The Top 10 Organizing Tips From an Expert


Marie Kondo, clearly in the zone. (Image via: Japan Times)

By her own estimation, 30-year-old Marie Kondo has already devoted more than 80 percent of her life to ridding herself and others of clutter.

As a kid, she spent her piggybank money on storage supplies and—as she recounts in her best-seller The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up—would “sit on the floor for hours sorting things in the cupboard until my mother called me for supper.”

In other words, girlfriend is intense about this stuff.


(Marie Kondo/Youtube)

Kondo is now a celebrated organizing guru in her native Japan, giving lessons (yes, lessons) to hapless disorganized folks.

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She says strict adherence to her method will do no less than transform your life. But are her tips useful for people who ideally hope to devote, say, .003 percent of their lives to decluttering? You be the judge:

1. Set the Date

Before you even think about reordering your bookshelf, Kondo believes you need to do a major clean-out—and make it a special event (a “tidying festival,” as she calls it).


(Sample Interior. Credit: Marie Kondo/Youtube)

That means you plan the day, get yourself psyched, and start in the morning.

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She also feels the process should be a “dialogue with yourself:” no Springsteen or Downton Abbey or CNN news ticker in the background, no help from friends, no distractions at all. Just you and your mess.

2. Follow the Order

Approach your sorting and discarding strategically. Those who immediately head to the attic to tackle a box of yearbooks, love letters or prom photos are doomed to fail, Kondo says.


(Sample Interior. Credit: Marie Kondo/Youtube)

Instead, she recommends sorting by category, not location, and doing so in a very specific order starting with clothing (because it tends to have the least sentimental value), followed by books, papers, miscellaneous “stuff” (mysterious wires, free moisturizer samples, etc.), and, finally, mementos.

3. Dump it All Out

Here’s where Kondo’s rules get kinda radical. As you move through each category, you must lay every item out.

So with clothing, you would place every stitch of clothing you own—everything in the closet, under the bed, in your parents’ basement—on the floor.

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The idea is that you’re confronted (and very likely horrified) by the sheer amount of stuff you have accumulated.

4. Toss, Toss, Toss

Gather the garbage bags—here comes the hard part. Pick up each item you own and ask yourself, “Does this bring me joy?” If the answer is no, out it goes.


(Sample Interior. Credit: Marie Kondo/Youtube)

I know, I know. This is an impossible standard when faced with tax receipts or grandma’s ashes. But for clothing, books and mementos, it works pretty well. Think of it this way: You’re choosing what you want to keep, not what you want to toss.

5. Develop a Zero Tolerance Policy

There are some items that you don’t have to even think about (hooray!) and should just trash, says Kondo.

Among these: spare buttons (she insists you’ll never use them, but a crafter friend of mine begs to differ… she turns hers into magnets), unread books, gifts you don’t truly love, cosmetic samples that you save to use on trips, any kind of manual, and cords you can’t identify.

6. Have No Mercy Towards Paperwork

“My basic principle for sorting papers is to throw them all away,” Kondo writes. Her clients send a minimum of two 12-gallon bags to recycling (or the shredder). One successful follower shed 15 bags!

The exceptions: paperwork currently in use (bills), needed for a limited amount of time (like those tax receipts) or needed indefinitely (your lease).

Divide those papers into two categories: Those that need to be addressed and those that just need to be saved.

7. Edit Your Photo Collection (A Lot)

If you stick to the plan, photos will be among the last things you sort. Unfortunately, as with everything else, you still need to go through them one by one—that includes removing all pics from photo albums, which I could not bring myself to do—and ask yourself if they make you happy.

“Unexciting photos of scenery that you can’t even place belong in the garbage,” Kondo writes. (So much for that sunset!) For vacation photos, aim to keep no more than five prints total per day of the trip.

8. Say a Proper Goodbye

As you consign things either to the donation bin or the trash, Kondo suggests thanking each item for its service. It sounds silly, but I found it actually did make me feel better to say, “So long, sparkly tube top. Thanks for all the fun in college.

Fare thee well on your next adventure!” I enjoyed giving my stuff a dignified send-off. The downside: It takes forever.

9. Master the Fold

Kondo feels strongly about folding clothes into rectangles and storing them standing up to maximize space. (She believes most items should be stored vertically.)

Beware her instructional folding videos; they’re so mesmerizing you may lose several hours repeatedly watching her demonstrate her technique with long-sleeved vs. short-sleeved tees.

10. Don’t Buy Storage Equipment

Here’s a liberating thought: You already have everything you need for simple storage, says Kondo.

Her favorite tool is an empty shoebox (which she uses to store everything from shampoo to cake pans to stockings). Shoebox lids, meanwhile, can be put to work in your cupboards as trays for olive oil and spices. I suppose this means you never have to visit the Container Store again, but what fun would that be?

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