Lessons on decluttering from New York Times best seller Marie Kondo

Private Property South Africa
Veronica Logan

If we’re honest, most of us will admit to having slight hoarder tendencies and a deep dislike for tidying or decluttering! Luckily for us, Marie Kondo - Japanese cleaning consultant and author of the #1 New York Times best-selling book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up - has developed a method that is revolutionising the chore of decluttering, organising and storing.

Known as the KonMari Method, it involves gathering all your belongings and then systematically reviewing each item and keeping only the things that "spark joy”. From there, you are able to choose a place for it in your home. Simply put, what we should be doing is focusing on finding things we want to keep and NOT things we want to throw out. “Identifying the things that make you happy: that is the work of tidying", Kondo claims. So, what are her lessons for helping us rid our homes of clutter and the burdens of excess?

1. Visualise your life as clutter-free

There is nothing more motivating than imagining what your life or home could look or feel like without all the clutter, so Kondo encourages you to focus and vividly picture this as an achievable outcome. Start by walking through your home and paying attention to everything in it to get an idea of what items you own and how you intend on sorting them.

2. Choose which belongings to keep before you tidy

According to Kondo, “People who never finish tidying up often attempt to store everything without getting rid of anything.” Essentially, once you learn to intentionally choose your belongings you will only be left with items that you really enjoy, need and have space to store. This could be trickier with items that you may still feel attached to, even if you aren’t necessarily using them. If that is the case, Kondo advises you to consider the reasons behind your attachment before “thanking that item for its service and moving on”.

3. Tidy by category and not by location

While this might seem counter-intuitive, this is Kondo’s golden rule when it comes to tidying. There is also a specific order that she recommends for tidying i.e. starting with clothing then moving on to books and papers before working your way to miscellaneous (all other household items) and finishing with sentimental items. Gather all of these items, category by category, pile them on the floor and systematically work your way through them in a thoughtful and considered manner, which leads to Kondo’s infamous question…

4. Ask yourself if each item you encounter sparks joy

This is where you pick up and hold each item in your hands and ask yourself, “Does this spark joy?” While it may not always make sense, Kondo maintains that you’ll know straight away whether something makes you feel joyful or not. If it doesn’t spark joy, its time to thank it for its service and move it aside to be given away. Remember the key is looking for items to keep and not discard, so keep only those that fill you with joy.

5. Find a place for your items

Once you know which items you are keeping, you can then decide where best to keep, display or store them. For example, Kondo asserts that most of our clothing would be better off (and happier!) vertically folded in a drawer rather than hanging in a cupboard. That said, employing her trademark vertical folding technique helps make clothing super visible and hard to mess with as you aren’t moving the whole pile when grabbing a shirt or putting away washing. You can even go one step further and use things like shoeboxes as mini-drawer dividers.

Read more: Clever storage ideas for small homes

At the end of the day, tidying and decluttering can be overwhelming, so Kondo encourages you to start small. Rather than feel pressurised to dive head first into her method, start with one drawer or category and go from there. Kondo assures you that once you start, you’ll never have to organise your home again and if that doesn’t spark joy, very little else will!

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