All About Sparking Joy :: Marie Kondo on “Tidying Up”


Have you heard of Marie Kondo? Does the phrase “spark joy” mean anything to you?

Well, chances are, unless you’ve been hiding under a rock since the beginning of the year, you probably know what I’m talking about.

I was perusing Netflix on New Year’s Day and came across a show I’d not heard of called “Tidying Up.” After watching the preview, I pressed play on the first episode. I was immediately sucked in. It’s not like any other of the home makeover or hoarders shows out there.

Kondo is a Japanese organizer and author who helps people purge what they don’t need and tidy up what they decide to keep. Her goal is to help people tidy their homes by choosing joy. She began her tidying consultant business as a 19-year-old college student in Tokyo. Before becoming a household name (thanks to Netflix), she wrote a book titled The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up in 2015, that went on to become a New York Times best seller, and she was named one of Time Magazine’s Most influential people in 2015.

I’m one of those people who loves to organize, purge, and declutter, so the show was right up my alley. Sometimes my organizing (tidying) is planned. Other times, I open a drawer to get a pen or a cabinet to get a spice and wind up rearranging the entire thing. (This morning I did my linen closet!)

The eight-episode series may just inspire you to tackle the clutter in your home, too.

Since the show made its debut, I’ve done some tidying up in my home and have seen quite a few friends on social media that have done the same. (I love seeing those “before” and “after” pics going from messy to neat!) I have also seen several articles about how thrift stores have seen a dramatic increase in donations. (One person’s trash really is another person’s treasure!)

So, if you haven’t watched, I totally recommend it. Let me give you a little info before you start.

Kondo uses a type of organizing called The KonMari Method. KonMari is actually a gathering together of all your belongings, one category at a time. It encourages tidying by category – not by location. (At first, I thought just a mashup of Marie Kondo’s first and last names, but nope!). Go through them and keep only those things that speak to the heart, discarding items that no longer “spark joy”. Thank them for their service – then let them go. Here are the five categories:

  1. Clothes: The first step is to take all your clothes and dump them in a big pile on your bed. This is obviously to show you just how much you have. Then go through each piece and see which ones “spark joy”. The others can go. It’s up to you what you do with them from there. You could sell them online, donate them, or have a clothes swap with friends. (She also shows her fabulous folding methods so your items can neatly fit and stack in drawers and baskets.)

2. Books: Gather them all and put them in a pile. Go through each one, keeping only the ones that “spark joy”. I say if you’ve never read it, or never plan to read it again, it’s time to let it go. There’s been a story going around that she says you can only keep 30, but I did some research on it and it’s not true. Kondo said her ideal number is 30 books, but the number you choose to keep is up to you.

3. Papers: These include everything from manuals and bills to taxes and greeting cards. Chances are, there is a lot of this at your house that can be shredded or thrown away. Keep only what you need and get rid of the rest.

4. Komono. This miscellaneous category is huge, and basically includes everything: office, kitchen, pantry, laundry room, furniture, living room, kids’ rooms, bathroom, and pet items. A few tips: for the kitchen, clean off the counter tops. All those plastic storage bins that don’t have a top, toss them. The 200 plastic cups in your cabinet, they need to go too.

5. Sentimental Items: Chances are, you have tons of photos, letters, kids’ artwork, and other mementos. This category can be difficult for some people. Keep what sparks joy and find a place to keep it all together.

In her second book, Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up, Kondo shares her six basic rules of tidying:

Rule 1. Commit yourself to tidying up
Rule 2. Imagine your ideal lifestyle
Rule 3. Finish discarding first
Rule 4. Tidy by category, not by location
Rule 5. Follow the right order
Rule 6. Ask yourself if it sparks joy

In one of the later episodes she says, “The point of this process isn’t to force yourself to eliminate things, but it’s really to confirm how you feel about each and every item you possess.” She’s not telling you to get rid of everything and become a minimalist. (See quote below.)

If you want to attempt this process, set a realistic goal for yourself. It doesn’t have to be done all at once. Maybe plan to do it over a week or a month. If you do want to do the process quickly, here’s a 7-Day KonMari challenge for beginners

There are TONS of KonMari posts on Pinterest to help you. Here’s a great detailed checklist I found. If you decide to give it a try, good luck!