11 Marie Kondo Decluttering Questions, Answered By A KonMari Expert

mbg Sustainability Editor By Emma Loewe
mbg Sustainability Editor

Emma is the Sustainability Editor at mindbodygreen and the author of "The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide To Ancient Self Care."

Image by Katarzyna Bialasiewicz / iStock

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This month, Marie Kondo's Netflix show sent the country on a furious, weeks-long tidying kick, leaving the secondhand industry with stacks of new merch and the rest of us with piles of residual questions.

If you watched the show but haven't quite gotten around to reading Kondo's books, which provide a more comprehensive look at her method, chances are you have some too. An informal poll around the mindbodygreen office showed that we need follow-ups to just about every aspect of the Kondo method—from the granular (How do I fold my hoodies!?) to the big-picture (What does it really mean to spark joy?).

Well, we couldn't reach Kondo on the phone to answer them (she's busy these days!), but we found the next best thing: a certified KonMari consultant.

Lisa Tselebidis is one of over 200 organizers who are qualified to practice Kondo's method with their clients, having graduated from the KonMari organizing school. The training program is a meticulously organized compendium of boxes, books, and lesson plans aimed to make students as adept at Kondo's method as Kondo herself. In fact, Tselebidis says that KonMari consultants even worked behind the scenes of the Netflix show to help people out with their homework!

Here's what the Kondo aficionado had to say to all of our burning questions regarding the great joy-sparking renegade of 2019:

I don't know what "sparks joy" for me. I hold a T-shirt for like hours and ask myself over and over whether it sparks joy and just end up confused and sad. What can I do?

I have a set of questions I ask people to get to the root of it. For example, with clothing, Do you like to wear it? Does it feel comfortable? Does it make you feel good? If they still don't have a connection, I ask them to pick out their absolute favorite five items. Those are a measurement they can compare everything else to.

How should I store my purses and suitcases?

With suitcases, I recommend storing them inside each other because it saves a lot of space and usually people have smaller suitcases and larger ones. With bags, you can do the same thing. In her book, Marie Kondo suggests putting bags inside bags and letting the handle hang outside.

Another method I personally prefer is to line your bags up in a row and sort them by size and maybe even color. This way, you can see all the bags and really take advantage of them. If you can see all the items you have, you're more likely to use them.

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Once I declutter, how can I keep myself from filling my house up with stuff I don't need again?

First of all, the KonMari method is something that you have to want to do. People are most successful if they thoroughly go through the entire process, which means touching each and every item in your home. Just by doing that, your mindset will change. You'll appreciate your items more and think about what you want to surround yourself with.

In this process, you'll also become more aware of what new items you want to allow into your home. You won't want to mindlessly shop anymore.

Don’t get overwhelmed by what lies ahead; take it day by day.

And once you're all finished, everything has a home. You know exactly where things go, so it's easier to keep up the organization.

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It takes more time to fold things using the Kondo method. How can I keep up with it over time?

Most people enjoy the folding, especially once they see the beautiful result. That's usually reward enough. I always encourage people to at least try it out; Fold that way for two to three weeks and see what kind of impact it makes for you. But if after that you don't want to keep it up, that's OK! So folding doesn't spark joy for you—that's fine. It's not something you have to do to complete the method.

Should I get rid of my duplicates of utilitarian items (screwdrivers, tape, etc.)?

Yes! You can donate them. Don't keep doubles.

What's the point of organizing clothes from shortest to longest or lightest to darkest?

If you look for something and you know that your things are organized by color or by size or by a mixture of both, all your items will have a home. It's just a system. You'll know exactly where things should go, so it's easier to keep up the organization. It's also easier for you to retrieve the items because you'll know exactly where they are. And it looks nice!

You want to make everything as visible as possible—don’t stack anything so you can’t see it. 

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I have young, messy kids. How can I keep my home clean??

It can be difficult, but finish your own KonMari adventure first before you tackle your kids' stuff. Kids learn by watching their parents. When you tidy around them, it might make them curious to do the same.

I have deep dresser drawers—should this influence my folding technique?

In that case, you can store things in boxes and stack them. Or you could store things you don't need to have access to on a daily basis in the deeper parts of the drawer. But usually I recommend keeping things compartmentalized with boxes. If you have enough space, just leave it a little empty.

How can I Kondo my superfood pantry?

Take everything out and organize your foods into categories. Put your liquids together, your cans together, your breakfast items, etc. In those categories, do the joy check. See what has expired and what has to go.

Then, put things back in a way that the categories will stay together. Store like with like. You might want to use some containers or boxes so things stay together in those categories. You want to make everything as visible as possible—don't stack anything so you can't see it.

You should remove visual clutter as much as possible too. Maybe invest in quality glass containers for your grains or different flours. It just makes for a nicer visual picture. I even remove packaging sometimes. It's not a requirement, just an upgrade.

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What's the best way to fold a hoodie?

First, lay it on a flat surface and smooth out the wrinkles. Then you fold in the left side onto the right side. Fold the left sleeve back and down. Do the same thing on the right side: Fold it over, then fold the sleeve back and down. (Here's a visual too.) Then, you fold in the hood. Then you'll have a rectangle with the hood folded in. Depending on the length of the garment, you fold it in half, then again in half, or in thirds, so it stands upright.

I'm a little overwhelmed by the method and don't think I have time to do the whole thing. Is there a most important part I should start with?

Most people don't have the time to do the whole thing in one day! It's just not realistic. Do it step by step.

Start out by developing your vision. Before you start visually tidying, get clear on why you want to tidy and what you're trying to achieve. When things get difficult, you can refer back to your vision and make decisions from there. From there, follow the correct category order—starting with clothing. Give yourself three to five hours. Don't just do five minutes here and there. With clothing, you might want to start with some subcategories instead of just piling all your clothes up on your bed or something. Then you might not be able to use it! Don't get overwhelmed by what lies ahead; take it day by day.

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