Marie Kondo shot to fame worldwide with her 2011 book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, but since Netflix show Tidying Up was released earlier this month, Brits have gone into a decluttering frenzy.
Companies such as LakeLand and John Lewis have seen up to a 600 per cent increase in sales of storage products as people revamp their homes, and charity shops put a rise in donations down to the Marie Kondo effect.
But the 34-year-old Japanese organising consultant’s methods are ruthless, advising devotees to get rid of every last belonging that doesn’t ‘spark joy’ and recommending a rigid regime of folding using her KonMari method.
There’s already been something of an online backlash with reading fans horrified by the idea their beloved books being branded ‘clutter’, and others claiming her KonMari folding method leaves your clothes creased.
So, is her method really the answer to contentment through decluttering, or will it leave you feeling more stressed than when you began?
Sue Spencer, 46, from Winchester, is one of 18 Certified KonMari™ Consultants in the UK (230 worldwide), and she runs her own business called A Life More Organised (alifemoreorganised.co.uk).
Here Femail’s Sarah Finley reveals how Sue helped her let go, physically and emotionally, of some old clothes and shoes in her wardrobe – but is the process really the way to find inner peace?
Sarah Finley, who lives with her flatmate in South London, has a busy life and doesn’t get time to declutter her wardrobe very often, so she put the Marie Kondo method to the test to see if it could transform her life
Before: Sarah’s wardrobe was cluttered with clothes she wasn’t wearing and shoes which she’s had for nearly 15 years
After: Her wardrobe after Sue Spencer, from a Life More Organised, had helpoed her identify the clothes which ‘sparked joy’
The method: Does it spark joy?
Marie Kondo’s concept is all based around whether your clothes or belongings ‘spark joy’, i.e. if you actually like them anymore.
Before decluttering Sue told me you should ask yourself: ‘Is it something you like? Does it fit? When was the last time you wore it and does it fit into the lifestyle that you are leading now? And of course ‘does it spark joy?’
And instead of throwing out the things you don’t want first, start with the things you do like.
Why it’s important
Sue explained: ‘By choosing the things in your wardrobe first that spark joy you’re then curating a life around who you are and who you want to be. Once you choose those things, then your home will be a nicer place to live in’.
Sue helps Sarah go through her extensive shoe collection and get rid of the ones that don’t ‘spark joy’
Sarah’s shoes were all in the bottom of her wardrobe, they’ve now been placed on a shoe rack so she can choose which shoes she wants to wear every day
Getting everything out of the wardrobe and dividing into categories is an important part of decluttering process, according to Sue, as you need to see what’s really in there
The decluttering process
Working through my piles of shoes we found 8 pairs of trainers, 10 pairs of heels, (one pair I’d had for nearly 15 years) and even an odd shoe that I couldn’t find the other one too.
Before I started the process I was quite adamant that any shoe or dress could ‘spark joy’, but going through them one by one actually made me think about when I wore them last, why I bought them and any memories they had attached to them.
One pair of blue stilettos I had made me visibly light up as I remembered the compliments I had when I first bought them and wore them on a night out.
But I’d also kept old trainers which I didn’t need anymore, ballet pumps which hurt my feet and boots which were beyond repair. It felt therapeutic chucking out old dusty shoes, but going through each pair with her I also felt like I had to convince her why I should keep them.
Some didn’t spark as much joy as my blue heels, but I knew I still liked the old battered pair of pink heels, and that I ‘may’ wear the cute pair of white ballet pumps one day. So I convinced myself and Sue that I would wear them soon and kept them
Does it work?
By the end I was surprised when I’d thrown out half my shoe collection, but also slightly worried that I’d chucked something out that I would miss.
When Sue left I sneaked two pairs of shoes out of the bin bags – deciding I couldn’t part with them as excitedly I could as when we were going through the process.
Dresses have been neatly hung and Sarah’s shoes have been chosen to keep as they ‘spark joy’
The method: Streamlining the wardrobe
Getting everything out of the wardrobe and dividing into categories is an important part of decluttering process, according to Sue, as you need to see what’s really in there.
Why it’s important
‘It’s only when you start to look at similar stuff that you see the sheer volume and duplication of them whether they’re books, shoes or dresses. I once worked with a woman who had six identical black tops – she didn’t need them all, she just didn’t know she had them,’ Sue said.
The decluttering process
Working through my clothes I admitted to Sue, and the labels still on them gave the game away, that some of them I’d never worn and felt guilty throwing them out. But she said that this situation is quite common.
‘If you’re not wearing them then by giving them to charity you can feel less guilty. They then have a new job – to clothe someone else, who probably needs them more than you do.’
All of her clothes in piles: Sarah had clothes which she has for year and hadn’t got rid of before decluttering
‘Does this spark joy?’ Sue helps Sarah assess whether each one of her clothes or shoes is worth keeping or throwing out
Sue made Sarah get all her clothes out on her bed and arrange them into piles so they could assess what she has
Does it work?
Going through them one by one, to see if they sparked joy or not took some time. And after nearly three hours I felt exhausted, especially when I looked at my bed and there was still so much to sort and go through.
But I loved one of the sentiments behind it. Sue said part of the process of decluttering was throwing out old clothes which no longer represent who you are now. I had skirts and tops which represented who I was in my 20s, but weren’t showing who I was today.
By the end I’d thrown out a bin bag worth of clothes and I felt as though my wardrobe was more grown up.
Sarah’s wardrobe is now more streamlined and she’s feels as though she’s curated a more grown up collection of clothes
The method: The KonMari folding technique
Sue is trained in the KonMari way of folding and advises, for minimum crease and presentation, to put them into small boxes.
Why it’s important
Fold your clothes the KonMari way
1. Place the top or shirts flat on a surface, smoothing it out
2. Cross the arms over into the main section of the jumper
3. Fold in both sides, right to left into each other so then join
4. Fold the top of it in, making sure any loose strings are folded in
5. From the bottom of the top start to fold into thirds, folding the last top part over the rest of the garment
6. It should be able to stand on its own and be placed into a box
I spend a lot of time in the mornings searching for clothes, when I’m getting dressed, and it really frustrates me.
Folding your clothes and neatly putting them in boxes, Sue says, allows you to see where they are at all times.
‘Dresses and skirts can all be hung up in the wardrobe, while jeans and small tops can be folded and put in boxes. Jumpers fit really well folded into drawers and look better than being hung in a wardrobe.
‘With jeans you should fold the legs over each other, fold in anything that sticks out, then take the bottom part of the leg and fold up the waistband, then into thirds. They sit really well in shoe boxes or square boxes, which you can find on amazon or in IKEA.
‘Tops and jumpers meanwhile should be placed down flat on a surface and the arms crossed over into the main section of the jumper. Both sides are folded, right to left into each other, then its folded into thirds, or so it fits the length of your drawers.’
Sue shows Sarah how to fold one of tops the KonMari way before she put them in boxes and stores them away
Does it work?
I appreciated how neat they looked but it took me a while to pick up the technique. I generally take my clothes off and leave them in a pile on the floor or stuff them in my cupboard, hoping that no one would see them – so it took a lot of getting used to.
The folding is a great idea and it genuinely keeps your clothes crease free, but it’s also more time consuming than just chucking my clothes on the floor at the end of the day.
I can see old habits creeping back in – I even avoiding doing my washing the other day, so that I wouldn’t have to spend half an hour folding my clothes.
Sue is trained in the KonMari way of folding and advises, for minimum crease and presentation. Here, she shows how to fold the jeans, starting with placing one leg over the other
With jeans you should fold the legs over each other, fold in anything that sticks out, then take the bottom part of the leg and fold up the wasitband, then into thirds
Sue is trained in the KonMari way of folding and advises, for minimum crease and presentation, to put them into small boxes
Dresses and skirts can all be hung up in the wardrobe, while jeans and small tops can be folded and put in boxes
The method: Mindfulness
Sue told me that when getting rid of items, I should appreciate what they had given me, saying: ‘An old pair of jeans may have got you through a cold winter or a skirt may signal the end to a different period in your life.
Why it’s important
‘If you do your decluttering with gratitude and thank things as they leave your life, it will make you more mindful about where you’ve come from and what your next chapter in life could be.’
Sue told me some of her clients hold on to items as that have a memory attached to them. That was true for me – I had a peach coloured dress which I’d worn to my sisters wedding around 5 years ago, but I’d never worn it since.
‘Memories are in your head and in photos too, so don’t feel bad about letting it go. If you decide its too hard then try and make a conscious decision to wear it in the next six months and reassess then if you want to keep it or not.’
Does it work?
I decided to keep the dress as I wasn’t quite ready to part with it yet. There was also clothes and shoes, that I loved but I knew they’d done their job and weren’t wearable anymore – so I quietly thanked them and added them to the black bag.
Sarah: ‘I can see old habits creeping back in and I even avoiding doing my washing the other day, so that I wouldn’t have to spend half an hour folding my clothes’
The final result
By the end of the decluterring process I had two big bin bags full of unwanted clothes and shoes. It felt nice to let go of so much stuff which I’d held on to for too long.
But Sue says that’s natural: ‘Because every day life is so busy most of us don’t stop and assess the clothes that we have. People buy things because they can’t remember what they have, or can’t find it.
‘So when you declutter you save money and time – because you’ll be able to see exactly what you have and save time in the morning when you’re getting dressed. The people I work with physically glow at the end of our sessions.’
I enjoyed the process of the decluttering, it felt very therapeutic. Every time I went into my wardrobe I smiled at how neat and tidy it was and how easily I could find things when I got dressed.
I also feel as though I’ve curated a wardrobe that is a little bit more grown up and identified what else I need to build up my collection.
But the afternoon was quite exhausting too. You need to be mentally and physically prepared to have a big clear out – spending the whole day doing it rather than just a few hours.
Decluttering is a great idea if you’re feeling overwhelmed at how much stuff you have, but you also have to be quite committed to continue with your new organised lifestyle.
Sue and Sarah look at her new organised wardrobe after over 3 hours of therapeutic but exhausting decluttering
Where to send your unwanted items
- Most high street charity shops like Oxfam and Marie Curie take clothes, shoes and books.
- Services like Caroline Hirons’ Give and Makeup take unwanted toiletries and make up items and give them to those who need them.
- Initiatives such as ZABRA collect new and used bras in the UK for women in South Africa who can’t afford their own.