Interview with Marie Kondo

Posted by Goodreads on January 5, 2016
Can an ordered sock drawer lead one to personal health and wellbeing? Decluttering guru Marie Kondo and her legion of followers argue yes! Although keeping a tidy home may seem like a Sisyphean task to some, Kondo's celebrated KonMari Method, which challenges us to keep only those possessions that "spark joy," has become an international phenomenon, with millions of copies of her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, selling in dozens of countries worldwide. Kondo built a successful business as an organizing consult in Tokyo and is now training other consultants in her trademark method. She has a follow-up book, Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up, which includes visual aids and practical advice for adhering to the KonMari strategy. She answers questions from Goodreads members and shares some special advice on how to persevere through the mess and create the peaceful living space we all need.

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Goodreads: Tell us about your goals for creating an illustrated guide for the KonMari method.

Marie Kondo: My new book, Spark Joy, is the product of a number of inspirations and answers many of the most commonly asked questions I've heard from readers, and it also functions as a "master class" for readers who have followed my method and now want to take the next steps toward a tidy lifestyle.

Spark Joy is also perfectly suitable for readers who have not yet read my first book, as they can also learn the basics of my method from this new book. The illustrations are designed to help readers organize their clothing collection, which, since readers have now determined which items spark joy and gotten rid of the others, is now like an "All-Star" team of your clothing collection. Proper folding is an important part of the KonMari method, for several different reasons. First, it allows you to keep your closet or wardrobe or dresser, or wherever you will be keeping your clothing, as tidy as possible. Perhaps more importantly, proper folding preserves your clothing and treats each item as a valued and appreciated part of your life.

The act of folding is quite a personal interaction between you and your clothing, and the care and precision you take with folding is a good way to remind yourself that this piece of clothing you are folding is important to you, and should be appreciated for the use and pleasure it brings to your life. It's a happy circle—the better you take care of your most treasured clothing, the longer each item will last and the more pleasure you will derive from owning that item.

Other illustrations in the book depict my recommendations for organizing around the house, and I have found that many readers find these illustrations very helpful in gaining the most improvement in their lives from their adherence to my KonMari Method. This is very important to my readers, and frankly to me as well, as it's my goal to help each reader experience the most amount of enduring joy from living a tidy lifestyle.

GR: Do you find that there are cultural differences in tidying up? Japanese versus American culture, or other places you've visited?

MK: Actually, before my books were published in many places and many languages, I would have thought there were such significant cultural differences. But as I have now heard from so many readers in so many countries, I believe there are many universal commonalities and truths about tidying. Everybody wants to feel content and comfortable when they are in their homes, and even in their jobs and their relationships with friends, family, and romantic partners. We all hope to be in environments where we can be as relaxed and happy as possible. There are universal truths, knowing no boundaries.

So I must be honest with you and say that when I leave my house in Japan and look down the street in one direction, and then the other direction, I believe that I have many differences with people in each direction. It can happen on one small street in Japan just as surely as it can happen from one continent to the next. So our differences from one another, I believe, do not have much to do with the language we speak, the culture we consider "dominant" in our countries, or anything else. People are different, from one person to the next, and this variety is part of the richness of our lives. Everybody I have met or heard from wants to be comfortable at home, and to increase the joy in their lives—this is a universal desire.

GR: How can the methodology also help outside the home? In the workplace?

MK: When you learn to identify what items in your home spark joy in you, you develop skills which can also help you to better assess and determine what else in your life brings you joy. Of course, this assessment can also be done in your workspace. You also learn to understand what it feels like inside your body when you recognize joy. And these skills—we might also call them "senses"—can help you, for example, to identify elements of your job you enjoy, and so you can then emphasize these elements to the extent possible. You might also gain confidence enough to conclude that your job does not at all bring you joy, but now you will have the capacity and courage to find a job through which you can find joy.

Similarly with relationships, you can learn enough about identifying joy that you can finally decide that your spouse or partner is not right for you, or you can identify elements of your existing relationship which bring you MORE joy than you had previously realized, and embrace these elements and find a happier life together because of these realizations.

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GR: What component of the method do you find personally hardest to follow?

MK: As you may know from reading my book, I have been rather obsessed with tidying since I was a young girl, and my passion for tidying and home organization continued into my teen years. Consulting and writing on tidying and organization have since become my professional occupation. So I must be completely honest with you and say that living a tidy lifestyle is so much a part of my personality and, if you will allow me to say so, my "DNA" that I don't find the challenges that other people may feel. I understand that some people do find the method challenging at the beginning, but I think that it's mostly because they don't yet have the confidence that they will soon have, once they build their tidying skills through the practice of my method.

GR: We received many questions for you from fans who are parents with young children. Goodreads member Alyssa Eisner writes, "I would love to know how having a child has reshaped her philosophy on tidying up! Is Marie Kondo doing anything differently now?"

MK: My philosophy has not really changed. My baby is still only a few months old now, but when she grows up and becomes more mobile, I know I may face a different phase of my life. When the time comes, I am planning to teach my daughter to fold her own clothing. I believe kids are able to start to learn to fold their own clothes when they reach three years old.

GR: What advice do you have for beginners who get stuck in the middle of your method. How can they get across the finish line?

MK: My advice seems simple and basic, but I promise you it works. It is just this: Don't give up. Just realize that the more you do, the closer you are to the finish line. If you feel like you will never get finished, make sure you pay attention to the increasing size and number of the bags you are filling with stuff you want to throw away or donate. Just don't give up, don't delay, and once the "keep" pile becomes smaller than the "go" pile, your confidence will build and so will your enthusiasm. I've seen it with hundreds of clients and many, many more readers.

GR: What have been some of the most dramatic transformations you've seen in people's lives as a byproduct of them eliminating clutter?

MK: I have mentioned this occurrence in a few other interviews but it was so impactful for me, that I would like many people to know about it. It is also, frankly, the best answer to your question. Before I tell it to you, I want to be very clear that I don't think my method will always have such dramatic transformation potential for every reader, but it seems in this case to have been greatly transformative for at least the two people I will tell you about.

In the spring of 2015 I was at a bookstore event in the middle of Manhattan in New York City. After I gave a presentation the moderator asked if anybody in the audience had any questions, and the first person with her hand up was a woman in the front row. Because she was in the front row and the room was fairly large, most of the audience could not see her very well. The woman explained that she has an autistic son; I think she said he was nine years old. The woman explained that she bought my book and used her method to tidy her apartment. Before tidying, her apartment was very cluttered and that when at home, her son was not verbal, and very much stayed quiet and was not at all active. Then when she used my method to tidy her apartment and decluttered the space in which she lives with her son, she was very surprised and delighted to see that her son became more active, more engaged, and much more happy with his home environment once there was much less clutter. Of course I don't know if this is a common result, and honestly I cannot know if my method is a reason for the change in her son, but the woman seemed to believe very strongly that decluttering her apartment was the reason for the tremendous changes in her son. Understandably, she became very emotional as she told the story, and when she was finished, she said "And now I would like you to meet my son." And a boy next to her stood up. To be honest, I was focused on her question so much that I had not noticed that she was with a young boy, so I was very surprised and touched to see her son, and I think many in the audience felt the same way. I cannot tell you how much this story made an impact on me, and I think also on many in the audience. I have heard many stories of the changes in people's lives when they read my books, but I consider this to be an example of one of the most profound changes my book has caused in the lives of my readers.

GR: Goodreads member Adrianne Deweese asks, "Do you see a challenge at all in making The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up more than just a passing fad to some readers, in making it a long-lasting movement to buy less and to only own what 'sparks joy'?"

MK: I think that for many readers, living a tidy lifestyle will be a pleasure they will not want to end. So if in fact readers are truly practicing my method and receiving the benefits, as I believe many of them are, then I think the lessons they learn will endure. Of course some readers will not follow the method closely enough to realize the benefits, and it will not work for them, but for those who do follow the method and get the benefits of living in an uncluttered environment, I believe these people will not allow their homes to again become cluttered.

GR: We also received many messages from readers seeking advice on digital clutter. Goodreads member Ujjwol writes, "I really like how the KonMari method has changed my physical space. I was wondering how should I go about decluttering my digital spaces. Hundreds of emails, browser bookmarks, articles to read later, podcasts to listen to, files in the computer... How should one apply the KonMari method here? In addition, checking items for 'sparking joy' might be very difficult to do for digital items?"

MK: The most important principle you should remember is one of the fundamental principles of my KonMari Method: Choose what you want to keep, not what you want to throw away. You'll never finish if you are deciding what to throw away; the process will go much more quickly and decisively if you focus instead on the mails, files, programs, or links you most appreciate.

For example, many people have a great many digital photos in their computer. I suggest making a new folder in your computer which clearly describes the day or the event, and then move all the photos for that day or event into that folder. By comparing photos which are very similar against each other, it becomes much easier to tell which are the "best ones," and you will keep those and get rid of the rest.

The same principle can be applied to any digital items. By collecting similar items in the same folder and comparing each against the other, you will get a good sense of which ones are the most valuable to you, and you can make your decisions in that way.

And don't think that a digital file cannot spark joy, it most certainly can, especially if you access it regularly and it adds pleasure to your life. But I would never suggest keeping a program or a file out of "fear that I may need it someday." Not only because it's most likely that day will never come—although it almost certainly won't—but because such a basis for keeping anything is grounded in a negative emotion (worry), and so it should not be the motivation for keeping anything in our lives. The more worry we surround ourselves with, the more interference we have between us and the things which truly spark joy in our lives, and which should be embraced and enjoyed.

GR: What authors, books, or ideas have influenced you?

MK: Some years ago I read a book titled, in Japanese, Suteru Gijutsu, which translates to The Decluttering Method, by an author named Nagisa Tatumi. This book has been influential on me.

GR: What are you reading now?

MK: I am currently reading Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance.

Comments Showing 1-5 of 5 (5 new)

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message 1: by Charles (new)

Charles Milhans I just ordered this book.

message 2: by Annamarie (new)

Annamarie This sounds interesting. Many times I have combined things and reduced my amount of intake. But I think I could really learn from this! Im going to pick this book up and read it soon. I think we could all use that in this country.

message 3: by Nina (new)

Nina Fazande I have not read the book yet, but I will soon. The method I will learn will help me in every aspectvof my life. Hopefully I will be able to pass it on to other friends. I know it will change their life as well as mine.

message 4: by Kristinia (new)

Kristinia I am now reading this book on my Kindle! I'm hoping to be more organized and to actually live more happily in peace with my home being my top priority. It is a struggle to keep your house tidy and I have a slight issue of collecting (slightly hoarding) stuff! I'm hoping this will be the motivation I need to spark Joy in my house!

message 5: by Ismoil (new)

Ismoil Kristinia wrote: "I am now reading this book on my Kindle! I'm hoping to be more organized and to actually live more happily in peace with my home being my top priority. It is a struggle to keep your house tidy and ..."

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