In Depth

Tidying Up: Marie Kondo’s top tips for a joyful life

With millions of devotees and a new Netflix series, Kondo has inspired a new craze for decluttering our lives

Organising guru Marie Kondo has become a household name for her expertise on decluttering.

The 34-year-old from Tokyo, who once worked as a Shinto shrine maiden, has taken the world by storm with her technique of “KonMari” – a method of tidying named after her own nickname.

Her first book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, became a surprise hit in 2014, selling more than five million copies in around 40 countries. A year later, Time magazine named her as one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

Now she has a Netflix series, Tidying up with Marie Kondo, in which she helps American families reorganise their homes.

The premise of KonMari is simple, says The Daily Telegraph. In a nutshell, “focus on things that ‘spark joy’ in the home and throw away pretty much everything else in order to live a happier, more fulfilling life”.

Kondo is “seemingly tapping into a global ennui with over-consuming disposable products”, adds the newspaper, and her method has “prompted a global army of devotees to transform their homes into minimal, Japanese-inspired havens and filled numerous charity shops with unwanted clutter”.

Yes, the KonMari movement has bred “an army of zealous acolytes, who refer to themselves as ‘Konverts’”, says Hannah Betts in the Daily Mail. Fans include Hollywood actresses such as Jamie Lee Curtis and Kate Hudson and British YouTube star Zoella.

“Detoxing your home has become as fashionable as detoxing your body,” writes Betts, adding that the KonMari evangelists “are living the dream in a state of minimalist, or, minimal-ish, purity”.

However, her suggestion that book collections can be reduced has sparked much debate on Twitter, with novelist Anakana Schofield urging people to fill their apartments and the world with books. “Every human needs a very extensive library, not clean, boring shelves,” she wrote in a post that subsequently went viral.

But as the New Statesman America notes, “Kondo isn’t suggesting everyone throw away their book collection. In fact, she isn’t telling a single person to do so. She is simply advising the people who have asked for her help to pick and choose what they value most.”

This principle has been extended to the workplace. Kondo’s latest book, Joy at Work, due out next year, transfers her KonMari lessons to the office. In an interview with Esquire, she stresses the importance of tidying our digital space, starting with pictures and photos which can often lead to “digital backlog”.

“Tidying and prioritising applies to laptops and miscellaneous cords as well,” says The Independent, “with Kondo reiterating the importance of ‘spark joy’, or the importance of only keeping things that bring you joy”.

If that sounds like something you need, here are five top tips from Kondo for a tidier life.

Tidy by category, not room

You should declutter items such as clothes and books all together instead of tidying them up in individual rooms. When we look at our clothes or books together, we have a better perspective on what we love and need and are less tempted to move them from room to room, she says. We should also store similar items together, rather than in separate rooms.

Start with the easy stuff

You should start with things to which you have less emotional attachment, Kondo says. Kitchen utensils are better than old photographs or love letters, which are bound to slow you down.

Consider the joy factor and don’t throw things away for the sake of it. Kondo advises you consider each item, hold it in your hands and if it “brings you joy”, keep it. If it doesn’t, throw it away. Forget the “maybe” pile.

Paperwork

All paperwork should fit in one place and you should be absolutely ruthless about what you keep. Only the essentials should remain: mortgages, insurance and employment contracts. Throw out old bills, statements and letters. Most information can be found online now.

Don’t spend a fortune on storage

Kondo is no fan of expensive and complicated storage systems. Our obsession with storage comes from having too much stuff and once our things are stored in a fancy Ikea box, we’re likely to forget about them. Better to keep things simple, says Kondo, who is a devotee of the humble shoebox.

Fold, fold, fold

Kondo recommends folding over hanging, with the exception of heavy coats and expensive suits. Folding makes for neater storage and you can store at least twice the amount of clothing in the same amount of space.

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