What Is the KonMari Method?

neatly folded items in a drawer

​The Spruce / Michelle Becker

Marie Kondo’s book "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up" has become a cultural phenomenon, inspiring people who would not normally pare down their possessions to throw away bags full of excess stuff. The book centers on Kondo’s particular method, called the KonMari Method, of radically decluttering a home or office.

What Is the KonMari Method?

The KonMari Method encourages people to get rid of items that no longer have a purpose (or no longer "spark joy") and keep items that are purposeful and meaningful.

It's a rather rigid method that might not be for everyone, and it can take several months to complete thoroughly. Rather than true minimalism (keeping fewer items overall), Marie Kondo's philosophy advocates for owning things that are genuinely loved. Here are the main points of the Japanese organizing expert’s decluttering steps to help you decide whether Kondo's method is right for you.

Fun Fact

Marie Kondo's proposal for the book won first prize in a publishing training course called "How to Write Bestsellers That Will Be Loved for 10 Years" in 2010, according to The New Yorker.

Be Prepared to Discard Items

Despite the “tidying” in the book’s title, the KonMari Method is not about neatly organizing your many possessions. Instead, it’s centered on getting rid of stuff. Kondo's theory is the more you can get rid of, the easier it will be to tidy up and remain organized.

Acquire a New Mindset

Kondo's method explains how to declutter your home physically. But beyond that, her tidying technique is about acquiring a new mindset regarding clutter and organization. Kondo encourages her clients to consistently tidy up and get rid of unnecessary items rather than do a major cleaning every so often.

person with hands clasped looking up
​The Spruce / Michelle Becker

Tidy Your Entire Space at Once

The KonMari clean-up method stresses tidying everything in your home at once instead of in small steps. Kondo says decluttering your entire space in one fell swoop means you'll be less likely to revert to your old, cluttered ways. Think of the initial tidying up as a "special event," not as part of your regular household chores. This may take several weeks or months at first, but further organizing will be made simpler in the future once it's complete.


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Don't Dwell on Storage

Kondo is not a major proponent of storage. “Putting things away creates the illusion that the clutter problem has been solved,” she writes. Your storage, such as closets and shelving units, should be functional for your lifestyle and only full of items you like and use.

Tidy by Category, Not Location

Kondo emphasizes tidying by item category, not the locations where the items are kept. For instance, say you keep clothes in a dresser, a closet, and an attic storage bin. Rather than tidying each of those areas at different times, bring all of the clothing together to go through it at the same time.

organized closet
​The Spruce / Michelle Becker

Embrace the One-Size-Fits-All Approach

The KonMari Method checklist, when done by the book, cannot be changed to suit your individual lifestyle. Regardless of the personal reasons you might have accumulated clutter, Kondo says her method will help. You just have to be open to implementing the one-size-fits-all approach and following her rulebook.

Use the Two-Part System

The KonMari Method has two parts: discarding and organizing. First, you must fully complete the discarding stage where you remove the clutter. Then, you can organize the items you plan to keep.

Visualize Your Life

Kondo asks her clients to imagine the life they want to live. Break down each dream or goal of yours by evaluating why you want to do that particular thing. For instance, if a goal of yours is to do yoga every day, you might realize the reason for it is because you want that time to relax.

Choose What to Keep

Tidying up results in getting rid of several items for many people. But the KonMari Method ultimately asks you to choose what you want to keep, not what you should throw away. Hold each item you possess in your hands and ask yourself whether it "sparks joy." If the answer is yes, keep it. If it's no, discard it.

Work in a Specific Order

When discarding items, Marie Kondo says you must begin with clothes, which are often less sentimental than other possessions. Clothing is followed by books, papers, miscellany, and mementos. Within those categories, Kondo provides a further breakdown. For example, in the clothing category, you move from tops to bottoms, jackets, socks, and more.

small stack of neatly folded denim
The Spruce / Julieanne Browning 

Learn to Fold Clothes

Kondo's method is big on folding clothes. To be worthy of keeping, each article of clothing must "spark joy." Then, if it's not a hanging item, it must be folded in a specific manner that Kondo describes. This special folding technique allows the clothing to take up minimal space while still being easily accessible.

person folding clothing
The Spruce / Michelle Becker

Keep Things Personal

Kondo says tidying up is a personal process. Complete it by yourself, as only you will know whether an item "sparks joy" for you. Avoid any outside influences that might sway your opinion one way or another. Likewise, you should not discard the belongings of anyone else who lives in your home without their permission.

Don't Avoid Extreme Solutions

Kondo advocates for disposing of almost all paperwork, including photographs and books, and keeping the smallest collection possible of items that are truly important to you. This might sound like an extreme solution, but ultimately, you might realize those unused items were doing nothing more than taking up space and collecting dust.

pile of papers
​The Spruce / Michelle Becker

Store Like Items Together

Kondo favors “ultimate simplicity” in storage. A primary principle of this is keeping like items together rather than storing them in various places around your home. For example, keep coats in just one closet rather than various closets and hooks. Even within one room, try to keep like items together, such as dedicating a single cabinet to drinking glasses in your kitchen.

Embrace Life Changes

Kondo believes tidying up can change more than the organizational aspect of your life. The items you are discarding should be “launched” on a “new journey” with a parting ceremony, and you should “carry on a dialogue with your home while tidying”—whatever that means to you. The more in touch you are with the process, the more likely it is to stick.

Article Sources
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  1. Kondo, Marie. Tidying Up with Marie Kondo: The Book Collection. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and Spark Joy. Clarkson Potter / Ten Speed, 2020