What Is the KonMari Method?

Clothing folded neatly in a drawer following the KonMari method

Martí Sans / Stocksy

Marie Kondo’s The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up: the Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing is not just a best-selling book (and now, Netflix show). It 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 of radically decluttering a home or office, popular with her clients and the many attendees of her seminars.

It's a rather rigid method that may not be for everyone. You may be better off following a simpler weekly decluttering routine. But what exactly is the KonMari Method? What does it entail? This is a summary of the Japanese organizing expert’s decluttering philosophy to help you decide whether the KonMari method is right for you. 

Focused on Discarding Items

Despite the “tidying” of the book’s title, this method is not about neatly organizing your hundreds or thousands of possessions. It’s centered on getting rid of stuff. Kondo's theory is that the more you can get rid of, the easier it is to tidy up.

A New Mindset

While Kondo describes how to declutter your house physically, she says her tidying technique enables her clients to acquire the mindset needed to stay tidy forever rather than just doing a big clutter dump once a week or once a month (or once a year).

Tidy All at Once

The KonMari method stresses tidying everything at once instead of in small steps. Decluttering your entire space in one fell swoop, Kondo claims, means you will never revert to your old, cluttered ways. She says tidying should be a “special event,” not a regular chore you do each day.

Not About Storage

Kondo is not primarily a proponent of special storage methods and products like racks and shelving units. “Putting things away,” she writes, “creates the illusion that the clutter problem has been solved.”

Tidy by Category, Not Location

Sorting through your clothes is good. Sorting through your closet first, then your dresser, then finally the storage bins in the basement, is a fatal mistake. Tidying by category, Kondo emphasizes, prevents the confusion that arises when you try to declutter objects stored in multiple locations.

One Size Fits All

The KonMari method, when done by the book, cannot be changed to suit your personality. Regardless of the various personal, psychological reasons people accumulate clutter, Kondo says, the solution to it is the same.

A Two-Part System

The KonMari method has two parts: discarding and organizing. Discarding must be done first, in order for the organization to take shape.

Visualization Is Key

Kondo’s clients are asked to imagine the life they want to live and break down each wish (to do yoga every day) by evaluating why they want that particular thing (to relax.)

Choose What to Keep

The KonMari method asks you to choose what to keep, not what to throw away. Holding each item you possess in your hands, ask yourself if it “sparks joy.” Yes? Keep it. No? Discard it.

Work in a Specific Order

When discarding, Kondo says, you must begin with clothes, followed by books, papers, miscellany, and mementos. Within those categories, there’s a further breakdown, for example, in the clothing category you move from tops to bottoms, jackets, socks and so on.

Forever Folding

Kondo's technique is big on folding. Clothing must not only “spark joy,” but be folded in a specific manner.

Private and Personal

Kondo says you should tidy without letting your family see you, and you should not discard anyone else’s belongings without their permission.

Extreme Solutions

It can sound extreme, especially in the realm of books, papers, and photos. Kondo advocates disposing of almost all papers and documents and keeping only the smallest collection of books and photographs.

Storage Rules

Kondo favors “ultimate simplicity” in storage. These include the guideline that like items should be stored together, storage areas should not be scattered, and stacks (of anything) are to be avoided.

Mystical or Spiritual Component

Kondo believes not only that decluttering can change your life, but that it can result in clearer skin or weight loss. She also says items you are discarding should be “launched” on a “new journey” with a parting ceremony, and that you should “carry on a dialogue with your home while tidying.”

Are you ready to start tossing? Take a look at what household items you can throw away right now—no questions asked!