A Quick Guide to the KonMari Method

With the release of Tidying up with Marie Kondo on Netflix, the world is aflutter with the idea of a January whole-house purge of anything that doesn’t give us joy. But before you go and throw out your plunger, because it doesn’t spark joy in the depths of your soul, let’s take a look at the intentions behind the method and break it down into easy steps.

Tidy with Intentions

Before Marie Kondo starts her process of tidying, she finds a spot on the floor and does a personal meditation. This meditation sets your intention for the day and express your gratefulness for the home you have and your things. Most people’s focus on the KonMari method is the concept of “does this spark joy”. However, this method could also be summed up with the word “intentional”, which aligns with Zero Waste and Minimalist communities. Be intentional about the things you buy, the things you keep, and the way you tidy your house.

tidy with intentions

Organize by Type, not Place

Marie Kondo organizes everything by type and not place. This means instead of organizing your coat-closet separately from your bedroom closet and dresser, you’ll pull out all your clothes and organize them at the same time. This is a great method, because you might have overlapping items in different areas of your house and only notice the repetition when you have them side-by side.

The KonMari Categories:

  • Clothes
  • Books
  • Papers
  • Kimono or Miscellaneous
  • Sentimental

When you go to tidy a category, pull everything out and put it in a big pile. When you see all the items of a category together, it helps you see the sheer amount of stuff you have of that category and inspires you to let things go. In general, most people (especially Americans) have a tendency to hold on to things that they don’t really need or most of the time even want, which brings us to the next part of the method.

Does it Spark Joy?

Now that you have your pile (most likely more like a mountain) take things out one at a time. Hold the item for a moment and consider it. Does it give you the same joy as holding a puppy? That’s what Marie wants you to ask yourself. If the answer is no, ask yourself if you need the item. A plunger most likely won’t give you joy, but it’s still a good thing to own.

For items that do not bring joy and arent needed, give thanks for the time you have had it. Instead of tossing it aside, be grateful for the fact that you have been blessed with more than you need. Treat the item with a grateful intention and you will respect what you own more. Remember that any item can have new life at a thrift shop or donated to a charity.

spark joy

For items that do bring joy or are a household necessity, find an appropriate place for the item. “A place for everything and everything in it’s place” was an oft-repeated saying around my house growing up. While I might not have always appreciated the saying back then, I understand the peace that a tidy house brings. Marie recommends that you designate a place for each item. If the item is small reuse boxes or a drawer organizer so each item have it’s own place. This will help you find items quicker and will help you put it away faster too.

KonMari Folding Method

The KonMari Folding Method is designed to optimize drawer space and allow you to see your options easier. There is a way to fold each item of clothing into a small rectangle, including socks and underwear. Your drawers can then be organized with each of these rectangles able to be viewed from above. I do particularly like this method for t-shirts, but with socks and underwear, I prefer to toss them into a drawer and pull them out as necessary. I don’t often go routing around a drawer for a particular pair of socks or underwear. Do you?

Folding Underwear

This is undoubtedly the hardest change to implement because it isn’t just the one-and-done process of cleaning, but requires adopting this folding method in your day-to-day. Check out this Goop article on the folding method with illustrations of each individual clothing item folding style.

Live with Less

Overall, one of the biggest things that Americans will have an issue with in this show is pairing down to just the things we need. It is so easy to have multiples of the same item, or just a lot that falls into the Kimono or Miscellaneous category. If you want to get rid of clutter, just put everything in your house that is “Miscellaneous” in a big pile. You’ll realize that 95% of your house’s clutter is Miscellaneous and is probably not bringing you joy.

Americans buy overwhelmingly more clothes than any other country, and the majority of it ends up in landfills because it is cheap quality fast fashion. According to this excellent article on the subject, Americans throw an average of 70 pounds of clothing and other textiles away per year per person. THAT is insane. Stop buying clothes that were meant to be thrown out. If you can’t afford something that is meant to last five years of heavy wear, wait until you can find it at a thrift shop.

Don’t be afraid to Fail

Just like all New Years Resolutions or tasks started in January, don’t be afraid to fail. It is impossible to have everything in your house spark joy and be put in the “right” place every second of the day. Even the great Marie Kondo herself admits in the first episode she has a pile of yet-to-be-organized things in her garage.

Everyone has their own level of mess that makes them comfortable. The idea is to live intentionally and get rid of things that make you anxious.

If you love books, let yourself have more than Marie Kondo’s self-prescribed 30 book limit. Just collect them intentionally. Don’t have books that you have no intention of ever reading. Donate books you’re done with to someone who will enjoy and appreciate them.

Some Critiques

One thing that struck me, and evidently others too, was the gender bias of the program–automatically having the wife organize the kitchen and the husband organize the garage. While it would probably be the same in my household, it definitely shouldn’t be assumed that most couples work this way and it would be helpful to show (especially in a full season of episodes) more than just the typical gender roles, with the burden of the tidying being put mostly on the woman. Read this article by USA Today for an in-depth discussion.

What are your thoughts on the KonMari Method? I’d love to hear them.

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