Watch: A Conversation With Decluttering Guru Marie Kondo
Marie Kondo, Japanese lifestyle expert and best-selling author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, has won global recognition for leading the charge on decluttering, developing the KonMari Method to help others tidy up their homes and change their lives from the inside out.
Kondo, whose philosophy centers around the idea that your possessions should spark joy, has now partnered with retail brand Cuyana to launch a mini capsule collection. It makes a lot of sense—Cuyana’s ethos of having "fewer, better things" aligns well with Kondo’s views—and the resulting collaboration is a darling collection of three leather cases: a mini square box, a mini circle box, and a mini long box.
We sat down with Kondo in Song Tea & Ceramics in San Francisco to talk about her groundbreaking KonMari Method, the power of tidying up, and her new collection with Cuyana. Dwell also hosted a dinner to celebrate its launch—check out the video interview above, and keep scrolling for interview outtakes and photos below!
Dwell: Tell me about the origins of the KonMari Method. How did it all begin? Where did you learn your methods, and how have you adapted or refined them?
Kondo: I became interested in tidying when I was 5 years old. I gathered as much information on tidying as I could, repeatedly practiced the principles I read about, and spent my whole adolescence researching and studying the subject of tidying.
In my early years, there was a time when I thought that tidying was about "discarding" what I infrequently used or no longer wanted. However, this way of thinking made me feel as though I had to throw away an item regularly. I became somewhat fixated on this—so much so that one day, in high school, I fainted from the build-up of stress. When I woke up after having fainted, I realized that the most important thing about tidying is not deciding what to discard but, rather, deciding what to keep. In that moment, my tidying practice became focused on identifying the things that "spark joy," and the core of the KonMari Method was born.
I realized that the most important thing about tidying is not deciding what to discard but, rather, deciding what to keep.
When did you realize that your approach might have much larger appeal—to your family and friends, your community, and even globally?
I began seriously researching the topic of tidying when I was 15 years old. At the same time, I started tidying up my friends’ rooms as a hobby. When I became a college student, I had more chances to visit the homes of my friends who were now living alone. Each time I went, I would tidy their spaces. This began a rumor among my friends that when I came to visit their homes, it became dramatically tidy. The word of mouth spread to a wide circle of friends of friends, and people I didn’t know started asking me if I could tidy their homes for a fee.
When I was 19, I began my profession as an organizing consultant and gained clients as people began to share the positive effects my tidying method had on their lives. By word of mouth, I continued to get more and more referrals for clients. After a while, the waitlist for my session grew to six months, and I started getting requests from individuals to write a book about my tidying sessions. That’s when I decided to publish. But it was only after the book was published that I realized that the approach might have a larger appeal beyond my community and clientele.
Here at Dwell, we're staunch believers that your environment has a bearing on your life and mental state. What is it about a tidy home that brings clarity and calmness to you?
One benefit of of living in a tidy environment would be the confidence you gain in yourself. When you’ve tidied up and live in a space that sparks joy for you, a space filled with items that you treasure, it improves your self-image. You’re able to see yourself as someone well-suited to that lovely, clean room. That’s one very significant effect of tidying up. So, I think being able to ascertain that you’re doing well just by being in a clean room is the most effective thing.
For people who are just starting to organize their lives, do you have favorite tips that you offer them?
Firstly, tidying up tends to be a very solitary activity, so my recommendation is to try telling a friend, or announcing that you’ve begun the tidying process. You can either try telling someone, or make a pact with your friends to tidy up together—I think they’re both great ideas. Of course, the tidying itself is something you undertake alone, but announcing beforehand that you’re going through the process makes it much easier to maintain your motivation. There’s actually a KonMari app, which you can use to communicate with other people and enjoy yourself while tidying, which is another thing I’d suggest.
One of the key components of the KonMari Method is ensuring that what you own sparks joy. But what if it's not black and white? What are some ways to figure out what you actually feel towards something?
Firstly, this idea of "choosing the things which spark joy for you" means selecting the items that make you happy when holding. So, my recommendation is to first be sure to take each and every item in hand. This is extremely important. You have to actually hold the item in hand to be able to feel whether it is something that sparks joy for you. If, for example, when you touch an item your body grows warmer or feels suddenly uplifted, that’s something that sparks joy for you. Conversely, if you touch an object and your body feels heavier somehow, it’s very likely that item is not one that brings you joy. Thus, you have to try touching each and every item.
The gradual repetition of this process will sharpen your sensitivity, so I recommend beginning from items that are easy for you to choose amongst in order to hone your ability to "joy check."
Minimalism as a lifestyle seems to be gaining steam. Why do you think that's happening as part of the zeitgeist?
Many people are becoming tired about having too many possessions, including SNS. With the arrival of the modern era of mass production, people came to possess much more physical items than before. This, of course, made our lives easier and more convenient, but as a result, many people began to own a lot of things—sometimes even more than necessary. Possessions were supposed to make us happy, but too much time is wasted thinking about how to manage them. I believe that people are seeking for the original purpose of possessing things.
Is keeping tidy and organizing a lifelong learning process? For example, are you finding new ways to declutter?
I think that learning to tidy can be done in one go. The KonMari Method is a simple, step-by-step approach to decluttering your home. To keep a home that sparks joy, however, is a lifelong process. For me, my life changed completely after becoming a mother. When I lived alone, I surrounded myself with things that sparked joy for me and dedicated a lot of time to my hobbies such as yoga, meditation, and reading. After becoming a mother, however, what sparks joy for me now is spending time with my family by reading picture books to my children or tidying together. Since our sense of joy changes as we go through different stages in life, I think it is important to check in once in a while to see what sparks joy for you at the moment—this is a lifelong process.
For more information about Cuyana x Marie Kondo, visit the website.