Marie Kondo is a world-renowned organizational consultant, author of the bestselling book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and star of the Netflix show Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. Considered one of the most influential people by Time Magazine, Kondo has earned a following by tapping into an everyday issue that can impact our emotional and physical health: clutter.
Enchanted by organizing since she was a child, Kondo read through her mother’s home and lifestyle magazines, and loved learning about topics related to interior design and strategic cleaning. While growing up in Japan, her grandmother’s effortless tidying was an inspiration to Kondo and taught her to create her living space with intention. As a teenager, she read The Art of Discarding and many other books on the topic of organizing. By 19 years old, Kondo began her tidying consultant business while attending college in Tokyo. She learned over time that more attention should be paid to items you choose to keep in your home, rather than what should be discarded.
The Marie Kondo Method, trademarked as KonMari, involves a mindset shift when it comes to organizing items within your home or workspace. With your ideal lifestyle in mind, the goal is determining whether or not items “spark joy” and should be kept or eliminated. Kondo makes organizing personal and emotional, requiring people to think deeply about what stays in their home based on each item’s value and purpose.
For people who have a difficult time discarding possessions and taking an intentional approach to organizing, the Marie Kondo Method allows you to rethink why something would stay in your space and provides specific rules to follow in the process. In this article, learn how to implement the Marie Kondo Method so you can live in a tidier space that provides clarity and relaxation.
- Marie Kondo is a bestselling author and television star who built a career on decades of research as a tidying consultant in Japan.
- Unlike other organization methods that focus on minimizing objects in a household, Kondo focuses on finding joy and happiness in the items you choose to keep. This makes the process more motivating and uplifting.
- Kondo teaches people to take an emotional approach to tidying so their living space complements their ideal lifestyle.
What Is the Marie Kondo Method?
The KonMari Method is a unique approach to organization that follows Marie Kondo’s straightforward rules. Her method helps even the most stubborn hoarders distinguish valued items from undervalued items, but the point is not to discard everything. A shift in mindset is what allows for clarity on what must stay in your space and continue to serve a useful and emotional purpose.
Kondo spent years working as a tidying consultant honing her craft, has written nine books in Japanese on organization, and used her research to form basic rules for anyone to follow.
The KonMari Method Involves These 6 Rules of Tidying
- Commit Yourself to Tidying Up: The KonMari Method is designed to be “a chance to reset your entire life” and not just a quick-fix approach to organizing. The first rule of tidying is to commit yourself to the process and treat it like a “festival” that will be completed with full effort and seriousness.
- Imagine Your Ideal Lifestyle: The KonMari website describes Kondo’s tidying process as a way to “spark joy in your life and change it forever.” Before beginning the process, you have to think about what kind of house you want to live in and how you want to live in it. This will help you define your “ideal lifestyle,” which allows you to clarify why you are starting this organizing method and how it will improve your life. In a video on her website, Kondo recommends that you picture your ideal day in your home, how it starts and ends, and what the space looks like while you’re living in it. This picture in your head will serve as motivation for you as you tidy your home.
- Finish Discarding First: A basic rule of the KonMari Method is to focus on items that you cherish and let the rest go, with gratitude. This process will involve discarding items throughout your living space and Kondo believes that this is an important process because it teaches you about what has purpose and allows you to continue discarding things more easily in the future. As you go through your items, discard anything that’s not cherished or purposeful, and then organize what you’ve kept.
- Tidy by Category, Not by Location: Although you may be tempted to organize one room or closet at a time, the KonMari Method involves tidying by category. Because people often store similar items in several locations, organizing by category streamlines the process and allows you to see how many items in each category you have in your home. The KonMari Method involves organizing by category, in the following order:
- Komono (miscellaneous items)
- Sentimental items
- Follow the Right Order: Organizing by category, in a specific order, is a basic rule of the KonMari Method that was finalized after Marie Kondo worked with many clients and observed their emotional processes. The right order starts with clothes, a category that Kondo views as easier and more straightforward, and ends with sentimental items, which is seen as more difficult. This allows you to hone your decision-making skills throughout the process and provides tangible proof of your progress.
- Ask Yourself if It Sparks Joy: Finding what brings you joy is the underlying principle of the Marie Kondo Method and is what separates it from other organizing processes. Kondo realized as a teenager who loved tidying that focusing on discarding items led to frustration, but when she looked at items carefully and closely, she felt an emotional connection to some and not others. That feeling is what guides you through the process. As you go through each of the five categories in your home, you should only keep objects that bring you joy or a feeling of love.
The Difference Between the KonMari Method and Minimalism
Minimalism involves only keeping the items that you need for your daily life. This lifestyle is focused on having less and living with simplicity. The KonMari Method has some similarities to minimalism, but Kondo points out some key differences. “Minimalism advocates living with less; the KonMari Method encourages living among items you truly cherish,” she writes on her website.
According to Kondo, tidying is more about what you want to keep in your life and less about what you want to eliminate. For some people, living in an empty space is ideal and brings peace, while others feel happiest when living among books, collectibles, and art. “Joy is personal,” Kondo said, which is why tidying should be based on your own ideal lifestyle.
Many people who apply the KonMari Method do end up discarding many items in their homes because they realize that they aren’t adding value to their lives. But the decision is emotional and not solely based on living with fewer objects in the space.
Is Home Organization Important? What Research Shows About Clutter
Tidying your home may seem only like a visual change, but research shows that clearing clutter may benefit your physical and emotional health. Studies indicate that living in or working in a disorganized space can have the following impacts:
- Increased depressed mood: A study published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin found that women who described their homes as more stressful than restorative were more likely to have unhealthy daily cortisol levels and an increased depressed mood.
- Difficulty focusing on tasks: A study done by Princeton University psychologists suggests that clutter around your workspace can reduce your ability to focus on tasks.
- Disrupted sleep: When the company CPAP surveyed 1,000 Americans on their sleep habits, they found that bedroom cleaning activity and reduced clutter were correlated with sleep quality and emotional well-being.
- More unhealthy food choices: A study published in Environment and Behavior shows that people who have an “out-of-control mindset” from their cluttered or chaotic kitchen are more likely to make unhealthy food choices, such as eating more cookies than carrots.
- More likely to make mistakes: A study involving 80 participants indicates that people working in a messy environment are more likely to make errors than people working in a tidy environment.
Tidying improves your lifestyle and work performance by:
- Boosting your mood
- Helping you focus on tasks and goals
- Making it easier to unwind and relax
- Allowing you to feel more in control of your life
- Improving your self-esteem
- Increasing your ability to solve problems and make decisions
- Growing your connection with family members
- Reducing feelings of anxiety and stress
Lessons to Learn From KonMari Tidying
1. Make Your Space Reflect Your Life Vision
Marie Kondo asks her clients to visualize their ideal lifestyles before beginning the tidying process. This allows them to create an end goal that keeps them motivated throughout the process.
To determine how your life vision should be reflected in your living space, ask yourself these questions:
- “What kinds of activities will I (or we) be doing in the home?”
- “What does my morning routine look like?”
- “Do I want my space to be creative, uplifting, relaxing, bare, etc.?”
- “What do I love most about my current space and what do I dislike?”
- “How does clutter make me feel?”
- “How will organizing my space make my day easier?”
2. Focus on What Makes You Happy
Thinking about the objects in your house as sources of joy may feel different, but that’s the basis of Kondo’s method. All items that are kept must be purposeful, contribute to your happiness, and help you to fulfill your life vision. In a Google Talk, Kondo describes this as a physical feeling of comfort or happiness when you touch an object, so look for a “spark” in your belly when you sort through your items and decide what’s worth keeping.
3. Make Organizing Your Home a Special Event
The KonMari Method recommends making tidying up a special event that involves decluttering your space all at once (with a deadline). As part of this tidying “festival,” as Kondo calls it, aim to be completely done with the process within a specific time frame. For example, you can complete the entire home within a weekend or break it up into 2–3 hours every week for one month, but make the deadline within a one-month period.
4. Think in Categories
The Marie Kondo step to tidy by category is unique to her process and ensures that you won’t start with one closet in your home and give up after that. This rule taps into the emotional process of organizing, too, by starting with easier clothes items and ending with more difficult sentimental items.
As you become more familiar with the feeling of joy that comes from a well-loved item, you’ll be better able to determine what sentimental items should stay in your home and which ones are no longer serving a purpose in your life.
5. Pile Up What You’ve Acquired
Part of Marie Kondo’s Method is making piles of home items so that you can take in the visual of how much you’ve acquired and determine what you really need to keep. For instance, she recommends putting all of your clothing on your bed while sorting through the clothes category, creating a hill of items. For books and papers, pile them high in the center of the room and then step back to look at them.
This step of the process is, again, to trigger the emotional reaction to organizing—allowing you to understand just how much you have stored in your home.
6. Make Use of All Items
KonMari tidying involves keeping only items that play a role in your current lifestyle. If a possession has to be stored away, then it’s not “sparking joy” or having a positive influence on your life, and should therefore be discarded. Storage space in the home, such as closets and shelving, should be used to hold items that are used frequently.
7. Make Things Accessible
Marie Kondo has a specific folding method that will make clothing and linens more easily recognizable and accessible. In the video below, she demonstrates her method, which involves neatly folding the items into rectangles that stand up in a basket or drawer.
By the end of the tidying process, all items should be easily accessible in drawers, bins, baskets, and shelves. Every item should have a home, alongside other items in the same category.
How to Start Tidying Today
The best time to start organizing your space is right now, so jump in and think of it as an exciting opportunity. Begin by imagining your ideal living space. What does your dream home look like? Use this visual as your motivation to get started. If you’re having trouble pinpointing your life vision or focus, consider creating a vision board to align your aspirations.
Ready to move forward? KonMari offers an 8-week “Tidy Challenge” that recommends a small task for each day. If following a specific schedule is best for you, start with Week 1 of the challenge now.
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- Talks at Google. (2015, February 25). Marie Kondo | The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up | Talks at Google. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w1-HMMX_NR8
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