How to tidy up using the KonMari method
Marie Kondo, a Japanese organising consultant, revolutionised the way many of us tidy up in her globally renowned book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organising.
Her radical, two-pronged approach to tidying comprises two simple, non-negotiable rules:
#1 Put your hands on everything you own, ask yourself if it sparks joy and if it doesn’t, thank it for its service and donate it to a new home.
#2 When only your most joy-giving belongings remain, put every item in a place where it’s visible, easy to grab and later put back.
To help you declutter and navigate the spring clean with aplomb, we’ve condensed the KonMari method into digestible chunks to kickstart your spring clean, before revealing four eye-opening results that’ll make you wonder why you didn’t do it sooner.
Now, let’s spark some joy!
Tidy by category – not location
Let’s jump right in and flip the script of decluttering folklore. Conventional wisdom encourages us to tackle clutter by room – the bedroom first, the kitchen next, etc.
Enter Kondo, who inverts the rule, suggesting we’d be better off tidying by category – dealing with every single book or piece of clothing in your house at once, for instance.
The thinking here is that unless you’re rapid and ruthless when decluttering, things will continue to creep from room to room and you’ll never rein in the mess.
What should I tidy first?
Kondo advises beginning with clothing since it’s typically the most abundant thing we own and takes up lots of space.
However, if you’re following her method to the letter, be aware that when working with clients, Kondo consigns any garment not placed in the pile to the charity shop – so choose wisely!
Commit to tidying up
As you start emptying your wardrobes, you’re bound to come across sentimental items like photos and old keepsakes. Be wary! It’s easy to get sucked down a rabbit hole of nostalgia, so Kondo advises committing yourself to tidy, come what may.
Let go with love
We get it, it’s hard to let things go, especially sentimental things you’ve had for years.
But if you’ve made it this far, you’ll know Kondo’s techniques are pretty offbeat – and no less so here, because it’s time to let go with love.
Kondo advises her clients to quietly thank the person who gave them a gift (you could thank yourself if you bought it) and the item itself for its service before popping it in the charity pile.
Unconventional? Most definitely, but the guilt-ridding power is real.
But if you can honestly say you feel happier holding on to them, fine. Otherwise, let them go with love...
Ask if it sparks joy
Kondo asks us to consider our possessions’ feelings or maintain a dialogue with them, so we know when it’s time to let go. Kooky? Perhaps, but the method genuinely helps prioritise which items stay and which you’ll donate.
A quick experiment to illustrate – open your wardrobe and ask yourself if your clothes enjoy being squashed on a corner shelf or crowded onto hangers? Are your hardworking socks thrilled to be balled up?
Kondo uses the analogy of athletes who love their sports gear and treat it as sacred. In essence, our belongings work hard for us, so we should repay the favour. It’s almost uncanny, but clothes can look pretty miserable when bunched up and deprived of breathing space.
Spark joy in others
The simple question of joy permits you to let go of clothes past their prime and items that no longer serve a purpose.
One way to evaluate is to imagine you’re picking items from your favourite shop – would you still shell out cash on those tight, luminous jeans or the preppy blazer you’ve never worn?
Once you start, it’s startling how rapidly the purge gathers pace.
But instead of panic, relief pervades.
In the end, you’ll have bags full of things that no longer spark joy in you but are primed to delight a lucky recipient.
One word of warning, though – keep your baggage haul under the radar, or better yet, tidy up when your family aren’t home, as they’ll likely want to stop you from getting rid of so much!
What paperwork do I need to keep?
Kondo argues that all your paperwork should fit in one place, which means being ruthless when deliberating your keep and donate pile.
Gone are the electrical manuals – don’t fret, everything’s online these days – as well as payslips, old bills and statements.
The only documents you’re likely to need are contracts (mortgage, employment etc.) and insurance policies.
For the paperwork you do keep, store it in an upright holder to prevent a small stack from becoming a mountain.
Folding clothes vertically
Once you’ve sorted the things to discard, it’s time to decide where your joy-giving belongings will live.
Once you’ve gathered your joy-giving garments, start folding them using Kondo’s innovative folding method:
The Marie Kondo fold
The Marie Kondo fold makes all your clothes accessible, easy to spot and hard to mess up – the declutterer’s dream! This way, every time you reach for an item, you aren’t shifting a whole clothing pile; plus, it resembles fabric origami – very easy on the eye!
Except for heavy coats and trousers, delicate dresses and suits, most garments are better folded than hung – and take up far less space.
And get this for a startling fact: depending on thickness, you can fit between 20 to 40 pieces of folded clothing in the same space needed to hang 10.
How to do the Marie Kondo fold
You can fold everything from sweaters to stockings using the KonMari technique.
All you have to do is fold your item into a long rectangle (usually by folding it in thirds vertically) and then fold from the bottom up into a neat package resembling an upside-down V – simple, and so satisfying to do!
Fall in love with your wardrobe
If you’ve researched the KonMari method, you’ll know it has some serious devotees. And for good reason, because once you’ve cleared the clutter, the fun really begins.
Gone are the days of awkward arm wrestling with heavy coat hangers – with breathing space between pieces, your clothes can finally see the light of day – no more so than with this open wardrobe.
Just opening your wardrobe or dresser gives a little hit of joy – even hope – whether you’re planning your office outfit or next party ensemble.
The KonMari method: before and after
An organised wardrobe saves space, time and money
Digging through an overstuffed wardrobe quickly becomes a drag, but after applying the KonMari method, you’ll have a raft of joy-sparking garments and fabulous footwear.
Plus, with an organised wardrobe, you’ll quickly identify the gaps.
It’s genuinely shocking when sorting through your clothes and realising you have multiple items in the same style or colour – the KonMari method eliminates this issue, so you only buy what you need, saving you time, money, and wardrobe real estate!
Improves spending habits
Upshot number two – when all that remains sparks joy, we become pickier with the items we bring onboard. Essentially, the joy-sparking principle extends into other parts of their lives.
In fact, many KonMari advocates overhaul their spending habits entirely, saying goodbye to so-so sale items and hello to things they’ll love for years to come.
So, if you’ve been planning to redecorate, whisk your beau away, or overhaul your wardrobe, there’s no better time than post-clear-out.
You'll tidy up less
Okay, you’ll still have to tidy and organise your space occasionally, but the comprehensiveness of the method ensures clean-ups are much fewer and farther between.
Perhaps the best payoff of all – once you’ve subjected hundreds of your possessions to the joy-no-joy binary, decision making becomes clear cut and stress-free.
Books to read, films to see, what’s for dinner – you’ll be good to go. But even important decisions like which projects you should pursue become clearer – not a bad result of tidying up your house!
If you decide to try the KonMari method, let us know how it goes in the comments below – we’d love to hear about your results and the benefits it provides!
And if this lifestyle-boosting blog whetted your appetite, be sure to check out our other lifestyle articles on everything from healthy recipes to space-saving ideas.