Tips and Guides

The Magic of the KonMari Method: What to Keep and What to Give Away

Letting go of things—especially those with sentimental value—can be difficult. Let these tips help you!

Photography: Ocs Alvarez/ACME Visual Productions (Main Photo)

How can you successfully edit and declutter your space? Getting rid of things comes easy for some, difficult for most. Just imagine letting go of a dress that you've had for years or a stuff toy that you've kept since high school! Marie Kondo, cleaning consultant and author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, gives just one criterion when it comes to knowing what to keep and what to let go of. 

Once in a while, I get in the mood to sort, throw, and clean things up. It’s usually when a space becomes an eyesore, like when messy heaps of clothes crammed into a closet or when the kitchen cabinet is overflowing with cans and food items. There's really no criteria when it comes to discarding and keeping things. Of course, broken and expired items need to go as soon as possible, but how do you deal with favorite clothes, bags, shoes, and other essentials?

After reading Kondo's book, I realized that my method focused on the negative—what I didn’t need anymore, what I didn’t like, what I found was just taking up space. Organizing became a sad experience of discarding things like they never meant anything to me.

Kondo's approach dwelled on the practical and positive:

1. Visualize how your space will look like after you're finished—down to the last detail, as concretely as possible

Doing this will give you an end goal, a reason to keep working and a feeling of accomplishment even when it's done.

I visualized a tidy space—where everything is in its proper place, knowing instantly where everything is. I've envisioned containers in brown, gold, or white. Kondo notes that even if each client has different tastes, visions, and reasons, they have a same end goal: a space that makes them happy.

2. Once you're done visualizing, start by discarding "all at once, intensely and completely."

The 180-degree change is meant to shock the system, to make you see and feel results ASAP, giving you much needed momentum. 

Photo by Miguel Nacianceno.

3. Take your time

Working intensely doesn’t mean you tidy up in a rush. Kondo claims that six months is too quick to finish. 

4. Finish discarding before putting things away

Transferring items from one drawer to another isn’t saving you time, it’s premature and will set you back. The logic behind this, according to Kondo, is you don’t see the vast amount of items you have, and won’t see any duplicates. You’ll have a better idea on what to get rid of and what to keep if you lay it all out for you to see, and make your decision from there. 

5. Follow the right order of discarding

As mentioned previously, Kondo suggests discarding items in this tried-and-tested order:

  • Clothes
  • Books
  • Papers
  • Miscellaneous items
  • Mementos

Photo by Dairy Darilag.

You will notice that the order is based on the sentimental value of the items, starting with clothes (it’s the most common category that most people habitually get rid of, so there’s not much attachment there,) and ending with mementos (think old report cards, or 20 photos of your firstborn, all in the same angle.)

Kondo writes that “People have trouble discarding things that they could still use, contain helpful information, sentimental ties, and hard to obtain or replace.”

Photo by Kurt Alvarez/ACME Visual Productions.

What is repeated throughout the book is this question, and it serves as the book’s anchor, and should be your main takeaway, too: Does it spark joy? 

Kondo says that if it does, “keep it. If not, dispose of it. This is not only the simplest, but also the most accurate yardstick by which to judge.”

Photo by Dairy Darilag.

The first time I read this, it sounded like Kondo was saying that things had feelings. It felt silly, but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense.

It gave a positive spin to the whole mundane, usually negative process of throwing things out, because Kondo wants you to focus on “choosing what you want to keep, not what we want to get rid of.” She doesn’t ask you to rationalize or think about it too much, but just to feel and act on it. It was enough to pique my interest, and put the yardstick to the test. 

Photo by Paolo Feliciano.

(*Ed's note: This story is the second in a ten-part series of articles on the KonMari Method).

More on

5 Things You Need to Know About the KonMari Method

The Magic of the KonMari Method

3 Must-Do Organizing Tips from an Interior Designer


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