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Clear away the clutter the KonMarie way for a high-functioning and feel-good home.

Japanese tidying expert Marie Kondo loved organising so much as a child that by the time she went to university at age 19, she was a tidying consultant. Fast forward 15 years and the KonMarie Method of turning cluttered homes into orderly abodes of joy and serenity is revered the world over. Kondo is the author of the No.1 New York Times bestselling book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, she has her own Netflix show, and she’s even made TIME magazine’s list of the world’s ‘100 Most-Influential People’.

Here are our top take-aways from Marie Kondo’s life-changing lessons:

1. Cherish the items that bring you joy, let go of the rest with gratitude

The KonMarie philosophy of keeping only what sparks joy is well known, but Kondo also suggests being thankful for the things you decide to discard for the lessons they’ve given you. “Thinking deeply about each item you discard will affect how you live and acquire new things moving forward,” she says. As an example, old photos of people or places that spark emotions other than joy can teach you it’s time to let go of the past and to focus on creating the future you really want. “The best way to find out what we really need is to get rid of what we don’t,” she says.

2. Declutter by category, not by room

Take a room-by-room approach instead of tackling tidying up by category and the task may be never-ending. If we try to tidy up one place at a time, Kondo explains, “we can never grasp the overall volume and therefore can never finish. Excess is caused by ignorance of what we actually own.” Instead, begin with categories such as books, clothes or toiletries, laying them all out so you can see exactly what you have. The next step is simple: get rid of anything that doesn’t spark joy.

3. Give each item you keep a home

Putting things away may remove visible clutter, but the clutter is still there. Komono, otherwise known as the junk drawer, is a fine example. Every home has one, but they are usually full of useless items, such as old batteries, elastic bands, broken sunglasses or old charging cables. Kondo says clients are always surprised at how much they end up discarding when they only keep things they need – and how wonderful it feels to do so. Keeping things we don’t really need or like stands in the way of enjoying the stuff we do have, she says, all of which should have a designated spot to live. “Effective tidying involves only two essential decisions: discarding and deciding where to store things,” Kondo advises.

4. Learn the fine art of folding 

When we’ve taken the trouble to declutter all but our most treasured things, it makes sense that we should treat them well. Even socks deserve our respect, Kondo says. One sock in a pair should be laid on top of the other before being folded together two or three times (depending on their length); stockings should be folded lengthwise in half before being rolled up like a sushi roll. Socks and stockings can then be stored neatly in a drawer – known in Japanese as Hikidashi. See how to fold socks here. Folding clothes well isn’t just about showing reverence for what we own; it also means each item will look better and last longer … and we can see what we have at a glance.

5. Keep surfaces clear

Bathroom vanities, kitchen benchtops, bedside tables, entryway consoles – keeping surfaces clear of everything but thoughtfully selected items for display is a daily quest we should all be on, Kondo says. Her own ritual when she comes home involves emptying her handbag of receipts, putting her shoes away, and greeting her home with appreciation for its role in nurturing and protecting her. In the kitchen, storing dishwashing liquid, sponges and brushes under the sink is a better approach than around the sink, and the same goes for shampoo bottles, toothbrushes and toiletries in the bathroom. Give it a try, and see what a difference it makes.

The Japanese sentiment that a home is never really complete until there is nothing more than can be removed from it can be a good motivator if you’re just starting out on your decluttering mission. Keep in mind that you may only need to do it once, especially if you follow the KonMarie Method of acquiring only what sparks joy from now on.

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