Chances are, if you haven’t KonMari-ed or taken on decluttering your home already, you’re at least familiar with Marie Kondo and the KonMari Method – whether through her New York Times bestselling book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up or through her Netflix special, aptly titled Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. Since 74% of you plan on doing some spring cleaning in the next few months1, we thought we’d take a look at this trend, and learn what happens when we apply some of the top decluttering tips to our own lives.
What is KonMari?
Marie Kondo’s method, commonly referred to as The KonMari Method, is an approach to organizing that encourages a complete mindset and lifestyle shift – it’s not just a one-time decluttering or purge of your belongings. The founder of the method, Marie Kondo, is inspired by the Shinto religion, which stresses the importance of celebrating and treasuring the spiritual value of our belongings, regardless of their monetary value. There are six straightforward rules that form this method:
- Commit yourself to tidying up – Take it from us… Following this approach does take some commitment. Like any mindset and lifestyle shift, it does take time and effort.
- Imagine your ideal lifestyle – Imagining your desired end state will help you make the decisions you need to as you embark on your decluttering journey. Keeping that end state in mind will also help you with step 1, committing to the process.
- Finish discarding first – It will be tempting to cut corners, and start organizing before you’ve assessed all your belongings, and discarded those you no longer want or need. However, in doing so, you run the risk of having to go through this process again in the future – and you won’t have committed yourself to this mindset shift.
- Tidy by category, rather than by location – When you tidy based on location, there’s a tendency to clean up by shuffling items from room to room – which, let’s face it, doesn’t really help. Marie Kondo instead recommends cleaning based on category so you have an objective view of the belongings you have, and the volume of belongings in each category.
- Follow the right order – Saying goodbye to our belongings is hard. Marie Kondo recommends tidying your belongings in a specific order, which is designed to hone your skills as you go through the process. She recommends the following order:
The above order is recommended because clothing is generally less sentimental, and can be easily replaced. Starting with clothing helps you work on your skills in a low-risk category before moving onto items that have more sentimental value. If the above order doesn’t work for you, that’s ok! The key is to organize by category and start with a category that’s easy for you to tackle – then move on to the more difficult categories.
- Ask yourself if it sparks joy – This is the crux of the KonMari Method. Marie Kondo recommends holding each item in your hands and asking yourself if it sparks joy – this is your criterion for keeping an item. We’ll talk more about this later, but the important thing to remember is that as you go through this process, you are deciding what to keep – you aren’t deciding what to discard.
Do Minimalists and KonMari Users Follow the Same Practices?
While the KonMari Method and minimalism share characteristics and may seem like the same thing, they are, in practice, quite different. Importantly, both are a mindset, not just a one-time clean-up. But, in our experience, we’ve observed some key differences between these approaches.
Minimalists, at their core, believe in simplicity and reducing the number of material possessions you own. Their goal is to achieve freedom from possessions and what those possessions hold over you, such as credit card debt and the stress of keeping up with the Joneses. Some folks, but not everyone, might argue that minimalism is about evaluating the utility of your possessions – and limiting your belongings to only the items that are absolutely necessary.
“I think the biggest misconception with the KonMari Method is that you have to get rid of everything, and that’s not really the case.”
While following the KonMari Method also results in simplicity and a reduction in the number of material possessions you own, the driving philosophy is a bit different. It’s not about keeping only the items that are absolutely necessary, or even about limiting your possessions to a specific number, but it’s about keeping the items that spark joy and that fit into the ideal life you envision for yourself. While a minimalist would probably not keep ten travel journals from his trip around the world, someone following the KonMari Method might, if those travel journals spark joy and fit into that person’s vision of his ideal life. As Keely, our marketing automation specialist puts it, “I think the biggest misconception with the KonMari Method is that you have to get rid of everything, and that’s not really the case. It’s more about whether your belongings bring you joy or not.”
Positive Life Changes We Achieved Through Decluttering
A number of us here at Republic have recently gone through a decluttering process, adopting elements that both minimalists and KonMari followers use, and were pleasantly surprised by some of the lessons we learned along the way.
It’s Not Just About Physical Belongings
One interesting approach has been to apply these techniques not just to our houses and offices, but to our digital lives, as well. James, a software developer on our Quality Assurance team, recently decluttered his digital life by taking a hard look at the way he was using his cell phone, and the digital accounts and apps he kept on his phone.
For about a year, James has been much more mindful of the amount of time he was spending on his phone – especially when he got home from work. He started regularly leaving his phone by the doorway when he got home each evening, so he and his wife could enjoy their dinner and evening time together uninterrupted.
But, since watching Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, he has further examined his relationship with his phone by deleting apps and accounts that don’t bring him happiness.
James says, “I really went into full force when I looked at Google’s app called Digital Wellbeing. It counts how many times you open an app, how much time you spend in the app, and also does things like reduce the blue light effect or even offer lockouts from certain apps. So, I looked at the list of apps and thought, ‘Which of these apps do I use, and do they make me happy? And, if I don’t open it at all, does it really bring me joy to even have it?’ From there, I just started deleting those apps that didn’t bring me joy.”
It Saves You Time
My motivation to declutter and organize my house was primarily to make my morning routine more efficient and less stressful. As a working mom, mornings are hectic. It feels like a Herculean effort to get me and my daughter bathed, dressed, fed, and out the door on time.
While looking for ways to improve our morning routine, I realized that I wasted a lot of time rummaging through both of our drawers and closets, trying to figure out what each of us should wear. In trying to dress myself, the main challenge was the daily battle with my closet and trying to find something that was clean, that fit, and that I felt comfortable and confident wearing to the office. In trying to dress my daughter, it was more about just finding a top and a bottom that I could pair together that was appropriate for the weather that day.
Using the KonMari Method to attack my closet helped me immensely. By keeping only the items that spark joy, I was able to completely eliminate my morning closet battles. By nature, only articles of clothing that fit me and that I felt comfortable and confident in sparked joy. And, using Marie Kondo’s folding technique helped me organize my daughter’s drawers so that it’s easy to pick and choose her clothes for the day, as well as to grab “backup outfits” for her bin at daycare – at 8 months old, she’s often wearing something different when I pick her up than she was when I drop her off! The amount of time I save in the mornings, especially on the weekdays, is well worth the time and effort I put into the process of tidying up our closets and dressers.
Keely agrees. She decided to cull down her wardrobe to a limited set of neutral basics that she can mix and match easily. This saves her time and stress in the mornings, because she doesn’t have to think about what she has to wear before she’s even had her coffee. If you are familiar with the concept of a capsule wardrobe, that’s essentially the approach Keely took to simplifying her wardrobe and her mornings.
You May Start to Think About Joy a Different Way
The challenging part for me about asking myself if an item “sparks joy” is that I, like many people, have items in my household that are perhaps necessary but that don’t themselves spark joy. However, in many of those cases, the use of the item does spark joy.
“I have embraced the new meaning that ‘joy’ now has in my life.”
As an example, my cake pans don’t in and of themselves spark joy – they are very utilitarian. But, the beautiful birthday cakes I’m able to make for my family members and friends using those cake pans do spark joy. I love that I’m able to create something by hand that they appreciate and that celebrates them. Marie Kondo might not approve, but I have embraced the new meaning that ‘joy’ now has in my life.
It Gives You More Flexibility
Another benefit Keely has gained from borrowing techniques from both minimalism and the KonMari Method is the flexibility and freedom to be a bit more mobile. In her mid-20s, Keely is in a phase of her life where she wants to be able to “pick up and go” easily.
Having just purchased her first house, Keely will be packing up her apartment and moving in the next couple of months. Keely says, “It has made it a lot easier and a lot less headache knowing that I don’t have as much to move. And, my goal in life is to never have a storage unit. So many people have storage units that they use and pay monthly for, just to house more of the stuff that they own. I want to be able to avoid that hassle and extra expense.”
“It has made it a lot easier and a lot less headache knowing that I don’t have as much to move.”
Going through the process of culling down her belongings to just those items that spark joy will make packing, unpacking, and decorating her new house so much easier. And, because she’s made this lifestyle change, rather than treating this as a one-time cleanup, she’ll be able to easily pack up and move again if and when she is ready for a change.
It Also Declutters Your Mind
There’s something calming about walking into your house at the end of the day when you have a dedicated place for everything. Your shoes, your jacket, your keys, your cell phone, and your bag or briefcase each have their own ‘home’ – no more clutter at the doorway or on the kitchen counter. When you no longer have to do the mental work of finding a place for your belongings, you’ll find yourself much more relaxed and at peace in your own space. You’ll also feel more relaxed when you are getting ready for the day – again, because everything has its own home, you won’t have to waste time or mental energy hunting for things when you are trying to rush out the door.
It Allows You to Focus on the More Important Things
Implementing the KonMari Method can give you the space and freedom to focus on what’s really important in your life. By going through Step 2 of the process, “Imagine your ideal lifestyle,” you are almost forced to take stock not just of your belongings, but also of the way you spend your time and energy.
“The time you gain from not using your phone as much can be transferred to your partner or to your child – time you may not have even noticed that you’ve been missing.”
James found that going through a digital cleanup encouraged him to examine how he was using his cell phone, and ask himself if that was how he really wanted to be spending his time. He says about his experience, “In the show, Marie Kondo talks about enjoying your time with these items, these tangible things, and then sending them out in the world to bring joy to other people. While you can’t really transfer that metaphor to apps on your phone, the time you gain from not using your phone as much can be transferred to your partner or to your child – time you may not have even noticed that you’ve been missing.”
There’s a Surprising Financial Benefit
Both minimalism and the KonMari Method offer some unexpected financial benefits. First of all, as you go through the tidying up process, you will likely identify items that you can donate and others that might be better thrown away or recycled. When you donate your clothing, household goods, furniture, shoes, books, and more, be sure to get a tax receipt for your charitable donation. If you itemize your deductions, you will be able to deduct the fair market value of your donated items on your federal tax return for the next year.
Even better, you may also identify high-quality items that no longer spark joy for you, but that you can sell on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, eBay, or clothing reseller sites such as thredUP and Poshmark. There’s no better feeling than making some extra money on items that you no longer have a use for.
“This process has definitely minimized my impulse purchases so I can spend my money on experiences, rather than materialistic things.”
Beyond these immediate financial benefits, Keely and I have also observed that going through the process of tidying up has changed how we choose to spend our money. Keely says, “Before I buy anything, I think, ‘Do I really need this and would I use it beyond next month, or would I be tired of it a month from now?.’ This process has definitely minimized my impulse purchases, so I can spend my money on experiences, rather than on materialistic things.”
I have also instituted a 24-hour rule for myself to cut down on impulse purchases and only purchase items that will meaningfully add to the joy in my life – before I purchase anything (beyond necessities), I have to reflect on it for 24 hours. If I am still thinking about it 24 hours later and confident it adds joy to my life, I can buy it. The majority of the time, though, I don’t end up making the purchase.
Tell Us About Your Experiences
Have you jumped on the decluttering bandwagon? We’d love to hear about your experiences, especially how they’ve impacted your financial wellbeing and the time you have to focus on the important things in life. Join the discussion today!
1 Monthly Member Pulse Survey with 383 randomly selected Republic Wireless members; conducted by Republic Wireless; March 2019