Inside: The best Marie Kondo tips to help you declutter and get organized. And just maybe, baby step your way towards a minimalist lifestyle.
When I heard about Marie Kondo’s magical little book, I couldn’t get enough of her tips and advice.
It started with reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up cover to cover in less than two days.
I followed her tips nearly to the letter. Maybe a little too well, actually.
Especially considering we had three little kids and were living paycheck to paycheck at the time.
I got rid of what didn’t spark joy pretty ruthlessly, and let’s just say that not a lot of our possessions sparked joy at the time.
(Yes, yes, things that are useful but not beautiful are supposed to “spark joy”, too. I know. I’ll get to my thoughts on that one in a bit.)
I had more than a little bit of decluttering regret.
Scratch that: I was pretty jaded there for a while (you can read this post to see how I felt about minimalism back then).
But that was years ago. A couple of kids ago.
For reference, we currently have five kiddos ten and under, but only three when I started decluttering.
Our life and finances, plus my definition of minimalism, are a little more balanced now, and I’m happy to say that I can now look back on Marie Kondo’s advice with fondness and gratitude.
I’m getting a whole lot better at sifting through decluttering advice from a variety of sources. I’m finding the gold and leaving behind what doesn’t resonate with me and my family.
I’m SO thankful for Marie Kondo for jump-starting my decluttering process.
In honor of my first encounter with Marie Kondo, and hopefully a Season 2 of Tidying Up coming soon on Netflix, I wanted to share what I consider to be the best Marie Kondo tips for decluttering your home.
(And which ones I think you should skip.)
7 Best Marie Kondo Tips to Start Your Decluttering Journey
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1. Gather all like items in a category together in one place to get an accurate perspective on how much you really own.
I don’t necessarily agree with following her big five categories in the order she recommends, mostly because my audience tends to be families with young children.
Dealing with all the clothes in your entire house at one time with a family of 5-7 people has the potential for major overwhelm. Overwhelm can stop you from making progress.
However, the concept itself is SO helpful when applied to smaller categories.
Most of us tend to think we own less than we really do.
Seeing all of one type of thing together at one time, in one place, is pretty eye-opening.
If you keep writing utensils in your kitchen, for example, you may want to gather ALL the writing utensils from your entire house when you’re trying to declutter.
If you keep towels in multiple bathrooms, the storage room, and a random closet, gathering ALL the towels together helps you make a better decision about how many you really need to keep.
Marie Kondo Tip to Skip #1…
Marie Kondo recommends decluttering five main categories in a specific order, one at a time:
- Komono (Kitchen, Bathroom, Garage, etc.)
- Sentimental Items
I like to work from the easiest categories to the hardest, and break down the categories into much smaller ones.
Clothing, books and paper are super difficult categories to tackle.
I recommend starting with what she calls “Komono”, the bathroom first, to be specific.
You can get more thoughts on where to start decluttering HERE.
2. Declutter sentimental items last.
Sometimes, when people start decluttering, they leap right to the hard stuff: but what about the china set I inherited from my mom when she died.
“Well no, I don’t use it, but I couldn’t possibly give it away!”
You guys, especially if you are a sentimental person, this is the most difficult category to tackle. More so than the clothing, books and paper.
While I don’t agree with the rest of her recommended order, Marie Kondo was definitely wise when she recommended this category be saved for last.
You need to start with the easy stuff, the expired medications, the overflowing cleaning supply cabinet or the expired food in the pantry.
Or even the coffee mugs you have fifty of (but only two people in your family drink coffee). …Unless of course some of those coffee mugs were gifts…and are sentimental.
In that case, start with the silverware.
Related: Decluttering Sentimental Items – How to Let Go (& Do You Even Need To?)
3. Hold each item individually, one at a time, when deciding whether to declutter it or not.
I know what you’re thinking: hold EACH and EVERY item? That will take foreeevvverrrrr.
Yep, decluttering might take you a lot longer than you originally thought.
Here’s the thing: did your cluttered home get that way overnight? Nope, not even close.
Excessive and mindless consumption over months and years is what got you into this mess in the first place.
Trying to solve your clutter problem with rapid and mindless decluttering is NOT a good idea. Unless you are extremely disciplined, you’re likely to deal with a serious rebound to fill all that empty space you’re not used to yet.
Acclimating to a clutter-free house can take time.
Like gaining and losing pregnancy weight, decluttering in a weekend or even a week is unrealistic, not to mention extremely unhealthy.
To think you should lose every single pound it took you NINE MONTHS to gain is crazy, and so is thinking you can make decisions about every single thing you own in ONE weekend.
Decluttering, in my humble opinion, should be a slow and steady process. There may be periods of time where you get rid of more stuff in one go than other times.
But overall, you should definitely take your time.
By taking even a brief moment to consider each item, you’re building a habit of intentionality. Hopefully, that habit will change your shopping habits moving forward.
Related: How to Declutter in Just 15 Minutes a Day
4. The Marie Kondo folding method makes messy drawers a thing of the past.
I like to think of my mom life as the pre-Marie Kondo folding method and the post-Marie Kondo folding method.
Just kidding…kind of.
Figuring out how to fold clothes so that you can “file” them away in dresser drawers eliminated a source of extreme frustration for me:
Before learning the Marie Kondo folding method, my kids (and let’s be real, my husband) destroyed their neat drawers in a hot second, sifting through their piles of shirts to find their favorites.
After learning how to fold clothes using the KonMari method? No more messy drawers.
They didn’t need to sift anymore because they could easily see everything at a glance.
Thank you, Marie Kondo!
She also recommends hanging as much your wardrobe as possible. I started doing this earlier in the year for my own capsule wardrobe, and I love it.
But everyone else in my family still keeps their clothes in drawers, for the most part, due to lack of closet space.
Learn how to fold clothes using the Marie Kondo folding method: you won’t regret it.
Related: How to Fold Baby Clothes Using the Marie Kondo Folding Method
5. Before you get rid of stuff you no longer need, thank that item for how it served you.
O.k., I admit that on my first decluttering go around, I thought this Marie Kondo tip was a little out there.
And if you’re looking for the reason behind some of the more…mystical, for lack of a better word…practices Marie uses for decluttering (like greeting the home, for example), you’ll find this article fascinating.
But at it’s heart, this Marie Kondo tip is really about cultivating gratitude.
The fact that we have things to declutter at all is a sign of privilege: we have WAY more than we need.
Even those of us decluttering on a low income have more money than a large percentage of the world today.
You don’t necessarily have to thank the items. Express your gratitude in whatever manner suits you.
Most of our decluttering bags these days hold clothes kids have outgrown. As I drop send them off to their next recipient, I do stop to say a prayer of thanks for God’s provision.
Each of those pieces of clothing served us for a good long time, sometimes through multiple kids, and for that I am so very thankful.
Cultivating a spirit of gratitude can also help break the bad shopping habits that lead to clutter build-up in the first place.
Related: The Right Way to Deal with Decluttering Guilt
6. Your home should spark joy.
Considered Marie Kondo’s best tip by many is her signature decluttering question, “Does it spark joy?”
I don’t love it as a decluttering question, but I do agree with her sentiment that your home as a whole should spark joy.
Your home is designed to be a haven, a place you love to come home to. A safe haven in a crazy, intense and often painful world.
That doesn’t necessarily mean, as I once believed, that you need to spend a fortune replacing everything in your home with the perfect (read: expensive) items that “spark joy”, and getting rid of stuff that doesn’t.
I don’t think that’s what she is saying at all.
It simply means that you should aspire, within your means, to be intentional about everything that comes into your home. She encourages you to create a home YOU love.
You: not your neighbor, not that Instagram influencer, not your friend. YOU.
Sometimes that looks like decluttering and getting rid of things that do the opposite of bringing you joy.
Sometimes that looks like keeping things you might not love, but are useful, and over time, swapping them out for things you do love.
Sometimes that looks like learning how to appreciate what you already have.
It may take years in a culture that promotes putting a home you love together overnight – no matter the cost.
But it’s worth doing.
Marie Kondo Tip to Skip #2…
The controversial question, “Does this spark joy?” can lead you to get rid of a ton of perfectly good, useful stuff just because it’s not your favorite thing. It can also make you discontent and wanting to immediately replace all the things you just decluttered with things that do “spark joy”.
While I know that promoting discontentment wasn’t her intention, I’ve experienced this downside personally.
(Read More: How Minimalism Can Hurt Your Budget.)
On the other hand, the “Does it spark joy?” question can also lead you to keeping far more stuff than you need or is good for you.
An item can bring you joy, but not need to stay in your home.
I mean, walking through the aisles at Target, I see sooooo many things that spark joy!
But I’ve learned a minimalist secret: a thing can bring you joy without having to actually possess it.
I offer five alternative and more practical questions to use when decluttering HERE.
7. Decluttering is extremely personal, and there is no “right” number of things to declutter or to keep.
With the rest of America, I watched the first season of her new Netflix show Tidying Up last year with curiosity.
So what is Marie Kondo like in person?
Would she be more prescriptive in her interactions with her clients? Tell them how much they needed to declutter? “Fifty bags of donations, at least!”
No, she wasn’t like that at all.
I was floored by how sweet and gracious she was with every single client! Far kinder and gentler with than I would have been.
She never gave rules or specific numbers. If a client really wanted to keep an item, Marie trusted their judgement.
After all, her clients knew what brings them joy far better than a decluttering expert who just met them.
Unless you’re wanting to practice extreme minimalism, which you’re welcome to do, asking how many items to keep is truly pointless.
(And if any minimalist tries to tell you differently, run far, far away!)
Related: 10 Unique Minimalist Living Tips from a 5-Year Minimalist
Are Marie Kondo’s Tips Best For You? That Depends on Your End Goal
Whether Marie Kondo is the best decluttering expert for you to follow depends largely on your end goal.
Do you simply want to declutter and get organized?
Or do you want to become a minimalist?
When I started decluttering using The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up as a guide, all I wanted was less stuff.
Less stuff to organize. Less stuff to clean up at the end of the day.
But after the first round of decluttering using Mari Kondo’s tips, I realized I needed more than to just get unwanted stuff out of my house.
I needed to become extremely intentional with what I let come back into my house AFTER decluttering.
Plus, I needed to get rid of far more than I originally thought. And I did, round by round, over the course of five years.
What I really wanted and needed was minimalism.
Marie Kondo’s tips and advice are an excellent starting point for people who are unsure about minimalism, but know they for sure need to declutter.
You might finish decluttering and be completely satisfied.
Minimalism may never appeal to you.
Or, like me, you might finish decluttering and realize you want need to do more than just declutter.
You might need to become a minimalist, too.
Read Next: 12 Best Decluttering Books for a Clutter-Free Home