Japanese decluttering diva Marie Kondo started out as an organizing consultant while a 19-year-old university student in Tokyo. Her 2011 book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” has sold millions of copies, and her idea of keeping items only if they “spark joy” has inspired many to toss mountains of household clutter.

Her KonMari method has six basic rules: Commit yourself to tidying up. Imagine your ideal lifestyle. Finish discarding first. Tidy by category, not by location. Follow the right order. Ask yourself if it sparks joy.

Many of us aren’t so happy with the state of our closets and kitchens and garages. There are many reasons some people can’t seem to get a grip on the towering piles of things in their life.

Here’s Kondo’s advice on four obstacles that keep some of us buried in clutter.


Don’t blame the size of your home for your lack of organization. Kondo said she successfully organizes homes in Japan, where a 1,000-square-foot home is considered large.

Her advice:  “When organizing a small house, it is important to store things in the same category together. Don’t scatter them in different places around the house. In order to take full advantage of the storage systems you do have — such as the pantry or closet — make sure you store everything vertically. This will help you save space.”


Kondo’s main advice for dealing with sentimental items — say, things that remind you of a loved one — is to tidy them up after you have organized the less emotional categories. So start with clothing, books and papers.

Her advice: “If you encounter any item in one of these categories that brings back a memory … set it aside as part of the sentimental category. By tidying non-sentimental items first, you will give yourself time to sort through your thoughts and emotions before going through the sentimental items you have set aside.”

And those treasures that make you happy every time you look at them? “Keep them proudly,” she said, adding that it’s not just about looking for things to eliminate, but being thoughtful about what you keep or toss — and cherishing those items you keep.


If people give you gifts you don’t love, how do you get rid of them without feeling guilty? Kondo said that ideally, you should feel joyful when you receive a gift. After you express gratitude for it, it’s OK to get rid of it. “In order to prevent this kind of thing from happening again and again, it is important to clarify what sparks joy for you in your everyday life.”


You don’t need to spend lots of money to buy organizational accessories, Kondo said. In fact, you don’t need to buy anything to get started tidying up; just have a donation bag at the ready. Kondo said you should spend only on items that will help you achieve your ideal vision for your home: “If your kitchen is your favorite space in your home, that might be an area worth spending a little money to upgrade your organization.”