Marie Kondo has managed the impossible. She’s rallied a large chunk of the population into getting excited about tidying up.
That’s right. Tidying up.
And there are clear benefits to decluttering – from being able to donate to thrift stores more to having improved mental health, to having better financial management and even boosted rates of productivity.
But how did Marie Kondo revolutionize the act of tidying?
With a simple process called the “KonMari Method”.
In this post, you’ll find out who Marie Kondo is, the science behind the lauded KonMari Method, why the method is beneficial for everybody, and you’ll even get your hands on a (free) KonMari Method checklist!
Read through the following sections to get the complete rundown on Marie Kondo:
- Who is Marie Kondo?
- What the KonMari Method is and how it helps with tidying
- Rules of the KonMari Method checklist
- Benefits of following the KonMari Method
- Use the KonMari checklist yourself to spark joy!
Now, let’s spark some joy.
Who is Marie Kondo?
Marie Kondo is a Japanese decluttering guru who’s best known for her minimalist approach to tidying up.
During her lecture at the prestigious SXSW music festival in Austin, Texas, Kondo said her obsession started at the age of 5. She found herself not only cleaning her own bedroom, but also the family home, friends’ bedrooms, and even her school’s classrooms.
At 19 she became an organizing consultant, and within a few years, became such a notable name that she began writing books on effective ways for people to tidy, clean, and declutter.
Most notable of these books is The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, which became a #1 New York Times bestseller and laid the foundation for her hit Netflix show, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.
Rather ingeniously, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo was released by Netflix on January 1st 2019 – a time in the year where many households weren’t in the cleanliest of states, considering the holidays and New Year’s Eve in particular had just passed.
The show entails Kondo going into messy households and, by implementing the holy grail of productivity known as the KonMari Method, turns homes into orderly, tranquil spaces.
But what, exactly, is the KonMari Method which has turned peoples homes – and lives – around for the better?
What the KonMari Method is and how it helps with tidying
The KonMari Method of tidying up isn’t a long, convoluted process. In fact, it’s incredibly straightforward. The only major difference is that, instead of cleaning room-by-room (which we’ve wrongfully thought was the easiest way of tidying up), Kondo advocates for tidying category-by-category.
It’s a simple difference. Yet astonishingly effective.
The categories Kondo suggests tackling are clothes, books, papers, “Komono” (miscellaneous items), and sentimental items.
Let’s look at them in detail.
Sorting through your clothes
There’s a reason for clothing to be the first set of belongings to sort through. If you’ve watched Tidying Up with Marie Kondo before, you’ll have noticed just how surprised people are when they see all the clothes they own piled up.
Think about it.
In a wardrobe full of clothes, how many items are actually worn?
Take me for example. Despite having too many clothes to know what to do with, I have a heavy rotation of 3 different Patagonia flannel shirts a week, an undershirt for each day, and two trusty pairs of trousers. Basically, the majority of the clothes hanging up in my wardrobe don’t get taken down from, well, the hangers.
And it’s only when the tidying up process is optimized that I could see how redundant it was to own such an abundance of clothing.
But enough about me. Let’s get back to the KonMari Method.
Once the clothes have been piled up – and once the horror of seeing it all subsides – Kondo recommends following her signature act: Seeing if an item sparks joy.
This means physically picking up an item and acknowledging the emotional response you have to it.
If it doesn’t spark joy, Kondo proposes throwing it away. (Or, donating it to charity, a second-hand clothes store, or even selling it on.)
After seeing if several items spark joy or not, two piles – one for kept items, another for discarded items – should begin to naturally form.
Once all the clothes have been assessed and you have a pile of ready-to-discard clothes, another of Kondo’s trademark acts is suggested: Thanking the item for its service.
Unless the item hasn’t been used at all, it will have served some sort of purpose, whether that was for a long-gone summer holiday or a particularly chilly winter. But by internally saying a few words of thanks, or even expressing gratitude aloud, it helps to ease the parting of ways.
And that’s it.
The same process is followed for each category until your home is turned from a mountain of mess into a house that’s ready for a Good Housekeeping photo shoot.
When I began the KonMari Method checklist myself – albeit initially dubious – I found that after decluttering my wardrobe, I started thinking about my belongings in a healthier, more practical way.
I realized I could’ve saved money by not buying the unnecessary items in the first place.
I also could’ve had access to more space inside my wardrobe a lot sooner.
And, last but by no means least, I’d be able to find one of those Patagonia flannel shirts more easily due to tidiness.
Ultimately, this is the beauty of following the KonMari Method checklist: By sorting through belongings by category, you’re taking a more methodical, pragmatic approach not only regarding the items you’re tidying up, but also your life overall.
Decluttering your bookshelves
Once the clothes have been sorted, the next step is to declutter your bookshelves.
There was an initial backlash against Kondo’s minimalist approach to books. Many believed getting rid of books to be unnecessary. And, as a writer myself, I too value books and having a full bookshelf.
Luckily for book-lovers and non-book-lovers alike, it was never Kondo’s intention for people to remove the items they love from their home. As she says herself:
“The point of the KonMari Method is to figure out your sense of value. What do you hold most important? If your reaction is anger that you have to let go of books, that’s great because, for you, books are invaluable.” – Marie Kondo, Tidying Up: Marie Kondo on her Netflix show, the KonMari method, and why folding “sparks joy”
For many, books bring joy, and it’s that joyfulness which establishes it as an object to keep.
Once the bookshelves have been assessed, you can then move onto the next category. (Kondo, like us at Process Street, is a supporter of process adherence.)
Tidying up papers
Tackling the papers category may initially seem like a daunting task (it certainly helps if there’s a paper shredder nearby).
However, with Kondo’s streamlined process of collecting all the papers you own (ranging from old bills to tenancy contracts, appliance manuals to greeting cards) and then sorting through them, it’s plain sailing.
This category differs ever-so-slightly from the rest, though: Once a “keep” pile has been established, the next instruction is to create three sub-piles.
They are as follows:
- Category #1: Papers that need attention. These are the papers that need to be looked at in a matter of hours or days.
- Category #2: Papers that are needed for the short-term. An example of this would be a credit card statement that, while useful in the short-term, doesn’t provide a huge amount of long-term benefit.
- Category #3: Papers that are needed indefinitely. These are the papers that must be kept, although not looked at frequently. For instance, this could be a completed lease contract.
After dividing the “keep” papers, you’ll want to store the three piles in separate folders or boxes, and place those folders or boxes in a safe, easy-to-access location. Then, you can cross the papers section off your todo list, add it to your done list, and move on.
Plain sailing, indeed!
“Komono” roughly translates into English as “small miscellaneous items”. These are the grooming products in your bathroom. The kitchen utensils stored in cupboards. The bedding stored in a compartment of the wardrobe.
Yes, that’s right: With the Komono category, you’re essentially tackling all the household items you own.
It needn’t be.
By keeping organized, following the process, and staying productive, it won’t take too long at all.
For your mental health, emotional well-being, and overall home life, it’s advised to not skip or take shortcuts when focusing on this category.
Research by UCLA shows that people – and in particular women – who feel their homes are cluttered are:
- Unhappier with their marriages
- Have difficulty managing everyday tasks
- Get increasingly depressed throughout the day
- Feel greater levels of fatigue in the evenings than others
- Have an increase in the stress hormone cortisol
The pay-off for tackling the Komono category, however, is more than worth it. Not only will you feel happier and healthier in your cleaner, clutter-free home, but so will any other residents.
Addressing sentimental items
The last and final category to tackle is sentimental items.
For many people – if not most – looking through sentimental items and considering whether they should be discarded or not isn’t exactly an exciting way to spend an afternoon.
And let’s be honest: it can be rather taxing.
The reason why we hold onto certain objects with complicated emotions attached is out of anxiety and fear. To boot, it’s been proven by researchers at the Yale School of Medicine that the human brain, when confronted by the act of throwing items away, registers the experience as psychologically painful.
With this in mind, it’s clear why there’s initial skepticism over chucking out belongings.
But it’s a necessity.
As Joshua Fields Millburn, who’s one half of The Minimalists duo, says:
“If you want to get rid of an item, but the only reason you are holding on to it is for sentimental reasons — and if it is weighing on you — then perhaps it’s time to get rid of it, perhaps it’s time to free yourself of the weight.” – Joshua Fields Millburn, Letting Go of Sentimental Items
Speaking from experience, the thought of throwing away certain sentimental items was painful. But in reality, it was surprisingly painless.
I followed Kondo’s process, thanked certain items – such as old letters and photos – and let them go. I’m not going to lie; it was liberating.
Once I’d finished decluttering my clothes, books, papers, and my miscellaneous items and sentimental items, I myself became a Kondo convert.
Rules of the KonMari Method checklist
In addition to the KonMari Method process – which is tidying category-by-category, creating a pile for each category, then seeing what needs to be discarded – there are also several rules to keep in mind.
These six straightforward rules help to reinforce the process. Think of the process as the main course, and the rules as the seasoning: They’re extra additions that make the main course that bit tastier.
Marie Kondo’s rules for tidying are as follows:
- Commit yourself to tidying up
- Imagine your ideal lifestyle
- Finish discarding first
- Tidy by category, not by location
- Follow the right order
- Ask yourself if it sparks joy
The first of these rules – “Commit yourself to tidying up” – is an important rule to reiterate and remember. Bailing on a process halfway through – or going into it with a meh attitude – will only sabotage your success.
The second rule – “Image your ideal lifestyle” – helps to create an end goal for the person who’s about to embark on their tidying journey. With a goal, there’s something to work towards – it’s not tidying for tidying’s sake.
“Finish discarding first” ensures that you discard items after finishing each category. Otherwise, by the time you get to the fourth category, you will have inadvertently replaced your livingroom with a junkyard.
The fourth rule – “Tidy by category, not by location” – reinforces the process. It’s a reminder to go against what we’re used to, in favor of an optimized method.
The penultimate rule – “Follow the right order” – is a rule that’s close to our own hearts at Process Street. We know how important implementing processes are, and how crucial it is to follow the process. Every. Single. Time.
“Ask yourself if it sparks joy” – the last rule on the list – is reconfirmation that you’re assessing an item’s worth through an emotional reaction. Seeing as it’s such an integral step, it’s handy to have it mentioned again in the rules list.
And there you have it.
The rules are undeniably easy to follow – as is the KonMari Method process overall – so it’s simple to put into practice and benefit from.
For more on the benefits of the KonMari Method – including insight on where the method originates from – read on.
Benefits of following the KonMari Method
The KonMari Method isn’t some made-up-on-the-spot, mumbo-jumbo process. Did you know that it’s based on the workplace organization method known as 5S, which has been utilized in Japanese workplaces for decades?
Simply put, the 5S method is made up of 5 different actions:
- Seiri (Sort): Tidying the workplace in a manageable, methodical way.
- Seiton (Set in order): Making sure all items have a designated place where they’re stored.
- Seiso (Shine): Inspecting the workplace to ensure it’s clean, tidy, and clutter-free.
- Seiketsu (Standardize): With process management and process improvement, standardizing the process so that it gets easier, quicker, and better as time goes on.
- Shitsuke (Sustain): Doing the process again and again, so the benefits of a tidy workplace can be reaped on a continual basis.
Although 5S can be used in a myriad of different contexts, Kondo applies the simple steps of the 5S methodology to her own KonMari Method.
The only real differences are that instead of applying the steps to tidying up the workplace, it’s applied to the home. There are also a few additional procedures – such as thanking items for their service – which makes the whole process easier, psychologically-speaking.
The longevity of the 5S method – and the reason why it’s spawned many similar methods – is due to the inherent benefits that the method provides.
Specifically, the benefits of the 5S method are:
- The workplace doesn’t fall into disarray.
- Items are purposefully stored, and easy-to-grab whenever they’re needed.
- The workplace can be managed more successfully.
- The process gets easier to do – as well as more optimized – each time it’s completed.
- By repeatedly undergoing the process, the workplace is kept clutter-free at all times.
Now, let’s conduct a little experiment: What happens if the word “workplace” in the above list is replaced with “home”?
- The home doesn’t fall into disarray.
- Household items are purposefully stored, and easy-to-grab whenever they’re needed.
- The home can be managed more successfully.
- The process gets easier to do – as well as more optimized – each time it’s completed.
- By repeatedly undergoing the process, the home is kept clutter-free at all times.
These are the benefits of following Marie Kondo’s process! And there are more benefits where those came from, too.
By being in an organized, clean space, 60% of people are less stressed, 72% are more productive, and 80% are more relaxed. Considering that the average American spends 90% of their time indoors, it’s essential for the places we spend the majority of our time in to be tidy. Otherwise, we can be affected in profoundly negative ways.
Ultimately, the reason why both the 5S and KonMari methods are so beneficial is due to them being set, standardized processes. So when embarking on your next tidying-up session, use Process Street to help you complete the process efficiently and effectively.
Process Street is business process management software that helps you follow essential processes to the T by the way of templates and checklists.
Using (free) Process Street checklists for tidying means you can easily monitor your progress, tick off completed tasks as you go, and make use of a cloud-based solution, so that you don’t have to write a checklist down on paper and create extra clutter!
To help you in your tidying endeavors, we’ve added the KonMari checklist to our extensive template library.
Ready to dive into it?
Use the KonMari checklist yourself to spark joy!
“Does it spark joy?” – Marie Kondo
If you’ve never asked yourself the above question, then it’s time to do so.
This handy, digital checklist – which is Marie Kondo’s own method for tidying – will help you transform your home into a well-utilized, well-considered space free from clutter.
The KonMari checklist begins by asking you to complete pre-tidying rituals: Setting a start date, writing down your tidying-related goals, (re)reading the KonMari Method rules, and declaring gratitude to your home. These actions provide a solid foundation, helping you to commit to the process.
Then, you’ll tidy category-by-category, using subtask checklists to ensure the method is being followed correctly.
Once you’ve tackled all five categories, you’ll be prompted to reflect on the successfulness of the tidying up session, and whether you’ve met your tidying goals or not.
We recommend launching this KonMari Method checklist at the end of every season. By doing so, you can welcome the oncoming spring, summer, autumn or winter with a clear mind and a decluttered home.
Additional resources for improving organization
Want more Process Street resources, other than the KonMari Method checklist, to help you be more efficient and organized? We have you covered.
The list below contains relevant templates, blog posts, and eBooks. Just click on the links to jump in and bid disorganization farewell.
- Daily To Do List Template
- How to Make a To-Do List to Power up Your Productivity
- How to Make the Perfect Bullet Journal to Organize Your Life
- The 9 Best Organizations Tool to Bring Order to Chaos
- How to Create and Organize The Perfect Process Library
- 42 Productivity Hacks to Work Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger
- Get More Done: The Complete Introduction to Task Management
What do you think of Marie Kondo’s tidying methods? And have you ever tried her process yourself? I’d love to hear your thoughts! 💡
Simple, yet elaborate. It has added a chapter to my practice of general experimental mindset. Thanks.
Jim Bandua (Uganda)