Marie Kondo is a Japanese organising consultant and author. She introduced the KonMari Method in her best-selling book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.”
Here is the full text of Marie Kondo’s talk titled “Organize the World: Design Your Life to Spark Joy” at SXSW 2017 conference.
Marie Kondo – SXSW 2017 TRANSCRIPT
Hello, everyone. I’m Marie Kondo.
I feel honored to be standing here on such a wonderful stage today. Everyone at (South by Southwest) SXSW is talking about big things. But I would like to talk about something even bigger. My grandmother.
My grandmother lives in Miyazaki, a very peaceful place in Japan. Her house is not big and she does not own anything especially nice. But she took very good care of her things.
Her house was always clean and tidy. Even inside her drawers were beautifully organised. Just like her house, her presence was simple and beautiful. She never got angry no matter what happened. She was gentle. I admire her very much.
She would always tell me: Value what cannot be seen from the outside.
Normally people can’t see inside your house. However the way you organize the area and how to treat your belongings will greatly affect your way of thinking. More than we imagine, whether our house is tidy or not has a great impact on our life.
Tidying is a big thing.
Now I’d like to ask you a question. Is your house tidy? If your answer is no, don’t worry, I can help you. The answer is what I call the Konmari Method.
Let me show you some Konmari transformations before, and after, before and after. Another before and after. What a change!
Tidying with the Konmari Method will not affect only your house. It will change your life. While you are tidying using the Konmari method you will also understand yourself more and design your life you want.
Today, I am going to tell you how to put your home in order in a way that will change your life forever.
But before this, in order to understand for you how my method was created, I would like to talk about my story.
I started to have an interest in tidying up when I was 5 years old. I really liked home lifestyle magazines that my mother subscribed to.
When I was 15 years old, I started tidying seriously. I tidied up, I read every book related to tidying. And I tidied it up every place I go.
One day, I tidied up my own room. Next today, my brother’s room. Next day, my sister’s room. Then, the kitchen, living room, bathroom, the friend’s room, friend’s room, friend’s room, classrooms after the school, and then back to my own room.
I tidied up every day.
When I was 19 years old, I became an organizing consultant. My graduation thesis was about Tidying. So safe to assume, I am a crazy tidying fanatic.
Without further ado, let’s go on to the main subject, what is the Konmari method.
There are four Rules.
Rule 1. Imagine your ideal life. Before you tidy you need to face your truth — you need to face yourself. Why do you want to Tidy? What is your ideal life? Be specific. I’ll give you one example of my client.
Please imagine as you listen, my client’s ideal life is pure white wall and floor. They are simple with essential furnitures and nice front. Nothing else on the floor, very neat like hotel room. “Before I go to bed, a scent of lavender aroma, classic piano music playing in the background, doing yoga, drinking chamomile tea before go to sleep. That is the life I want to live”, my client said.
This is how specific you should be. You should be able to picture yourself living your ideal life. If it is difficult to imagine your ideal lifestyle, think about things you want to do inside your house and write it down on a piece of paper.
For some people, it’s meditating before go to bed; for others, it’s drinking coffee with your favorite mug in the morning. Imagining your ideal lifestyle is so important. Setting your final goal will help keep you motivated while you are tidying. So you should never skip this process.
Rule number 2. Tidy in one go. If you want to become an organized person, shock your mindset and change it completely. In order to do this, you need a dramatic change in a short time. You need to experience a tidy home, just once.
Your fastest step is to set a tidying deadline. Tidying is not daily work. It is a special event. If you have worked a tidying deadline, you are ready to start.
Let’s talk about the process.
Rule number 3. When you tidy, do it by category, not by location. Thinking today this closet, tomorrow the living room, does not work. So I suggest when you sort your clothes, gather all of your clothes and put them in a pile; all clothes. I mean everything.
Find all of your clothes in your house, including the item in your bedroom, in your closet, in your dresser, maybe in your car. Gather all of your clothes and put them in a pile like this.
When you sort books, do the same thing. Gather all of your books and put them in a pile like this.
Why is this important?
By making a pile you can see everything you have. Imagine. Imagine all of your clothes stacked in a pile. You will probably be shocked by how much you own.
One of my clients collected tea cups, when she gathered all of her teacups together, it looked like this. So many teacups, and she was in shock. By seeing and realizing how much you own, you will be able to choose what to keep with a calm mind.
So how do you choose what to keep?
It is the most important part of the Konmari method: To choose the item that sparks joy for you. If the item sparks joy, keep it. If it does not, get rid of it. Does this item spark joy?
What I want to tell you today is this. When you are tidying, you should focus on things, what you want to keep. Not things what you want to discard. If you try to tidy by looking for things to discard, you will become unhappy.
As a matter of fact, I used to be like that. It is my story during high school. When I was in high school, I thought tidying meant discarding things. Every day after school, I looked for things to throw away.
Even though I kept throwing things away, my home did not feel tidy. This caused me a lot of stress. I was focused on the things I didn’t like. I focused on the negative.
One day my stress reached tipping point. I passed out in my room. I did not wake up for two hours. I am probably the only person in the world to pass out because of tidying too much Yeah, that’s right.
When I was afraid, I had this strange voice in my head. The voice said, “Look at things more carefully.” I don’t know if it was the voice of tidying God or just my imagination. But when my mind opened and looked around my room, it felt as if everything in my room was shining.
At that moment I realized my way of tidying until that day was wrong. I thought ‘That’s it!’ The important thing about tidying is not choosing things to discard but choosing things to keep. I must choose only items that makes me happy — things that spark joy for me.
From this moment, tidying became a positive thing for me and began to work well. It is my aha moment.
So exactly how do you choose what sparks joy for you?
The key point is to touch each item one by one. Just looking at is not enough. Touch each item. When the item in your hand speaks in your heart, you will feel like this: Spark joy item. All of yourself in your body feel uplifted.
On the other hand, the item in your hand that does not speak to you. You will feel like this *Gzzz* *Gzzz*. You will feel all cells in your body are sinking, and heavy and down. *ting* and *gzzz*. You might find it strange, I know.
But when you actually do this, the difference is more obvious than you can imagine. I want you to really try it.
After you have chosen the items that spark joy for you, you need to find the best way just to store them. I would like to speak to you how to fold the clothes.
This is the most important part of the Konmari method, how to fold the clothes. But before this, there is one thing I would like to emphasize when folding. When you fold your clothes, make sure you send a lot of love through your palms.
Folding is not just about making your clothes smaller. It is actually an opportunity to talk to your clothes and communicate with your clothes and thank them. For example, you could say, thank you for protecting me, and thank you for keeping me well.
I’d like to demonstrate how to fold. Here is a T-shirt. First, fold one side towards the center; fold other side the same way, and create a rectangle. Fold in half. This time with a little gap, it is so important. And fold it in thirds.
If you get a smooth rectangle, like this, you are doing it correctly. It should be able to stand up right on its own. It is important that it will able to stand up right on its own. Because you will store them vertically.
Next, let’s try a hoodie. You can fold hoodie the same way, you fold T-shirts. Fold one side towards the center, towards another side the same way, and create a rectangle. And fold the hood in and fold in thirds. It should be able to stand up right on its own.
Let’s try jeans. First, fold in half; fold in half again; and roll it up in thirds. Stand up too.
When I fold socks, it is so easy, put together and fold in half, and fold in half. Oh try again, fold in half and fold in thirds. You can adjust. It should be stand up right on its own.
Fold in half and fold in thirds. Aren’t they adorable? Once you’re done you can store them, vertically. Like this. It is very easy to see how much and what kind of clothes you have. When you get home, please try folding your clothes this way and enjoy.
Today, I talked about the basic points of the Konmari method. Finally I’ll show you a video. The video is a project I did with NHK World Japan where I conducted the tidying session with two clients.
In this video, I introduced other topics I didn’t share today. It’s so the video should help you understand how to fold, how to tidy even better. Here we go.
Please watch the video as you imagine you’re actually tidying.
[Video clip starts:
(Voiceover): Gina Kruger is a homemaker living in Brooklyn. She found Kondo’s book refreshing and quite unlike any other on the subject.
Gina Kruger: I love Konmari’s book. I feel like her method is so gentle and so personal. I love that she’s not saying if you haven’t used it for a year you get rid of it. She says ‘Does it speak to your heart?’
(Voiceover): Busy raising two young children with her husband, Gina struggles to keep her place in order. The family of four lives in a 1,300 square foot home that’s always a mess. The Konmari method recommends taking pictures before you start tidying to better grasp the clutter.
Gina Kruger: The biggest problem I have in the kitchen is when we go shopping for food, I don’t have enough places to put the food and down here I’m going to take a picture of this one. It’s kind of exploding. As you can see, I don’t know what to do with that. I hate folding sheets.
Help us Konmari.
(Voiceover): Kondo took a special trip to Brooklyn to help Gina tidy up.
Whenever I visit a house for the first time, I start by greeting the house before I proceed to actually tidy. So please allow me to greet your house.
Oh sure, that would be wonderful.
Kondo makes it a rule to spend a quiet moment before getting down to work. It is like a solemn ceremony. I highly respect houses as entities and I place the great value in communicating with the house to tidy. When you tidy with that mindset, you’re more likely to be inspired with the overall image for storage, like where you should put certain things.
They’re ready to tackle the challenge. In the Konmari method you tidy up not from one room to another, but by Category. The first category is clothes. They make a big pile in one place, that way it’s easier to know the total volume, and to grasp the situation objectively.
We’re going to pick the pieces that spark joy in you, you have to take each item in your hands and feel it. The Criteria are whether it makes you feel glad when you put it on and whether it will make you shine from now on.
Okay, what should we do with yes? It sparks joy. Okay. It sparks joy.
Kondo claims that you can always tell if something sparks joy in you by touching it.
And this one, no joy.
Okay. The rule is to thank each and every no joy item that you’re going to let go before you throw it away.
You should show appreciation for everything you let go, that in turn alleviates any sense of guilt. This has had a long life, long long life. Thank you.
Okay, here’s the question when you have something that you have to iron, but you don’t really like to iron and so it doesn’t really spark joy if you have to iron it. When I iron it and it looks nice, I like it.
The most important point is whether you want to wear it eagerly enough to take the trouble of ironing it. So I should keep this one and then these are the kind of the same. I like the one that I’ve ironed them and they’re comfortable so we’ll keep those two. We’ll will keep it. Yes for sure.
Three hours later they’ve separated what to keep from what to let go. Next they hang what can be put in the closet.
When you hang things in this closet you hang long and heavy items on the left hand side and increasingly lighter items as you go toward the right. That way you’ll make an ever-increasing line in the closet which will give you a snappy lift just by standing in front of it. That’s the kind of closet we’re going to aim for.
The Konmari method doesn’t neglect eliciting joy even from the contents of drawers. For that purpose you learn how to fold clothes.
First you fold in both sides with sleeves like this and make a rectangle that consists mostly of the body. Once you have that rectangle you fold it in half, and again in half, and one more time. It’ll be like this.
Gina tries folding in Kondo’s fashion. That’s perfectly fine. You know what? If you fold your clothes as you communicate your love for them with your palms the fabric will get more taut and you will reduce wrinkles.
When Kondo arranges items she stands them up, so everything can be seen at a glance. Arrange colors in gradation, so you’ll know what color dominates your collection. In the four hours after meeting Kon Marie, Gina has achieved this much tidiness.
The next category is books. Like clothes, touch books without reading them. Kondo says repeating this again and again strengthens your sensitivity for what sparks joy.
The third category is papers. When it comes to papers we can’t really base our judgment on the joy they spark so what I recommend is supposing total disposal. Okay. Once we put them all together, there were more than we had expected. However because we dealt with them in one go we finished going through them in an hour and a half that was a tremendous amount of concentration on her part.
It’s really invigorating seeing so much done so quickly that you just want to keep it going and to have it be gone in such a quick manner and getting it out of here is, just it’s incredible. I felt like 100% confident right now.
Kondo’s personal instruction has given Gina momentum. Following the Konmari method, she begins tackling the fourth category, “Komono” miscellaneous items found in the bathroom, kitchen and so on. Over two weeks, she threw away 20 garbage bags and donated or recycled 50.
I almost still don’t believe that it’s mine; amazing, shiny, incredible. Gina’s home underwent a dramatic change thanks to the Konmari method. It’s now very tidy. I feel like the places I did entirely on my own turned out well, and I’m proud of them. I’ve had really good training.
Kondo is off to visit her next client. Emily Newhouse has her own apartment. Though she has used the method before, sentimental items have overwhelmed her physically and emotionally. This is stuff from high school, this is like artwork. It’s not like I have to get rid of everything.
It’s not easy to let go of sentimental items. But if you go through everything in the specified order, by the time you get to those sentimental items you will somehow be able to learn to choose what to keep.
Sorry, it’s emotional. This is hard because like I I don’t know, um I went to fashion school and I went for two years to fashion school, and then I decided not to do fashion. So it’s just weird to look at this stuff, you know.
It is by no means unusual that you inevitably get kind of emotional and that tears start streaming down. It just proves that you are truly facing your own belongings. So if such emotions come surging up while you are tidying it is important to fully relish them.
Taking on the daunting task, Emily disposed of things that didn’t spark joy. That once cluttered storage room *Tadaa*. In fact, Emily was organizing this room to start living together with her boyfriend. She was able to face her past to welcome in the future.
John: I would like to thank you for helping Emily clean up this apartment because now there will be room for me to move in.
In conclusion, how do you feel now? Exhausted? Happy, excited for to continue, and a little sad. Relishing your own emotions that you experienced while you were tidying is a very important process. So please complete the tidying process with that experience in mind.
[Video clip ends.]
So what did you see ? Did it make you want to tidy? I hope so.
My dream is to organize the world. I have seen many people’s lives change through tidying. People started to understand what truly brings them joy and their lives changed. People have changed a job, changed a relationship, lost weight and created new businesses. They get back their ideal life.
My dream is for everyone in the world to experience this joy. It starts with you. After you leave South by Southwest, and return to your home, take a look around and ask yourself: Is my home tidy? Does my home spark joy for me? If the answer is no, try tidying.
It is not difficult to get started. We can help. We have an app where you can track your tidying and can see before and after from other people who are tidying. We are also training consultants around the world to help you if you need it.
The important thing is to start. When you get home choose just one thing, pick it up and ask yourself: Does this spark joy? That’s it.
May all of your things spark joy. You get more joyful life.
I have time for questions. I have a few time for questions.
Female Translator: So I’ll be answering the questions that you submitted during the presentation now.
Female Translator: So the first question how does your method justify? Oh sorry, can you tell us more about your organize-the-world activities?
Marie Kondo: [Translated] So the first activities are activity that I am engaged in right now is to nurture and teach other organizing consultants, so they too can meet one-on-one with their clients and teach them the method of organizing.
And another initiative that I started just this year is that I’ve been visiting countries all over the world and to give organizing sessions as well as a lecture such as this. And of course lastly, we’ve developed an app as we’ve mentioned before.
And of course, through my social media, Facebook and so on, I have to share with you more tips and techniques of organizing, so I hope you’ll follow me and I’ll see you there.
So I truly believe that through all these activities that I do, if one more person can finish tidying I know that person’s life will spark so much more joy for them. And I hope such people will increase all over the world.
So if any of you here today, really share this vision of organizing the world with me. And you know it doesn’t matter if you’re a company or individual I really invite you to contact me through my official homepage.
Female Translator: So, the next question: How do I become a Konmari consultant?
Marie Kondo: Thank you so much for your interest. So, in order to become a Konmari consultant, you can really find the details on our official homepage, but to break it down a little bit. You basically start with a three day course and then afterwards, after the completion of the course, you actually do a trial organizing. You go to your client’s house and do a monitored organizing session and in which afterwards you’ll write a report about it, and then there’s of course the exam at the end. And if you pass you are officially certified as a Konmari consultant.
I think that’s all the questions, three questions.
Female Translator: Okay, so these are all the questions that we have.
Marie Kondo: And if any of here have any questions specific to organizing or cleaning would love to.
Female Translator: So the question was what do you do about things that creep back in your life that doesn’t necessarily spark joy, but you need in your life?
Marie Kondo: So in such cases what you do is to truly consider the the actual true function of such things. So for instance this clicker, it doesn’t necessarily spark joy for me. But it did help me. It was very useful in helping me give a very good presentation, so in that sense it doesn’t necessarily spark joy but it was useful to me and thereby it makes my life, enriches my life, and makes me happy in its own way.
So try to look at the positives of that object, of that item. So by shifting perspectives like this, something that doesn’t necessarily spark joy at first, even simple and ordinary things you will be able to appreciate it with the sense of gratitude.
Audience: Hi Konmari, thank you so much for being here. First, I want to commend you for giving a speech not in your native language. That was amazing that you were able to do that.
So my name is Melody. I’m from San Diego. And I’m a digital marketing consultant. My biggest challenge at clutter is online and on my computer because I’m always on there. Do you have tips for decluttering computers or your apps on your phone, stuff that’s not physically tangible. You can’t touch.
Marie Kondo: Thank you so much for a great question. I think that this question is particularly relevant to the SXSW crowd.
So what I recommend in cleaning a digital clutter is just as you would clean your house to do it all in one shot. So what I recommend to do with digital clutter is so to say as you decide today I will clean my laptop, so you dedicate a day to sort out your data, delete some data, organize data, and the reason why you must do this in one day is that it allows you to really get a grasp an overview of what kind of data you have in your laptop.
And so by having this overview you will be able to better understand what sort of organizing style or folders and so forth that you need to get to organize your data.
Audience: Quick question about supporting others through this process, maybe a family member or someone who could use assistance but might be resistant to this. Do you have any advice?
Marie Kondo: So in terms of giving advice to others about organizing and tidying is to really understand what kind of ideal life that person is looking for or hoping for.
So the first step is to really ask the person what sort of ideal life do they hope for and what do they envision. And the second point is really ask the why is important. Why are they having a difficult time throwing things away, so that question is very important. And by figuring these things out you really hone their sensitivity to what they’re hoping for in the future and so forth, and that this makes the organizing and tidying process much easier for them.
Audience: Hi. Thank you so much, so I think we’ve all had moments like in the spring when we clean out our entire apartment and we feel so good, and it’s like amazing and then two months later it’s back to how it was. You know you buy new things, you bring back more receipts, whatever, so how do you maintain tidiness?
Marie Kondo: So this is when the Konmari method becomes very useful. So after you finished cleaning in one shot, what’s important is once you have all the things that spark joy for you is to get a designated place for each item, for those items.
Once you have the designated places for all the items, all of your possessions that spark joy for you you’ll get to experience the state in which you’re truly comfortable with and a state in your home that truly sparks joy for you. You’ll get to experience that.
Once you achieved the state, and my only advice here is to really look at each and every one of your possessions and to really cherish them. And so by using your possessions and thanking them for being useful at the end of the day or making it adorning you so that you’re beautiful and really cherish each and every item, you will see that it’s much better to keep them tidy. It’s a much easier to keep them tidy.
Audience: Hello, and do you have any advice for tidying on behalf of small children and babies? Where it’s not necessarily their own items that’s not necessarily just yours. It’s kind of a mix between.
Marie Kondo: I’m a mother of two daughters. So I completely understand how you feel. So in terms of teaching kids how to organize, I think the most important thing is to start by teaching them how to fold clothes properly.
The reason why folding so works so well is that it’s sort of like origami. There’s an element to play, a playfulness to it, and by teaching them to fold clothes properly you’re really teaching them the basis of organization and tidying. And clothes of course is something that we use every day, and that way kids can early understand that it’s something that’s precious to them and that’s something that belongs to them.
And of course what’s important is for the parents to really enjoy the process of organizing.
Audience: Hello, thanks for coming here today, very excited to see you. Can you talk a little bit about how much time it should take for us to clean a house, in your book you say do everything in one go, in one straight shot, but is it six months? One year? I live in a thousand square meter apartment. But I’ve been doing this for two years.
Marie Kondo: This really depends on how large your house is and the quantity of things that you own but for some people it only takes one week vacation dedicated time for them to organize, or some people might say I clean every other weekend and might take two months total. But half a year is the maximum.
Audience: I want to ask: Do you have any suggestion about tidying up working space, if you have like too many items but a very limited space?
Marie Kondo: [Japanese language]
Audience: Sorry, what about I have a studio? So I’m a food stylist and I have a studio and there are so many, like kitchen items and bowls and it’s just like a thousand of things. So how should I actually discard, store away things that I never used, but what if like in case I have some clients who will ask me about something and I will need the item.
Audience: Just to get back to your first question, in terms of cleaning your desk area and workspaces, in my experience it usually takes about three sessions of two hours sessions, done at three times so it is basically the same principles of cleaning your house applies to the workplace as well.
And you’re a food stylist, so that’s very specific but in terms of the things that you use for your work I’m sure I think it’s best to dedicate one day and to really concentrate on identifying your categories, so I’m sure they have our cooking utensils, measuring utensils, and so forth. So I think I’m doing it by category, specific categories will be very helpful.
Female Translator: Unfortunately we are running out of time, so this should be the last question.
Audience: What if you need to declutter, because you’re moving, or you’re traveling, and you are left with a lot of items that all spark joy. But you still have to make it smaller.
Female Translator: Do you mean when you’re selecting things to bring with you before you go?
Audience: Yeah, like a really big trip or you’re moving like another city or big another country.
Marie Kondo: Ideally I think what I recommend is that before you go on the long trip or moving is to really finish tidying your home so that you really hone your sensitivity to your joy. Once you’ve honed your sensitivity to joy by cleaning your house, and you’ve experienced and you really understood what brings you joy, and what sort of items give you the most joy. Once you’ve decided to go traveling, that same principle, and that sensitivity will work for you when packing as well.
Thank you so much for the question. Thank you so much.