Everyone’s talking about Marie Kondo. She is the author of the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying: A Simple, Effective Way of Banishing Clutter Forever. Her decluttering approach is so widely used that it has spawned a verb of its own: to “konmari” is to dedicate some time to tidying up and throwing out your unwanted stuff using her method, and apparently changing your life forever.
If you want to become a pro at konmari-ing, dash out and buy her books, but the basic principles are fairly straight forward and can be explained in a few steps. This is how to use her method to give your home a minimalist makeover:
1. Sort by item, not by room or cupboard This approach makes it easy for you to see which items you have too many of. Kondo suggests taking everything out of all your storage spaces, and then grouping together items of a similar type (learn about the categories in the next point) so that you can see them in all their glory. This makes it easier to make decisions about the items that you really love and the ones you don’t actually need.
2. Tidy in the right orderIf you’re going the whole hog and decluttering your entire home, Kondo says that there is a correct order for tackling the categories. It goes like this: clothes, books, papers and then komono, which is Japanese for “small things” and covers most things in your home (some of which are actually quite large). This is the full list of komono sub-categories:
- CDs, DVDs
- Skin care products
- Valuables (passports, credit cards)
- Electrical equipment and appliances (digital cameras, electrical cords)
- Household equipment (stationary and writing materials, sewing kits)
- Household supplies (expendables like medicine, detergents, tissues)
- Kitchen goods, food supplies (spatulas, pots, blenders, old bottles of sauce or chutney)
- Others (spare change, figurines)
3 “Listen” to your things This is where Kondo’s method can start to get a little hokey – but those who have tried it out swear it works. Pick up each item that you have laid out, and see if it gives you a sense of joy or lightness. If it gives you these feelings, then hang on to the item. If it doesn’t, it goes in the charity bin.
She also recommends listening to your items about how they like to be stored. She suggests that things are not happy in a drawer full of clutter, strangled and hidden by other stuff. The idea is that if you don’t have enough room to store your stuff nicely, you should set it free.
4. Learn the folding techniqueKondo sees no point in undoing all your good work every time you need to find something, so one of the key aspects of her tidying method is keeping things visible. This is particularly relevant in a drawer full of clothes. She suggests buying boxes to store things in, learning her folding technique and then storing items upright – like hanging folders. That way, you’ll be able to see what you are looking for without digging through (and probably messing up) piles of similar items.
5. Don’t put things back till you’ve thrown away This one is self-explanatory. Don’t leave the job half-done. Make sure that you’ve eliminated the clutter completely from one group of items, and cleared out the physical space that they occupy so that a konmaried cupboard is done and dusted and doesn’t need revisiting or recluttering. This is where the life-changing magic lies.
And in practice? This all sounds great in theory, but does it actually work? We chatted to Sarah, who recently konmaried her home. Did the process change her life? She says “absolutely”.
She points out, though, that she didn’t read Kondo’s book because she didn’t see the point in starting a decluttering process by buying something new. But she researched the process online, and adapted a lot of the guidelines for her own use.
“I didn’t unpack everything in one go, but worked room by room because my stuff was already mostly arranged by room – so I did the kitchen all in one go by laying out everything from all the cupboards on a big table. I put away the things I really needed and then gave the rest to friends or charity.”
The decluttering exercise has helped her to be more aware of what she has and what she needs. “I used to see things, love them, want them, need them, and buy them. But now when I am at the shops, I can appreciate beautiful things without feeling that I urgently need to own them.”
Sarah is now so committed to vanquishing clutter that she has asked her friends not to give gifts at birthdays and Christmas.
The bottom lineWhatever Marie Kondo says, there is no magic trick to decluttering your home and life. But if you are determined to simplify and streamline your possessions, her approach is an effective way to do so – even if you only borrow elements of it, like Sarah did.