Written by Sydney Cobb
I’m notoriously messy. Keeping my living areas and workspace clean has been a lifelong struggle; so when my mom mailed me a copy of Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I was immediately curious. Kondo’s guarantee of “no relapses” after finishing her course enchanted me so thoroughly that I read the entire book while on vacation.
Kondo doesn’t mess around. Her book has sold over 2 million copies worldwide and has recently—thankfully—been translated into English. In fact, her KonMari method of organizing is now so popular in Japan that Kondo is a bona fide celebrity. Her secret? Simplicity. There are only two steps to tidying up your life for good.
The first step of the KonMari method is cleaning out your life by clearing out your stuff. Kondo is adamant that this step must be done all at once, rather than room-by-room or closet-by-closet, because one immediate overhaul is refreshing and provides the change needed to really feel the magic of a clean home.
It’s easiest to start with the clothes—gather every item of clothing (including scarves, shoes, and hats) into one massive pile. The sorting begins. The rules are simple; pick up each item and ask yourself, “Does this spark joy?” If not, it is discarded. “Keep only those things that speak to your heart. Then take the plunge and discard all the rest,” writes Kondo.
This is the mantra of the book and reinforces Kondo’s no-relapse guarantee—if we are only surrounded by things that we love, we will treat those things with respect. Through her system, each item of clothing, each photograph, each kitchen appliance will earn a proper place in the home. The hardest part is throwing things away that we feel the need to keep, but do not “spark joy.” For instance, clothes that we purchased but never wear, gifts from relatives, things we wish we could wear but just can’t fit into, etc. If it doesn’t spark joy, throw it out. Kondo recommends that this step be done alone to avoid bias from family and friends. If it is not being used, it is not fulfilling its purpose and has no place taking up space in your home.
You’ll breathe easy knowing that you prize every single item in your closet. I donated five garbage bags full of clothes and shoes, and the difference was immediate and dramatic. I felt free!
Once your belongings have been drastically cut to include only the things that spark joy, it’s time to organize them. The most important thing is to designate a home for each item.
For the closet, Kondo revolutionizes folding. Instead of typical folding, where shirts and pants are horizontally stacked on top of one another, she folds vertically, so that each item of clothing stands up on its own and can be seen when the drawer is opened. Tons of tutorials can be found on YouTube and it’s clear that the vertical folding is catching on in America almost as quickly as in Japan. For socks and nylons, rolling them or tying them can stretch out the elastic and ruin the functionality. Kondo folds them vertically, just like everything else. This strategy makes for an organized, easy access dresser. I’ll never return to regular folding.
With tidiness comes power. When our space is free of clutter and filled with things that spark joy, our lives will be filled with joy as well. Try it out and start the holiday season with a happy, balanced home.