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What is the KonMari Method? How To Declutter Like Marie Kondo

Rachel BurrisJanuary 07, 2020

Did you know that clutter can be harmful to your health? Your brain needs organization to function properly, which is why messy homes tend to cause us to feel drained and anxious. A cluttered home can even make it more difficult for you to sleep and concentrate.

Take a look around your home. Does it make you feel stressed? If so, it’s time to do something about it, and Marie Kondo has just the thing. Kondo’s KonMari Method will help you sort through your belongings, get rid of the clutter and organize your home.

At the end of a long day, you deserve to come home to a place that sparks joy instead of dread. Check out these tips for decluttering like the organization expert herself, so your ideal lifestyle can begin today.

Who Is Marie Kondo?

Marie Kondo, 35, is the Japanese organization guru who invented a transformative approach to tidying up the home. As a 19-year-old student in Tokyo, Kondo’s passion for organization led her to start her own consulting firm, where she taught people how to simplify their lives and transform their homes into spaces of tranquility. Since then, she has found new ways to share her wisdom with a wider audience: She wrote a New York Times best-selling book that has sold over 1.5 million copies and inspired a show on Netflix.

Her technique is known as the KonMari Method, which she named after herself, combining the syllables of her last and first name. The KonMari Method has been wildly popular across the globe due to its simplicity, effectiveness and ability to empower its followers by helping them regain control over their lives.

The KonMari Method

The KonMari Method will help you organize your home and living spaces by discarding items that don’t bring joy to your life. Kondo has helped millions of people through this method, which she describes in her book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” and further details in her show, “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.”

How To Use The KonMari Method

The KonMari Method takes a bold approach to organization. Instead of moving from room to room, eliminating items gradually, Marie Kondo prompts you to scrutinize your belongings by category and focus on what you want to keep. As you go through each item, Kondo encourages you to hold it up and ask yourself, “Does it spark joy?” When you come across an item that isn’t a source of happiness or pleasure, you get rid of it.

This method may seem a bit strange and unnatural at first, but it gets easier as you learn more about it. So, let’s take a deeper look at the process.

The Categories Involved In The KonMari Method

As mentioned, a basic principle of the KonMari Method is that you must tidy up your home by category instead of approaching each room individually. This strategy helps you gain a better sense of what you own and what you should discard. It also ensures that you find appropriate places to store similar items so that you don’t relapse and return to a state of clutter.

There are five categories that Marie Kondo identifies:

1.    Clothes

2.    Books

3.    Papers

4.    Komono (miscellaneous items)

5.    Sentimental items (mementos)

Each of these categories is to be addressed separately, so you must finish going through one category before beginning the next.

The Six Basic Rules Of The KonMari Method

Kondo has established six basic rules to help individuals declutter their homes and keep them tidy. If you want to be successful in keeping your home clutter-free, it’s important that you follow each of them.

1.    Commit yourself to tidying up.

Tidying up your home is never easy. It takes time and continued effort. Using the KonMari Method is no different. If you’re going to succeed in decluttering your home, you have to commit to it. Instead of doubting yourself, follow Kondo’s steps and take the process seriously.

2.    Imagine your ideal lifestyle.

Before you begin, you must figure out what your ideal lifestyle looks like. What kind of home do you want to live in? How do you want to engage with the items in your home? This step is crucial for ensuring that you don’t give up or return to a life of clutter after you’ve gone through the process. If you have an end goal in mind, you’ll be inspired to keep your home a tidy place that brings you joy.

3.    Finish discarding first.

Tidying up isn’t just about finding a place for each possession. It’s about discarding items you don’t need or enjoy. If you don’t get rid of items, you end up having drawers and closets that are overflowing, which eventually leads to future clutter. By discarding items first, you’ll figure out how much storage you actually need for the things that matter.

4.    Tidy by category, not by location.

To properly organize your home, you must go through your items by category instead of by room. When you tidy up one room at a time, you end up moving items around from one drawer or closet to another, making it difficult to figure out what you actually have.

Sorting through your belongings category by category will enable you to discard duplicated items. Furthermore, it will ensure that items that belong together end up being stored in the same place, so you’re more readily able to find what you need when you look for it.

5.    Follow the right order.

The KonMari Method not only addresses sifting through and organizing your items by category, but also the specific order in which you should attend to those categories. The order you should follow is clothes, books, papers, komono (miscellaneous items), and sentimental items, so you end on those nostalgic objects.

The reason for this order is that clothes tend to be the easiest category to sort through while mementos tend to cause us to stop and reminisce, slowing down the process. Saving the sentimental items for last ensures that you’ve mastered the art of detecting what sparks joy before you examine those objects that pull at your heartstrings.

6.    Ask yourself if it sparks joy.

According to Kondo, it’s the items that spark joy that should be kept, and those that don’t should be discarded. The process of deciding if an object – whether it’s an article of clothing or a letter from a grandparent – should be saved is very intimate and must be treated as such.

When you go through each item, pick it up and hold it in your hands. We tend to have a visceral reaction to the items that spark joy; the thrill that they give us is often palpable. So, make sure that you’re paying attention to how your body responds to each object you hold up.

As you engage with your belongings, keep in mind that the KonMari Method is all about choosing what to keep, not what to discard. Don’t feel obligated to keep anything that doesn’t spark joy – that includes gifts you’ve been given. Often, we tend to keep things out of guilt, but that only creates more clutter.

After you’ve decided what you’ll keep, you must discard everything else. When discarding items, Kondo encourages you to thank each item individually for its service before you say goodbye to it. It may sound odd, but thanking items makes them easier to part with and increases your appreciation for the items you hold onto, which can also help ensure you take better care of them.

Step 1: Collect Everything In The Category

Now that you have a better understanding of what’s involved in the KonMari Method, you can start to go through the process, step by step. To begin, you must gather all of your belongings in the first category – clothes – and put every article you own in a pile on your bed or floor. Make sure you collect everything from the various rooms you may be storing them in. So, for clothes, be sure you head to your coat closet, as well as your bedroom closet, to gather your outerwear. This will help you see exactly what you have. Plus, it will force you to go through everything, because if you don’t, you’ll have one ginormous mess on your hands.

The most difficult part of this process is gathering items in the komono category because there are so many different things that fall into the miscellaneous category. For this category, you will have to pull out all of the knickknacks you’ve been storing in drawers and closets throughout your home. Luckily, komono is the second to last category, so you have some time to prepare.

Step 2: Break Into Subcategories

The second step involves sifting through each of the categories and breaking them into subcategories. A good rule of thumb is to create a subcategory whenever a category seems too big to handle.

For clothes, you would take your giant heap and group it into different types: tops, bottoms, socks, underwear, shoes, bags, belts, etc. You can even make subcategories for clothes to be hung and articles that you wear on special occasions (e.g., formal wear, resort wear, etc.). This step will help you get an even better sense of items that overlap with each other and are unnecessary.

For komono items, your categories could include films, albums, toiletries, appliances and electrical equipment, kitchen supplies, etc. As mentioned, breaking this category into subcategories will be a bit more labor-intensive because it includes so much. But you’re likely to have a lot of overlap in your miscellaneous items, so make sure you don’t skip this step.

Step 3: Keep Only What Sparks Joy

Once you have broken each category into subcategories, you can begin to analyze each item. Remember, you’re only keeping the items that spark joy. Those are the items that make you feel good. So, if you pick up an item that makes you smile or makes your body tingle, it’s something you should keep. If an item doesn’t make you feel that way, it’s time to thank it and say goodbye.

This process will probably feel awkward at first, but stick with it. As the items you’re discarding start to accumulate, you’ll want to separate them into two piles. Create one pile for the items you want to donate and another for the ones you want to throw away. If you would like, you can also create a third pile for any items you would like to sell through a garage sale or online.

Step 4: Organize Your Space

After you’ve discarded all items that don’t spark joy in every category, you can begin to figure out where you’ll store them and how much space you’ll actually need. You’ll be organizing as you go, which means you’ll need to put all items of the same category in the same place. You’ll need to work category by category, just as you did when figuring out which items to keep. So, don’t start putting away your books until you’ve organized all your clothes.

As you put away your clothes, you’ll want to use the Marie Kondo Folding Method, which will be discussed in the next section. The important part of this step is ensuring that you are not just piling your belongings on your shelves and in your closets and drawers. Everything you put away should be visible and easy to access. Your ability to see all of your belongings neatly before you will help ensure that your home stays organized and clutter-free.

The Marie Kondo Folding Method

The KonMari Method places a lot of emphasis on folding clothes properly. Following the Marie Kondo Folding Method will ensure that the drawers and shelves that you use to store your clothes remain tidy. There are specific ways that you should fold each article of clothing, so that it can stand upright, allowing you to see every item you own without having to dig through piles of clothing.

Socks And Stockings

While you may be used to balling your socks after you take them out of the dryer, that’s not going to cut it when using the Marie Kondo Folding Method. Each length of sock has a slightly different folding strategy.

For ankle socks, place one sock on top of its partner and fold them both into thirds. When you put it in your drawer, you’ll stand it up, so the rounded side is facing up. For midlength socks, you’ll follow the same method, but instead of folding them into thirds, you’ll fold them into fourths. So, instead of making two folds, you’ll make three.

With stockings, you’ll begin by folding them in half, lengthwise. Run your hands along them to smooth out any wrinkles. Fold them again, bringing the feet of the stockings up to the top, so they’re right below the waistband. Then, roll the stockings up and stand them up in the drawer, so they look like a sushi roll.

Underwear

Give your underwear space to breathe by also stacking each pair upright. To fold your underwear, lay it flat and fold the crotch up to the waistband. Fold each side into the center, so that it’s in the shape of a rectangle. Once again, fold the crotch up to the waistband and stand it up with the rounded side facing up. You can then begin stacking your pairs upright in your drawer.

T-Shirts

If you’ve ever had to rifle through your drawer to find that one particular shirt you want to wear, you know how disastrous your drawer can look by the time you finally find it. Using Marie Kondo’s method of folding T-shirts will not only keep your drawers neat, but  save you loads of time each morning, as each shirt will be clearly visible as soon as you open your drawer.

Lay your shirt face up and smooth it out with your hands. Fold the right side towards the middle, extending the sleeve out across the front before folding the sleeve back halfway toward the armpit. Do the same to the left side, so that both sides of the shirt meet in the middle. Fold the shirt in half, so the neckline is about an inch away from the bottom of the shirt. Then, fold the shirt into thirds.

Stand the shirt up with the rounded part at the top and place it in your drawer to be stacked against your other shirts. If the shirt doesn’t fall down when you stand it upright, you’ll know you’ve folded it correctly.

Sweaters

Because sweaters are bulkier than T-shirts, you may find it a bit more difficult to fold according to Marie Kondo’s method. The steps are slightly different from folding T-shirts, but after a couple of tries, you’ll be an expert.

Lay the sweater face down and smooth out the wrinkles. Fold the right side in toward the center of the sweater. Fold the right sleeve out, away from the center of the sweater. Then, fold the right sleeve again – this time, folding it neatly down so that the sleeve lies directly on top of the right side of the sweater. Follow the same steps with the left side.

Now, the body of the sweater should be in the shape of a rectangle, and the sleeves should create a triangular shape at the top. Grab the bottom of the sweater and fold it into thirds up to the neckline. Stand it up with the rounded part facing up and stack it in your drawer.

Jeans

You can also fold your jeans according to the KonMari way so that they fit nicely in your drawer or on your shelf. Lay the pants face up and smooth them out. Fold the pants in half lengthwise, so that one leg is directly on top of the other. Fold the bottom of the pants up to the waistband. Then, fold them upwards into thirds. Stand them upright and stack them against your other pants.

With all of your clothes folded neatly and standing upright, you’ll be able to clearly see every article you own without needing to move anything around.

Marie Kondo Organizing Tips

Congratulations, you now know how to declutter and fold like Marie Kondo! However, if you’re going to keep your home tidy, there are a few more tips that you should read.

1.    Everything should have its own space.

Boxes and bins are big in Kondo’s world. If you just put everything in a drawer – even if you stack it nicely – you’ll find that it eventually becomes messy. Instead, use a shoebox or a rimmed tray to help designate spaces for all of your belongings. For clothes, you can use the lid of a shoebox to stack your socks and underwear neatly before putting them in your drawer. Having this smaller section within your drawer will ensure that your clothes are stacked tightly enough that they don’t get messy as you take items out to wear.

You can also use rimmed trays for the drawers in your bathroom, kitchen and nightstand to make sure that each item has a specific place that it belongs. By doing so, you’ll know exactly where to put each item after you use it. To help you remember where everything goes, you should also label your boxes, bins and trays – that will help you refrain from just throwing miscellaneous items in a drawer.

2.    Rid your home of unnecessary papers.

Whether it’s bills, instruction manuals or warranties, paper can pile up and create disorder in your home. Instead of stashing your papers in drawers, just throw them out. Most people think that keeping all this paper is important, but then rarely – or, more often, never – look at it again. Save yourself the hassle of trying to come up with creative places to hide old mail and instead just discard it. We live in a digital world anyway, so anything you need can be found online.

3.    Store things vertically rather than putting them in piles.

As you learned through the Marie Kondo Folding Method, everything you own should be stored and displayed vertically. When you pile items on top of each other, you have to dig through your belongings to find what you need. That process of digging can turn your perfectly organized home upside down. Instead, make sure that you can see everything clearly by stacking each item vertically. It will make everything in your home look nicer, too.

4.    Small change belongs in your wallet.

Don’t leave your pocket change lying around. People have a tendency to stash loose change in jars, drawers and even couch cushions, but that tendency only leads to more clutter. Instead of letting your change take over your home, put it in your wallet whenever you see it. After all, you’ll never spend it if you just let it sit inside a random drawer.

5.    Tidy your home by yourself, so others don’t influence you.

This tip may sound funny, but it’s important that you organize your home without others looking over your shoulder. Figuring out which of your items spark joy is a very personal experience. There likely will be items that you want to discard that your family members or friends want you to keep, such as gifts or sentimental items.

If you’re decluttering the KonMari way, you have a big job ahead of you. You don’t need guilt or second-guessing slowing you down. Trust yourself and your instincts. And have your friends and family members stay at their own homes until you’ve finished. In the end, you’ll feel even better when you reveal your new, clutter-free home and see the look of astonishment in their eyes!

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    Rachel Burris

    Rachel Burris is a writer covering topics of interest to present and future homeowners, as well as industry insiders. Prior to joining Rocket Companies, she worked as an English teacher for the New York City Department of Education and a licensed real estate agent for Brown Harris Stevens. She holds a bachelor's degree in creative writing from Bucknell University, a postbaccalaureate certificate in psychology from Columbia University and a master's degree in English education from Teachers College, Columbia University.