The KonMari Tidying Method for Beginners

The KonMari organizing and decluttering method was developed by professional organizer Marie Kondo. Not to be mistaken for run of the mill cleaning hacks or general advice about rearranging your possessions, the KonMari method teaches deep organization through decluttering with an innovative method Kondo has been using with clients for years. If you're looking to cut down on the mess in your home and live a more organized life, the KonMari method may be exactly what you need.

This approach to decluttering is laid out in detail in Kondo’s book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and in her Netflix series, Tidying Up With Marie Kondo. If you don’t have time to dive in and read an entire book or binge a series, this quick guide to tidying up the KonMari way will give you the basics so you can start your organizational journey.

The KonMari method teaches tidying in categories (she recommends focusing on one type of item at a time, instead of tidying room by room), and each category follows this pattern:

One: Commit to tidying.

Two: Take time to imagine what your ideal life looks like.

Three: See if the items spark joy.

Four: Say thank you.

Five: Discard.

Six: Organize.

Timing is Everything

For best results, Kondo strongly suggests that once you start tidying with her method, you don't stop until you're really finished. This means setting aside a day or two (or more, depending on the size of your house and number of your belongings), and committing to the process one hundred percent.

It may be unrealistic with your lifestyle to set aside a chunk of days to tidy this way. Don’t avoid this method because of that limitation. Though it's certainly ideal to do it all at once, many people have found success tackling this method throughout the course of a week or two while they carry on with other life activities. The main point of the goal is to make tidying a priority until it's complete.

Get In Touch With Your Joy

If you really want to keep your house clean and tidy, the KonMari method says joy will help. Though it may sound cheesy, Kondo teaches you to take every item as you declutter, hold it, and see if it brings you joy or serves an important purpose.

Anything that does not bring joy or serve an important purpose, goes. Spiritually minimalist at its core, the idea is to create a home space that becomes a source of peace and happiness, instead of tension or frustration. A space containing only things you love is much easier to maintain than one cluttered with objects you resent or vaguely dislike.

a woman hugs a sweater

Thank The Objects You Discard

Another unique aspect of this cleaning method is that Kondo instructs tidiers to thank each item before discarding it. That old college t-shirt that doesn’t fit? Say thank you for the memories and let it go. Those fifteen bottles of half used lotion? Say thank you for the years of smooth skin and let them go.

Because we attribute so much value to physical items, often tying them to experiences, people and emotions, it can be hard to let them go. Thanking items may seem silly, but it’s a great way to acknowledge the place they once held in your life and, in so doing, release them peacefully.

You'll find this approach relieves you of the guilt of saying goodbye to beloved items, which otherwise you might keep around for years, allowing them to take your time and energy again and again, making your present and future the servants of your past.

Order in Order

The sequence in which you tidy is a very important part of the KonMari method. Kondo’s tried and true approach recommends you start with clothes, then work your way to books, papers, miscellaneous items (Komono), and finally sentimental items.

Kondo stresses that it's important to stick to this order when you declutter. Though it may be tempting to rid yourself of old candles and picture frames while you’re in the clothes decluttering stage, sticking to the phase you're in will be the most efficient path to tidying success.

Segmenting decluttering helps it feel less overwhelming. If you try to tackle everything at once, your efforts will fall flat. Following Kondo’s order will help you stay on track toward the clean, organized house you want.

If you follow this method with care, you'll find your space will ultimately be far easier to keep clean. You’ll likely catch the cleaning bug after you’re done and head to the yard to declutter that as well (brave souls may even take this method to the garage).

tightly folded socks and underwear

Organization Station

After your home has been unburdened of all items except the ones that bring joy or serve a purpose, it’s time to organize. A decluttered home is a clean canvas to work with, so this will be far simpler than reorganizing in the midst of a mess. It's also a good time to implement some new storage solutions.

One great way to help organize your clothes is to use the KonMari method of folding in your closet. The method emphasizes respecting your clothes, folding them several times until they can stand on their own, not laying in piles on top of one another. The resulting closet and drawer spaces will be neat and organized, with all your garments easily accessible. Your clothes will also get less wrinkled this way.

Once your home is decluttered and organized, all you'll need is a few basic cleaning tips and tricks to keep your space in tip-top shape.