Always Well Within

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The Best Way to Declutter So You Feel Happy at Home {KonMari Style}

Simplify + declutter with the KonMari method.

I know, without a doubt, that my energy feels uplifted after tidying up or de-cluttering.  I believe that clutter and chaos depresses the spirit in an invisible way that you may never notice until after a good cleaning and clearing session like I do.

I didn’t develop a healthy habit of tidying up as a child or as a teen, as my mother did all the housework.  I tended to disorderliness, a sign I think of not having or wanting to have my feet firmly planted on this earth.

As long as it’s not noisy, I can work in a physically chaotic environment due to my enhanced ability to focus.  But it doesn’t feel optimal.  Also, I notice an immediate feeling of aversion whenever I encounter a messy house or space.  I see this as a sign that disorder is not conducive for my own well-being.  I suspect this is true across the board for almost all of us.  How is it for you?

During my one-week spring break, I went into active cleaning, decluttering, and organizing mode. It felt so good to clean out under the sinks, reorganize my closet, and reduce my archive file box to a few inches of folders from its previous bursting at the seems appearance.  During this time, I decided to read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, the Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo to keep the positive momentum going.

To be honest, I find most books on decluttering boring.  But this book is unique, perhaps due to its roots in Japanese culture.  It’s been wildly popular, selling more than 2 million copies.  Kondo’s book confirmed my intuitive claims by asserting that putting your house in order can positively effect all other areas of your life.  She even suggests that your life will change dramatically when you finish the process.

There are two phases to the tidying up process using the KonMari method:

  • Discarding
  • Finding a place for everything that remains

Here are ten of the most important tips from The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and my commentary on what I found useful or not.

1.  What’s Your Motivation for Decluttering and Ideal Style?

Kondo encourages you to ask these questions as a prelude to the hands on work of the KonMari method.

  • What’s your motivation for tidying up?
  • What do you wish to gain from tidying up?
  • What does your ideal lifestyle look light?

She nudges you to think these questions through deeply and to vividly visualize the outcome you desire from your decluttering process as concretely as possible.  This will reduce your risk of “rebound” into messy habits and a messy house once again.

I think this step is one of the most important elements of Kondo’s book.  A clear motivation for decluttering serves like a touchstone you can return to whenever you feel discouraged, tempted to lapse, or lured into procrastination.  It will help you stay on track with the KonMari method and accomplish your vision for a clutter-free home.

These are my motivations.

  • I want to save time for what’s truly important to me.  Disorganization always results in lost time and frustration when you can’t find what you need.
  • I want to live in a more uplifted energetic space.
  • I seek simplicity of mind and find that physical simplicity supports this.
  • Living simply is my small contribution to a more sustainable earth.

As to style, I call my desired look “zen elegance.”

2. Start by Discarding, Quickly and Completely

That sounds intimidating, but Kondo actually means up to six months when she uses the word “quickly.”   The aim is to rapidly begin to feel the positives of living with less clutter so you’re inspired to continue and never go back.

If you interrupt discarding with organizing, you may never finish this vital part of the process.  The remaining excess will make you more prone to clutter.  The secret of Kondo’s successful method, she says is to follow the right order and discard first, quickly and completely.

3.  Keep What Brings You Joy, Discard the Rest

My closet after using the KonMari Method.

My closet after using the KonMari Method.

Kondo says to focus more on what you want to keep rather than on what you want to discard by using joy as the selection criteria.  You must physically touch each item and ask, “Does this spark joy?”  This might sound wonky, but try it out and see what happens.  Your heart knows whether you truly love an item far better than your brain.

The goal is to whittle away everything that doesn’t bring you joy so in the end you’re surround only by the items that uplift your heart.  By doing this, Kondo says you can reset your life and begin a new, more satisfying lifestyle.

4. Declutter  One Category at a Time

Most people declutter by location. When you use the KonMari method, you proceed instead by bringing together all the items you own in one category – all your clothes or all your pens, for example.  It will be easier to make an accurate assessment of what you want to keep and discard if all the items are brought together.  Then you can see them as a whole and compare them as needed.  This also avoids the wasted time of starting over again and again with similar types of items.

Then, you physically touch or hold each item and ask, “Does this spark joy?”

This clustering approach has worked well for me with some categories like all my clothes or all my books.  But, for me, it’s sometimes easier to de-clutter by location.  For example, clearing out one desk drawer feels manageable for me when I have a small window of time.   I think it’s worthwhile to try both approaches and see which one works best for you.

5. Declutter In This Sequence

Kondo recommends starting with the easiest categories first, the ones that usually have the least sentimental value.  Therefore, it’s easier to discard items in the beginning, and you’ll move through your decluttering process faster.  This is the sequence she recommends:

  • Clothes
  • Books
  • Papers
  • Miscellany
  • Mementos

For clothes, she recommends breaking them down further into these categories:

  • Tops
  • Bottoms
  • Jackets, Coats, Suits
  • Socks
  • Underwear
  • Bags
  • Accessories
  • Situation specific clothing (swimsuits, uniforms, and the like)
  • Shoes

Your decluttering will go more smoothly when you follow this order, claims Kondo based on her years of experience helping people simplify and organize their homes.

6. Declutter On Your Own

There’s nothing more frustrating than truly wanting to discard an item and having your action blocked by someone else.  That can happen if your partner, friend, or someone in your family tends to be a packrat.  Or they may just feel a strong attachment to particular items you own.

Central to Kondo’s approach is your internal dialog concerning what brings YOU joy.  Hearing your heart whispers can best be done alone and in a relatively quiet environment.  Bringing other people into the picture can muddy this up.

At the same time, decluttering as a couple or a family can be a healthy way to support a happier and more sustainable lifestyle together.  If everyone is committed, a group effort could definitely be the way to go, although each person will ideally focus on their own items first before collective items are addressed together.

7.  When It’s Hard to Let Go

You will instinctively know what is best to keep and what is better gone.  Just hold the item and ask the key question, “Does this spark joy.”  The problem comes when the rational mind pipes in to say, “Maybe, I’ll need this later.” Or, “How can I give this away, it cost so much?”  As best as you can, Kondo suggests, go with your heart, not your head.

One key question to ask when you find it hard to separate from an item is, “Has this item fulfilled its purpose?”  For example, that ill-fitting dress might have cost a ton, but it has shown you the specific features that don’t complement your body well.  It will be easier to let it go when you realize an item has fulfilled its purpose and thus is no longer needed in your life.

8. Storage

Once you are surrounded by only the items you love, you’ll have far less and thus require less storage space too.  Kondo offers many small tips on how to store your stuff in an efficient way – far too many to share here.

Kondo’s overarching theme for storage is simplicity.  She recommends:

  • Keep all items of the same type in one place.
  • Not to scatter your storage all about.

Kondo highly recommends one storage place per person, ideally using your closet as your main storage unit.  If you have too many storage areas, it’s easy for clutter to descend once again.  She says never store items on the floor of your home (clutter, right?), and is adamant that you don’t need expensive storage solutions.

9. Designate a Place for Every Item

An item without a place increases the chance your house will get messy again.  This is one of the main reasons for rebound.

First, designate a place for every single item.  For example, I now keep my keys in a zippered pocket in purse.  Instead of laying them on a table or the kitchen counter, I always return them to this pocket.  I no longer lose time searching for my keys!

Then, when you finish using an item, put it in its designated spot.  This, I find is the biggest challenge when it comes to sustaining a decluttered space.  There’s always the temptation to procrastinate, put the item down where you happen to be, and say you’ll put it away later.

Kondo says that once you have your storage set up, in the same place or close proximity, it becomes natural to put things away.

10.  Stop Decluttering When It Feels Right

At some point in your process of reduction, you’ll come to a point when it feels like you have just the right amount of things to live comfortably.  You’ll feel a “click” and that’s when it’s time to stop and enjoy your more spacious home.

When you follow her process and get to this perfect point, Kondo claims you’ll never rebound.  That’s where I would like to be!  However, since Kondo’s motto when it comes to paper is not to keep any at all, I fear I might get stuck at that point.  Time will tell.

Click through for an overview of KonMari decluttering.

I didn’t finish my deep cleaning and decluttering process in that one spring week, but I took some big steps forward.  I plan to finish tidying up over the summer using the KonMari suggestions that resonate for me.  Wish me good luck!

How do you declutter and tidy up?  Have you tried the KonMari method?  How did it work for you?

Thank you for your presence.  If you enjoyed this article, please share it with your friends.  Thank you!  May you be well, happy, and safe – always.  With love, Sandra

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33 Comments

  1. Hi Sandra,

    An excellent review!

    Kondo’s book is one of my favorite on decluttering . Loved your personal commentary. It was refreshing to hear your take on it.

    As stated in my own review, I find it hard to declutter once and for all because of my 4 little ones. For us, decluttering seems is an ongoing process in our home. Sometimes we declutter by location and other times by category.

    Overall, I enjoyed the book and return to it frequently. Glad you did too 🙂

    Enjoy your weekend!

    • Thank you, Kelvin! Marie Kondo is so emphatic that if you use her method you’ll be done decluttering once and for all! I can’t imagine that with 4 kids, as you point out. They’re each individuals and I’m sure some are more inclined to keep things declutter than others. Thanks for mention that. Paper is my nemesis. So I can’t say the Kon-Mari method won’t work perfectly for me, I just might not apply it 100% perfectly. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I appreciate your perspective on simplicity.

  2. I love, love, love the concept of zen elegance Sandra, it speaks directly to my soul. I’ve found over the years I can only stand clutter for a short while. The disharmony of it hurts my heart and spirit and whilst I haven’t read this book (another one on my list – I wish you’d stop doing this to me!) the ideas you share totally resonate.

    • From what I could see on one of your videos, zen elegance, definitely seems to be your style, Elle. So beautiful! I’m not there yet, but moving in that direction. I love how clear you are that disharmony hurts your heart and spirit. You probably don’t need the book. You seem very good where you are!

  3. 🙂 I do not ever expect to attain Zen Elegance, Sandra, but I sure do keep trying to de-clutter. I guess I do need the book because it is an on-going process in this tiny house. I got after the studio last week and tossed tons of old drawings (do this about every year because I do about 10 drawings a week). I know I kept things that I will toss next time through, but I was not ready this time. My best way to begin de-cluttering is to turn on the TV show, “Hoarders” and that inspires me to toss out all sorts of stuff. 🙂 There, but for the grace of God…..

    • That’s a good method, Jean – watching the TV show! I don’t think zen elegance is the right style for everyone. I imagine your style would be highly creative. I understand complete how this would be an ongoing process for you since you are so prolific! I wish you the best going at the pace that works for you.

  4. Suzie Cheel

    I am with Jean, not sure how this method works for artists 🙂 I finished reading this book last week and then another blogger wrote about it in The Women of FaceBook on Friday- I am still processing this. I currently have am getting all my clothes into one area, I am going to start with my clothes xxoo

    • I understand that you might not want to pare down everything in your art life so radically! I’m sure the process will help in the other areas you want to explore like you clothes. Whatever you decide, I wish you the best with it.

  5. I loved this book Sandra, and this is a great summary of the book – a nice handy reference guide to come back when I next declutter (which is a lot more often than one would think given I own so few possessions!)

    • Thank you, Ellen. Isn’t interesting how clutter can accumulate even when you have few possessions? I try to keep my possessions to a minimum and I think I do relatively well in that regard. The biggest accumulator for me is paper!

  6. Hey Sandra, how amazing that I am reading this book right now, and when I saw your post, wondered if you were referring to the same. It is a simple, motivating book! Gosh, I really had a hard time letting things go, probably because I grew up in a thrifty household…but now, I think I am much better off after I took up the habit of discarding/donating something every day. Yes, every single day. I carry something with me when I leave my house and to ensure I don’t forget, have a collection point in the living room 🙂 You are absolutely right about the joy that fills our being after decluttering – a sense of liberation, really! Sometimes I wish I lived in a smaller house! Sigh.

    Great post. And a wonderful read to begin my week!

    • Isn’t the synchronicity amazing! What a wonderful method, Vidya – one item a day. That would probably feel manageable to almost everyone and I love the idea of having a designated collection point. I’m glad you feel better off having established this practice and even a sense of joy and liberation! So inspiring. We live in a small house now, but it can feel like it’s bursting at the seems at times, so I’m definitely on the simplicity kick. Here’s to our adventure together!

  7. Sandra,

    I love the simple wisdom of Kondo’s recommendations. I tend to be a cleaner/organizer/neat freak out of anxiety. It makes me feel better when everything is clean and neat. Because of this, I have to restrain from spending too much time cleaning up and learn to “let things go” messy.

    It’s all about finding balance! 🙂

    • That’s a really good point about balance, Debbie. I couldn’t follow Marie Kondo’s style 100% as it’s a little too excessive for me. But I’m glad it works for her. It’s inspiring that you’re finding your balance point!

  8. Ok so this book is officially going on my to read list!
    You know how much I love decluttering. The best thing about it that I love about this process, is that while in the beginning I had too many attachments to things, Now I can give things away in a heartbeat. Its progress for the hoarder I used to be way back when.
    When people come to my place they say, “you have so much space…How?” …. I think when we can continuously shed older, unused or unnecessary stuff, we automatically make way for good energy…that too on a daily basis.
    Thank you for this beautiful review.
    Lots of love,
    Z~
    p.s. when I just shifted homes, I literally gave away countless boxes of stuff…my mom says, “wont you miss that, wont you miss this?” ..and all i can think of is, “It feels Great! Lets give some more…” 😉

    • These are such good points, Zeenat! I love how decluttering has helped you soften your attachments to things and how it makes an energetic shift for you. I think everyone would want to declutter if they could actually feel this in such a positive way like you do! Thanks for adding those point to the conversation. I’m sure they will inspire others.

  9. I enjoyed KonMari’s book, but couldn’t get on board with everything. Like you I prefer to declutter by location as it is less overwhelming to tackle a small drawer than dig out all my clothes! Having said that I never seem to finish, so maybe her way has some merit!

    • That’s an interesting consideration, Sharon. Kondo is so emphatic that you can finish once and for all when you follow her approach to decluttering and execute it within a 6-month window. So I wonder about that too since I haven’t finished. I would love to have this sense that I’m finished once and for all! I can see that takes ongoing discipline, however. Thanks for sharing your experience, Sharon.

  10. I enjoyed your take on Kondo’s book, Sandra! I loved her book. It totally inspired me to declutter.

    While I initially followed her approach (it helped me create more space amongst my things and I loved how it looked), I eventually got sidetracked by life. Also, the paper category was a tough one for me that proved to be a temporary obstacle. In addition, because I’m married and a mother, there are more people involved/contributing to the home clutter than just me/my stuff…

    That said, I’m still glad that I started the KonMari process and am thinking of embarking on the task of looking over my papers sometime summer!

    • Hello Dorlee,

      I’m glad you got a good start on your decluttering process and found Kondo’s book helpful! I bet it will be even easier when you go back to the process soon. I understand, cause papers are challenging for me too. And of course, the process can be more complex when more people are involved. I wish you the best with this! I’m focusing on finishing up now myself.

  11. As someone who loves being surrounded by beautiful things, I must admit I do have a fair amount of stuff around my house, one being my elephant collection that numbers 400+ now. I did read the book and actually felt a bit overwhelmed by her method. Doing one category at a time didn’t quite work for me, partly because I have lived in my house since 1982 and I don’t have say clothes or papers, easy to gather in just one place. I know her method has been amazingly successful for many people and I’ve also recently read that depending on your temperament and personality type, it is best to find a de-cluttering way that works for you. A simple and powerful exercise I was recently introduced to had us discard 27 items for 9 days in a row. Very powerful and very high spiritual vibration to the process too. I do love the Kondo idea of only keeping things that bring you joy. Somehow I find that in many of the things I have in my home that add to its character and personality. Thanks for sharing your experience and it sounds like it was a very powerful exercise for you, Sandra Sophia! Congratulations on that!

    • Hi Beverley,

      I love what you’ve said here as it underlines the truth that we are all very different. It seems like your furnishings and decorations bring you much joy and comfort. I find it so interesting that people suggest modes of decluttering depending on your personality type. I’m sure that’s a good idea. I think one of the reasons I’m drawn to simplicity and decluttering is due to my personality type (INFJ). I’m so glad you found a good way for you! I’m so happy there are alternatives for all of us.

  12. Great detail on how/what /when to declutter. I am often not great at decluttering but definitely feel the difference when my life and area is decluttered. I like that. When I declutter I often put things in piles. A keep pile, discard pile and donate pile. That works fairly well for me. If I notice my keep pile is larger than the other piles I go through it again with the do I really need this. I like asking the question, though, does this bring me joy. Thanks for sharing!

    • What a simple and efficient approach, Summer. Thanks for sharing this. I like it too when I feel the difference after decluttering! You’re so welcome and thanks for sharing your process.

  13. I am in with the zen elegance too and reminded of feng shui which includes decluttering spaces to allow positive chi energy to flow in your home. I personally feel ungrounded or anxious if clutter starts to become too much. And I love the feeling of a good cleaning or declutter spree – it is instantly rewarding.

    • Hello Teresa,

      I think this is so important, to tune into how we feel when clutters gets too much and how our experience shifts when we declutter. That says so much! I also feel aligned with the ideas in feng shui and allowing the chi energy to flow in our homes. Thanks for adding that thought to the conversation.

  14. I haven’t read the book, Sandra, though I have heard some very favorable comments for it from my circle and your post shows me why.

    The book that inspired me way back in 2001 to finally catch the Clutter Bull by the horn and incorporate declutter into my daily practice was Spiritual Housecleaning by Kathryn L. Robyn.

    The book had such an impact on me that years later, I still follow the rituals and Clutter and I aren’t friends. 🙂

    • Wonderful, Vatsala. That book sounds like a good fit for me as well as I like to look at things from a spiritual perspective. Thanks for mentioning it.

  15. I am forever fascinated by the human mind and in this case the direction your article took mine. Clutter isn’t just physical stuff, it’s also the leftover baggage, hurts, and personal history that we cart around in our minds and hearts and it occurred to me the same steps – be clear about your motivation for discarding,
    keep what brings you joy, one category at a time, etc. – all make sense for a clearing process of these things as well. You definitely have my mind working, thank you!

    • That so on track, Marquita. I love how you’ve applied this system for clearing emotional baggage too. How creative! Kondo speaks often about how physical declutter can lead to life changes as well. Interestingly, I’m also releasing things from the past. Thanks for tying this all together for us.

  16. I think I need this book, I have woken up and jumped out of bed to start decluttering rooms. I feel great afterwards. However it does seem to become messy again. Or I end up making more room to create more clutter. Thanks for sharing your perspective

    • That’s the challenge, isn’t it, Tricia! Kondo claims that no one reverts to clutter after going through her system. That would be so lovely. I’m aiming in that direction. I hope you enjoy the book if you decide to get it. Love the energy and feel of your website, by the way.

  17. Thank you for this information .i like your website because it have a lot of articles that they happen in everyday of our life.

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