Marie Kondo’s Secrets For Deciding What To Keep

marie kondo things to keep


Marie Kondo has helped millions of people decide what to keep while tidying by way of her signature KonMari method. What makes her tidying method different from most is that she focuses on what to keep as opposed to what to discard — a tried-and-true strategy that can be tweaked to work for just about anyone.

ryans tiny house

Hi, I’m Ryan

Minimalism has changed my take on life and actually helps me “spark joy” every day. Marie’s advice on how to decide what to keep has given me a refreshing perspective on how to maintain a clutter-free home and produce a joyful life.

ryan mitchell simple living expert

What Things Does Marie Kondo Recommend Keeping?

What Things Does Marie Kondo Recommend Keeping

Marie Kondo recommends keeping only the things that “spark joy,” with very few exceptions. Sounds easy enough, right? In reality, it might be a little more complicated than that. What do you do if your heart tells you that all your belongings bring you joy? What if you feel ambivalent about everything you own? Surely you can’t just get rid of it all.

keep things that bring you joy and fulfillmentAny time you’re clearing up clutter, identifying which items get to stay in your home is never easy. That’s why I identify with Marie’s way of doing things — it just happens to align perfectly with the core values of minimalism.

According to Marie, as you part ways with the things that don’t make you happy, you make space for joy and fulfillment to manifest themselves in your life. When you keep only the items you cherish the most and get rid of all the excess, the benefits of minimalism can transpire into all aspects of your life. In other words, you gain more freedom to live life to the fullest.

Decluttering your home is the gateway to this new way of life. This is where you begin to practice being intentional and learning how to identify what items bring you joy. Your feelings are your guidelines. As Marie teaches, when you lead your tidying process with your heart, you can easily clear the clutter.

A word of advice, however, is to be cautious of your confused sentiments with feelings of sparking joy. It can get a little difficult, and that’s why I decided to help walk you through the items Marie (and I) recommend keeping.

questions to ask when decluttering

Benefits Of Keeping Items That Spark Joy

Benefits Of Keeping Items That Spark Joy

Identifying what you want to keep will direct you into a more joyful life. When you surround yourself with a selection of things you cherish, you are acting with intent, which is a central feature of minimalism. Acting in this way is important for you to manifest joy and fulfillment in your space.

I find that Marie’s approach to keeping things minimal works especially well in tiny homes and for minimalists like me. But even if you’re somewhere else along the journey, you can try it out to a lesser magnitude. It’s worth it.

Keeping the items that spark joy produces much the same benefits that a minimalist lifestyle has to offer.

Benefits Of Embracing A Minimalist Lifestyle

  • Makes your life more practical and hassle-free.
  • Simplifies cleaning and keeps your space tidy.
  • Helps you locate your things quickly.
  • Saves you money and frees up your finances.
  • Creates a serene atmosphere in your home.
  • Provides inner peace and sharpens your focus.
  • Re-energizes your mind and body.
  • Offers you the freedom to truly enjoy life.
Maintain A Peaceful Home Environment

Minimalism makes life more practical. First, it gets easier to clean. When you rid yourself of excess and keep only what you value the most, you spend less time moving around clutter to mop or vacuum. Finding things also becomes a whole lot easier when you own less. Plus, you get to save money. When you keep only what sparks joy, you cut back on the impulsive shopping and become more intentional about what you own.

To me, this approach to material objects produces undeniable benefits. Owning only the things that add value to your life can make your home more serene. The result is greater inner peace and focus, which can give you more energy to do the things you love. In the end, it gives you freedom to enjoy life the way you intended.

marie kondo rules to live by

Specific Items To Keep By Category

Specific Items To Keep By Category

In The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Marie lays out the order in which you should tidy up. Her advice is to declutter following a specific sequence. She first tidies up clothes, followed by books, paperwork, and komono (miscellaneous items). The last category on the list is sentimental items, the most challenging to part with.

It’s complicated to name every item you should keep because each person lives a different lifestyle. What adds value to my life or Marie’s may not add value to yours. That’s why it’s important to learn what sparks joy and makes a difference to you, specifically. It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach. Below are some examples of things to keep. When in doubt, think like a minimalist or someone living in a small space.

Clothes Worth Keeping

In my opinion, learning to balance form and function becomes very useful when dealing with most categories, especially clothing. Maybe you own a specific article you’re not too keen on but that makes a tremendous difference in your life. An example of this would be a heavy winter parka if you live somewhere where temperatures drop below freezing.

Keep Clothing That Serves A Purpose

  • Tops and bottoms
  • Dresses and suits
  • Socks and undergarments
  • Accessories
  • Seasonal pieces (jackets, coats, snowshoes)
  • Special occasions (swimsuits, uniforms)
  • Shoes
clothes worth keeping

Types Of Books To Keep

Marie likes to keep at most 30 books in her home. That’s the number that works for her. To book lovers or magazine collectors, that number might be greater. Stay in tune with how you feel and keep the ones that speak to your heart. The way she puts it is that it’s not so much what she thinks about books, but what you think about books.

  • Books you want to (and will actually) read
  • Books you’ve read that bring you joy
  • Books you refer back to on a regular basis
books worth keeping

The Only Paperwork You Should Have At Home

Marie does not recommend keeping any paperwork and I tend to agree. If it’s done serving its purpose, toss it. There are, however, three exceptions to this rule below. Remember to save digital copies of important documents and don’t forget to recycle!

  • Don’t discard paperwork that is currently in use
  • Keep paperwork that is needed for a limited time
  • Keep paperwork that must be kept indefinitely
important papers worth keeping

Examples Of Komono (Miscellaneous) To Consider Keeping

The komono category takes up pretty much everything else that doesn’t fit into any of the previous ones. This includes your kitchen appliances, your personal hygiene products, your hobby equipment, etc. Joy can be a powerful decision-making tool, but take it with a grain of salt. Keep the items that serve your lifestyle. To illustrate, Marie loves to cook and owns three donabes, ceramic Japanese pots used for cooking. Each one of them serves its own purpose in her kitchen. She also loves drinking tea, making her tea set one of the most important and joyful items in her home.

Komono Items To Consider Keeping

  • Skincare products
  • Makeup and perfume
  • Valuables (IDs, credit cards, etc.)
  • Electrical equipment (TVs, computers)
  • Basic equipment (writing materials, sewing kits, linens)
  • Household supplies (medicine, detergent, toilet paper)
  • Kitchen items (eating utensils, microwave, fridge)
  • Emergency supplies
  • Hobbies
  • Furniture and décor
skincare and makeup items worth keeping

The Sentimental Items Worth Keeping

In general, we should cherish memories and not things. The KonMari method makes exceptions for a few items of exceptional sentimental value. These require a lot of reflection and should bring you great joy. In one of her interviews, Marie shared that she keeps a small stuffed seal her father once gifted her. It’s a sentimental item that makes her very happy and she can’t part with. She also likes to have physical photos of her family around her house, which replenish her energy and bring her joy on a daily basis.

Sentimental Items

  • Photographs
  • Gifts
  • Mementos
  • Family heirlooms
  • Childhood keepsakes
  • Letters
sentimental items worth keeping

Thinking Outside The Box

Thinking Outside The Box

Remember, this is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Your lifestyle will dictate what you can and should keep. I’m a big fan of cooking, so I keep a couple extra kitchen gadgets around. On the other hand, I despise doing laundry, so I don’t even own a washer and dryer.

keep flowers around the houseConsider items around the house that may not feel like they belong in any of the KonMari categories. Marie loves keeping flowers around her house, for instance — the aesthetics and aroma bring her joy on a daily basis. She also surrounds herself with crystals at home and puts salt in different rooms as part of a Japanese tradition.

Part of her self-care routine includes keeping a purified environment which brings her joy. She also has a devoted space to a kamidana, a Shinto household altar. These are all things that bring her joy and help her express respect and gratitude for her life. They encourage serenity and creativity, working uniquely for her specific lifestyle. Personally, I like to burn incense and play classical music on my speakers. It brings me joy and makes my days more fulfilling.

An important note here is that maybe some of your items don’t spark joy for you, but if you live in a household with other people, you should consider their perspectives, too. One of Marie’s tips for tidying is to do it solo, as other people’s opinions might make you swerve on yours. But I find it important to consider other family members’ values and preferences, too. Who knows? It might give you a whole new outlook on your belongings.

When Sparking Joy Goes Too Far

When Sparking Joy Goes Too Far

Sometimes, we may find it hard to let go of our belongings. We make ourselves believe they are meaningful to us in some way or another. Many times, though, they’re not and they quickly compound into a disorganized mess.

decluttering when you are a hoarderHandpicking what to keep isn’t easy. What should you do when everything you own sparks joy? If you find yourself in a similar scenario, you might be confusing attachment with feelings of joy.

While I like the idea of keeping things that bring you joy, I believe there are other criteria that may help you in the process, especially if you’re a self-proclaimed hoarder. In this case, I recommend questioning your sentiments. Try and recognize the purpose of your belongings and understand their role in your life. Keeping their purpose in mind can help you draw the line when sparking joy goes too far.

An important note here is that it’s more than okay to ask for help in your decluttering and tidying journey. Whether that means from a friend, a professional organizer, or a mental health specialist, knowing when to reach out for support is a critical step along the journey for many of us.

Deciding What To Keep When There’s No Spark

Deciding What To Keep When Theres No Spark

Sometimes, the opposite happens. You may find that many of the items necessary to a practical lifestyle don’t spark much joy. To illustrate, you might feel ambivalent toward your microwave. But it does come in handy when you need to heat up some leftovers.

coffee maker in the kitchenPerhaps you’re not overjoyed by your old mattress, but you need one to sleep in. If your belongings don’t necessarily bring you joy, does this mean you should get rid of all of them?

This is another instance where I find that there are additional criteria to help you choose what to keep in addition. It’s not practical to expect that all our basic necessities spark joy.

Marie’s suggestion for necessary items that don’t spark joy is simple. She suggests replacing them with similar items that do spark joy. If you can’t find a replacement, though, then she says it’s perfectly acceptable to stick with what you have.

marie kondo

“Those things are helping you every single day. Change the relationship with those items by appreciating their contributions to your life.”

– Marie Kondo, KonMari

Minimalist decluttering rules can come in handy here. I see them more as practical guidelines than strict rules. They’ll help you decide what to keep when decluttering. You can make them your own and incorporate them into Marie’s joy-sparking method.

I find that the 20/20 rule is particularly helpful when choosing what to stays and what goes. Whichever way you see it, sparking joy and learning the purpose of your belongings can be of great help when deciding what to keep.

Places To Donate Your Decluttered Items

Deciding What To Keep Is As Unique As You

Deciding What To Keep Is As Unique As You

In the end, only you can know what to keep. Your lifestyle is different from mine and different from Marie’s. The most important thing you can do is fine-tune your abilities to identify when an item sparks joy and learn to appreciate the purpose of your belongings.

Marie and I can’t tell you exactly what to keep because we all have different needs. Hopefully these guidelines will empower you to make the right decisions when choosing the things that will remain in your home and a part of your life.

what to keep is a personal choice

Your Turn!

  • What is something valuable you decided to keep in your tidying journey?
  • What was the easiest thing for you to part ways with?

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