How To Organize The Marie Kondo Way


Calm, cool, barren aesthetics are something that many find enviable—an organized haven can seem like an antidote to the chaos of life. Having less denotes a departure from consumerism, a streamlined approach to life and quite frankly, makes it seem like you might have your shit together.

While everyone’s aspirations are different, ranging from an organized kitchen drawer to an entire capsule wardrobe, there are no shortage of minimalist tools, simplicity blogs and organizational books. The most recent addition to the bookshelves of the zen? The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: A Simple, Effective Way to Banish Clutter Forever by Marie Kondo, a Japanese organizing consultant.

Kondo is committed in her hardline approach, complemented by a sweet, yet no-nonsense attitude. Dubbed the “KonMari” method (a hybrid combination of her first and last name), the book inspires readers to keep only what “sparks joy” in their lives, and thereby, in their homes. Through a hierarchal process, Kondo walks readers through an entire purge of house and home. This approach has garnered both applause and criticism—it can be difficult for your toilet plunger to spark joy, but it is also easy to see why parting with relics of the past can have its own sort of freedom.

Perhaps adding one more book to the shelf seems like the antithesis of organization to you, or buying Kondo’s book doesn’t really spark joy in your life. Whatever the case, we have read the book and short-listed some of the most accessible and efficient ideas for you. Bookmark these for the next time you move, downsize or just want to feel like you have your life in check. 

Spark joy

Throughout her book, Kondo reaffirms that all items you keep should spark joy when held in your hand. No exceptions. While this may be hard when assessing the joy of the toilet plunger (however, the resulting situation in the plunger’s absence is anything but joyful), keep this recommendation at the forefront when going through clothes, jewelry and personal items. Don’t hold on to jeans that are too small, a necklace you never really liked or photos that bring you bad memories. They may dredge up negative thoughts, rather than bring you joy—life is too short to hold on to a dream of fitting into pants, or feeling guilty that something you once liked is no longer. Appreciate the item and let it go.

Tackle categories

One of the hallmarks of the KonMari method is tackling an entire category all at once, whether that is clothes, papers or household items. The idea is to completely finish one category before moving on, limiting your unfinished business while ensuring you have reviewed each and every single item from that category. This is practical advice, for both your wardrobe and life in general. Don’t sift through your closet, only to have to repeat the entire process come winter when you head down to the basement, in search of a sweater. Find it all, make your decisions and do it once. 

Examine how, and why, you do things

When I moved out on my own, I trotted off to the local office supply and loaded up on manila folders, because that seemed like the key to organization. I never really thought about why I did that or if it was the best option. I just knew that, at the core, manila was some sort of gateway to organization. Holding on to your bank statements? Filed all your product manuals away? These are things that we do out of reflex, or because our parents did them. Embrace technology and discard anything that you can access online- statements, manuals and other relevant documents, while scanning and saving digital copies of others. Make an exception for key documents, like those related to taxes, ownership and your personal identity. Perhaps you will find you only need a handful of manila folders, not the whole filing cabinet. 

Beware the stockpile

Over the course of a recent move, we were forced to go through all our belongings with a critical eye. Deeper and deeper in the closets were repeated items and stockpiled goods—sometimes in apocalyptic amounts. I call this the Costco phenomenon, where we continue to stockpile on the goods that we know we will use (toothpaste, paper towels, chickpeas, peanut butter) with a seemingly reckless abandon. The closets and cabinets fill up, pushing our precious stockpiles to the back. By the time one ends up at the store again, you’ve forgotten what is at the back of the cabinet and end up purchasing the same items all over again. It can be a vicious cycle, especially if something is on sale. Live lean and avoid the draw of stocking up on items—you will be able to see what you have, use things fully and be mindful about what you buy. Buying an inordinate amount of toothpaste isn't saving money if it will never be used. It may be expired by the time you work your way to that corner of the cupboard, anyway.

Start somewhere

Aspirations of organization aren’t a bad thing—tidying up and working through the excess in your life can even be cathartic. Make sure you are kind to yourself while overhauling your life. Kondo recommends a swift practice, but sometimes dredging up old memories can be exhausting. Be realistic, take your time and congratulate yourself for starting the process. Just make sure you finish—work your way through the entire closet, the whole wardrobe—that sense of completion is the best part of the whole journey.