How Marie Kondo Changed My De-cluttering

After a few layers of de-cluttering my home over the past couple of years, I now have far less to get rid of.  Enter the scene “The Life-changing Magic Of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo and a new layer now rises to the top.

What’s different about Kondo’s method?  Basically two things: she has you collect all items within the same category (versus from a location) and she has you hold the item in your hands and ask “Does this bring me joy?”  A question one can ask while looking at an object, but that takes on a new level when held.  To me it ends up being an energetic or body answer, as compared to a head answer, and I actually trust my body or an energetic answer far more than my head.  Our heads get into all kinds of defending, rationalizing, etc. and can really slow down the process of identifying what we are ready to let go of.

Marie has you start with clothes, then proceed to books, papers, miscellaneous and lastly mementos.  Here’s how some of my recent round of de-cluttering went using her method.

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Step 1: Gather all items in the category. This time it’s clothes. Get EVERYTHING that is clothes from your closet, drawers, coat closet, etc. and place it on a bed or the floor.

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Step 2: Pick up each item and as you hold it ask “Does this bring me joy?” I ended up with a pile of “yes”, a pile of ” and a pile of “not sure”. It ended up that all but one item in the “not sure” pile became a “no” and only one “no” got pulled back into my wardrobe.  These are the final “yes” items.  

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My one “Maybe” that became a “Yes.” A very practical rain coat with a hood.

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And my one “No” that I just wasn’t ready to part with. A cotton sweater in one of my favorite colors.

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She also has some suggestions for how one folds and handles their clothes and items. She suggests folding items so they can be seen, like this.

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Here are the clothes I wear often, kept in my main closet. I put those I wear less in a second closet. Both closets have far less in them now. I got rid of about 1/4 to 1/3 of my clothes during this process.  I will sort through items later to select my 33ish items for Project 333 or I may just say I no longer need to count them.  

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Now for the shoes. Get all like items into one area. Hold each one and ask “Does this bring me joy?”

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And here are four that are “No’s”  The shoes on bottom left are a bit too small, so no wonder the answer was “no.”  And the others haven’t been worn in a very long time…like in 3-10 years.  

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Meanwhile some shoes were happy to have been held for various reasons. The Birkenstocks on the left I had not noticed are in need of repair or replacement. They walked about 1/4 of the Camino and many miles before and after. The Birkenstocks on the right are new and would like to be worn more.

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Next I did bags of any type from purses to canvas bags to daypacks.

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Here are the “No’s” that I will be getting rid of. Some of the nicer canvas bags I put in my car for groceries, versus keeping so many similar bags in the house where I am rarely using them.

I was able to do clothes, shoes and bags in about 2-3 hours one morning.  The next day I did books.

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I gathered all my books in one place to begin the process of holding and asking if it brings me joy.

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Now sorted with “Yes’s” on the left, “Maybe’s” in the middle and “No’s” on the right.  I still need to do a final sort to see if all the “Maybe’s” are “No’s” or not.  

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Now my shelves have fewer books and clutter and I have kept all that brings me joy!

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My second bookshelf, same concept.  I’d say books took me about 2 hours to sort through.  

The following day I did paper.  This one was HUGE.  I gathered up all the papers from drawers, piles, filing cabinets and binders.

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Every paper I could find in my home and garage.

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After holding and asking what brings me joy, this was left to keep. Some items you keep for legal reasons. I will explore scanning them on another day.

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And this is the “No” pile of papers and a few binders on top.  I will recycle the paper at Far West Recycling and donate the binders.  

So that was a BIG chunk of de-cluttering in just 3 days.  I do have some final decisions to make about some of the “Maybe’s” but will move on to photos, CDs, DVDs, then cosmetics and personal care items, etc.  I will do a post about those items in the near future.

Have you read Marie’s book? Have you applied her methods for de-cluttering? And what do you think about her approach?  Please comment below.  


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21 Comments

  1. barb says:

    Kathy,
    I am having trouble figuring out what to so with my “photos”. I painted so I removed ALL pictures and decided not to put so many back up. I have the special ones in the living / kitchen area to look at daily. Now for the ones of the grand kids growing up, a pic of my horse, old pics of Pat and I in our younger days….I have 2 tubs of them in frames. What to do with all those! I don’t want to put them all back up in the attic, yet I don’t want them on the wall either. HELP!!!

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    • Florida Minimalist says:

      I’ve had a similar issue with all of my photos. I bought a digital picture frame, loaded them all onto that and hung it on my wall so all of the photos take up one spot and rotate constantly 🙂 I still get to present all of my photos of family, etc without all the frame space!

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    • See what Florida Minimalist posted. Would a digital photo frame or digitizing where can can view on your TV or computer be an option? Or get an up to date whole family shot and put up, but store without frames or digitize rest. Think.. What would bring me joy. Let that guide you.

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    • One other thing I’ve done as the keeper of photos in my family is to create a birthday video for my mom by taking photos of her, putting them in chronological order set to music as a video. Nice gift and video can be shared with more people via FB or YouTube.

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  2. Amy Leventhal says:

    I bought Marie’s book about 6 months ago after reading an article by a guy whose life was profoundly changed by her approach. I brought it on vacation, but quickly realized I needed to be home and actively tackling each set of possessions rather than theorizing about it. Thanks for your play by play. I’ve been imagining it would take far longer to accomplish than it appears to have taken you…though I know you had already done some significant pairing down before this. But I’m inspired to take this on now!

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    • I really liked this new approach she offers AND you are right, it is the application, not the reading, that makes the difference. I plan to use this method in my annual Simplify and De-clutter group. Let me know what you think once you do it Amy.

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    • She says it may take up to six months, but these initial groups moved faster by bringing like items all to one place.

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  3. I’ve been working on decluttering, but not as thoroughly as you. I will check the book out at the library and give it a try. I always feel lighter after dropping a load of stuff off at the Salvation Army.

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  4. Kathy,
    Congratulations on making such great progress and for sharing it with us. I also enjoyed Kondo’s wisdom and found the entire process of reading and using her insights remarkably easy, especially compared to my past attempts at decluttering. You’ve inspired me to face my paper issue. For those readers wanting to read Kondo’s work, I’d say the few dollars you’ll spend to buy the book will be well worth it.

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  5. I love reading how other people go about this and think that question is on point. I’ve always asked “Do I enjoy this or use this?” but I’ve never held each thing. Great way to get me out of my head!!

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  6. kendrakayathavemercy says:

    Love reading about other people’s process! The question is so on point and I think holding items will help me get out of my head!! 🙂

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  7. Wow! Great job! I heard of Marie’s book but haven’t read it.
    I have done my yearly wardrobe declutter but I am not nearly as good as you and I don’t even want to start with the books…

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    • I think one of the biggest lessons I have learned in the past year about minimalism is…it isn’t one size fits all. We each will have our own unique way to apply it in our lives. So good on ya Corinna for the yearly wardrobe declutter.

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  8. Sharon says:

    What I found intriguing about the book was the way the author talked about items as if they had feelings. She talked about items that were never used as feeling sad. Although the scientist in me resists this notion I did actually find it helpful in my decision making. It helped me release some items that I didn’t really use, so that they might live productive lives by going to someone who would find joy in them.

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    • I’ll have to try that too Sharin. Thanks for the reminder. She also bowed down on her knees and talked to the house as she initially entered bringing that sense of the sacred and of connection.

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  9. Sandra says:

    This is really impressive, Kathy! Papers are my worst enemy. It seems like I can never keep them cleared. It would be good to have a clean start like this. It seems everyone is in love with this book and this method! I’m glad it’s helping.

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  10. Laura says:

    You have been busy! I love it! Thanks for yet another inspiring post. What I really appreciate is you have fun with it too…and yet get so into it.

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  11. I love this book, and my mom has really been able to make inroads with it, as well. There is no shame attached to having stuff–you just thank it for what it taught you and release it.
    I found that her approach of hanging clothes from long to short, dark to light from left to right really helps, too. I already grouped by color and type, but the gradation also helps.

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