The KonMari checklist – 5 golden rules of tidying (some of them will surprise you)

Want Marie Kondo-style order in your home? Follow this 5 step KonMari checklist and expect the unexpected

Marie Kondo tidying
(Image credit: Sharps)

For all of us who crave a home that’s free of clutter and well organized, and in which we surround ourselves with the things that give us pleasure (that’s everyone, right?), Marie Kondo is an inspiration. And ticking off everything on the KonMari checklist is not just a recipe for calmer living for homeowners, but renters can achieve equal benefits in their pads too...

From Marie’s very first appearance on our screens, her decluttering and tidying have motivated us here at Real Homes, along with legions of viewers, to tackle our accumulated stuff, and keep only the items that, in Marie’s words, ‘spark joy’. 

Creating a calm and ordered home is an ongoing project, of course, given how life is, and we like to keep checking in with Marie’s Insta feeds to make sure we’re following the golden rules of the KonMari method of tidying and organizing. Want to make sure you are, too? We’ve put together a reminder of how to tidy like Marie Kondo below, including some tips you may find rather surprising. And if you’re looking for more, head over to our storage hub. 

1. Focus on your space solely (to start with)

If yours is a family home, it’s the shared spaces you’re probably tempted to tackle first. After all, they’re likely to contain everyone’s clutter. Remarkably, Marie’s rule is not to start here, as shown above. Working in the right order means tackling your own things first. So start with your own closet before the lounge.

2. Step away from sentiment (for now)

While we’re talking order, don’t start your tidying with items you feel sentimental about, Marie says. First-time Marie Kondo-inspired organizers generally don’t expect this guideline. Let’s face it, the things we feel this way about can really accumulate, and you’d think you had to get to grips with them early. 

The reason you shouldn’t begin here is that you need to perfect your skills at distinguishing the items that spark joy from those that don’t. In other words, step away for now.

3. Work by category, not by room

Another of Marie’s golden rules: don’t work room by room. This one still catches us out. The reason for it is that you could end up merely moving things from one space to another, which you’ll agree is a big old waste of time, leaving you with the same amount of stuff.

Marie’s alternative is to work by category so, in her example, you put all your items of clothing in one place first. This way, you can see what you’re dealing with. The other categories – which come after clothing and closet organization in tidying order – are books, papers, and miscellany (komono).

Take a look at Marie Kondo's tips for organizing a closet here too, when you're ready.

4. Don't confuse folding methods

While we’re talking clothes, there are different ways to fold like Marie Kondo and she also has two different approaches for storing trousers, so don’t get caught out. Those made of denim and cotton should be folded, while the flowing and the formal should be hung up.

5. Change your state of mind

Turn the decluttering process on its head. Marie Kondo's tidying up advice is that instead of thinking you’re choosing what to discard (the standard way to begin tidying and organizing), you’re selecting what to keep. We love this rule for the way it frees us up to donate and recycle.

Remember, though, that the things you haven’t chosen to keep, do need to go first. As Marie Kondo says, you won’t know how much you have to store until you’ve done that.

Sarah Warwick
Freelance Editor

Sarah is a freelance journalist and editor writing for websites, national newspapers, and magazines. She’s spent most of her journalistic career specialising in homes – long enough to see fridges become smart, decorating fashions embrace both minimalism and maximalism, and interiors that blur the indoor/outdoor link become a must-have. She loves testing the latest home appliances, revealing the trends in furnishings and fittings for every room, and investigating the benefits, costs and practicalities of home improvement. It's no big surprise that she likes to put what she writes about into practice, and is a serial house revamper. For, Sarah reviews coffee machines and vacuum cleaners, taking them through their paces at home to give us an honest, real life review and comparison of every model.