Marie Kondo’s 6 Top Decluttering Tips

The most practical takeaways from the Netflix show Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.

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- Posted on Feb 5, 2019

Marie Kondo

Organizational expert Marie Kondo became a sensation in 2014 when her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up was published in the United States. Kondo’s unique approach to tidying up has inspired thousands of people to clear out their homes and re-organize their belongings.

In December, her Netflix show, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, premiered bringing her KonMari method of organizing to homes everywhere. Here are some of the top decluttering tips from the show:

1. Material possessions should spark joy

Many people approach disposing of their belongings by thinking about what items they actually use. Kondo advises people not to focus on the usefulness of an object, but on whether that possession sparks joy.

“The best way to choose what to keep and what to throw away is to take each item in one’s hand and ask: ‘Does this spark joy?’” Kondo wrote in The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. “If it does, keep it. If not, dispose of it. This is not only the simplest but also the most accurate yardstick by which to judge.” 

2. Organize by category—not location

Many people assume a proper decluttering spree should progress through each room of their home. Kondo diverges from this method, recommending people organize by the category rather than the location, of their belongings.

Instead of organizing your bedroom and then your front hall closet, Kondo’s method prescribes a specific way to go through your belongings:

  • Clothing
  • Books
  • Papers
  • Miscellaneous
  • Mementos

For each step take all of the items in question out of their resting place and gather them in one location. Then go through them one by one, assessing whether those items spark joy.

3. Start with easy items

Kondo’s method is designed to start with items that are easy to let go of (clothes) and progress to things that are the most difficult to throw out (letters, cards and other sentimental items). The reason? As you tidy your other belongings, Kondo says you will feel lighter and begin to experience the positive benefits of tidying up. In turn, you will have stronger willpower when going through your most precious mementos.

4. Fold with care

Kondo doesn’t just believe that the items you own should spark joy—she thinks the way you store them should make access and clean up easy. She prefers folding to hanging—and has very specific rules for how to fold and roll clothes in a dresser.

For this reason she recommends the “filing method” of storing clothes. Instead of folding shirts and stacking horizontally, Kondo recommends stacking and lining shirts vertically in the drawer so you can see all of them at a glance.

5. First declutter, then organize

Some people want to skip the cleaning and get straight to organizing and storage. But in Kondo’s experience, purchasing complex storage systems is often unhelpful for long-term cleanliness.

“I have yet to see a house that lacked sufficient storage,” Kondo writes. “The real problem is that we have far more than we need or want.” 

Kondo says to only begin organizing once you have decluttered and are sure of what items you will keep.

6. Tidy with an eye to the future

For Kondo, organizing is about way more than your physical space. In her view, once your space is clean, your mind is free to focus on emotional obstacles and find true joy.

“Wellness and mindfulness are about having an understanding of what sparks joy in your life and makes you feel the most happy,” Kondo told Elle Décor. “This leads to the overall wellness of a person's life because they become aware of what they need to be themselves.”

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