On April 28, 2017, Marie Kondo took the stage at the Harris Theater in Chicago to share her decluttering tips. Hundreds of people waited outside the orchestra level doors to get front row seats in this 1,500 seat venue. We needed to see the woman who had changed our lives and who would change our lives again.
For those who don’t know Marie Kondo, she’s a Japanese organizational expert and author of the international best-selling books: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and Spark Joy. She’ll be releasing a graphic novel this June, “The Life-Changing Manga of Tidying Up”. Brilliant. I’m putting it on my kids’ summer reading list. Get them while they’re young. I love it already, Ms. Kondo.
When Marie Kondo walks on stage dressed all in white, she is impressive. The illustration from Marie Kondo’s graphic novel describes her perfectly. You think “this tiny little thing? She looks more like a fairy!” This tiny organizational fairy is my hero.
Because of Marie Kondo’s soft-spoken and deliberate speech, the audience’s silence is palpable. We don’t want to miss a single word. Kondo begins her presentation. She cocks her head and asks, oh-so-innocently, “Is your home tidy?” The audience erupts into laughter. Nervous laughter, because we all know the answer. Rest assured. Marie Kondo can save us from ourselves.
The audience starts taking notes furiously.
Marie Kondo’s Four Rules for Tidying Up
Rule 1. Imagine Your Ideal Life
Kondo asks the audience to think about why we want to tidy. She wants us to consider our ideal lifestyle and she urges us to be specific. Picture yourself living your ideal life, whether it’s sitting at home in the morning with a cup of coffee reading the paper or finding a place to do yoga peacefully. Marie Kondo says to think of things you want to do and write them down. According to Kondo, “setting your final goal will help you stay motivated while you tidy.”
Rule 2. Tidy In One Go
Marie Kondo’s second rule is to tidy in one go. You don’t want to do it piecemeal. The reasoning, Kondo explains, is to “shock your mindset and change it completely.” By seeing a dramatic change, you will embrace the concept of tidying up and you won’t go back to your old ways. Kondo recommends setting a deadline. Tidying is not something that you do every day. Rather, Kondo says, “Tidying is a special event.”
Rule 3. Tidy By Category, Not Location
As Kondo’s fans know well, one of her life-changing tips is to declutter by category instead of location. That means that you shouldn’t do your closet, then the living room, then the bathroom. Instead, pick a category like clothing and then sub-categories such as dresses, long-sleeve shirts, short-sleeve shirts, and so on. Marie Kondo says to take your clothes from your dresser, your bedroom closet, your hall closet and “maybe even your car.” Put it all in a pile. Kondo explains, “By seeing and realizing how much you own, you can choose what to keep with a calm mind.”
Rule 4. Choose What Sparks Joy
Marie Kondo’s final and most important rule is to only choose items that spark joy. If the item sparks joy, then you keep it. If it doesn’t, then get rid of it. Kondo says, “When you are tidying, focus on things you want to keep, not things you want to discard.” Kondo’s books go into detail about how to deal with the guilt you may feel about getting rid of gifts or items that you’ve had for years. In her talk at the Chicago Humanities Festival, she emphasizes the importance of touching each item one by one. This will help you choose what sparks joy.
Marie Kondo is the embodiment of joy. It radiates from her onstage. She says, “I must choose only what makes me happy.” She’s right.
Q & A from the Audience
After an evening filled with laughter and inspiration, Marie Kondo opens the floor to questions. A Japanese translator joins her onstage. Audience members ask questions and Marie Kondo responds in rapid-fire and expressive Japanese, which the translator then relays to the audience. Marie Kondo is a pleasure to watch even though I can’t understand a word she is saying. Her tips, as always, are funny, kind, and encouraging.
The Q & A below are not written verbatim. This can give you a general ideal of some of the questions asked and Marie Kondo’s answers.
Q: I’ve finished tidying up my things. The problem is that my partner is not as enamored with your process as I am. His things don’t spark joy in me. What do I do?
A: Are you sure you’ve finished tidying up your things? (Audience laughs)
Marie Kondo recommends keeping separate spaces, one for her and one for him. Kondo warns that once the space is divided, she can no longer complain about his items in his space.
Q: What if I have a lot of things that spark joy? Where can I put all of these items that spark joy?
A: Go through the process again.
Marie Kondo encourages trying the process once more and to physically touch each item. By doing this, the person tidying up should be able to find some more things that don’t spark joy. If everything that remains sparks joy, then be happy with the fact that the house is filled with items that bring joy.
Q: What’s the recidivism rate?
A: Zero percent.
Marie Kondo explains that this rate is for those who have gone through her consulting business. She doesn’t mean the rest of us who read her book and tried it at home. I’m guessing the recidivism rate is a bit higher for us.
Q: What should I do with large furniture items?
A: Save large furniture items for last.
Marie Kondo says to begin with all of the small items. Once you’ve gone through the process of evaluating what sparks joy, you will have a better understanding of yourself and what makes you happy. Do not get rid of large furniture items until you’ve gone through this process. Besides, you may need some of these furniture pieces to use for the empty space you’ve created after tidying up.
Q: (From a girl in the audience) What made you write the first book and why did you write a second book? What is it that you forgot to put in the first book?
Marie Kondo’s first book was a product of her ten years as an organizational expert. Clients on her waiting list wanted her tips right away and asked that she write a book. So, Marie Kondo wrote The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up to help her clients. After her book came out, many readers wrote to Kondo wanting further explanations about the process. Kondo’s book, Spark Joy, is a response to these readers.
A: You should find all your questions answered in both my books.