10 Things we Learned from Marie Kondo

We are big fans of Marie Kondo and her book ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up’. Not just because she’s just so wonderful, or that her book is so succint and easy to understand - but because it is a system that works so well.

While she’s not the only source of learning how to declutter and live a minimalist life, she does it in a way that just is so easy and so simple.

As many Japanese people do, she has spent years and years working on perfecting her decluttering and organizing technique with her clients. Like the bonsai teacher who has spent years and years wiring and pruning and trimming his plants or the ikebana teacher who has spent decades of study at her art, so has Marie Kondo worked to turn tidying into an art form.

Here are some of the things we’ve learned - some of which are obvious, some of which are less so.

1. Your home should bring you joy - not stress you out

Before we started the process, our home was always stressing us out. It needed to be cleaned, needed to be organized, and it just felt like we were fighting to keep it under control all the time. Despite having decorated our home and filled it with our possessions, we didn’t have time to enjoy it because we were trying to keep everything in check.

Now, we have time to relax and enjoy our home. By getting rid of a lot of clutter and reorganizing and making systems to keep our home self-organizing, we eliminated a lot of time spent on things that weren’t making a difference in our lives.

2. A home should be easily maintained and cleaned

How long does it take you to clean your home? Like, if I told you I was coming over in an hour, would you be okay with it? Or would you start freaking out because you feel like your house looks like it got hit with a tornado?

I’ll be honest with you - if you can’t get your house presentable in an hour- you have too much stuff. Yes, you may have a project going on, yes you may be working on an addition to the house, yes you may have three kids that have toys scattered over the house - but are there other areas that should be clean and tidy that aren’t?

Or, maybe you just have too much house to clean, which you may figure out after your decluttering process. You may be paying for hundreds of square feet that you may not even need or want to take care - which may sound weird, but after going through the KonMari process you may understand why that might be the case for you.

3. Your possessions should spark joy with you

For years, I was using a nonstick pan to cook. It did an okay job cooking things, but I always found it to be a pain in the butt to clean and I hated the way that it looked. One day, I was talking with a friend who is a professional chef about how difficult pancakes were to make - and she recommended that we buy a high quality stainless steel pan. No, it wouldn’t cause the food to stick. No, it wouldn’t be too heavy. No, we wouldn’t scratch up the pan.

I took the plunge and purchased an All-Clad pan and lo and behold - it was amazing. My pancakes now are perfect, with a crispy exterior and fluffy amazing interior. Every time that I reach out to use the pan, a little spark of joy flares up in my heart.

Every object that you own should spark joy in you - whether the way that it looks, the way it feels, how well it does it’s job, or the memory it brings you.

4. Follow the system - it works

Marie Kondo’s method might seem odd - starting with gathering all of your items at one time for instance - but she has worked hard to ensure that her system works. And although we thought it weird at first, her system works.

The system works. Don’t think that you’re going to try and be special and go out of order or get creative just yet. Just follow her system the first time and then see where you might modify it later on. No need to reinvent the wheel the first time around.

5. Papers are a terrible soul-sucking phenomenon

We got rid of our papers. All of them with the exception of things like birth certificates and diplomas and other important items.

Nobody likes papers. Especially me. I hate everything we get in the mail for the most part. It’s so dramatic all the time. And paper clutter is the worst - it is like a constant blemish on the face of my home. I’d rather have it scanned and the physical hard copy be shredded or tossed.

If you’re interested in getting rid of your papers, I outline our process in this post - we used Evernote to digitalize all of our papers.

6. Decluttering is addictive

This is something well known to us. When you start purging items from your home, you feel good. And by Marie Kondo essentially giving you permission to get rid of things, it is freeing, liberating - fun, I might dare say. By the time we had filled a sixth trash bag, we were on a roll. Soon it almost became a game, seeing what we could throw away or donate or recycle. You get on this sort of decluttering high as you go through the process - it feels so good to declutter!

7. The personal essay or vision is very, very important.

Marie Kondo has you create a vision of your perfect life and perfect home when you first start off. It’s kind of like the mission statement, or the map for your process. It’s so that when you find yourself filling up the twentieth trash bag full of items, you might have a moment where you stop and think to yourself “Wait - is this what I’m supposed to be doing?” you can go back to your original vision of your life and check to ensure that it fits.

For every item, for every decision that you make, it should align with your future vision of your life. It is your guiding force through the entire process.

8. It changes you - for the better

Once you go through the process, you start using the KonMari method in other areas of your life. The same criteria applies - does it bring you joy? Does it align with your vision of your life and your goals? What purpose or function does it serve?

For example, we had a lot of commitments that were filling up our lives. We were busy - but not necessarily productive, nor necessarily making movement towards our personal goals and our goals as a married couple.

By using the same criteria, we were able to sort through our commitments to choose the ones that were important to us, making more time and room for them while diminishing our other commitments.

10. You gain a sense of gratitude

Perhaps it’s the change in the way you look at your possessions.

Perhaps it’s the added time and focus you can have in your life.

Perhaps it’s the way that Marie Kondo invokes the Japanese and Shinto belief of animism - the idea that objects have personalities and souls - and thanks objects for their services before she sends them off to another home or purpose.

But having gone through the process, we are just so much more appreciative of everything. Our home in its ability to provide shelter for us, our objects and possessions for taking care of us every day, of our time and our opportunity to live a beautiful and tidy and organized and healthy life.

That is, I think, the most important thing that Marie Kondo teaches. Although she never outlines it directly in her book, she teaches you to be grateful for the things that you have in your life that brings you joy and brings fulfillment and enrichment to your life.