In her book, she claims it is forever. 

Follow the instructions, and it will be life-changing. 

Millions of people (especially, I assume, those in consumerist societies) got on that bandwagon. 

But was Maire Kondo’s Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up a fleeting trend? 

My answer to that question is: 

Marie Kondo’s method (aka Konmari) still works for me five years later. I don’t even think about it anymore; it has become my way of life. Yes, even the folding! 

And below is a slightly longer answer.

Does It Spark Joy?

It was apparent to me as soon as I picked up Marie Kondo’s book that I have found a key ingredient. 

That magical question.

“Does it spark joy?”

This question, or the lack of thereof, was why pure minimalism never worked for me. I am still attracted to minimalism and, on a basic level, I am now living it anyway.

Although Marie Kondo’s method of tidying up isn’t necessarily meant to lead to minimalism, the end result often leads in that direction.

First, Read the Book

You may have heard about the method from a friend.

Or watched the Netflix show.

Or read a comprehensive blog post about it.

But to really understand where she is coming from, you have to read the book. 

I delighted in Kondo’s biographical details. I could identify. Like me, she went through the same purge attacks in her childhood, and just like I discovered, nothing ever lasted. And nothing was ever good enough.  

But unlike me, she persisted, for years, researching and trialing until she found the method she describes in her book and that she lovingly calls ‘Konmari’.

I have read many books on organizing. Here is my Goodreads record of it, if anyone is interested in taking a look. I tried most of what was suggested, but nothing ever stuck in its entirety.

I think that if you do take your time to read Kondo’s book, you will not need to follow countless blogs or social media showcasing the method. You won’t have to hire a consultant either. Unless you want to, in which case… why not.

Wouldn’t that be a dream job, though? 

I’d love it!

But You Have To Do What She Says

In a nutshell, it goes like this: group all the same items into a pile, touch each one, and ask yourself if it brings joy. If it does, keep it; if it doesn’t, thank it for its service, and part ways. (donate, give away)

Don’t organize or put anything away until you have finished discarding. 

From a personal survey I conducted among family and friends, I found that those who said that the method didn’t work tried to cut corners and skipped one or more of these steps. 

Additional Konmari Rules:

  • Commit Yourself to Tidying Up
  • Imagine your ideal Lifestyle
  • Finish discarding before organizing
  • Tidy by category, not by location

The categories are, easiest to hardest:

  • clothes
  • books
  • papers
  • komono (miscellaneous)
  • mementos (sentimental items)

5 Years Later – Personal Notes

Clothes

5 years ago, Konmari was in full swing

Five years later and all of my clothes now fit into one small wardrobe and a set of drawers. 

When I shop, I ask myself if the item I am looking at will spark joy. If it won’t, I don’t buy it. Even if it has a 90% discount.

I also have a picture of every clothing item I own in a handy app called Closet+. If I buy an item, I take a picture of it and add it to the app and if I discard an item, I delete it from the app. That way, I always know what I own. I started this five years ago during my Konmari sorting and have kept up with it ever since.

This brings me to ‘Konmari’ folding.

Take your time to learn how to do it. I don’t fold any other way anymore. I am slack with underwear, and I still roll my socks into balls, but everything else I fold the ‘Konmari’ way.

Once you get the hang of it and realize

  • how much space you actually have in your closet
  • how you can pull out anything you want without disturbing anything else

you will never go back to pile-type folding.

And also, this is so important, do not keep any of the clothes that don’t spark joy as loungewear. I now only wear things that spark joy, even when I am lounging around. And that is life-changing.

How does a book lover tidy up her books?

Marie Kondo Five Years Later
I kept only the books that spark joy for me (yes, still many, but it is what it is)

It turns out, I used to keep too many unread and gifted books that didn’t spark joy.

I thought the books would be hard for me because I love, love my library. But I did as she said and I touched each book, whether I read it or not, and asked myself if it sparked joy.

And guess what – it was as easy as the clothes.

I was able to do the same once I returned to my hometown and was faced with two decades worth of books that I had made my sister store for me.

More than 60% of my collection ended up being donated to a local library, which also made me feel good about myself.

Papers and Komono

In my kitchen five years ago

For Komono, I waited until my husband (the hoarder) was on a business trip, and I got to work. In the beginning, it was hard to distinguish between ‘spark joy’, and it ‘could be useful’; I mean, how can a knife spark joy anyway. But it turns out they do when you touch each item and look at it individually. 

The Papers category was not hard for me because I was already largely digitized (and I do keep my digital library, photos, cloud storage very tidy) But if you are not, Kondo has useful steps and detailed explanations in her book. Like what to do with appliance warranties and manuals (put them all in one transparent plastic folder) or handouts from that course you attended years ago and that you never looked at again (discard it).

This is not easy for everyone, I know. My husband keeps his flying manuals (he was a pilot) convinced that he will never find them again should he need them. He has 2 large cardboard boxes of various papers stored in our garage that, I know, he will never need or look at again, but he is not ready to let go yet.

But, thanks to Konmari, five years and two international moves later, our kitchen, bathroom, and even our junk drawer is always highly functional in a ‘spark joy’ way.

Mementos

The hard part, Kondo rightly predicts, are the sentimental items.

And I was obsessive about memory keeping (still am but in a more organized way).

I am a person who printed one year’s worth of daily emails between my friend and me (this was before cloud storage and unlimited quota-free email accounts).

I had two large binders full of our correspondence. My high school binders. My university books and handouts. Every movie ticket, museum ticket from my high school years.

But thanks to scanning services, I had all the emails and important mementos scanned and now store them digitally (worth the cost, just to be able to get rid of the hard copy).

I managed to let go of the physical version. While I like to leaf through it all, keeping them in bulky, giant binders did not ‘spark joy’ for me.

I reduced years’ worth of stuff to two smallish boxes of physical mementos (the two boxes in the library picture above).

And I now I am very selective in what I keep, both in digital and hard format.

Of course, I always ask myself “does it spark joy?”

But what about the old photographs?

I understand that many people have a lot of unsorted photographs to deal with. This is where I would make things easy and invest in having them digitized.

I hope to write about how I manage my digital photographs- I think that I truly have that hacked- the easy way.

But where do you find the time?

This is one of those things, like taking control of your social media, where you have to find time to make time.

It took me probably two weeks in total. I used some vacation time for it because it was important to me to get it done. (I had a lifestyle vision)

But even if it will take much longer, it is worth investing that time.

I once read that if you can’t tidy up any room in your house in under 2 minutes, you have too much stuff. Now, I would add that you have too much stuff that doesn’t ‘spark joy’.

Because when the things that surround you spark joy, they have their own place. You take care of them. You know where to find them when you need them. And you thank them for their continuous service.

Or you part with them.

But what if you live with someone who doesn’t do Konmari?

I do. My husband is one of those ‘let’s keep it in case we need it’ or ‘if we have space for it, why not keep it.

I made my peace with the fact that he won’t change. I take care of what is in my control. Some compromise is necessary, I guess. 

I can always interest him in selling something for money or giving it to someone specific in need.

Every now and then, we go through his wardrobe together and he keeps what ‘sparks joy’ without knowing it.

I do the same with both our kids and their toys.

I teach them how to fold things.

I tried folding my husband’s things but, since he doesn’t appreciate the beauty of the method, I decided it is good enough if his stuff is in his drawers and out of my sight.

And finally, I leave you with these words for wisdom from my collection of Kindle Highlights on Readwise.

Tell me, have you tried Marie Kond’s Method? Did it last?

9 Comments

  1. Happy to know that the Konmari method has worked for you! These things work if you are intentional and committed. 🙂

  2. I love this, and I have not tried this method. I am thinking that it would be nice to try out a method such as this one. I think I have many things that aren’t currently sparking joy in my life, and I probably should go through them.

  3. I love this! I have not heard of not ever tried this method, but I’m going to give it some careful consideration.

  4. This is all great information. My husband and I have been seriously exploring the option of doing a shuttle bus conversion and making the shift into bus life. One of the biggest struggles that many people share seems to be sorting and getting rid of their stuff given the limited space on a bus. I think I need to get my hands on her book as a way to help get us to that point.

  5. I’ll say something odd but I am not a fan of her method, it does not work for me but I know many people who are super happy and working it. I’m glad it’s good for you

  6. I have been doing this with my social media , phone apps, and photos! If they don’t spark joy or have a purpose, they go away. It has really helped me feel free and relaxed. It is about time to start doing it with my actual physical stuff soon too. A good clean-out and de-clutter would make a world of difference for me! I’m generally pretty organized, but I still think I have too much stuff.

  7. Hey Stella! I have never watched Marie Kondo, but I go into these fits of cleaning up where I discard A LOT. I didn’t think about classifying my items by categories though I probably should try it! I usually go by the location, a drawer today perhaps, another cabinet the following day, etc. What you’ve shared is interesting and I ought to give Marie Kondo’s book a shot.

    Also, your shelves look amazing! I stopped buying paperbacks two years ago because I ran out of shelves. These days, I read most of my books on my Kindle or laptop. Best decision ever from a books-take-up-way-too-much-space perspective.

    1. Author

      It’s great to hear from you and I really enjoyed reading your newsletter this morning!

      I know what you mean about books. I just love having paper books around. (although I read mainly on my Kindle as well)

      I usually don’t keep fiction (except for some favorites) but I do keep non-fiction favorites and I do sometimes go through them. I could probably get rid of it all and embrace true minimalism and someday I might, but I just feel that (if we have space) books really add to my feeling of wellbeing at home.

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