Here in the states, minimalism isn’t exactly a point of pride (we like stuff, and lots of it), so it’s especially remarkable that Japanese tidying expert Marie Kondo’s brutally strict approach to de-cluttering took off here. The no-excuses elimination method, has spawned legions of Konverts who devote vast amounts of time to kondo-ing their lives top to bottom. The best-selling book that started it all is easy to digest (and infectious…you will literally start itching to toss stuff), though its central thesis is kind of hard to stomach at first: Unless you truly, deeply love an item, it has no business in your home. This means the first purging session can be rough, but the euphoria that comes with unloading a single bag of unnecessary clutter makes going H.A.M. on the rest of your space easy. We’ve laid out the basics below—along with an illustrated guide to her folding technique, which we found impossible to figure out based on the text alone. (Meanwhile, we gave it to some friends to spur donations for our annual goop closet sale.)
- When deciding what to discard, remember that the endgame isn’t to throw out or donate as much as possible, but to make sure that the things you hold onto make you happy. This is where picking up each item and asking, “does this spark joy?” comes in. It may sound like a hazy benchmark but with practice, it becomes an invaluable tool. It’s particularly effective for organizing closets as we often develop superficial attachments to clothing (I paid a lot for this, I wore it when I met my husband, maybe if I lose 10 pounds), not really considering if the shirt, dress, or pair of shoes serves a purpose.
- Sort and purge by category rather than by room. While your instinct may be to start in say, the kitchen, and then move onto the living room and so on, it’s best to pick a category (clothing, books, documents, etc…) and go from there. The reasoning is that similar items are likely scattered throughout the house, not confined to one room.
- After discarding, designating a specific home for every single item you keep is critical in avoiding a clutter relapse. According to Kondo, fancy stackable storage solutions encourage hoarding, so simple and easy-to-use options are best. Ideally, it should be just as effortless to put something away as it is to locate it later.
The KonMari Folding Method
Arguably the most revolutionary Kondo tidying tool is her folding technique. The instructions are complex, though, which is why we illustrated it below. In short: Rather than haphazardly laying things flat in a drawer, they should stand upright; the more folds there are, the less wrinkled the item will be once ready for wear. While the space-saving benefits are pretty far-reaching, Kondo’s other objective is to grant clothes—everything from coats to sweaters to socks—the respect they deserve by touching, appreciating, and properly storing each item.
- Lay socks flat as a pair, one sock on top of the other.
- Fold the toe inward about an inch from the top.
- Fold in to the center.
- Fold in half so it stands upright.
(the same process can be applied to bikini bottoms, briefs, thongs, and boyshorts)
- Lay underwear flat in front of you
- Fold in half lengthwise, crotch to waistband.
- Fold in the sides.
- Fold over crotch again so it stands upright.
- Lay tee down flat in front of you.
- Fold in the right side with the sleeve flat.
- Fold back the sleeve half way.
- Fold over the left side and repeat the sleeve fold so you’re left with a rectangle.
- Fold in the neckline an inch or so away from the hem.
- Fold halfway.
- Fold in half again so it stands upright.
(this is where sh*t gets complicated)
- Lay sweater flat in front of you with the sleeves spread out.
- Fold in the right side with the sleeve straight out.
- Fold the sleeve over and down so it creates a triangle.
- Repeat on the left side so you are left with a rectangle.
- Start from the top and fold inward until it stands upright.
- Lay jeans flat in front of you.
- Fold left leg over the right.
- Fold in the crotch.
- Fold over the bottom toward the waist leaving an inch of space.
- Fold inward until jeans stand upright.