Inspirational Decluttering Tips from the Marie Kondo Method

Get inspired to clean and declutter your home with some of the best decluttering tips from the Marie Kondo Method, otherwise known as the KonMari method.

Two Marie Kondo books (which provide decluttering tips) on a knit blanket and white wooden surface.

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Ah, the KonMari Method. If you have ever struggled to declutter or tidy your home, Marie Kondo’s books are definitely worth a read. If you are curious more about if Marie Kondo’s method of tidying actually works, check out my post where I reviewed her books and shared my thoughts.

New to Marie Kondo’s books? Grab the original The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up here and the companion volume (with many more helpful decluttering tips and organizational ideas), Spark Joy here.

Though I don’t agree with everything in Marie’s books, I do think that the KonMari method has some staying power. The decluttering method is simple (the hallmark of which is keeping things that “spark joy”) and Marie provides gentle encouragement throughout her books. This combination gives the reader both the will to start and the motivation to continue. Clutter is a lifelong battle it seems, and learning how to deal with it well is a valuable skill. In fact, Marie claims that none of her clients have ever relapsed.

Pages inside of Marie Kondo's book, Spark Joy, which provides decluttering tips.

My five favorite decluttering tips from Marie and her KonMari method will get you off to the right start if you are hoping to declutter and keep a tidy home.

One of the biggest struggles when beginning to clean house is how to start. When, where, how? Should I clean things first? Declutter by room, category, family member, closet? How many pairs of shoes do I even own anyway? And when can I start putting stuff away?

All these questions are why I love Marie’s many decluttering tips. The first tip from the KonMari Method that I want to share is arguably one of the most helpful to getting started:

Decluttering Tip #1: Declutter by Category

Ever wondered, what should I declutter first? Well, if you follow Marie’s guidance there is an order to how to discard belongings. Marie suggests decluttering/discarding by category, not by storage area, and she has you begin with the least-emotional categories first. That means clothes, books, and onward.

This method provides practice following Marie’s KonMari Method for discarding and tidying up before you tackle the really tough categories. Like what in the world to do with that box of childhood memoirs your parents just dropped off. Oh, just me?

Marie also allows for sorting by sub-categories. To begin, you must retrieve all the items in a category. Let’s start with shoes. Unearth them from all hiding places, gather them in a convenient location (the floor), and one by one, pick up each pair asking yourself if they “spark joy” and discarding the pairs that do not.

You would then repeat this process with the other categories of items. This process allows you to grasp what you have and makes unexpected surprises a thing of the past (such as finding more shoes forgotten in a closet months later). Most importantly, sorting and decluttering by category allows you to see what remains. Now you know the amount of space you will need to store your items.

As far as decluttering tips go, I think the method of approaching your home by category is extremely useful. In her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Marie gives more information about what it means for an item to “spark joy” and how to proceed after you have discarded items.

Tip #2: Focus On What You Want In Your Home, Not What You Are Trying to Remove

I love these wise words from Marie,

“…we should be choosing what we want to keep, not what we want to get rid of.”

Marie Kondo, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, page 41 (emphasis mine)

This totally changes the game. Take the pile of shoes we are sorting through. Instead of trying to “get rid of some”, select your favorites. It’s much different to carefully select out the shoes you love than to attempt to justify the presence of each pair in your closet.

Things get complicated quickly when you recall, “well, that pair was expensive”, or “oh, I love these, but they pinch my feet” or “these will be great once I buy a few more things to match them.” Suddenly you are left trying desperately to come up with a decluttering criteria that makes sense.

Instead, select the things you want (again with that “spark joy” idea) in your home and look at the rubble left behind. Now it’s easy to see that those “guilt” items or simply less-beloved items don’t really need a space in YOUR space.

Tip #3: The KonMari Method Says It’s Ok to Give Away Gifts

While you’re looking through all those clothes, I bet you’ve found some gifts you were given, right? A cute purse, scarf, hat, etc? Marie’s criteria for if you ought to keep an item is if it “sparks joy”–kind of an odd concept that can be hard to capture. But, strangely it seems easy enough to tell when items do NOT spark joy. The twinge of guilt that you never wear said clothing item. The frustration that you wish you could get rid of items you have never used, but you don’t want risk the gift-giver inquiring if you are still enjoying it.

Here’s what Marie has to say on the matter,

“The true purpose of a present is to be received. Presents are not “things” but a means for conveying someone’s feelings.

Marie Kondo, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, page 108

Marie notes that she doubts the giver of any gift would want you guiltily shoving it back in the closet. It’s ok to let the item go. Keep the relationship, let go of the gift.

I personally find this decluttering tip hugely challenging. One thing I have done previously is to purposefully use a gift several times–even if I didn’t think it worked for me. And if the item still didn’t work after that, I’ve found I can move on with a bit more peace.

Tip #4: You Don’t Need to Keep Books You Haven’t Read

Oo, books are another hard one! Are you the type to purchase books and then not read them? Or perhaps you purchase books you loved reading, but somehow never read them again. Or, maybe you still have college textbooks. After all, no time like the present to re-read a good English textbook, right?

The fact is, it is easier than ever to read. We can pick up books from the library, sure, but we can also download various library apps (check with your local library!) and have even more reads available in moments. For a lot of information nowadays, we don’t even need a book at all. We can (and do) quickly find recipes, how-tos, and answers to questions on the internet.

With that in mind, perhaps it is a little easier to get rid of books you haven’t read. If you are worried you will miss out, make a quick list of the titles you are donating and save it somewhere. If one ever comes to mind, Marie encourages you that you can purchase it again–and this time be sure to read the thing!

While discarding books, try to remember the selection criteria of keeping things you truly want in your home. For me this means keeping books that I do indeed re-read (Jane Austen, yes and yes), children’s books for my toddler (but only our favorites!), and reference or out-of-print books I can’t easily come by again. For everything else, I utilize the library. Sure, I probably still have more books than I need, but the situation is vastly improved!

Tip #5: Store It In a Shoebox!

This is a random one, but it’s a great idea from the Marie Kondo Method. Marie is a bit against the whole “storage” industry. I think there is definitely a time and a place for clear storage totes, but often we can make do with what we already have on hand.

Now sometimes using opaque storage makes it less likely that the items stored inside ever come out again. Hopefully, after a thorough Marie Kondo Method discarding binge, there are few items left that you could potentially forget about–but, let’s be real, it happens.

To solve this problem, I keep items that I don’t use often (but still need to keep) packed in clear totes (usually) and I keep items I do use often packed in shoeboxes. I don’t forget about the items stored in the shoeboxes because they are being used frequently.

For instance:

  1. I keep a small shoebox filled with notecards/thank you notes/supplies for writing and then I can simply grab my box when I need to write a note. It’s a cute colorful green box and works great.
  2. I also fold my trash bags (like Marie shows in Spark Joy) and keep them in rows in a shoebox. It sounds fussy, but it’s surprisingly easy and looks so much nicer than the standard “bags inside a bag” that might otherwise occur.

Bonus KonMari Method tip: Your Parents’ Home Is Not Your Own Personal Storage Space

It might be tempting when you first move out to leave a few things “at home.” In fact, such things might not be noticed because they are tucked away with the family goods. When you first strike out on your own, I encourage you to ruthlessly locate, sort, donate, toss, etc. all your stuff. It is disheartening to tidy your home only to realize that you have not actually completed the job.

This can be a challenge and I didn’t do a good job of it myself, but do try. You will save yourself hours of discarding later on. Plus, it’s much easier to get rid of childhood stuff when you are excited about your new-found independence. Versus you know, after you have your first child and rogue emotions are convincing you that someday your little baby might want to look through all of your art scrapbooks from every year of school. ALL of them. Naturally. And probably your English homework too. Who wouldn’t?

After Reading the Decluttering Tips, What’s Next?

Whether you are a Marie Kondo Method aficionado or are new to the KonMari method, I hope you found these decluttering tips useful. We can all use some fresh perspective on getting our homes in order and I love Marie’s straightforward advice for discarding and tidying once and for all. What is your favorite Marie Kondo decluttering tip? Let me know in the comments!

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