My Feud With Clutter and the Woman Who Saved Me

Marie Kondo

She’s petite, she’s Japanese and some of her suggestions are just plain odd. She wants you to speak gently to your sweaters, books and old phone chargers. She makes you ask yourself if your old rollerblades still bring you joy. But I am a “konvert” and her unconventional techniques have helped us declutter our home.

The life-changing magic of tidying up
Marie Kondo’s bestseller

Her name is Marie Kondo, one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people of 2015. Her ardent fans call themselves konverts. She is the best-selling author of “The Life-changing Magic of Tidying up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing”.

The book is a quick read. It will change your views on how to bring order to your home. But it isn’t one of those home design tomes, which sends you to the nearest Staples looking for fancy labels, convoluted filing systems, baskets…and more baskets. Stop buying baskets. Stop it.


Her focus instead is on your sentiments about what you own. She asks that you hold these things and contemplate if they “spark joy” in your life. Do they bring you happiness? Are they well past their best before dates in your life? Are you simply keeping things around, though you rarely use them, because you spent money on them? Are you keeping them, though you don’t like them, because they were gifted to you? She gets you thinking about what you want out of your space, what to discard and what to keep.

The “spark joy” philosophy is central to her declutter method, the KonMari. She revealed in a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) that it may be influenced by Shintoism. “I don’t particularly have specific religious connotations to Shintoism in my daily life, but it is true that I did have a part-time job at a Shinto shrine when I was younger,” she replied to a question on the forum. “So I think that is what that has to do with it.”


Here’s what I learned from her book:

  1. Declutter in one swoop, don’t take all year to do it.
  2. Keep or don’t keep, there’s no maybe.
  3. Work through types of things, not room by room.
  4. Do it in this order: clothes, books, documents, miscellaneous and mementos. Be warned, the last category will take ages. You’ll meander through old albums, yellowing concert tickets and more (I am still not done with this category).
  5. There’s a place for everything, not two or three places. This will be instrumental in helping you find those earrings, the papers you need to do your taxes and more.
  6. Put things back in their place after you use them.
  7. Fold more of your clothes, hang less, store vertically.
  8. Treat your possessions with respect.

The tips on folding are central to her approach on storing clothing. She covers it in her follow-up book “Spark joy: An illustrated master class on the art of organizing and tidying up”.


The chaos before
The chaos before

What has changed in our lives since we kondo-ed our home? Something has lightened up around here. I feel like I am thinking with more clarity. I feel like I am doing more.

For the first time in years, thanks to the book, my home office is organized. I dragged four boxes of old papers, shredded, to the curb. Now everything has a place. When I need to find that gift certificate someone gave me for Christmas, it takes a minute, not the dreaded half-hour search.

The calm after
The calm after

Our clothing closets are looking less chaotic, and we actually use what we own. After kondo-izing our closet, we gave away seven bags of clothes– and strangely enough, we don’t miss any of those pieces.


For people who want to take it a bit further, there’s the parody book “The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck…” which, beyond being funny, wants to help you declutter your life of awful people and awful ideas.

The decluttering-mania has its naysayers. Dominique Brown wrote a brilliant piece in the New York Times on loving your clutter. “I am not done with living. I am not done with my things. I love them, in fact, more and more each year, as I recollect the journey that brought us together,” she writes.

Almost, got me with that line, Dominique Brown. But I think I am still firmly on team KonMari. If you look around your home and think, “I don’t have enough space” or feel overwhelmed, you need her help. Run over to your bookstore or pick up your ebook reader, and get yourself this book.

Feature image courtesy of USA Today.

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Manjula Selvarajah

Manjula Selvarajah

Manjula Selvarajah is a Toronto-based freelance journalist and producer for CBC Radio, including the very popular Metro Morning, Toronto’s most listened-to morning show. In her former role, she was a VP of Marketing at Eloqua, and holds an Engineering degree from Queen’s University. She loves talking and tweeting about current affairs, books, the Tamil diaspora, marketing strategy and entrepreneurship, @manjaselva.

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One thought on “My Feud With Clutter and the Woman Who Saved Me

  1. My friend Karin was telling me about this. I’m finding it helpful, just need to pick up the pace!

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