Interior Design

Marie Kondo reveals her top 5 tidying tips – plus how to organize the KonMari way

Get busy decluttering with these KonMari approved tips and tricks

Marie Kondo - top tidying tips
(Image credit: Alamy)

There's no better time to declutter and sort out your space than a new year, and so the queen of organization, Marie Kondo, is here to help you do just that.

The decluttering guru has been creating and sharing ingenious Japanese organizing techniques to make life simpler and run more smoothly ever since her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, was released in the US in 2014. Since then, the minimalist has changed the way we fold, launched a show on Netlfix - the aptly titled Tidying up with Marie Kondo, and inspired us all to cut down on anything that doesn't 'spark joy'.

Even if going full-blown KonMari (what Kondo calls her style of tidying) seems a bit out of reach at the moment, these ideas will help clear your home and your mind, one step at a time.

Here are five of Kondo's top tips to try now.

What is the KonMari Method?

The KonMari Method is a methodical approach to tidying: by category, rather than by the room or location within a room. Marie Kondo encourages us to start with clothes, then books, papers and miscellaneous items, finishing with sentimental possessions. She suggests keeping only the things that 'spark joy'. Those that don't, she suggests you find a new home for. 

1. Work through categories - not rooms

Contrary to how most people would think, Kondo advises to work through your home in order of category rather than tackling a whole room.

While it may seem to make more sense to sort by room and think of separate kitchen storage ideas for example, Kondo points out that it's hard to really achieve much this way.

'When we disperse storage of a particular item throughout the house and tidy one place at a time, we can never grasp the overall volume and therefore can never finish,' Kondo says. 'To escape this negative spiral, tidy by category, not by place.'

For example, if you chose to sort through your towels - which may be in laundry rooms, the kitchen, bathrooms... - you'll have a better understanding of what you actually have and therefore sort through and organize more efficiently.

As for which category to take on when, Kondo believes that clothes should be first as you're less likely to have emotional attachments compared to later categories such as books and letters.  

2. Learn to fold vertically

This couldn't be a list of Marie Kondo tips without the infamous vertical fold being mentioned.

According to Kondo, when you arrange your clothing, towels and cloths vertically, you save space and it actually becomes much easier to find what you're looking for. It's not the quickest of methods, but it's tried and tested in the world of KonMari.

'The act of folding is far more than making clothes compact for storage,' says Kondo. 'It is an act of caring, an expression of love and appreciation for the way these clothes support your lifestyle.'

Once you're carefully folded your clothes, Kondo advises to use boxes or drawer dividers to keep things in their place, and you'll need fewer than you think, as Kondo points out, 'by neatly folding your clothes, you can solve almost every problem related to storage.' 

3. Organize and declutter solo

Perhaps not something you would have thought about before, but Kondo believes that you should be decluttering by yourself.

The reason for this is that loved ones, especially family members, can be anxious about how much is getting thrown away, or try to guilt you into keeping something that you have moved on from.

A very simple tip, but actually very effective. The one exception? Photos. Gather as many family members around when sorting out photos and you'll not only get things decluttered and organized, but you'll have a wonderful time doing so.

4. Let go of the past

One habit it's important to loose when decluttering is feeling guilty.

'To throw away what you no longer need is neither wasteful nor shameful,' says Kondo. 'Let them go, with gratitude. Not only you, but your things as well, will feel clear and refreshed when you are done tidying.'

You shouldn't feel bad about tidying up your space and moving on from belongings. After all, 'to truly cherish the things that are important to you, you must first discard those that have outlived their purpose,' says Kondo. 'The space in which we live should be for the person we are becoming now, not for the person we were in the past.'

Just imagine how much lovelier it would it be to live in a home filled only with objects which 'spark joy', rather than pieces which no longer reflect who you are.

5. Make the most of storage solutions 

We all love a storage solution, but don't get over excited about these until you've thoroughly decluttered. 

'Putting things away creates the illusion that the clutter problem has been solved,' says Kondo. 'But sooner or later, all the storage units are full, the room once again overflows with things, and some new and ‘easy’ storage” method becomes necessary, creating a negative spiral. … We need to exercise self-control and resist storing our belongings until we have finished identifying what we really want and need to keep.'

For what storage methods to use, the guru has partnered with the Container store for a brand new line of her own products to help you organize your home. The Container Store x KonMari collection features more than 100 products to help tidy kitchens, offices, closets and bedrooms. 

What is 'KonMari checklist'?

KonMari checklist is, quite simply, her decluttering list, which she approaches in military-like fashion, suggesting that you sort through, discard unused or unloved items and then keep items that 'spark joy', categorizing them neatly, and using her KonMari folding and filing trick to ensure they are easy to access and keep neat for the future. 

The KonMari checklist starts with clothing, books and papers, then suggests you move on to general items, kids' rooms, home office clutter and cleaning. Next, she suggest tackling the kitchen, decor – think picture frames and objets – the garage and bathroom. Finally, sentimental items which, as we all know, are the hardest to part with.

How do you organize like Marie Kondo?

Marie Kondo has six basic KonMari tidying rules so that you can organize like her. They are:

1. Commit yourself to tidying up

This means setting aside time and space to tackle a tidying job and then committing to complete it.

2. Imagine your ideal lifestyle

Marie really focusses past the decluttering job itself and asks you to consider how positive you will feel once its done. It does make it easier to start!

3. Finish discarding first

She suggests that the sorting through and discarding part of the decluttering should be done all at once. Then you can move on to sorting. Marie Kondo does suggest you thank each item you discard for serving its purpose, but we're happy to skip that bit...

4. Tidy by category, not location

Simple: tidy all your Tupperware first, then move on to cutlery, then to china (and so on).

5. Follow the right order

Sticking to the plan is the key to success but Marie Kondo also suggests orderliness in the actual tidying away of items – and is insistent that the best approach is to make things we use regularly or like to see on display are very much to hand, while items we don't need often are stored in a less convenient place, purely because we don't need them as often.

6. Ask yourself it it sparks joy

Having trouble parting with something? It's a good way to work out whether you really want to keep it. And if a room – or corner of a – really doesn't spark joy, that's a good starting point for your rethink.

Is Tidying Up with Marie Kondo still on Netflix?

Tidying up with Marie Kondo is still available to view on Netflix – and her new show is due to air soon.

Thea Babington-Stitt
Content Editor

Thea Babington-Stitt is a Content Editor at Future. She has been an interiors journalist for nearly 10 years and has held positions at LivingEtc, Country Homes & Interiors and Homes & Gardens. Currently, she is writing for Ideal Home and Style At Home's websites and magazines.