Marie Kondo tidying up: 11 house tidying tips

Fascinated by Marie Kondo tidying up? Her KonMari method has been inspiring people worldwide to reorganise their rooms and 'live a life that sparks joy'. We bring you her basic rules and systems so you know how to declutter, just like Marie Kondo

Marie Kondo tidying up: drawers neatly divided
How did Marie Kondo get into tidying up?

Aged five, she started reading all her mum's home and lifestyle magazines (we love her already). At 15, she really got into tidying, reading every book she could find on the subject. She then began tidying every room in her home (read that and weep, parents of teenagers), then started tidying her friends' homes, then her classroom. At 19, she because a professional organising consultant, giving lessons in clients' homes, but soon had a six month waiting list, at which point she decided to start writing, which lead to YouTube tutorials and, of course, her Netflix series, Tidying Up With Marie Kondo. Now, she's being featured on Things surely can't get any better.

Marie Kondo's KonMari method of tidying up fist captured our attention several years ago, when the tidying guru ascended to prominence with her amazing clothes folding technique. It turns out that Marie Kondo has tidying tips for just about everything, from your closet to your bathroom. 

Le's be honest, we're all in need of some peaceful, absorbing activity to do at home now that so many of us are at home, like, all the time – so, there's never been a better time to get into the KonMari tidying method.

You can find more cleaning tips, hacks and advice on our dedicated hub page.

Marie Kondo's KonMari method for decluttering and tidying up

We've approached Marie's KonMari method in a way that makes sense to us – and therefore hopefully to you. Within each 'rule', there are lots of extra tips and tricks to be had. We'll be bringing you more of these over the next weeks, but you can check them out on Marie's YouTube channel and in her books, too (see below).

1. Commit yourself to tidying up

What to do

Set aside enough time to do the decluttering and Marie Kondo-style tidying up you have in mind. Or, commit enough time to get through a certain amount of it today/this weekend, and the rest of it tomorrow/next weekend/next holiday.

Why do this?

Unless you love tidying up (and we'd say, you don't hate it if you've got this far into this article), you won't get the job done if you go at it willy nilly. In other words, if you set aside the time, like you would for anything – homework, piano practice, date night – it happens; if you don't, it doesn't.

2. Get everything out and put it in a pile

What are the basic rules of the KonMari method?

1. Commit to tidying up (in other words, set aside some time to do that and nothing else).
2. Imagine your ideal lifestyle – or, picture your home not as it is in the 'before' but as an 'after'.
3. Don't start tidying before you've finished discarding.
4. Tidy by category not location – more on this later.
5. Follow the right order – ditto.
6. Ask yourself, does this item 'spark joy'?
7. Thank your home – it gives you shelter, after all.

What to do

Start by emptying your cupboards/wardrobes/drawers by category. 

So, if you're tidying up and decluttering your kitchen, you might get all the food out at once and put it back before you start on all the china and cookware.

If you're working on your bedroom, you might get all your clothes and shoes out of your wardrobes and totally reorganise, declutter and put back before you start on your makeup drawer, for example. 

Fifteen out of date travel guides on your living room bookshelves? The charity shops will love 'em.

Kids' rooms? Start perhaps with all the toys before you begin on clothes... and so on.

Why do this?

Emptying all the items by category at once allows you to see just how much stuff you've got in that category. And, if you're an owner of 25 identical belts, you can thin them down and only keep the best ones. Perhaps you've ended up with 10 extra tins of supermarket brand baked beans (shudder) that will never get eaten? Send them to the food bank. 

Sorting by category will allow you to identify gaps, too. No brown belts? Sell 10 of the black belts online and buy yourself a nice brown one with the proceeds. You get the drift.

3. Recognise that it'll get worse before it gets better

What to do

Take a deep breath. It'll stop you feeling somewhat panicky about the piles of clutter? Just stick to working by category.

Why do this?

Getting distracted from the category you're working on is where disaster lies. Stick to your plan, set aside enough time to complete that category before doing much else and recognise that you will get there (working on a day when the weather is crappy, you've got nothing much else on, and fuelling yourself with regular cuppas and something soothing on the radio will all help, if you want our advice).

4. Only keep items that 'spark joy'

What to do

You've probably heard this term being bandied about and, if you're a Brit (we can't vouch for other nationalities, let us know), you might well have rolled your eyes. BUT, translated for cynical British humour it means: do you like it, will you wear/eat/display it, and if not bin it.

Why do this?

It makes sorting the clutter sooo much quicker if you can be really honest and ruthless. You can always have a 'not sure' pile that you can go through again at the end if you're wavering (this is our rule, not Marie's but we think she'd be sympathetic). 

5. Organise categories by size

What to do 

Traditionally, we tend to put like with like when we're tidying up – all the tea towels in one drawer, all the knives and forks in another. Makes sense. But what about when you get into a less defined area. 

Let's talk toys, for example (but it could be makeup, hair accessories, batteries, dry foods...). It would mean finding a place for all those board game boxes; another for all the Lego; another for all those tiny little Sylvanians; another for those random, tiny bits and pieces that are unidentified but probably belong somewhere that every child's room holds.

Why do this?

Marie Kondo says that items with similar uses and of similar sizes should go together and that by doing so nothing, even the tiniest of your possessions, ever gets lost and always has a place. Ideally, she says to keep the smallest of items in drawers. Failing that, in sub-divided boxes, like those shown below. Failing that, good looking lidded boxes like those below will do the trick and can be neatly stacked.

6. Store items depending on frequency of use

What to do

Marie Kondo says that it's wise to have items that you use frequently within easy reach; anything you use infrequently can be stored in difficult-to-reach areas.

Why do this?

Common sense, innit.

7. Give everything a home

What to do

The KonMari method advocates finding a designated space for everything in its category. So, all the live batteries would be kept in a home office drawer, for example, all the dead batteries would go in a pot with a lid on in the same drawer, ready to be disposed of correctly. All the winter gloves would go in their own box in your hall cupboard; all the sun hats in another...

Why do this?

Marie says that storing everything by category will mean that: nothing gets left out, making the house untidy; and you know where to find everything because it's got its own designated space.

8. Use clear boxes to store your stuff

What to do

Think about your loft space/garage/basement/toy cupboards/and so on... are they packed with cardboard boxes of stuff that may (or likely not) be labelled, that can't be neatly piled one on the other, and that are opaque so that you're never quite sure where anything is and that finding one item might mean going through every single box? Marie Kondo's decluttering and tidying up method advises using clear boxes.

Why do this?

You can quickly see what's in the boxes without even moving them or taking the lids off and, bought as a set, they'll pile neatly, and safely. Lidded plastic boxes will help keep your items dry, too. We have got literally tons of storage ideas for your home, but check out some of our favourite storage buys below.

9. Fold your clothes the KonMari way

More tidying up with Marie Kondo

What to do

If you're decluttering your wardrobe, it's worth learning how to fold your clothes like Marie Kondo (see our guide for an easy to follow step by step). 

You can also take a look at Marie Kondo's guide to organizing your closet!

Why do this?

It lets you see everything in your drawer or in storage boxes at a glance, from socks to T-shirts, it's a space-saving drawer-tidying method, and it makes clothes easy to grab without upsetting the entire drawer. Try it, you'll love it. And don't miss more of our tips about how to declutter your wardrobe (it's a must-read if you're really struggling with throwing out that sweater).

10. Declutter your home's air (really)

Marie Kondo says that every morning she likes to open the windows to let the old air out and new, fresher air in. It gives her home what she calls a 'purified environment' and is all about improving our overall well-being. Opening windows to declutter it of old air: how hard can that be?

11. Declutter your book shelves (controversial!)

This tidying tip got Kondo in hot water last year when she suggested people declutter their book shelves, only keeping the books they're actually planning on re-reading. Kondo herself has only a few books at home, and, unsurprisingly, her comments stirred up a storm of disapproval from bibilophiles who told the tidying guru to 'keep your hands off my library' on social media.

What do we think about this? Reader, we gave this tidying tip a go, and it actually sort of works. Even if you really love books, have a huge library, and can't bear the thought to getting rid of anything, we bet you have some duds gathering dust that could easily go to a charity shop. And then you may actually be tempted to reread your classics – because you'll be able to see them on your shelves again!

More on decluttering and tidying up:

Lucy Searle

Lucy is Global Editor-in-Chief of Homes & Gardens having worked on numerous interiors and property titles. She was founding Editor of Channel 4’s 4Homes magazine, was Associate Editor at Ideal Home, before becoming Editor-in-Chief of in 2018 then moving to Homes & Gardens in 2021. She has also written for Huffington Post, AOL, UKTV, MSN, House Beautiful, Good Homes, and many women’s titles. Find her writing about everything from buying and selling property, self build, DIY, design and consumer issues to gardening.