Does it spark joy? How to Organize like Marie Kondo

Does it spark joy? How to Organize like Marie Kondo
19 Mar 2019

Does it spark joy? How to Organize like Marie Kondo

I have been a Professional Organizer for almost 20 years. When I started, the concept of hiring someone to organize your home was fairly new. Many people had no idea what an organizer was, or what we could do. Over the years professional organizing has grown in popularity. There have been numerous TV shows and books on the subject. But, recently the concept of getting organized has taken off since Marie Kondo came into the spotlight with her best-selling book: The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

In The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Marie Kondo introduces her KonMari (a term she made up combining her first and last name) method of organizing, which brings a East Asian approach to organizing. This approach is now transforming our over-stuffed American homes.

The KonMari method is a unique system of simplifying and organizing your home by getting rid of physical items that do not bring joy into your life. Part of the decluttering process is to hold each item in your hands and consider whether it sparks joy. If it does, then it’s a keeper. If it does not, then it goes. She recommends tackling your stuff category-by-category rather than room-by-room.

There are six basic rules to get started:

  1. Commit yourself to tidying up.
  2. Imagine your ideal lifestyle.
  3. Declutter first. (Before getting rid of items, sincerely thank each item for serving its purpose.)
  4. Tidy by category, not location.
  5. Follow the right order.
  6. Ask yourself if each item sparks joy.

She breaks things out into five categories and recommends tackling them in this order:

  1. Clothes
  2. Books
  3. Papers
  4. Komono (Miscellaneous Items)
  5. Sentimental Items

To determine what makes the cut, she has you start by pulling everything from one category out from closets, drawers, containers, etc. Once you have a big pile, you’re to go through everything item-by-item and consider if it sparks joy. While you may be slow to start, she assures us that you’ll get better at recognizing what sparks joy as you go. Once you’ve tossed items in every category, you should have a much smaller number of remaining items that you put back in their places.

Because you’re choosing items that spark joy, and discarding what doesn’t, the intention of the KonMari method is to end up with a clutter-free home that is better able to bring more joy and prosperity to your life. While tidying, she encourages you to visualize the life you want to live (to be less stressed, for example) and think about what you need to get there. Anything that won’t help on that journey isn’t deserving of your space or you, she says.

As Americans, we are consumers and tend to accumulate more possessions as we go through life. Our homes get bigger, our cars get bigger and we rent storage spaces by the millions to stash our accumulation of stuff.  Marie Kondo tells us to appreciate our things and only keep things we love. There has a been a lot of discussion as to whether everything you own needs to spark joy. It has been the subject of memes all over social media. Actress Mindy Kaling, joked, “I did that Japanese decluttering thing where you hold something, and if it doesn’t bring you joy, you throw it out. I got rid of all my vegetables and the electric bill.” Jokes aside, the KonMari approach isn’t about getting rid of it all, it’s about discarding items that lack value. I’ve always taken a similar approach in all the years I’ve been organizing. I ask my clients to ask themselves three questions when decluttering; “Do I need it? Do I use it? Do I love it?”. If they cannot answer a resounding “yes” to one of these questions, then it can go. So, before you go throwing away your vegetables and electric bill, remind yourself that not everything you own will bring you joy. But, thinking about what you own and keeping only what you really need and want will lead you to a more organized and clutter-free life. Those that have jumped on the KonMari bandwagon are finding themselves with more time, space and energy to do the things that spark joy in their lives.


Sarah Buckwalter