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Embrace The 6 Rules Of The KonMari Method BEFORE You Declutter Anything

Before you declutter a single item you need to know the 6 rules of the KonMari Method. While it may be tempting to skip them and dive right into decluttering, you’ll waste a lot of time and won’t get the best results.

And let’s face it, you’re not doing all this work if you can’t reap the full rewards. 😉

They’re quick and easy to grasp.

Let’s go.

(Small side note that this post contains affiliate links. I may earn a small commission if you make a purchase through them. Your support will go directly to funding my strawberry trifle addiction. 🍓😘)

A blog post that lists the 6 rules of the KonMari Method and how to implement them

The 6 rules of the KonMari Method form the very foundation of Marie Kondo’s tidying philosophy. Understanding and implementing them will make your “tidying festival” run a lot smoother. (Ask me how I know. 😏)

As someone who’s completed the KonMari Method I’m also sharing my top tips for getting the absolute most out of Marie Kondo’s tidying rules, allowing you to bend them a little if needed to best fit your lifestyle.

The 6 Rules of the KonMari Method

1. Commit yourself to tidying up

You need to be determined to declutter. Make it a clear and conscious decision. Because you’ll be tackling your entire home it’s no good going in half-hearted. You deserve to have a clutter-free home, and you’ll do the work to achieve it.

I was at rock bottom in my life when I found the KonMari Method. I was suffering from postnatal depression and generally felt like I was drowning. Between the demands of new motherhood and an influx of new things into the home, everything felt chaotic and out of control.

Behold one corner of my old living room. Not ideal for a Type-A perfectionist. 🤪

Living room corner with book case, desk, and toys before doing the KonMari Method

I was willing to try almost anything to restore order in my home and re-kindle the spark I’d lost.

My resolve was rock solid.

Living room corner with book case, desk, and toys after doing the KonMari Method

Now I’m sure you’ve previously made promises to yourself that you subsequently broke. I know I have. Or maybe the task ahead feels daunting. Here are some tips to help you keep your word and, ultimately, cross the finish line:

  • Get a buddy. Not only are you more likely to show up when you know someone else is waiting for you, but you can share tips and encouragement along the way.

    Bonus points if you can physically help each other out too by getting involved in each other’s tidying tasks or maybe even alternating trips to the donation centre. A problem shared is a problem halved!

  • Build your commitment. Sometimes our commitment strengthens in small stages by slowly immersing ourselves, the same way we dip our toes in the water to acclimatise to the temperature before diving in.

    Do a mini-KonMari on a small subcategory of items to see how it feels and build your determination to declutter. (Want a list of subcategories? See my free download below.)

  • Bear witness. I once read that a great way to keep your promises is by swearing the same type of oath you’d take if you were in the witness box of a big trial. In other words, take it seriously. If you’re not willing to swear an unbreakable oath, reconsider your level of commitment.

TAKE THE OVERWHELM OUT OF DECLUTTERING

I’ll send you a checklist that will break down each category in your home.

You’ll know exactly what to tackle, and see your progress as you tick things off, on your journey to a clutter free life.

2. Imagine your ideal lifestyle

Envision the life you truly want. This will be your roadmap guiding you forward. 🗺️ It will make it much easier to decide what belongs in your life and what doesn’t.

Liking something is all well and good but if it doesn’t fit the lifestyle you desire, declutter it.

How exactly do you create that roadmap? Use whatever medium works best for you.

✍️ Just want to jot a few notes? Cool.
✂️ Want to break out all the craft supplies and create a giant vision board? Have at it.
💭 Happy to just think it over? You do you!

Marie Kondo quote about decluttering books as part of the KonMari Method: "Imagine what it would be like to have a bookshelf filled only with books that you really love. Isn't that image spellbinding? For someone who loves books, what greater happiness could there be?"

This was a crucial one for me because I’m someone who wants all the things and to chase all the dreams. I like multiple different aesthetics that don’t work well together, and can find myself being pulled from pillar to post when it comes to designing my spaces. 😵‍💫

So it was really helpful for me to narrow my focus.

If you’re feeling a little stuck, here are my top tips for creating your vision:

  • Accept change. You’re not tied to this forever so don’t get bogged down in perfectionism. Nothing is set in stone.

    If you accept that your vision will likely evolve as time goes on you’re free to daydream without the fear of getting anything wrong or feeling like you’re stuck with something that’s not quite working.

    Plant the seeds now and see how they blossom. 🪴

  • Focus on function over aesthetics. Sure, you might want your home to look a certain way, and it’s definitely important to keep that in mind. But also be realistic about the daily demands on your space. You’re unlikely to turn your tiny bathroom into a calm, minimalist oasis if you have to share it with seven other people.

    That’s not to say you can’t incorporate some soothing elements and get it as close to your vision as you can, but you’ll avoid disappointment if you work within the confines of your current reality.

  • Evaluate the space. You may not need to completely start from scratch. Think about how you currently use your space. What’s working and what’s not?

    Don’t try to fit a square peg into a round hole, like declaring the dining table off limits for homework when you know that’s where the kids naturally gravitate. Take the ingredients you’ve already got and try to improve on a trusted recipe.
Reading nook with green chair, side table with books, hanging pictures, and dog.png

3. Finish discarding first

Make sure you’re done decluttering before anything else. It’s tempting to want to run out and buy storage solutions but, speaking from experience, you’ll only end up adding to the clutter.

See the job through to the finish line so you have an accurate idea of what’s left.

Oh, the time and effort I wasted by trying to slot things back in before I was done. I’d arrange everything like Tetris pieces in a tight space… only to free up loads more space a few minutes later. 🤦

Here’s what I learned along the way to make it easier to live by this rule:

  • Have a holding area. You’ll be moving a lot of stuff around and, at this stage, you won’t be sure what’s going to go back. Your life will be easier if you have a set space to store your stuff while you finish going through the entire category.

    This doesn’t have be anything fancy – a box or even a designated corner of your floor will do. Just keep the stuff separated until you can see what’s left and how best it might fit back.

  • Follow through. The truth is that we’ve all decluttered something but then left it sitting in our homes for a few weeks… or more. It’ll seem obvious to you in the moment which is the pile of discards, but after a few days, or after your curious kid rifles through, suddenly you’re not so sure.

    Was this the pile of papers that needed shredding? Was this the t-shirt that no longer fits? Before you know it your discards have launched a sneak attack and found their way back into regular rotation.

    Get the stuff out as soon as possible so you can reap the full rewards of your decluttering efforts.

  • Try a temporary solution. Seeing a pretty, organised picture on Pinterest is all well and good, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to work for your home.

    We each have our own organising style, and different living situations. What works for someone else won’t necessarily work for you. So test it out before committing.

    Use whatever boxes and bits you have on hand to fashion a temporary solution, and then sit with it for a few days or weeks.

    Working well? Great, you can either stick with the DIY approach or go out and buy a sturdier container guilt-free.

    Not working how you’d imagined? Test out a different approach, and thank yourself for not wasting a lot of time and money.
Marie Kondo quote about the KonMari Method: "To truly cherish the things that are important to you, you must first discard those that have outlived their purpose."

4. Tidy by category, not by location

Instead of the “traditional” way of decluttering where you go room by room or space by space, in the KonMari Method you put everything from each category in one central place. This means, for example, that you gather your clothes from all around your home – your closet, drawers, laundry basket, coat rack, etc. – and put them all in one pile.

There are two main benefits to this methodology:

  • You are forced to confront the reality of how much you own. When things are spread throughout your home it’s hard to get a sense of the true scale. Seeing everything in one pile, however, can be a sobering experience. Accepting how much you own can help you declutter more than you might otherwise.

  • It identifies duplicates. Most likely you have multiples of things in your home, from pens to scissors to screwdrivers. Again, when these are distributed throughout your home you may not realise just how many you have. This is exactly how/why I was able to whittle down the number of nail clippers I owned.
Cleaning supplies in drawer

Of the 6 rules of the KonMari Method, this may be the most difficult to follow. I feel we’re naturally wired to want to complete a space, and I certainly struggled with this.

So here are my best tips for staying on task and sticking to categories instead of locations:

  • Take ‘before’ photos. In any decluttering job it can be difficult to feel like you’re making measurable progress. This is especially true if you’re tackling a category that takes up one corner while the rest of the room is still cluttered. It may not feel like you’ve made a difference at all, but look back at your ‘before’ photos to keep you motivated and to remind you that the process is working.

  • Have an exit strategy. As I mentioned earlier, you want to get the stuff out of your home as quickly as possible. There’s little point decluttering a category but still having piles of donations lying around. The progress you’ve made will be less visible to you. So go ahead and actually clear away the clutter instead of simply separating it.

  • Interact and engage. When you’ve finished a category, actually take time to celebrate it. Go and take a sneak peek at your sock drawer, admire the books on your shelves, and peep at your neat paper pile. Notice how much easier your life is now that these things are streamlined. Wear your favourite outfit, or curl up with a good book.

    The things that remain are the items you cherish most, so savour them.
The Comfort Book by Matt Haig on leather footstool

5. Follow the right order

The KonMari Method has a very specific order of categories you should follow: clothes, books, papers, miscellaneous, and sentimental. Marie Kondo specifically chose these as they range from the easiest, in her opinion, to the hardest to declutter.

Because clothing is often replaceable and is more of a functional item it can be easier to let a lot of it go.

By flexing your decluttering muscles on the easier categories first you prepare yourself to tackle the harder categories that follow.

Putting clothes on bed • Putting away laundry

I’ve already written a detailed outline of the KonMari categories with all my best tips for each, so here I’ll simply offer some general suggestions:

  • Set aside the sentimental. As you progress through the categories you’re going to come across items that are special and meaningful to you. It’s tempting to lump them in with whatever category you’re currently on. For example, you may come across old diaries while going through your books, or old letters and photos while tackling the paper category.

    Save those for the sentimental category to avoid slowing your progress.

  • Sub-categorise. While the categories are quite broad (especially the miscellaneous category which includes the bulk of your possessions) it’s completely fine to break them down.

    I know the thought of putting everything in a pile can feel overwhelming so make it easier on yourself. Instead of tackling all your clothing at once, go through just your t-shirts.

    Below I’ll link a checklist that will break your mammoth categories down into manageable chunks.

  • The power of the pause. When you get into a good decluttering groove it’s easy to plough on. Or sometimes you just want to get the process over and done with as quickly as possible. But it’s important to pause after each session to appreciate the work you’ve put in.

    Taking a moment to reflect is especially important before starting to organise what’s left. Don’t rush into it.

    Allow yourself to sit with things for a little bit instead of rushing and racing. Immerse yourself in the full benefits and make the best decisions you can.

TAKE THE OVERWHELM OUT OF DECLUTTERING

I’ll send you a checklist that will break down each category in your home.

You’ll know exactly what to tackle, and see your progress as you tick things off, on your journey to a clutter free life.

6. Ask yourself if it sparks joy

Frankly, there are few better decluttering questions, if any. This is the defining feature of the KonMari Method and will guide you to making clearer decisions. You can tell if something ‘sparks joy’ if you get a little jolt or buzz when you hold it. ✨

But here’s the truth: Not everything in your home will feel joyful. Your vacuum cleaner, your laundry basket, your cleaning cloths… These don’t exactly top the list when we think of things that make us happy.

So you have to understand that joy can be found in utility too.

Sure, that box of extra lightbulbs isn’t exactly lighting you up (pun totally intended), but you’d still rather have it on hand than not.

I’ve made a whole video on this very topic, helping you hone in on what exactly joy means to you, and what to do if something doesn’t necessarily spark joy but you still need it. Watch it right here:

And here are some additional tips to help you trust your gut:

  • Keep it personal. It’s tempting to keep something that belonged to someone else, whether you inherited it or received it as a gift. Understand, though, that just because something may have sparked joy for someone else doesn’t necessarily mean it will for you too. And that’s OK.

    Be honest with yourself about what you truly love, independent from what anyone else might think.

  • Give it time. Your joy-o-meter can sometimes take a little calibrating, and it will become more sensitive each time you use it. While it may feel odd in the beginning you’ll quickly tune into your intuition. Before you know it you’ll be making decisions with ease.

  • Set a benchmark. Marie Kondo often describes ‘sparks joy’ as a little thrill. But when you first start the process it’s difficult to know what exactly that feels like. The best way to find out is to hold something you know for a fact is deeply special and meaningful to you. Notice how you feel.

    Maybe you hug it close to your heart. Maybe you breathe a sigh of comfort and relief. Maybe your insides do a little happy dance of delight. It won’t always feel exactly like that for every single thing (note aforementioned utility-based items) but you’ll be able to use it as a good benchmark.
The cover of "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing" book by Marie Kondo, on bookshelf. It outlines the KonMari Method of decluttering.

The 6 rules of the KonMari Method will serve as a solid guide on your decluttering journey. Personally I’ve learned to bend and even break a few over the years (these days I often declutter by location, for example) but I started by strictly following them.

That way I could truly see and experience which were the best ones for my set of circumstances.

Now that you understand the basics, it’s time to dive into the 5 KonMari categories.

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Don't declutter a single thing before you understand the 6 rules of the KonMari Method

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2 Responses

  1. As well as sparking joy, notice if something sparks ick. If you look at something and it just makes you feel bad, or you wish it was different or your heart sinks a bit, it’s fine to let it go. You’ll feel better without it.

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