The KonMari Method Clears the Home and Fills the Heart
Jodie Chiemi Ching
In Japan, cleaning and clearing the previous year’s clutter is traditionally done in December to get a fresh start in the new year. But, here in Hawai‘i, if you haven’t started yet, you could at least say you’re running on “Hawaiian time.”
The “KonMari Method” has become a popular process, resetting homes and hearts across the world. This movement began with author Marie Kondo’s first international bestselling book entitled, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.”
Last year, Ward Village began hosting free community workshops. And in August, master certified KonMari expert Catilin Roberts educated attendees about the KonMari philosophy in the IBM, Ward Village Sales Gallery. The KonMari method encourages tidying up by category, not by location. Keep only things that speak to your heart, and discard items that no longer spark joy, thank them for their service and let them go.
Roberts started the workshop by teaching attendees the six basic rules of tidying up:
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.
The first rule, “Commit yourself to tidying up,” is self-explanatory. But how do you keep the momentum and stay motivated? Getting friends and family to tidy up their own spaces could help solidify everyone’s commitment to follow through the entire process.
For the second rule, Roberts asked everyone to close their eyes and imagine coming home to their ideal house. Attendees dreamed up things like sunlight filtering through white flowing curtains, clean wood floors and the smell of citrus. Roberts also asked how we like to spend our day. How can your space support your dream life? How about your life goals?
“The KonMari Method is about stopping and thinking about your life and who you want to become,” said Roberts.
The third rule is “Finish discarding first.” This rule is to make sure we dispose of things entirely. Do not clean your living room, only to move the clutter to another space like the garage. Drive it to Goodwill, schedule a pick-up by the National Kidney Foundation or have a garage sale — do what it takes to get it out.
“Tidying by category, not location” is the fourth rule. The five KonMari categories include:
Komono (miscellaneous items)
As you go through these categories, keep in mind the rules “Follow the right order” and “Ask yourself if it sparks joy.”
Tackling the categories
The first step is to gather every article of clothing in the house and put it in one large pile. When people take clothes out of the drawers, closet(s) and sometimes from other random areas of the home, they are always surprised. Next, hold each item and keep only items that are tokimeku-mono — things that spark joy. Kondo described the feeling of joy to be like holding a puppy or wearing your favorite outfit. Say “thank you” to each item before you move them on to their next home or discard them.
Workshop attendees practiced the KonMari folding method, which is to fold it in a way that it stands up like files, instead of stacking them, in the dresser drawer. This way, you can see everything at once.
One attendee asked about what to do with winter coats and costumes. Roberts suggested storing coats in suitcases. People in Hawai‘i usually use their winter coats only when they travel. And by storing costumes in a suitcase, you designate one limited space for them, so when it gets full, it’s time to evaluate and decide which ones to let go of.
After strengthening the “joy-sparking” skill by going through all your clothing, it’s time to move on to books.
“The No. 1 place to get distracted is books,” said Roberts. She recommends looking at the words on the spine and ask yourself, “Do they support my life?” and “Are they in line with my vision statement?” Also, avoid reading the books and focus on strengthening your joy-sparking skill.
According to Roberts, the idea is to “work towards total disposal.” There should be only three categories:
・ Pending items – action required,
・ Keep short-term – frequently accessed and need within three months to one year, and
・ Keep long-term – infrequently accessed like birth certificates and passports.
Roberts explained that it’s common to feel down initially when dealing with paper. This is why the paper category is third, after you have had some practice learning how to keep items that are tokimeku-mono.
Some tips she shared included buying a file box and making files for kindergarten to grade 12, using a small document box for pending items and filing greeting cards in a recipe box.
4. Komono (miscellaneous items)
This is also known as the “Zone of Dumping,” said Roberts. It’s the junk drawer in the kitchen, the pile on the floor of your closet or the stuff in the garage. Komono includes CDs, DVDs, bath and beauty, linen, office supplies, hobby, tools and pet and kitchen items.
For the kitchen, there are two basic categories: things you cook with and things you eat with. If the tools and ingredients in your kitchen do not bring joy when you and your family are cooking or eating, it’s probably time to thank it and move it on to its next destination. Roberts said, “A chaotic kitchen can lead to poor eating [habits].”
Mail also tends to accumulate into annoying piles that can cause stress. Streamline your system by sending junk mail for recycling or into the trash immediately, it doesn’t even need to touch the tabletop after checking your mail. Buy a self-inking security stamp that covers your personal information immediately, instead of saving it (creating another pile) to shred later. For mail that needs to be processed (i.e. forms to fill and bills to pay), Roberts stores them in a nice tray.
Other members of the family should take care of their own things. Children should have a “command center” for their backpack and shoes. Once everything has its place everyone can help because they will know where things go.
As the last category, the goal is to honor sentimental items. Mainly, loose photos can go into albums or saved digitally. Roberts suggested handing family members a thumb drive filled with photos. Other sentimental items can be sprinkled around the house. Tickets from travel, plays and concerts can be framed and displayed as memorabilia.
Finally, Roberts closed the workshop sharing tips for successfully creating a joy-filled abode for the whole family. First, “Inspire by example” if your spouse or partner is not ready to jump on board. Also, discard your “pile of indecision,” if you still haven’t decided within 24 hours.
For families, define a space for things like toys. If it can’t fit in the defined space, reevaluate and decide what to thank and donate or discard. Work in manageable chunks of time. Initially, attacking a house full of clutter can be overwhelming, so decide if you can focus on it one, two or three hours at a time.
Remember to focus on joy. “Tidying up is a soul searching journey,” said Roberts.