I Tried to ‘Marie Kondo’ My House (and Here’s What Happened)

There’s cleaning — and then there’s Marie Kondo cleaning.

Kondo, if you haven’t heard of her, is the #1 bestselling author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, a how-to guide to achieve (and maintain) the clean, organized home you’ve always dreamed of.

The key, she posits, is not to craftily organize your many items or innovate storage solutions — but to have fewer things in the first place, and to have a designated location in your home for each and every one of those things.

Kondo claims that having a clean home improves all aspects of your life: Your happiness levels, your career success, your relationships, your sex life, your general ability to enjoy yourself — it all stems from your space and the way you treat your things.

In other words: If your home is messy, you’re probably doing life wrong.

I’m not a naturally tidy person. I’ve been surrounded by mess for about as long as I’ve lived. General lack of awareness of where I put things (I tend to throw clothes on the floor as soon as I’m done wearing them, or set scissors/pens/whatever down wherever I’m standing so they immediately become lost forever to the abyss) has followed me since childhood.

When I was a kid, that meant my room was a complete disaster. Now, as an adult trying to keep up with the Joneses, it means I periodically go on multi-hour, stress-induced cleaning rampages in a desperate attempt to feel like my life is together.

But within a few days, my home and life are usually complete messes again.

That’s why, when I heard one of Marie Kondo’s main goals is to keep your space clean from the outset and prevent repetitive tidying, I knew I had to at least investigate.

 

So I bought the book, took a very (very) deep breath, and began to read. Here’s what I learned along the way.

 

 

 

 

I have too much stuff, and you probably do too

Kondo says the secret to happiness is to only be surrounded by objects you love. She advises we pick up every item in our home — if it sparks joy, keep it. If it doesn’t, get rid of it.

As I began to do this, it became immediately clear how much random, completely unnecessary junk I keep around in my home for no other reason than it seemed wasteful to throw it out.

For example: Last year, my friend mailed me a college graduation gift in a nice, heavy duty gift box. The box seemed too nice to throw away, so it’s been sitting on my dresser this entire time, as a nice little container for other clutter I don’t need to keep around. The same goes for clothes I haven’t worn in years, shoes I keep convincing myself I’ll work into a new outfit soon, and beauty products cluttering my bathroom even though I use the same four products in religious rotation.

Taking the time to truly ask yourself “do I use this? Do I need this? Does this make me happy?” and actually getting rid of those things when the answer is no, makes you supremely aware of how much you truly have, and how little of it actually means something to you.

 

Minimalism is a privilege

Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled that I took on this challenge. Walking around my house now — which is still not completely Kondo’d yet — I feel better than I ever have before. I feel less stressed and more focused as I go about my day.

But while letting go of my attachment to unnecessary material objects in my life has been great for me, I need to acknowledge the ability to (almost) nonchalantly throw out half my belongings comes packaged with a whole lot of privilege. Minimalism is a movement happening in middle class and upper-class circles, in which we have enough money and access to basic comforts to treat scarcity like a wellness trend. In this sense, I would challenge Kondo’s implication that a minimal, tidy home makes us morally superior to the messy among us.

This will also affect the way I shop. Because I’ve made an effort to keep only the things I love, I am going to shift my focus to only buy things I love — well-made, high-quality items that will last. Those kind of items are expensive and (sure, while I’ll be buying fewer things) I have to acknowledge that not everyone is in a place to spend their money that way.

 

 

Sort by category, not location

This was the tip that probably stressed me out the most. Kondo says, since we normally store similar items in vastly different places around our home, we can’t organize our home room to room. Instead, we need to pick a category of items (clothes, books, what have you) and sort all of it at once.

*stress breathing*

Suddenly, I couldn’t compartmentalize. Focusing on cleaning out a singular closet felt so much easier, so much more doable. But, having come out of this on the other side, I have to admit I get it now. When you sort by category and keep only the items you use and love, you build a really effective mental inventory. You know where every single item in your home is, and you remember to put it back there when you’re done using it.

 

Aim for perfection

Have you ever been told just to pick a room and clean that room for a few minutes each day? That’s been my cleaning strategy for years and years, and it’s gotten me effectively nowhere. Kondo says this is a trap we fall into, where we repetitively rearrange the same clutter over and over again rather than actually cleaning up our space.

Kondo is here to shut that nonsense down.

In Marie’s world, things stay clean because we only own what we need, and everything we own has a place. We should strive to achieve complete interior perfection across every room of our home, rather than organizing for a few minutes a day and calling it good.

When I first read this, my eyes nearly bulged from my skull. It seemed like a hell of an ask (and it still does). I found myself asking if mess really bothered me all that much, because changing my outlook on life sounded a whole lot easier than overhauling my entire home — and changing my bad habits.

Before, I really didn’t think I had all that much stuff. I moved into my house a year ago and got rid of a lot before the move. Yet in the course of a day I had either thrown away or donated eleven garbage bags worth of stuff I barely cared about.

It feels so liberating. I get it. I am full steam ahead on the Marie Kondo train.

 

Source: Domino

 

If you feel ready to give minimalism a try, here are three tips to help you get started. 

 

Make a game plan

The best advice I can give you is to read the whole book before you even start, then sit down and make an effective game plan. Remember, you’re sorting by category, not by room. That means, when it comes time to pare down the clothes you own, you’ll need to pull every. single. item. of clothing you own out of every. single. closet in order to reduce and refresh.

Take a hard look at your home and plan your tasks in a way that makes the most sense for you, tackling the most critical categories first.

 

Give yourself time

This is not a job for the faint of heart. When I began, I naively thought I could tackle most of the organizational process in an afternoon. When that proved to be a painfully insufficient amount of time, my home was left in utter chaos for days until I could carve out more time to keep going. Give yourself an entire weekend for this project. Block out your calendar. Cancel brunch. Stay focused. Tackling it in one big go will feel so much better than inching your way toward tidiness.

 

Source: Luft Design

 

Make it fun

Whether you’re tackling this project alone or with a partner or roommate, there’s no reason you shouldn’t take some extra steps to make it as fun an experience as possible. Open a bottle of wine and make it a party. Download your favorite podcast episodes, audiobook, or soundtrack you can’t help but dance to. The process might seem overwhelming, but you’ll feel so much better once it’s over with.

 

Have you read Marie Kondo’s book or tried minimizing your home? How did it go? What tips can you share? Start a discussion in the comments!

 

 

GET ORGANIZED

 

  • Taste of France

    I am glad you acknowledge that minimalism comes from a place of privilege. It can be hard to get rid of an item that may be joyless today but that you might be grateful to have later because it would be better than nothing.
    I think another way to look at stuff, rather than throwing out, is to stop buying new. Replacing your so-so sweater with a high-quality one might bring you joy for a minute, but that joy will fade, and maybe that so-so sweater was good enough to keep after all.

    • Exactly. While I would love to replace my worn out boots with new, high-quality boots that spark joy, I just can’t afford it.

      That being said, I do try to keep this concept in mind when I am buying new items. I’ve stopped by low-quality garbage fashion, and I’m putting that money towards more high-quality, thoughtfully chosen items. Maybe one day I’ll be on my way to that fancy minimalist closet?

      • I really like your thoughts here! I’ve personally went the Steve Jobs route and now I prefer to have a “uniform.” It makes life so much simpler. I agree with Taste of France about minimalism. It really sets the tone for positive change in our lives.

  • I clicked on and read this article anticipating it being an OK read, but it your perspective changed by mindset almost immediately. I appreciate that you acknowledge the level of privilege we have to incorporate minimalism in our lives. Also, it reminds me of those I know who survived the great depression and other financially unstable situations and they all have had the tendency to hoard (which is understandable). I am leaving this article excited to buy the book and get started on this challenge!

  • I’m so glad you pointed out the privilege inherent in the minimalism trend and that not all of us can afford it -I’m definitely one of those who can’t. As much as I would love to be able to throw out perfectly serviceable (but less than aesthetically pleasing) items in my home, I can’t realistically because there’s no guarantee that when I DO need that item, I will have the MONEY to replace it.

    Kudos!

  • This is such a great post. I love the acknowledgement of minimalism as a privilege. It’s amazing how liberating you can feel when you realise what you don’t need.
    x
    http://www.latteandluxe.com

  • Claire

    I was going to go into detail about why I loved this piece, but it seems that everyone else has said what I wanted to say lol LOVED THIS!

  • Arashi

    It’s so rare to find an article in which people acknowledge the privilege inherent to minimalism. I loved the piece!

  • Minimalism is no more a privilege than taking care of your body. It is a mindset. It is a choice to be intentional about we acquire and keep in a society that promotes conspicuous consumption. I believe most resistance comes from the discomfort of change, however change is what lets us grow into better versions of ourselves. Every individual gets to choose what works or doesn’t work for them at this moment in this chapter of their journey.

    • Thank you for this. I posted a similar comment. I am not “middle to upper class” and I live a minimalist life. If anything it is FOR the underprivileged.

  • I disagree. I am not “middle to upper class” and I am a minimalist. The focus on this article seems to be placed more on the material and less on the mindset. I RARELY go shopping and when I do, I don’t buy nice items. But I keep an extremely minimal closet (with less than 15 shirts,) and I certainly don’t spend money to do so. Yes I have very few things to wear, but that’s the point for me. I want to limit my decisions and only have a few items that pair nicely together.

  • I disagree. I am not “middle to upper class” and I am a minimalist. The focus on this article seems to be placed more on the material and less on the mindset. I RARELY go shopping and when I do, I don’t buy nice items. But I keep an extremely minimal closet (with less than 15 shirts,) and I certainly don’t spend money to do so. Yes I have very few things to wear, but that’s the point for me. I want to limit my decisions and only have a few items that pair nicely together.

  • Hanny

    Marie Kondo states that this process on an average for a house takes 6 months to go through the whole process. I’m on the third section (papers) and it has been tiring. As Daryl stated you think you could tackle one section in half a day, nope. It took me a whole weekend to go through my clothes and papers… it has taking now a few weeks!

  • Thank you for sharing your experience going from clutter to minamilizm! It’s something I want to try in my life as well but I haven’t been able to find any articles on minamilizm that are relatable to me and acknowledge the challenges of the process until now! This gives me the inspiration I think I need to go through this process.

  • Annie

    She doesn’t advocate minimalism though. I don’t know why people keep claiming this. If you have a collection of knickknacks that bring you joy, keep them and display them. One of her books has suggestions for how you might use or display items that bring you joy. The issue is the piles of stuff that you don’t use, like, or need. Get rid of those, then put the things you like and want to keep where they belong. The amount (minimal or not) is your personal choice.