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15 Tips From Marie Kondo That Have Genuinely Changed My Life

Here's the most inspiring and practical advice that I took away from the KonMari book nearly four years ago, and that I still use.

I’ve been a fan of Marie Kondo’s organization method since I first read her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, in 2015.

Rachel Miller / BuzzFeed

A lot of people are now coming to KonMari-ing through her new Netflix show, Tidying Up With Marie Kondo, which debuted this month. But since I found the book way more helpful and inspiring than the show, I thought I’d put together a list of the best/most practical tips from her book that I still think about/use a lot.

1. “Does it spark joy?” is actually a pretty useful way of looking at the world.

Stefanie Shank / Via

A lot of people make fun of this question, but I find it incredibly helpful. It's so simple, and has been something of a North Star since I read the book — it's helped me save money and time and generally be less wasteful. And the idea that our belongings should spark joy was actually a big part of giving myself a dress code, a move that fully changed my life.

2. Decanting household products is completely worth it.

Rachel Miller / BuzzFeed

One of the insights I took away from Kondo’s book is how much "noise" branded products add to our space. "The neater the home, and the more sparse its furnishings, the louder this information feels," she writes. "By eliminating excess visual information that doesn't spark joy, you can make your space much more peaceful and comfortable." Meanwhile, a 2015 New York Times piece highlighted the huge number of ads and branding we're subjected to — without our consent — every day.

I took all this to heart and bought some inexpensive pump bottles from Muji and Target. Then I spent about 10 minutes decanting face wash, body wash, shampoo, hand soap, and dish soap into the new bottles. It was such an easy swap, and I love how clean, unified, and elegant my counters look now.

3. After you fold your clothes the KonMari way, put them in your drawers standing up.

Alp Ozcelik

This creates way more storage space and makes it much easier to find everything. (It also makes it much easier to stay tidy, in my experience.)

4. Don’t just dump all your excess stuff on your parents.

Animal Kingdom on TNT / Via

Kondo accurately calls out the fact that when we can’t quite bear to part with things that don’t really spark joy for us, we'll just dump them on our family members instead of properly getting rid of them. She says that if you know someone would actually benefit from something, it’s fine to ask, but you shouldn’t burden them with all the stuff you feel too guilty to toss.

I think about this tip a lot, and I’ve now removed “Maybe I can leave it at my mom’s house” from my list of options when deciding what to do with stuff I don’t want in my apartment. As Kondo writes, “We need to show consideration for others by helping them avoid the burden of owning more than they need or can enjoy.”

5. Related: don’t let your family (or other people in general) see you tidying.

Did you know there’s an anti-Marie Kondo, who constantly sends you stuff despite you having no place to store it? Did you know it’s my mom?

And not because it's some kind of shameful activity. Kondo (again, accurately!) points out that loved ones — especially parents — can get very anxious about the amount of things we’re getting rid of. They will often try to save things from the pile, even if they have no real use for them; at the very least, they are likely to make you feel guilty/hesitant. I’ve found that getting rid of stuff privately both feels good — owning your choices about what you’ll, well, own, is really empowering — and allows you to tidy way more effectively.

6. Take the tags/packaging off new things you buy right away.

Becky Barnicoat / BuzzFeed

Not only does this mean the items will take up less space in your home, but it also means you’re less likely to forget they exist.

“This is how I see it: clothes in a store are products, whereas clothes in the home are personal possessions,” Kondo writes. “Clothes that still have their price tag on have not yet been made our own and therefore they don’t quite ‘belong.’ Overpowered by the aura of ‘legitimate’ clothes, they are less noticeable. It is only noticeable that we overlook and eventually even forget them as we look through our wardrobe.”

So whenever I bring new things home, I make a point to unpack them right away. It’s such a small act, but can be weirdly hard to do — I think because it’s the moment you really commit to owning the thing, because there’s no longer the sense of “I can always return it” or “I’m saving it for a future day.” But I’ve found it’s made me more intentional about what I buy/keep, and it’s helped me buy less overall.

7. Don’t buy storage containers before you tidy/figure out what you actually need to store.

The Container Store / Via

I used to do this; now I don’t!

8. Why? Because more storage isn’t the solution.

Hannah Hillam / BuzzFeed

This book made me realize that storage is kind of a scam, y'all! “Putting things away creates the illusion that the clutter problem has been solved,” Kondo writes. “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.”

(PS I really liked this Curbed article on the subject of storage: Self-storage: How warehouses for personal junk became a $38 billion industry.)

9. Also: instead of buying a bunch of storage bins, make use of the boxes you already have.

Danielle Ceneta / BuzzFeed

I love beautiful bins as much as anyone, but this tip inspired me to suck it up and use Amazon boxes, tampon boxes, and makeup bags I got for free instead of going out and buying a new bin for every little thing. I like that I’m no longer married to certain storage mechanisms — because if I eventually realize I don’t need the container anymore, well, it’s just a cardboard box that I saved from the garbage — and it helps me save money / put a little less strain on the planet. I still have some nice storage containers — some of the containers themselves spark joy! — but I’m way more intentional about them now.

10. Take everything out your purse/backpack at the end of each day.

Flo Perry / BuzzFeed

When I first read this tip, I was somewhat baffled by it. You’re asking me to envision a world in which there isn’t a smashed piece of unchewed gum, a few pennies, a bobby pin, and a crushed receipt from six weeks ago at the bottom of my purse? Then what exactly is a purse for? Seriously, my purse feels weirdly empty without all this garbage in it! But then I committed to doing it for a month, and it turns out, having a clean purse is actually really nice. Also, by putting things away each day, it means you’ll know where your shit is, which is so helpful. (I know this sounds fairly obvious...AND YET.) And the cleaning out is a good little after-work ritual to take you from day to evening. Even if it’s not something you can commit to every day, doing it on Sunday nights isn’t a bad idea. Definitely a good micro resolution to try!

11. It’s really OK to get rid of gifts.

Comedy Central

This one really, really hit home for me — because it’s genuinely hard to part with gifts (or even just cards), even when you’re not really feeling it, and know that you are never going to feel it. “The true purpose of a present is to be received,” Kondo writes. “Presents are not ‘things’ but a means for conveying someone else’s feelings. When viewed from this perspective, you don’t need to feel guilty for parting with a gift. … Surely, the person who gave it to you doesn’t want you to use it out of a sense of obligation, or to put it away without using it, only to feel guilty every time you see it.”

12. It’s also deeply OK to rid of all the free swag that you don’t want/need.

Twitter: @_ParkerH / Via

I used to second-guess throwing this stuff out, or would at least make myself hold onto it for some imaginary amount of time before I could throw it away; now I don’t!

13. Stop saving your sample-size beauty products to “take on trips.”

CBS / Via

We're not taking them on trips! By the time the trips come, the items are expired! Toss them! (I recently did a fresh round of this and HO BOY did it feel good; I do not miss them at all.)

14. Books aren’t sacred.

WHAT MARIE KONDO SAYS: Think about getting rid of books you aren't going to read or reread. WHAT TWITTER HEARS: Let's burn all books and slay the writers! Let the streets run red with their blood as our literary pyre's smoke blocks out the sun! FUCK BOOKS.

People have always had a LOT of feelings about Marie Kondo’s feelings about books. not one of those people. I’m not *totally* sure why we want to believe that getting rid of books is morally reprehensible, but throwing away clothes, shoes, and food is not. Books are just things, and most of us have too many things! It's not that deep!

Anyway, I recently had a moment where I was overwhelmed by books (most of which I didn’t even buy; my coworkers and I get sent a truly obscene amount of books at work) and I thought, Hm, should I buy another bookshelf for my apartment? And then realized I didn’t need to spend a bunch of time and energy buying/assembling another thing; I could just get rid of some books. And that’s the whole thing about this whole faux controversy: Marie Kondo doesn’t say you should get rid of all your books; she actually writes, “Keep only the books that will make you happy just to see them on the shelves, the ones that you really love.” This is good advice!

15. And remember that tidying is actually about choosing what to keep, not what to get rid of.

[slowly lowering myself into a trashcan as marie kondo watches] this no longer brings me joy [she nods cheerfully]

This is such a small shift, but it's a good one!

Whether you choose to organize using Marie Kondo’s method or not is up to you! But in any case, I’ll leave you with this quote from the book, which I like a lot:

“To tell the truth, I still don’t have a lot of self-confidence. There are times when I am quite discouraged by my inadequacies. I do, however, have confidence in my environment. When it comes to the things I own, the clothes I wear, the house I live in, and the people in my life, when it comes to my environment as a whole, although it may not seem particularly special to anyone else, I am confident and extremely grateful to be surrounded by what I love, by things and people that are, each and every one, special, precious, and exceedingly dear to me. The things and people that bring me joy support me. They help give me the confidence that I will be all right. I want to help others who feel the way I did, who lack self-confidence and find it hard to open their heart to others, to see how much support they receive from the space they live in, and the things that surround them.”


Get The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up from Amazon for $11.09.