How to Marie Kondo your life in five simple steps (without getting rid of everything)

Love to declutter your life but not sure where to start? Here’s how to Marie Kondo your life in five simple steps (without getting rid of everything).

If you recently binged Tidying Up, Netflix’s new reality show starring Marie Kondo, you may be feeling twinges of guilt every time you walk by that overstuffed, chaotic closet. Everyone wants a cleaner house and a happy, healthier life, but throwing away everything but your five favorite pairs of shoes seems a little drastic.

The good news is applying the magic of tidying up may start with sifting through your stuff, but it doesn’t have to end there. Many agree the KonMari method can become a way of cleaning up the chaos and focusing on what matters most in your life.

If you dream about bags of clutter parading to the curb but are having trouble getting started, stay tuned for tips on how to Marie Kondo your life without throwing everything away.

What is the KonMari method?

At its heart, Marie Kondo’s method for eliminating clutter from your life, both metaphorical and literal, is simple. And it starts with a single question. Does this spark joy? If the answer is no, you get rid of it and move on.

If that sounds a little too good to be true, you’re right. Getting rid of that old soccer trophy from the all-state finals in high school or that pair of jeans you’ve been saying you’ll fit into someday isn’t as straightforward as it seems. We attach value to things for lots of reasons, including the sentimental, and it can be a struggle to let go.

That’s why Marie Kondo advises following the process of tidying up with these specific steps.

  • Clear your calendar – For the magic of tidying up to work, you need to do it all at once. It’s important to allow the full impact of all the things you’ve held onto to hit you at once. 
  • Tidy up by item, not by room – If your office supplies are squirreled away in three separate rooms, you won’t be able to make good decisions about how much stuff you actually have. Gather items by type and use to get a full picture of what you own.
  • Observe the order – The KonMari method has a specific order for a reason, and following it will help you sift through stuff efficiently. Kondo recommends starting with clothes, then moving onto books.
  • Hold the item and say it out loud – Does this spark joy? Why do I care about it? Saying the question out loud helps you understand why you’re hanging onto something and be intentional about letting it go. 
  • Visualize where stuff belongs – Sometimes we set up our homes haphazardly. Getting a clear picture of where an item belongs can help you see how you’ve fallen into habits that aren’t helping you.

How do I decide if something sparks joy?

One of the reasons why people who use the KonMari method report it’s such a positive experience is that the magic of tidying up embraces emotions instead of disregarding them. 

Framing your decision by asking if something (or someone) in your life sparks joy encourages you to inspect how you feel about an object or relationship. The KonMari method permits you to let go of things and forces in your life that are potentially toxic, clearing the way for what makes you truly happy.

For instance, take that ratty old sofa you hate down in the basement. When you decide to clear it out because it doesn’t spark joy, you may find yourself creating room to do something else with that space that’ll bring you happiness. Whether it’s a yoga studio or a reading nook, you now have room to consider other possibilities.

Five tips to Marie Kondo your life

Before you jump into tidying up all the things, make sure you consider these tips for avoiding the most common pitfalls when practicing the KonMari method. 

1) Declutter doesn’t mean ditching EVERYTHING

Some things, like kitchen gadgets, may not spark much joy upon initial inspection. After all, that garlic press probably isn’t your favorite thing in the drawer, but it sure comes in handy when making dinner. 

Practical stuff doesn’t make us swoon, but it serves a purpose that can inspire gratitude. The point is to clear out what’s taking up space in the nooks and crannies of your life that isn’t providing value.

That way you can focus on making your home the sanctuary you deserve, where you can surround yourself with the things and people that matter most.

2) Learning to let go isn’t easy, but that’s the point

While some folks get energized by a clean slate, others might find the prospect a little terrifying at first. What if you throw something expensive out only to turn around and discover you need it later? 

One way to create a bit of a buffer is to rent a small storage unit and squirrel away some of the items you’re reluctant to release. After you’ve gotten some distance from the attachment your things have on you, you’ll likely peek into that storage space and be amazed that you considered holding on to half that junk.

3) When it comes to the KonMari method, practice makes perfect

Some parts of the KonMari method may seem silly at first, but stick with it. For instance, taking all of the things out of your purse or work bag every time you arrive home and packing it all back up again before you leave seems tedious, but it has a point. Accounting for the things you’re choosing to carry around can make you think harder about whether you need those items. 

Suddenly, you’ll discover you pack lighter and are less likely to bring stuff home that accumulates in your junk drawer. This kind of mindfulness can spread to other areas of your life and is a result of daily practice of the KonMari method.

4) Dive in and get it done

It’s tempting when taking on a big project like “cleaning up the house” or “getting organized” to overthink it. You might spend lots of money buying organizers and storage bins only to find yourself running out of steam by the time you roll up your sleeves. 

Marie Kondo recommends going through your stuff first and worrying about organizing later. As you throw things out, you’ll probably end up rearranging and repurposing areas in your home, so dive in and see where you land.

5) The KonMari method is for more than stuff – it’s a philosophy

Marie Kondo’s method resonates with so many because it’s about much more than the stuff we hold on to. It’s also about clearing out the metaphorical clutter that prevents us from embracing happiness.

Once you’ve gotten a handle on your house, begin taking stock of the relationships in your life. Do they spark joy? If not, consider why you hold onto those connections and the purpose those interactions serve in your life.

If a relationship is affecting you negatively, it could be time to step away. Or, it could be time to talk seriously with your friend or family member about how things should change. Those who care about you will put in the effort to repair your relationship. 

You can also write down any habits you wish you could break or that clutter your life with busywork. Consider what beliefs and outside forces could be holding you back from doing more of what makes you happy, and then, instead of just making a list of goals, start a list of tasks you do every day.

Rate the items on your list by how important they are to your happiness. Then cut out anything that’s just getting in the way. For example, give up on that trash TV show you don’t love but still watch or that book you feel like you have to finish just because you started it.

Finally, replace any restricting activities with things that keep you happy. If you freed up your Tuesday nights, start taking a class in something you want to learn, like cooking or knitting.

If you gave yourself a little more time in your mornings before work, start practicing meditation or yoga to feel calm and ready for the day. Whatever you do, make sure you feel it’s important for your mental and emotional well-being. 

Making decisions about what to invest in and what to let go of can help you finally create the healthier, happier life you crave.

Photo by Luiz Olmedo