Whether you’ve heard of the original book or her new Netflix show, it’s likely that folks around you are buzzing about the “tidying” methods recommended by decluttering expert Marie Kondo. And now that Spring is almost here. what better time than now to “tidy up” your life?
Here in the U.S., we have even more storage facilities than we do McDonald’s locations… which is another way of saying that most of us have way, way too much stuff. And studies are showing that our brains like order, not clutter. When we have too many items cluttering our homes (and our minds), our brains aren’t able to turn off or slow down. If this persists, we may end up feeling anxious or even depressed.
Which means that yes, what starts out as basic clutter can lead to far more dangerous outcomes to our mental health and general wellbeing.
How is Marie Kondo different than other minimalism experts?
That’s where Marie Kondo comes in. Her four-step tidying method, called the “KonMari” method, is taking over the world for a lot of reasons. But one reason I really love it is that it allows us to maintain a connection with some of our belongings that are truly meaningful.
While some decluttering experts believe that pure minimalism is the only way to be happy, Kondo tells her clients that it’s okay to hang onto the things that truly “spark joy.” One man profiled on her show kept thousands of well-organized baseball cards at the end of his tidying process and she applauded him for finding the balance he needed with his collection hobby. In this way, the KonMari method is approachable, but beneficial, for almost anyone… whether they have a lot to get rid of, or just a few bag’s worth of excess.
The four steps of the KonMari method by Marie Kondo
Kondo recommends removing every piece of clothing you have and piling it into one huge collection atop a bed or sofa. It’s important that you are able to picture just how many pieces of clothing you have before you begin the important step of dividing it into keep and giveaway piles.
Next, pick up each item one by one and determine if they spark joy for you. If you can picture the time you donned that sparkly dress on New Year’s Eve and can’t wait for another excuse to wear it, then you’d keep it. If you know that you’ll never wear the dress again, it’s time to thank the item and move on.
And yes, it may seem a little kooky to thank pieces of clothing or to think about each tank top’s ability to “spark joy,” but this step is also what makes the KonMari method so unique. It allows us to feel a connection with our items, and the existence or shortage of connection is how we decide to keep it or let it go.
When it comes to folding the clothes and putting them away, I need to send you directly to Marie for advice:
Just as you did with your clothes, take down all the books you have and go through the same process. Remember, a book must spark joy to be deemed “keep-able” and you shouldn’t feel ashamed if you end up with a vast collection of books at the end.
Of course, you also shouldn’t feel any shame if you end up with a worn copy of your favorite novel and a few others you’d like to keep for your kids. There’s no judgment when it comes to KonMari, just the recognition that we all value different items in different ways.
Whew boy. If you don’t tend to recycle all your mail and homework as it comes in the door, this may be a painful step for you. This is when the tax records and old magazines and newspaper clippings and immunization records and calendars come out. Any paper item (with the exception of scrapbooks, photos and personal mementos) should be taken out and examined one by one.
Many folks find this to be the easiest step because once you have recycled one Marie Claire magazine from 2003, you can recycle dozens more without thought or care. As for kids’ homework or art projects, you can consider saving some of the most prized report cards and paintings, or you can take photos and store them in a safe digital space so they can look at them later on. (Just remember that you don’t want to clutter up your hard drive either, so it’s important to be discerning.)
- Komono (miscellaneous items)
The next step is… intense. It encapsulates pretty much everything in your house that you haven’t already tackled, outside of your super-personal mementos. That means you’ll be focusing on:
- Kitchen items: Dishware, cookware, drinkware, small appliances, pantry items, etc.
- Bathroom items: Makeup and skincare, toiletries, cleaning supplies, medicine, etc.
- Lifestyle items: Hobby equipment, games, CDs or DVDs, accessories, etc.
- Electrical items: Computers, TVs, speakers, gaming systems, etc.
Now, the 12-pack of Kleenex might not spark joy, but it is useful. So in this step, it’s okay to keep things that you have less attachment to, but that you are bound to use up.
However, this is also the step where you’re most likely to come across gifts that you never opened, but would feel guilty throwing away. Or items you purchased that you never used… but that make you feel wasteful by donating. In these cases, Kondo empowers you to make the best decision now, by getting rid of them.
5. Mementos and sentimental items
It may seem strange to save the hardest step for last, but Kondo believes that by now, you’ll have developed the tidying muscle you need to make decisions on the sentimental items we tend to keep close by for years or even decades.
In this step, look back on birthday cards, wedding gifts, photos, scrapbooks and other things that have personal significance. Kondo reminds us that some of our happiest memories have no items attached at all — they are simply stored in our hearts and minds.
On the other hand, maybe we do feel attachment to some items that bring us back to special moments or days. As in the rest of the exercises, there are no wrong answers here. Keep what sparks joy and get rid of the rest.
Final tips from Marie Kondo
She emphasizes that this is a big undertaking, so you shouldn’t expect to perform the full “KonMari” method in just a few hours or even days. Be sure to set aside a significant period of time to complete each step, and don’t fault yourself if you take longer than you expected. After all, the joy of going through old photos isn’t antithetical to her tidying method; it’s a part of it.
In other words, don’t be afraid to spark joy as you take on the big task of tidying your life and belongings.
P.S. If you have a real estate question of your own, feel free to reach out! I am happy to help!