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Marie Kondo's Best Decluttering Advice For Every Room Of The House

Marie Kondo Sparknotes collage
Image by mbg Creative x Gary Gershoff / Getty
January 7, 2019

Beyond being entertaining, Marie Kondo's new Netflix series is informative—each episode its own mini lesson in the decluttering queen's philosophy. While the show focuses on people who have become overwhelmed by their stuff, you don't need to consider yourself "messy" to subscribe to its techniques.

We Spark-Noted the whole thing for you, and here are a few nuggets of wisdom across Kondo's four key categories—clothes, books, documents, and sentimental items—to start implementing in every room of your home.

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The kitchen

When Kondo pays a visit to newlyweds Angela and Alishia, they're overwhelmed by the amount of stuff that they've brought into their new home. Kondo has some great advice for their kitchen in particular: Categorize, categorize, categorize. Whether it's the food in your pantry or the gadgets in your drawers, everything in the kitchen should be situated next to items that are similar in purpose and size. For the pantry, Kondo starts by placing food in the following specific buckets:

  • Drinks such as coffee and tea
  • Cereals
  • Pasta, flour, and other carbohydrates
  • Canned food
  • Snacks (which can be displayed in small boxes so they are easier to spot)
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Taking a few minutes to revisit these sections every few weeks can also remind you what ingredients are there in the first place, so you don't accidentally keep buying the same thing at the store.

The kids' room

When Katrina Mersier, a mother who recently moved from her home in Michigan to a smaller space in Los Angeles, thinks about clearing space, she gets overwhelmed. Like many moms, she feels like she has to do everything around the house and doesn't know how to delegate decluttering duties to her husband and two kids. "You're living together, so it's important for everyone to maintain their space," Kondo says, adding that in her home, everyone has one room that they alone are responsible for. Splitting cleaning and chores by room is an easy way to share ownership and keep everyone accountable, whether you have kids or not.

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The bedroom and closet

Wendy and Ron Akiyama are empty nesters who have a home nearly completely overtaken by clothes. Wendy admits that she's guilty of using retail therapy as a coping mechanism, and she doesn't know how to start sorting through her closet(s).

Kondo's advice for clothing lovers? Begin by putting everything into a pile so that you can physically see the extent of your wardrobe. "Only by creating one big pile are you able to actually see how much clothing you have. Then, you will finally be able to decide which items are truly necessary for you." Though Wendy has a massive pile that nearly reaches the ceiling, she's able to whittle it down by thinking about what pieces she actually wants to bring into her future.

Once you pare down your clothes and accessories, it's time for folding. Kondo is known to be a stickler for the right fold, and every episode of her show features at least one new folding tip. We love her ideas for storing bags (place similarly sized bags inside each other and make sure handles are showing so you can tell which one is which), fitted sheets (fold them into thirds then fold in half. If you’re putting them in the linen closet, fold in half again. If you're placing them in a deep drawer, fold in thirds and store upright as a rectangle), and scarves.

The living room

One thing that most of the people on the show struggle with is letting go of books. It makes sense: Parting with one you like can feel like an insult to the lessons it brought you, while getting rid of one you still haven't read seems like a kind of defeat. To help Frank and Matt, a couple who has amassed a huge stack of books since their college days, through the process, Kondo recommends thinking of your absolute favorite book first and going from there. Hold it in your hand, really feel the reaction it elicits, and then use that as a benchmark for the rest of the stack.

"The process is the same as with clothes. Take every single book in your hands and see if it sparks joy for you. You also want to ask this question: By having these books, will it be beneficial for your life going forward?" she tells them. “Books are the reflection of our thoughts and values. So by tidying books, it will show you what kind of information is important to you in this moment."

Don't forget to "wake up" your books by tapping their covers before you get started, and thank every book before you part ways.

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The sentimental storage spaces

Kondo says that sentimental items should be the last to tackle since they're often the hardest to deal with. But after making your way through clothes, appliances, and miscellaneous items, you should be better equipped to recognize what really brings you joy.

For Margie Hodges, an empty nester who is mourning the loss of her husband, this process is particularly difficult. But Kondo's idea to create a treasure box filled with memories seems to help. "Store sentimental items in a way that sparks joy," she says, recommending filling a pretty box with your absolute favorite trinkets and photographs organized by year and occasion.

And with that, your space should be a little bit cleaner and a lot more joyful.

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Emma Loewe
Emma Loewe
mbg Sustainability + Health Director

Emma Loewe is the Sustainability and Health Director at mindbodygreen and the author of Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us. She is also the co-author of The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide To Ancient Self Care, which she wrote alongside Lindsay Kellner.

Emma received her B.A. in Environmental Science & Policy with a specialty in environmental communications from Duke University. In addition to penning over 1,000 mbg articles on topics from the water crisis in California to the rise of urban beekeeping, her work has appeared on Grist, Bloomberg News, Bustle, and Forbes. She's spoken about the intersection of self-care and sustainability on podcasts and live events alongside environmental thought leaders like Marci Zaroff, Gay Browne, and Summer Rayne Oakes.