“Does it spark joy?”
That’s the question professional organizer and minimalist decor expert Marie Kondo encourages her clients to ask about every single item in their homes. If the answer is yes, the item stays. If the answer is no, it goes.
Contrary to what you might think of a professional tidying consultant, Kondo is all about sensory experience and emotion, rather than cut-and-dry sensibility. Her KonMari minimalist living method calls for you to hold or touch each of your possessions one at a time and pay attention to how each one makes you feel. You keep those which inspire positive emotions—a spark of joy that Kondo says will resonate through your body. Otherwise, it’s time to thank the item for its service in your life, and then let it go.
Kondo helps people de-clutter their space to create a minimalist apartment or minimalist house. But her goals are loftier than that. Using the KonMari method, she aims to help people de-clutter the chaos and strain in their personal and family lives, too. She’s definitely on to something. Just watch her Netflix reality series Tidying Up With Marie Kondo and you’ll see how transforming an overcrowded home into a minimalist house can help ease stress, rekindle romance, inspire confidence, or improve parent-child connections.
The KonMari Method for Minimalist Living
Kondo works with a set of rules that are easy enough to follow, once you set aside any preconceived notions of how to create minimalist décor and an ultra-organized living space. Use these guidelines to get started with the KonMari method:
- Commit to Tidying Up.
Ideally, set aside a weekend or at least a full day to work on creating your minimalist apartment or home. Otherwise, you’re far too likely to create more mess before ever experiencing the benefits of a completed KonMari makeover.
- Visualize Your Ideal Lifestyle.
Before you get started, think about the type of environment you want to live in and your lifestyle goals. Maybe you dream of the ultimate minimalist home that feels like a Zen retreat. Or perhaps you simply want to de-clutter your packed apartment to keep it from being overrun with piles of laundry, dirty dishes, and a chaotic jumble of kids’ toys.
- Discard First.
Before you re-organize your space and put things into place, you’ll need to discard the things that no longer serve you. This doesn’t mean you need to throw them away. You can donate, recycle, or put items in storage, too.
- Tidy by Category.
The typical approach to cleaning up is to work by location—for example, you might work on the bedroom first, then the office, and then the living room. The KonMari method tackles one category of belongings at a time. You’ll gather all your clothing together—yes, every single item—and cull through the entire pile.
- Ask Yourself, “Does It Spark Joy?”
One by one, pick up and hold each item. Touch it and pay attention to your emotional response. Ask yourself whether the item brings you joy. If it does—even if it’s not practical or in perfect condition—it should remain in your day-to-day life. Kondo herself famously held onto a tattered and torn tee-shirt because it filled her with happy memories.
- Tidy in Order.
The KonMari method stipulates tidying in a specific order to achieve ideal minimalist living efficiency:
- Komono (miscellaneous items—anything that doesn’t fit one of the other categories)
- Sentimental items
Now What? Creating Your Minimalist Home
Once you’re done discarding the items that no longer serve you, it’s time to tidy up what’s left and create a well-organized, minimalist home. Kondo recommends that sentimental items are given a place of honor, featuring in your minimalist décor. This way, the belongings that spark the greatest joy in your life will greet you every time you enter a room, and the happiness they inspire will have a positive impact on your daily life.
Items that belong in drawers—such as kitchen utensils and cosmetics—are best kept in small boxes or drawer inserts to keep them organized and tidy. And when it comes to clothing, there’s a very specific KonMari method for folding everything (best illustrated in this YouTube video). The most unique aspect of Kondo’s folding technique is that clothing is stored standing up, aligned in neat, space-saving stacks. This makes every item visible and easy to select when getting dressed. KonMari folding is about more than just minimalist living. It’s also a way to “talk to your clothes and thank them, to convey love with the palms of your hands,” says Kondo.
As you can see, the KonMari method helps shift your focus to the things that bring you true joy and happiness. The minimalist space that you create, and the minimalist décor that you showcase, are really byproducts of intentionally choosing to keep only what you cherish. And imagine how happy, calm, and stress-free you’ll feel when surrounded only by the things you love!
Have you tried the KonMari method? Share your experiences with minimalist living in the comments below.