Keep only those things that speak to your heart. Then take the plunge and discard all the rest. By doing this, you can reset your life and embark on a new lifestyle.” – Marie Kondo, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing

For our 10th Anniversary last week, Nathan and I took a much-needed, child-free vacation to Zion, Bryce Canyon, and Capitol Reef National Parks. They are incredible and inspiring places that everyone should visit at least once. The time together was amazing and I also found time to indulge in an unexpected treat: I read a great book!

Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing is getting a lot of press right now and is surprisingly high on the best seller list. I didn’t expect it to be life-changing, but within a few pages, I found myself getting really excited. After one chapter, I knew I had to try her technique, which she’s coined the KonMari Method.

The KonMari Method is surprisingly simple.

  1. Discard
  2. Organize Completely

The KonMari Method: Discard

First, discard everything, by category, starting with your clothing and ending with mementos. How do you know what to get rid of? Pull everything out, pick up each item one by one and see if it “sparks joy”. Do you love this item or not? Listen to your gut – you should know immediately. If you don’t, then it’s got to go. The end goal is that you’ll have a house filled with only the things that you love.

While many organizing methods tell you to clean and get rid of things gradually (10 minutes a day, 10 items a day, the minimalist game), Marie Kondo argues that you need to tidy up your whole house all at once (over a period of about 6 months). Once you get to a place where you’ve achieved perfect order and everything you own is something you love, you’ll never want to go back. In fact, she’s rolled out this method with hundreds of clients and, while some never get to a state of perfect order, those that have, never rebound.

As I write this, it sounds too good to be true, but as you read Kondo’s book, she has you bought in from the outset and the farther I got, the more I wanted to try her KonMari Method. She details the order in which you should consider items for discarding and specifically warns you to discard before you start to organize (lest you get side-tracked and never finish). She also stresses the importance of discarding by category. Looking at all of your clothes at once, for example, helps you better figure out what you should keep.

The KonMari Method: Organize Completely

The second step, after you’ve removed all items that don’t “spark joy”, is to organize completely. Using only the storage items (boxes, closets, etc) you have on hand, give every single item a place. Every single one. Once they have a place, you’ll have perfect order.

What’s Not to Love?

There were a few things that were either weird or weren’t covered in this book. What if an item doesn’t “spark joy”, but is something you really need (like a suit that you wear at weddings and funerals)? Clearly you should replace those items with something that you do love, but who has the money to do that for everything you need right away? I guess you could keep a list and slowly replace the items when you can, but I wonder if that lessens the magic of looking around and only seeing items you love?

What if you have kids or a spouse? Kondo specifically says you should not discard/organize for others. Only they can go through this journey for themselves and she says they usually start to do it on their own based on your example. I have a really, really hard time imagining my 4-year-old will spontaneously start throwing out her stuffed animals, but I guess I’m willing to try it just in case it actually works.

The book is also peppered with allusions to inanimate objects having feelings. For instance, “I pointed to the balled-up socks. ‘Look at them carefully. This should be a time for them to rest. Do you really think they can get any rest like that?’” It was hard to get past that at first and I’ve never fully bought into the idea that my house itself will be happier once I’m done organizing, but Kondo’s ideas make so much sense that at this point I couldn’t care how she developed them or about her relationship with her picture frames.

I really can’t wait to get started. I’ll let you know how it goes.