Marie Kondo’s Steps To Tidying Up: A Guide To KonMari Magic

marie kondo steps to tidying up

ryans tiny house

Hi, I’m Ryan

As a minimalist living in a tiny home, I have decluttering and organizing locked down. Still, I enjoy learning from other experts in the field. I regularly reflect on Marie Kondo’s advice and methods to refine my approach to keeping a clutter-free home.

ryan mitchell simple living expert

Over the years, I’ve found that Marie Kondo’s step-by-step guide can be of great help to decluttering and organizing your home. There may be a lot of tips out there on how to do it the most effectively but knowing where to start and picking out the most helpful guidelines can be daunting. If you’re uncertain of the steps you should follow, you’ve come to the right place. Below is a detailed set of steps to help you declutter like Marie.

What Is The KonMari Method?

what is the konmari method

KonMari is a decluttering method developed by Marie Kondo, a tidying expert who draws inspiration from the Shinto indigenous Japanese religion. This approach focuses on sorting your belongings category by category instead of room by room. The ultimate goal is to fill your home only with the items that bring you joy.

marie kondo konmari methodTo succeed in the creation of a serene home, Marie’s strategy focuses on choosing what to keep as opposed to what to discard. While most decluttering processes focus on discarding items that lack value, Marie’s strategy is the inverse: it’s about keeping the things you value the most. The end result is a clutter-free home with space for joy and prosperity.

The KonMari method is a mix of philosophy and practice, and she utilizes a few general rules — or guidelines — to fortify the approach, making it easier to keep clutter at bay and tidying up an easy, consistent task. Marie’s “rules” include ideas like working through clutter in categories, tidying in a specific order, and other stipulations that command a commitment to the tidying process.

Those guidelines are different from the steps detailed in this article, but by taking the rules into account, the steps to the KonMari method become easier. Before you know it, streamlined tidying will have become a habit, like it has for me.

marie kondo rules to live by

Things To Know Before You Start

Implementing Marie’s method can help make your decluttering process more effective. While her method is very clear, the step-by-step process is not always straightforward, so you might still feel like you need a little clarification to help you put your house in order.

tidy and organized kitchenIt’s worth noting that everyone’s clutter, home, and lifestyle are unique, so this precise method may not work for everyone. If there are specific steps that seem unrealistic, or just downright unpleasant, skip them altogether.

After all, the entire point of pursuing the KonMari method is to spark joy in your everyday life. And if you’re miserable getting there, it may not be worth it.

Marie encourages tidying by category, as opposed to the standard room-by-room approach most of us use. She suggests following a specific order of categories, starting with clothes, followed by books, papers, komono (miscellaneous items), and lastly, sentimental items.

Follow these steps when working through each category of belongings. When you are done, rinse and repeat, starting over with each new category until you are finished.

Step One: Visualize Your Ideal Lifestyle

Visualize Your Ideal Lifestyle

This first step is all about being mindful and introspective. It relates to Marie’s second rule: imagine your ideal lifestyle.

placement of furniture in a small living roomBefore getting your hands dirty, take a moment to visualize your dream lifestyle. I find this is a very important part of every decluttering process because it will motivate you to get started. Think about how you would like your life to be from now on. What are your goals for going through with this process? When you visualize the home you want for yourself, focus on what matters most to you. After all, this is where the new you will be living.

I like to write down my thoughts, but Marie also suggests sketching them out if you have an artistic vein. What you own affects your life very intimately, but the decluttering process goes beyond that. Reflect on other areas of your life. What do you envision for your career, relationships, and health?

By taking this first step and visualizing your ideal lifestyle, you can set the stage to begin sparking joy in your life and change it forever.

Step Two: Divide Belongings Into Categories

Divide Belongings Into Categories

Marie’s method centers around the notion of categories. Rules four and five respectively state that you should work through categories, not rooms, and follow the right order.

In more practical terms, what this means for the second step in your process is that you should pick a category and work through it until you are done. Don’t let yourself be swayed into decluttering by location. To fully immerse yourself in this method, work through the list Marie swears by, one at a time. I tried this and it really works well. Once you’re done, move on to the following category on the list.

Respect the following order

  • Clothes
  • Books
  • Papers
  • Komono (miscellaneous items)
  • Sentimental Items
put all related items in one place

There is a simple yet logical reason for following this order. It’s a very efficient way of conducting the decluttering process because it means you move from the easiest items to part with (clothing) to the most challenging ones (sentimental items).

This allows you to hone in your decision-making skills. As you progress, it gets easier to choose which of your belongings are worth keeping. An important note here is, if you come across anything of sentimental value that belongs in a different category, save it for last.

Break A Category Into Subcategories

Yes, KonMari is a tried-and-true method that helps people tidy up their homes.

Still, it’s not uncommon to get a little lost regarding what items fall into which category. Most people own a lot of things, which translates to a lot of categories and subcategories.

I did some research and thinking of my own to help you further classify your belongings. After all, the more clearly defined your categories, the easier they are to work through.

packing clothes


Clothing can be broken down into apparel, shoes, accessories, undergarments, and sleepwear. Categorizing your closet in this way can facilitate your process, especially when you own a lot of clothing. You may even find that it makes sense to further break down your clothing by season or purpose — group all of your workout clothes into a cluster, office outfits in another, sleepwear in a third, and so on.

minimalist personal uniform


When it comes to books, there’s not much to it. I like to subgroup them into genres (like romance, fiction, non-fiction, etc.), magazines, and children’s books, if you have those around the house. Cookbooks, guides, and collectibles also get their own subcategories.

how to declutter books


Marie’s basic principle for sorting papers is to throw them all away. If you feel like you need to keep some of them, start by setting aside anything that classifies as sentimental like letters or greeting cards. Then, split the rest of your paperwork to keep into two big groups. The first is papers to be dealt with, meaning they need immediate attention like bills or other letters. The other is papers to be saved, like insurance paperwork, contracts, etc.

how to declutter paperwork


Komono is perhaps the broadest concept. There’s a lot of room for interpretation here; it includes a lot of things, and, without clear guidance, it can easily feel overwhelming.

Komono includes

  • Media like records or DVDs
  • Skincare products
  • Makeup
  • Accessories
  • Valuables (passports, credit cards, etc.)
  • Electrical equipment and appliances
  • Household equipment (office supplies, sewing kits, etc.)
  • Household supplies (medicines, cleaning, toiletries, etc.)
  • Kitchen goods (utensils, appliances, containers, etc.)
  • Food supplies
  • Crafts and hobbie items
  • Sports and exercise equipment
  • Other odds and ends
organized craft supplies

how to declutter makeup

Sentimental Items

What comes to mind when I think of this category is mementos. Think of items that can unexpectedly feel challenging to let go of because they elicit strong emotions.

Step Three: Gather Items From A Category In One Place

Gather Items From A Category In One Place

After identifying the category you plan on working through, the third step is to collect all items that belong to it in a single place. Gathering all of them will give you a bird’s eye view of what you own.

put bedroom clutter all in one placeGrab all the clothes you have scattered throughout the house, for instance, from your closet to under your bed to whatever you forgot in the laundry room. Once you have every item sitting in front of you, then you can start diving into the decision-making part of the process.

This step is extremely important because when you are face to face with your belongings, you become forced to confront them. There’s no procrastinating and no “buts.” Gathering all things at once puts you in a spot and state of mind where you just have to follow through.

Step Four: Decide What To Keep And Declutter The Rest

Decide What To Keep And Declutter The Rest

Marie’s method is different from most in that her selection criterion is keeping only what sparks joy. Most processes prioritize reflecting over what to discard, whereas Marie approaches it the other way around: choosing what stays.

clothes divided into boxesShe recommends keeping only the items that speak to your heart. Regardless of their functionality, these should be things you genuinely cherish for reasons of your own.

Marie and I both believe that the question of what you want to own is also a matter of how you want to live your life. So, when you evaluate your things and proceed to reorganize your home, you set the stage for significant transformation in your life.

Marie treats feelings as the standard for decision making. The key is to pick up each object and quietly reflect on whether it sparks joy, paying close attention to how your body responds. If an item doesn’t spark joy, be grateful for the role it played in your life and then let it go.

Although I tend to be a little more pragmatic in my decluttering process, this is a tip I have adopted and been following for years. It’s about intent and finding a purpose in your belongings. If it makes you happy, keep it. If not, let it go.

Hold Each Item And Ask Whether It Sparks Joy

“Does it spark joy?” is Marie’s signature question. What she means is, when in doubt about whether to keep or toss an item, ask yourself whether it sparks joy in your life. You are the only one who knows what makes you happy.

As you work through your belongings, Marie suggests holding each item in your hands. The closer to your heart, the better. Then, listen to what your body has to tell you. Every object that makes you legitimately happy has a place in your life. The ones that don’t can be discarded with confidence.

marie kondo

“When something sparks joy, you should feel a little thrill running through your body, as if your body is somehow slowly rising up to meet the item, embracing it even.”

– Marie Kondo, KonMari

downshift your lifestyle

Step Five: Discard Before Moving On To The Next Category

Discard Before Moving On To The Next Category

Now is the time when you follow Marie’s third rule of tidying: Finish discarding before moving on to the next category. You’ve done a lot of reflection and decided what to keep. Now is the time to discard what you’re letting go of.

where to donate itemsDiscarding your excess belongings is an important part of the process, as it clears space in your home and in your mind. Doing it before moving on to organizing allows you to have a good grip on what needs to be stored in your home.

According to Marie, the discarding part can be of great value. It provides an opportunity for you to learn from the past as you understand that certain items serve no purpose in your life. This experience will change how you approach buying new things in the future and give your life a whole new meaning.

I’d like to add that discarding your belongings can also help establish a feeling of completion as you progress in clearing out the space in front of you. This sense of progress is an excellent metric for celebrating your quick wins, which are key to help keeping you motivated throughout the process.

Step Six: Organize And Find Homes For Your Belongings

Organize And Find Homes For Your Belongings

Now that you’re done disposing of the things you do not wish to keep, you’re ready to start organizing. This is the final step of the process and it’s where you find an appropriate home for every single one of your belongings. Marie and I each have a few tips that can help with your organizing.

vertical hanging closet organizerMarie recommends storing your belongings by category. I like to sort them by the purpose they serve, which is a pretty similar idea. You can also arrange your items by color, season, size, or whatever method you see fit.

I’d like to underscore that countertops and flat surfaces are not storage space. Make sure you find a home for all your items to avoid visual clutter. If you can, let your furniture double as storage space to avoid piling your belongings on your coffee table.

marie kondo

“When it comes to storage, vertical is best.”

– Marie Kondo, KonMari

Marie is a strong advocate for vertical storage. When you store things in this way, you can easily see what you have and can get to what you need without a fuss. On the topic of vertical spaces, I always like to maximize it, too. Make the most of your walls and shelves when designating a home for your favorite item.

marie kondo tidying tips

Enjoy Your New Space

Enjoy Your New Space

So, you’ve tidied, discarded, and organized all the items that belong in your chosen category. Good job! Getting here is a big step that deserves a round of applause.

uncluttered living roomTo move on with decluttering and organizing your home, proceed to the next category and follow steps one through six again. Repeat this process until you’ve gone through all the categories in your list, and every item has a place of its very own.

If you’re finished, now is the time to enjoy your new space. This is a huge milestone in helping you live the life you’ve imagined for yourself! Now that your home is in order, you’ll feel more freedom to start living the life you want.

I hope you enjoy Marie’s tidying method just as much as I do. Her steps are easy to replicate and following them can make it easy to obtain a clutter-free and tranquil home.

Your Turn!

  • How long did it take you to declutter and organize your home following Marie Kondo’s steps?
  • Do you feel ready to start living the life you’ve always imagined for yourself?
1 Comment
  1. Very good article. Thank you

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