had been dreaming of a reality.
3. Finish discarding first.
Before deciding on permanent “homes” for any items or purchasing any storage bins, Marie instructs students to first finish discarding items in each and every category of their homes.
If things are placed in a permanent spot before the entire tidying process is complete, they may not end up in the most convenient location. Or they may need to be moved to make room for items in another category.
Since Marie’s clients often end up discarding several bags full of items, storage pieces are often freed up during the process. This makes it unnecessary to go out and buy more storage items.
Marie also makes the point that focusing too much attention on storage while there are still items to discard can be distracting. This can derail the entire process.
4. Tidy by category, not by location.
In the KonMari Method, Marie instructs students to tidy by category, rather than by location. So instead of saying, “I’m going to tidy the bedroom today!” she would say, “I’m going to tidy my clothing today!”
Tidying by category helps students make more accurate decisions about what to keep and what to discard since they can see every single item they own in a particular area at once.
For each category, students gather all of the items in that category together in one place. They handle each item to discover whether or not it “sparks joy” for them. Items that spark joy are kept, while anything that does not spark joy is discarded.
After students have decided which items to keep, they are placed in a “temporary home” until the student completes the entire tidying process. When the whole tidying process is complete, all items should have a more permanent home. The house should only hold items that spark joy.
5. Follow the right order.
Because letting go of items can be difficult, Marie recommends a very specific order for the tidying process. She starts with items that are generally easier to let go of. And she saves items with more sentimental value for the end when students have become more confident in their decision making abilities.
The “right order” for tidying up is…
Clothes are perhaps the thing people think of most when they think of the KonMari Method! After piling up all clothes in one spot and deciding what to keep and what to discard, Marie has a very specific way of folding that she prescribes to her students.
With the KonMari method of folding, the goal is to fold each item into a small rectangle so that it can stand on its own without falling over.
Clothes are then “filed” in the drawer so that each article of clothing can be seen.
How do you decide what to hang and what to fold?
Marie recommends folding as many of your clothes as possible. But she does make a few exceptions.
In The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, she says, “My standard is this: hang any clothes that look like they would be happier hung up, such as those made with soft materials that flutter in the breeze or highly tailored cuts, which protest at being folded” (page 78).
I generally hang all of my blouse-like shirts that are a soft material and would end up fairly wrinkly if folded. I also hang stiffer items like vests and blazers, as well as all of my dresses.
Books can be a difficult category to declutter (former English teacher here)! Marie makes the argument that the best time to read a book is as soon as someone has first encountered it. If it has been sitting on a shelf for a long time and has not yet been read, it likely never will be.
As with every category, she recommends keeping only the books which spark joy and discarding the rest.
Related: The KonMari Method: Organizing Books
With papers, Marie recommends discarding nearly everything! Of course there are some essential pieces that you will need to keep. But she leaves room for very little paperwork.
With papers that must be kept, she suggests dividing them into two categories:
- papers that need to be saved
- papers that need some sort of action to be taken
She keeps all papers that need to be saved in one small file. And she designates one spot only for papers that need to be dealt with.
(Sentimental papers and photos are dealt with under the “sentimental items” category.)
Komono (Miscellaneous Items)
All items that do not fall under clothes, books, papers, or sentimental items can be dealt with in the “komono” or miscellaneous category. This can be everything from kitchen utensils to technology and cords to skin care and makeup to household supplies and more.
Marie prescribes the same strategy for each category:
- Gather up all of the items from that particular category in one place.
- Handle each item to figure out whether or not it sparks joy.
- If it sparks joy, it stays.
- If it doesn’t spark joy, Marie recommends thanking the item for serving you previously and then discarding it.
When I did my own “tidying marathon” with the KonMari Method, komono ended up being a sticking point for me. The category was so broad and seemed to encompass “everything else.” I had trouble figuring out where to start!
To try to create some sort of order to the “komono” category, as well as all of the other tidying categories, I created a simple checklist to help me stay on track. And of course I’m sharing it with you too! Snag it (for free!) below!
Finally, Marie saves sentimental items for last. This is because our emotional connection to mementos makes them so hard to discard!
By the time her students reach the sentimental items category, however, they have gotten very good at being decisive and figuring out what sparks joy for them. This makes navigating this typically difficult task a little easier.
Marie also makes the point that, “By handling each sentimental item and deciding what to discard, you process your past” (The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, page 116).
You can see the process we went through to tidy up our own mementos here: The KonMari Method: Organizing Sentimental Items
6. Ask yourself if it sparks joy.
No matter which category you’re dealing with at the moment, Marie’s #1 criteria for figuring out whether it stays or goes is whether or not it “sparks joy.”
At first, this can seem difficult to determine. It’s so subjective. Items that spark joy will vary greatly from person to person.
In Spark Joy, Marie says, “The best way to identify what does or doesn’t bring you joy is to compare” (page 17).
Take 3 tops, for example, and put them next to each other. Then it may be easier to discern which one you really love as opposed to the one(s) you just feel “meh” about.
The longer you work at the tidying process, the easier it will be to figure out what sparks joy.
How long does the KonMari Method take?
Marie emphasizes that to experience the “dramatic changes” her clients have described and have lasting success, the tidying process must be completed quickly, all in one shot.
The timeline will vary based on several factors, including how many people live in the home and how much “stuff” needs to be tidied. Marie says that most of her clients finish the process in six months or less.
Does the KonMari Method really work?
I can honestly say that since first reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up in 2015, our house has stayed less cluttered and more organized than it was before that point. For me, it worked.
That being said, there are many things I really love about the KonMari Method and a few things I am not really completely on board with.
Things I Really Appreciate About the KonMari Method
A Mindset Shift
The emphasis that the KonMari Method places on intentionally deciding what to keep rather than what to get rid of was a game changer for me. It’s a small mindset shift, but it is an important one!
Assuming that everything is going and just picking the things that I actually use and love is incredibly freeing. It has kept me from falling into the “but what if I need that someday…” trap.
Less Is Actually More
I also really love the “less is more” mentality. I’ve seen the impact it has made in my own life.
I recently did a little “maintenance tidy” of my clothing items. I donated a garbage bag full of things that had run their course or just didn’t “spark joy” anymore.
Since that decluttering session, I have been amazed at how much more quickly I’ve been able to choose my outfit for the day. (It’s easier to pick when you don’t have to sort through the “meh” clothes to find the pieces you really love!)
My closet has also stayed neater. It’s less cluttered and only holds clothes that I actually want to wear. I’ve been less likely to throw my items on the floor if I decide not to wear them or am in a hurry. Instead, I take the extra few seconds to hang them or place them where they go.
File Folding for the Win!
I have been using the KonMari Method / filing method of folding our clothes since I first read Marie’s book in 2015, and I LOVE how neat and tidy it keeps our drawers.
Along with being able to find everything easily, my boys share a not-huge dresser. If I was still trying to use the more traditional stacking method for storing their clothes, there is no way I would fit everything in one piece of furniture. With the filing method, everything fits easily!
While I’m not a huge fan of thanking the clothes themselves (more on that below), I do appreciate the idea of being grateful that our items served their purpose for a time. And now that that time is over, it’s okay to let them go.
In my case, I’m thankful to God for providing for my needs at the time. And I’m happy to then be able to pass the items along to someone else who may be in need of them.
Things I Haven’t Adopted from the KonMari Method
Talking to My Items
Marie is from Japan, so it makes sense that her method would incorporate a more Eastern way of thinking, including the personification of clothing and other objects by attributing feelings to them.
While I haven’t taken up talking to my items, as I mentioned above, I do love the idea of being grateful for them and think we could all use a little more gratitude in our lives!
Only Items that “Spark Joy”?
I admit, there are some things in my house that do not spark joy at all, but they are necessary to keep around. I generally have expanded my definition of things to keep to “things I love and/or use all the time” to encompass some of those items.
While “sparking joy” seemed to be the only real test in The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, in Spark Joy, Marie seemed to make room for necessary items. She explained that something like a vacuum cleaner could spark joy, not because we necessarily love to vacuum, but because we love that our floors are clean and sparkling rather than dirty and gross. So I was glad to see the expansion of her definition as well.
In The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Marie specifically warns against tweaking her system to suit different personalities. While I can see her point that too much deviation from the “rules” she had laid out could end in a less-than-stellar result, I have a hard time believing that there is any system out there that is truly “one size fits all,” even a stellar system like the KonMari Method.
While we have followed her method in general in our house, we have definitely tweaked some of the specifics to meet our family’s need and stage of life. (For example, I do “ball” my boys’ socks– sorry Marie!– because they were a huge mess when I would try to fold them.)
Again, by the end of Spark Joy, Marie’s views seemed to have softened a little bit. She ends up giving tips on how to learn to live with family members’ untidiness and even encourages, “Even if you fail, don’t worry– your house won’t blow up” (page 262). 🙂
Marie Kondo, the KonMari Method, and Tidying Up: Final Thoughts
I hope this post was a helpful rundown of the KonMari Method, Marie Kondo, and sparking joy!
There really is so much wisdom to be gleaned from Marie Kondo’s inspiring books. So if you haven’t yet, grab a copy (from the library if you don’t want to add any more items to your home!) and get reading!
Marie Kondo and the KonMari Method: Frequently Asked Questions
If this post was helpful for you, be sure to pin the image below so you can refer to it as you start on your KonMari journey!
Thank you so much for following along! Have a wonderful day!
This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.