Marie Kondo and the KonMari Method: The Ultimate Guide

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!

Marie Kondo and the KonMari Method: The Ultimate Guide (with free printable KonMari Method checklist)

This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.

A little more than four years ago now, 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 would have been 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 and 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 four 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!

Free Printable Tidying Checklist for Marie Kondo's KonMari Method

Get Your Tidying Checklist!

Speed up your tidying process and don’t miss a thing with our detailed, easy-to-use checklist!

Table of Contents

Click on the links below to be taken to a specific part of the post.

Who is Marie Kondo?

Marie Kondo is a tidying expert from Japan and the author of the New York Times best selling book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and its companion, Spark Joy.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and Spark Joy by Marie Kondo

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up shares Marie’s story of how she got into tidying and 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” and goes into greater detail on the finer points of the KonMari method, such as how exactly to fold clothes and store various items.

In early 2019, Marie also starred in a Netflix series called Tidying Up with Marie Kondo where she coached families, couples, and individuals with cluttered homes through her KonMari Method.

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, spending hours upon hours in her room testing out different organizing strategies and techniques, with some being more effective than others.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

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”), which became the focus of her work.

She even went so far as to discard some of her family’s items in secret, and 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, and her results were so incredible that 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, and 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, first in her own home as a child and teenager, and then when working 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 and deciding where to put the items you choose to keep.

Kitchen Drawer Organized Using the KonMari Method by Marie Kondo

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, and 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 and 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.

Organized Pantry with Matching Containers and Spice Jars with Labels

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).

Because her clients have envisioned their ideal lifestyle and have learned to make definitive decisions and turn 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 and 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.

Storage Unit Made with the IKEA BESTA System

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 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, making 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 and 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 and 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.

Decluttering Clothes with the KonMari Method

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 and 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 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 first clothes, then books, followed by papers, then komono (miscellaneous items), and finally sentimental items.

Clothes

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.

Shirt Folded Using Marie Kondo's KonMari Method

Clothes are then “filed” in the drawer so that each article of clothing can be seen.

Clothes File Folded in a Drawer Using the KonMari Method
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.

Organized Closet After Using Marie Kondo's KonMari Method

Related: File Folding and Organizing Clothes with the KonMari Method

Books

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, and if it has been sitting on a shelf for a long time and has not yet been read, it likely never will be.

Stacked Books Organized Using the KonMari Method

As with every category, she recommends keeping only the books which spark joy and discarding the rest.

Related: The KonMari Method: Organizing Books

Papers

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.

Desk Organized with Marie Kondo's KonMari Method

With papers that must be kept, she suggests dividing them into two categories– papers that need to be saved and papers that need some sort of action to be taken.

She keeps all papers that need to be saved in one small file and designates one spot only for papers that need to be dealt with.

(Sentimental papers and photos are dealt with under the “sentimental items” category.)

Related: How to Organize Paper with the KonMari Method

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, and 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.

KonMari Method in the Kitchen, Utensil Drawer

Related: Organizing Komono (Miscellaneous Items) with the KonMari Method

When I did my own “tidying marathon” with the KonMari Method, komono ended up being a sticking point for me, simply because it 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!

KonMari Checklist
Free Printable Tidying Checklist for Marie Kondo's KonMari Method

Get Your Tidying Checklist!

Speed up your tidying process and don’t miss a thing with our detailed, easy-to-use checklist!

Sentimental Items

Finally, Marie saves sentimental items for last, simply because our emotional connection to mementos makes them so hard to let go of!

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, which 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).

Sentimental Items and Mementos Organized Using the KonMari Method

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).

By taking 3 tops, for example, and putting them next to each other, 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 for you.

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.

While 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.

Organized Living Room, KonMari Method, Marie Kondo

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 and 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 and have seen the impact it has made in my own life. I recently did a little “maintenance tidy” of my clothing items, donating 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!)

Dresses in Closet Organized with the KonMari Method, Marie Kondo

My closet has also stayed neater. Because 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 and instead 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.

Shared Dresser with Boys' Clothes Folded Using the KonMari Method, Filing Method

Along with being able to find everything easily, my boys share a not-huge dresser, and 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!

Gratefulness

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, explaining 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.

No Tweaks?

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.)

Socks and Underwear Stored in a Dresser

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). 🙂

I hope this post was a helpful rundown of the KonMari Method, Marie Kondo, and sparking joy! If it was, be sure to pin the image below so you can refer to this post as you start on your KonMari journey!

Free Printable KonMari Method Checklist

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!

And for even more information about Marie Kondo and the KonMari Method, see these posts:

Marie Kondo and the KonMari Method: The Ultimate Guide (You’re here!)

File Folding and Organizing Clothes with the KonMari Method

The KonMari Method: Organizing Books

How to Organize Paper with the KonMari Method

Organizing Komono (Miscellaneous Items) with the KonMari Method

The KonMari Method: Organizing Sentimental Items

The KonMari Method: One Year Later

Have a wonderful day!

This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.

14 Comments

  1. Sarah | A Simple and Contented Life says:

    This is a great guide to the KonMari method Abby! I’m yet to read Spark Joy but The Life-Changing Magic really helped me clear a lot of my clutter. I even persuaded my Hubby to declutter some of his things too! I have to admit that I too still ball my socks – the folding of them just didn’t work for me – I think I’m too lazy! 😉 And I couldn’t bear to part with any of my books either – every one of them still sparks joy – even though I know I have far too many! 🙂

    1. Abby Lawson says:

      I’m glad it’s not just me who has trouble letting go of books…. ah! Definitely the hardest part!

      ~Abby =)

  2. I haven’t read Spark Joy (it’s on the list, though!), but my impression when I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up was, “This woman CANNOT have kids, and I doubt there is a husband!” I think she has mellowed a bit with the addition of those to her life, and perhaps that is reflected in Spark Joy; it seemed to be so when I watched the show.

    1. Abby Lawson says:

      That was my impression too! Spark Joy seemed to have much more realistic expectations than the first book did. 🙂 Have a wonderful weekend, Heather!

      ~Abby =)

  3. One thing she didn’t address is that not everyone actually has the ROOM to have a place for everything. I know I still have more to get rid of, but storage is in a little bit of short supply. The closet in the spare bedroom is full of seasonal decorations. Yes, I have discarded many things, but I love decorating for holidays. My husband is a big man and all of his clothes that I fold, don’t fit well into the drawers. I did enjoy Marie’s books and have donated or trashed many bags in the past few months. But it’s still a continuous job and I actually enjoy seeing things leave the house. I just wanted to comment and maybe find a miraculous solution!! Thanks for listening.

    1. Abby Lawson says:

      I hear you! Small spaces are definitely a challenge! We lived in a little townhouse for 7 years, so I definitely had to learn to get creative with space. I tried to use vertical space with tall shelving units and wall shelves as much as possible for added storage. I wrote my thoughts on getting organized when you live in a small house in this post: https://justagirlandherblog.com/how-to-get-organized-when-you-live-in-a-small-house/ . Hope you’re having a wonderful week!

      ~Abby =)

  4. In a prior post you mentioned making your labels. I’m assuming that means you are a crafter. So how have you organized your craft supplies? That is one area where the “I might need this someday” really gets me!

  5. Thanks, Abby, your clarification on the “sparking of joy” helped stop some serious eye-rolling on my part! I read the books and watched the Netflix episodes, which I thought would be easier to digest – it wasn’t! Between the greeting of the house to thanking inanimate objects, it all seems like clever marketing (with Marie’s sweet demeanor to put it over the top). These oddities set her apart from the myriad of organizers – in print & on the net. Like you, I thank God for all I have and it is He to whom I am grateful. “Joy”, for me, is sparked by my family and felt throughout Sunday service – not by “things”.

    I agree with you on the Eastern vs Western cultures, and on your “is it useful” test. The folding method is helpful to ME – the hubby and 2 teenagers is another story – their clothes stayed neatly folded for exactly 2 days! Also, there was some seriously bad advice in the 1st book in the paper section, which I hope most Americans ignored, Tax Returns must be retained for a minimum of three years even though they are not useful and certainly don’t spark joy! (As do certain medical records, insurance policies, etc.)

    So thanks so much for making “tidying” more realistic and for the free printable!!

    1. Abby Lawson says:

      Thanks for that input, Denise! I have definitely learned a lot from her methods, but you’re right– there are some things that need a little tweaking! 🙂 Hope you’re having a wonderful week!

      ~Abby =)

  6. Thank you for this. Just what I needed! Loved your honesty and real life examples. You made it simple and easy for me 😉

    1. Abby Lawson says:

      So glad it was helpful for you, Michelle! Love to hear that. Hope you have a great week! <3

      ~Abby =)

      1. Thank you Abby. I hope a double blessing to you. <3

        1. Abby Lawson says:

          Thank you, Michelle! Have a great week! <3

          ~Abby =)

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