7 Decluttering Lessons We Learned from Marie Kondo

7 lessons we learned from the Japanese decluttering guru, Marie Kondo

By now, surely you’ve heard of Marie Kondo, the Japanese decluttering guru who has transformed homes across the globe with her little turquoise book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. She’s helped millions of followers take control of clutter in their homes — once and for all — based on one simple premise: keep only the things in your home that spark joy. Discard everything else.

Can it really be that simple, though? We finally picked up the decluttering bible to see what all the fuss was about, and it’s safe to say we now count ourselves among her legions of fans. Some here at the office have already applied the author’s now famous KonMari Method in their homes with huge results. Others have only just begun the journey. Regardless, here are the things we learned by reading her book.  

7 lessons we learned from the Japanese decluttering guru, Marie Kondo

Forget everything you’ve learned about decluttering

We’ve all heard the “rules” before: get rid of one thing every time you bring in something new, tidy a little every day, toss it if you haven’t worn it in a year and so on. But for lasting results, Kondo says you must make it a Special Event. Set aside time to tidy in one shot, as quickly and completely as possible. And get started as soon as possible. “Anyone who experiences this process, no matter who they are, will vow never to revert to clutter again,” the author assures us.

Discard first, store later

Kondo’s two-pronged approach is first discard, then decide where to keep things. But you’ve got to finish the first task completely before starting the next — or you’ll never make permanent progress. Now here’s where it may start to sound a little hokey. Deciding what to get rid of means taking every single item, one at a time, into your hands and asking “does this spark joy?” But when you really think about it, if it doesn’t truly speak to your heart, why keep it?

Only after you’ve discarded everything, Kondo promises you’ll have plenty of room to store your things, regardless of the size of your space. “The real problem is that we have far more than we want or need. Once you learn to choose your belongings properly, you will be left only with the amount that fits perfectly in the space you currently own. This is the true magic of tidying.”

Jewelry storage in an armoire from Ballard Designs

Tackle clutter by category, not room

A common misconception is that you should organize by room, which only leads to repetition and wasted effort. Rather, you should organize by category, starting with the easiest stuff first. Begin with clothes, move on to books, papers, and miscellany (small articles, gadgets and tools) and, finally, tackle the sentimental items, such as photos, love letters and keepsakes. Kondo says that by saving the hardest items for last, “you can gradually hone your decision-making skills, so that by the end, it seems simple.”

7 lessons we learned from the Japanese decluttering guru, Marie Kondo

It feels good to let go

That shirt you bought but never wear. The pile of unread books you meant to read. The gifts you have no use for. Love letters from an ex-boyfriend. It’s okay to say goodbye to those things that have outlived their purpose. Kondo recommends “reassessing” the role each of these things play in your life and whether they have already fulfilled its function. Then, the best way to let go is to let go with love, says Kondo. “By acknowledging their contribution and letting them go with gratitude, you will be able to truly put the things you own, and your life, in order. In the end, all that will remain are the things that you really treasure.

Place towels folded side out for a neat look

Fold, don’t hang

With the exception of coats, suits, jackets, dresses and skirts, Kondo insists that most items do better (and are happier) folded than hung — and it takes up far less space. Of course, with all things KonMari, there’s only one way to fold clothes — and the key is to store those folded clothes standing up in a drawer rather than laid flat, pressing down on top of each other. She also neatly rolls socks and tights, rather than keeping them balled up or tied together. Watch Kondo’s folding video here:

Any box will do

Most people get hung up on the type of storage, but tidying up your home doesn’t require several trips to the Container Store. In fact, our need to buy expensive or complicated storage comes from having too much stuff in the first place. Kondo says that once you’ve done the big purge, you can often solve your storage problems with things already in your home. Her go-to storage? A shoebox. It’s perfect for storing tights in the bedroom, cleaning supplies in the bathroom and cake tins in the kitchen.

Decorating with neutral color palettes

A tidy home is a happy home — and a happier you

“Life truly begins after you have put your house in order.” Kondo cites examples of clients whose lives have changed for the better once they put their house in order, from exciting career changes to losing weight and staying fit. The process of tidying, says Kondo, is essentially a detox for your house and, in turn, has a detox effect on the mind and body. To finally be unburdened of the things that don’t really matter relieves us of anxieties and old attachments and creates a lightness of being. And then there’s this revelation by Kondo: “Being surrounded by things that spark joy makes you happy.”

Have you read Marie Kondo‘s book? Are you ready to declutter your home? Tell us in the comments below.

Read more book reviews here.

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Caroline McDonald

Caroline lives for pairing together patterns, mixing furniture styles, and oogling over our newest furniture pieces. As you can imagine, her little 1920's craftsman is in a constant state of flux. Here on How to Decorate, it's her goal to help you turn your home into your own little slice of paradise.


  1. Reply

    Laura D. Zajac

    February 16, 2016

    Great article! It seems so simple…just throw things away! The white and neutral room at the bottom is so beautiful; you guys get me excited for spring!