Sooner or later, every professional organizer is going to be asked their opinion about Marie Kondo. On the off chance you’ve never heard of her, Marie Kondo is a very well-known organizing consultant and author from Japan whose debut book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing became a bestseller and took the organizing world by storm. Kondo’s book was published in Japan in 2011 and has since been published in over 30 countries. Kondo was even named one of Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People” of 2015.
Kondo’s method of organizing is called the KonMari method, (an amalgamation of her name that she invented). Her follow-up book, Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up is an in-depth manual of the techniques taught in the first book. Although her methods are not radically different from those of other organizers, she skyrocketed to fame in Japan and around the world by organizing thousands of clients using her KonMari method. She asserts that clients that use her method have a 0% relapse rate. Yes, you read that correctly – according to Kondo, no one who has followed her plan has returned to their former state of disorganization.
The basic premise of the KonMari method is centered on one principle: keep only things that “spark joy”. To properly use the KonMari method, you will sort through everything you own in a very systematic order, beginning with a category in which it is relatively easy to discard things (clothing) and ending with a category in which it can be very difficult (mementos). The sorting is done a category at a time, not a room or area at a time as most people tend to organize. When you are sorting in a category, you will gather all of the items in that category from everywhere in the house and put them in one pile. Then you begin the process of picking up each item individually, and deciding whether that item sparks joy. For example, in the first category of clothing, the suggestion is to begin with tops. For a shirt, “spark joy” could be interpreted as: it fits perfectly, feels comfortable, makes you look good, you look forward to wearing it, etc. If the item sparks joy, you keep it, and if not, you discard it; it’s as simple as that. Once you have finished a category, if you’re like most Americans, you should have a large pile of items to discard. Then you will decide the best place and plan for storing the remaining items.
In the KonMari method, folding clothing (as opposed to hanging them) is highly encouraged, but not just any folding. KonMari folding is an art form unto itself. You can find YouTube tutorials galore on proper KonMari folding. Why is folding in this particular way such a big deal in the KonMari method? Clothes take up less space, and because they are folded vertically so that everything is standing up straight instead of stacked on top of each other, you can see everything at a glance, and the clothes on the bottom aren’t being squashed and wrinkled. Now that you are curious, feel free to click on this link to watch Marie Kondo herself demonstrate proper shirt folding techniques: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=19i7oyiKVG0.
After every subcategory of clothing is complete, you move on through the categories in this order: books, paper, komono (miscellaneous, including office, kitchen, toys, bathroom, garage, and everything else) until you have sorted through everything you own. There are many detailed lists available that further delineate within the categories so that you won’t forget anything. To properly KM your home, this organizing needs to be done in one feel swoop, and it can take hours, days, or even months to complete, depending on how much time you are able to devote to it.
In Kondo’s experience, this tidying marathon, or “putting your house in order”, can be life transforming, affecting all other areas of a person’s life. There are many stories of people who after finishing their tidying, have finally been successful at losing weight, deciding on their life’s mission, achieving happiness for the first time, and feeling free. KonMari converts abound, as millions sing the praises of this revolutionary technique. Of course, there are many critics as well who assert that one modus operandi can’t possibly be perfect for everyone. Plenty of people have tried and failed, or given up because the task was too daunting or simply wasn’t the right approach for them. Most professional organizers have very strong opinions about Kondo and her techniques. On the positive side, she has brought much attention to the field of professional organizing, and many aspects of the KonMari method are similar to what organizers teach. However, since organizers pride themselves on providing solutions that are individualized to the client’s needs, Kondo’s “one size fits all” approach is frequently frowned upon. And frankly, I think a few organizers are a bit jealous of the attention she has gotten and the money she has made.
Finally, here’s my answer to the original question, “So, what do you think of that Japanese organizer?” When I was on the fence about becoming a professional organizer, listening to Kondo’s first book flipped the switch for me. Although I draw the line at a few specific cultural practices (like audibly thanking an item for its service before discarding it), overall I am a big believer in the KonMari method and am following it in my own home. I believe that while not everyone is ready for such an extreme tidying marathon, it is the most effective way to finally bring order to a home. I am about 70% of the way through our belongings (that komono category is a bear!) and have found that although my family tends to discard items fairly quickly, we still had way too much stuff. It has been incredibly freeing to pare down further. I love the way the folding methods use space more efficiently and allow me to see everything in my drawer at first glance.
T-shirts, sweatpants, and scarfs folded KonMari style
I’d love to hear any comments you might have about this topic. And if you’d like to KonMari your home, I’d love to help!