Not since Mary Poppins wielded a supersized handbag and parrot-topped umbrella has anyone done as much to celebrate tidying up as Marie Kondo. With her perky attitude and impeccable bob, the Japanese decluttering superstar inspired millions across the world to embrace the delight of a spring clean. On New Year’s Day, Netflix released the show Tidying Up With Marie Kondo, a televised version of her series of books, which have sold more than 10m copies in 42 countries.
Naturally, it was an instant hit. Sales of drawer dividers and storage systems soared, as people confronted the mounds of clutter in their homes and asked themselves the question Kondo suggests you put to every object in your home: “Does it spark joy?” If it does, keep it. If it doesn’t, well, the big black sack is waiting. (After the Netflix show aired, charity shops reported receiving increased donations.) But could the declutterers keep up the regime long-term? Or are their houses as chaotic as they were before? We caught up with five people who tried to Marie Kondo their lives this year.
Luke Geoffrey, 34
Copywriter from Manchester
When I fired up Netflix, I thought: “Maybe if I watch someone else tidy up, I’ll feel calmer.” I was expecting it to be happy-clappy American TV, but I watched a few episodes and enjoyed it.
My husband and I are in the middle of renovating our house. It’s full of stuff and we’re constantly having to move things around as we do up different rooms. There’s no sense of permanent calm. The only room that isn’t affected is the bedroom, so I thought I’d Marie Kondo it to see if that helped.
I went to Ikea and bought some expandable boxes to divide up clothes drawers: one for socks, one for underwear, one for ties. I stacked all my T-shirts vertically, the way she recommends, so you can see everything you own. It feels like you’re filing your clothes! That was a game-changer: in the morning you can pick out what you need really quickly.
There was a noticeable feeling of order and calm – for a while. But it was just too difficult to keep up with the renovation work. Looking around my bedroom at the moment, it’s a complete disaster!
When the renovation is finished, I probably will Marie Kondo the rest of the house. I’m not attached to crap – I throw it away. My husband is more sentimental, so it will be a struggle to get him on board. He’s obsessed with collecting dinner services at the moment; he keeps buying them on eBay. We have three complete sets of plates and crockery, and nowhere for them to go.
Tina Hart, 33
Music PR from London
I had read Kondo’s book about a year previously, and been converted to the KonMari technique for folding socks – I kept taking photos of how cute my socks looked. When the show came out, it totally reignited my love for her.
I moved in with my boyfriend last October, and we live in a one-bed flat that doesn’t have a lot of storage space. I also recently started volunteering in a charity shop and it changed my perspective about material possessions. Working there, you see how much stuff we accumulate, and waste.
My “spark-joy” instinct is Ninja-level now. It’s so well honed. I can look at any of my possessions and think: “That’s gone.” There’s always a bag by the door full of things to donate. Every two weeks, we’ll take something down to the charity shop. I do wonder how we have any possessions left. But our flat is so cute now. I have less stuff than I’ve ever had before and I’m so happy.
The only thing I haven’t been able to part with is my collection of old Smash Hits magazines. It took a few goes for me to let go of my CD collection, but I eventually managed it. But the magazines I can’t bear to touch. Magazines were my thing when I was a kid. If there was a music archive I could donate them to, that would be perfect. I would hate to see them go in the bin.
Jennifer Cocoran, 45
LinkedIn trainer from Devon
I watched six episodes of the TV show in one go. My husband and I were downsizing and moving to Devon and I figured if I could get him to watch the show with me, he’d get the message that we need to get streamlined. He did pay attention.
When we were getting ready to move, I picked up everything I owned and asked myself if it sparked joy. If not, I’d give it to charity, or recycle it. It was stunning to realise how much I was holding on to: 20-year-old Microsoft training manuals from my old job, old university notes, that sort of thing.
I estimate we’ve got rid of 20% of our stuff. I feel so much lighter for it. When you feel organised, you feel happy. It’s cheesy, but it’s true. Things can weigh you down.
When I was younger, I used to buy things all the time – clothes or fancy lunches out or makeup. Now I realise I don’t need physical things to make me happy. A walk along the beach, coffee with friends – these things bring me joy.
That said, I did recently buy a new vacuum cleaner, which is seriously sparking joy. It arrived today. I can’t wait to try it out.
Willow Colios, 37
Digital officer from Yorkshire
I heard about Marie Kondo towards the end of last year and got the book just before Christmas. And then the show came out. I really liked how she approached things from a perspective of wanting to help people work through their attachments to material things and end up in a better place overall.
Growing up, we lived in a fairly big house with plenty of room for stuff, so there was never a need to declutter. My parents tend to hang on to things – they kept a train set from when I was a child, for instance, so that they could gift it to my children when they were born. When I got older and lived in a smaller house, I realised that attitude only works if you have the space for it.
The way Kondo teaches you to roll up T-shirts was a revelation. The idea that you can fold things in such a way that they take up so much less space was brilliant.
I did declutter my home, but I wasn’t able to get rid of everything. I have this Patti Smith T-shirt I bought in Rome that I’ve never worn – it’s too small. But I haven’t been able to throw it out. I associate the T-shirt with that holiday, and letting go of it would feel like deleting that memory. It’s not rational, but that’s how I feel.
Yasmina Floyer, 35
English tutor from London
When we got back after the Christmas break, all the mums at school were asking each other: “Did you Marie Kondo?” You felt you had missed out if you hadn’t done it. It was a trend, like clean eating or yoga.
I spent a week going from room to room, tidying. God’s honest truth, it was the best declutter I’ve ever done. My house was the tidiest it had ever been – for a while.
I’ve maintained it to a point, but it’s not been achievable for me to keep up long-term. I live in a two-bedroom house with my husband and two children, and it’s too small for our needs. We have a room in our house that my husband and I jokingly refer to as the “room of doom”. It’s full of winter coats, books, bags for the charity shop. We throw everything in there, so the rest of the house looks OK.
Tidying up after yourself straight away is fine when you’re not a working mother with two kids. I don’t want another thing I have to feel guilty about. Besides, with my kids, I’m trying to get them to be more independent in terms of putting things away. I can’t make a five-year-old fold a jumper the Marie Kondo way. Do I encourage them to tidy up on their own, or do I do things for them? I opt for the former.
I’ve made peace with the amount of clutter I have in my house. Clutter is real life. That said, my husband has promised to declutter the room of doom. I’m going to hold him to that.