Decluttering guru KonMari’s mission to spark global joy



Best-selling author Marie Kondo believes she has helped many habitual sufferers of untidiness bring order — and even joy — to their lives with her fine-tuned cleaning method, arguably one of the best out there today.

But a new challenge has emerged for the diminutive decluttering master. As her fans used to say: “Just wait until she has kids!”

“I have to admit, it’s not so easy to keep my house clean anymore because of my daughter,” Kondo, who gave birth to a baby girl last July, said in a recent interview.

But Kondo, better known as KonMari, a contraction of her full name, said she welcomes the opportunity to enhance her cleaning technique to keep mothers like herself moving along on a clutter-free path.

After seeing 6.28 million copies of her book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” sold since its release in December 2010, the 31-year-old Japanese cleaning consultant has attracted media attention at home and abroad.

Today she is accompanied by her husband and manager, Takumi Kawahara, on global tours, has a makeup artist-cum-hair stylist standing by her side during interviews, and gets full support from her publishing agents for all business-related matters.

Until recently, she was simple and clear about the KonMari Method: anyone who wants to live a joy-filled life should bid farewell to any household items that do not spark joy. Just get started, get it over with, and move on.

But after having her daughter, she was confounded by the time constraints of being a parent.

“Now I know what it’s like to have very little time for yourself. Of course, I’m sticking to my basic principles but I’ll have to come up with a different tidying tip for people with children,” she said.

Although she has no immediate plans for a new book after her second English book “Spark Joy” came out in January, Kondo, a mere 147 centimeters tall, is still on a mission to take the world of chaos by storm.

“I realized cleaning can make the world a better place,” Kondo said after returning from a 16-day tour of London and New York.

“Until now I was just focused on cleaning in Japan, but the problem is universal. My goal is to organize the world. I’ve only just started and I’m taking baby steps,” she said.

Kondo’s first book has been translated into 28 languages, with licenses to print them in 12 other languages on the way.

The only reason she decided to write a book in the first place was because there was a six-month wait for her private consulting sessions, and one impatient client asked her to think of an alternative way to share the KonMari Method with those in line.

Kondo’s obsession for tidiness took root early in life and grew naturally. As a university student, she would beg classmates to allow her to clean their rooms. Her friends at the time would buy her lunch or sweets in return.

“Of course I couldn’t ask for money because they were doing me a favor (by letting me clean). But soon friends introduced me to friends, my client base grew, and people started saying I could charge money for what I was doing.”

In April 2015, Kondo was named in TIME magazine’s list of 100 most influential people in the world alongside U.S. President Barack Obama, Apple CEO Tim Cook and Grammy winning singer-songwriter Taylor Swift.

Since becoming a social icon with appearances in magazines and on TV shows in Japan and the United States, Kondo has divided her time between Japan and other regions of the world, particularly English-speaking countries.

Traveling has become somewhat of a backbreaker with the arrival of her daughter, but thanks to her parents who babysit while she is away, Kondo is able to focus on her lifework.

“Twenty years ago, Japan was more of a consumer society. But today people talk about the simple life, LOHAS (lifestyle of health and sustainability), and downsizing. Japan is changing. People are changing. Now is the time for me to act,” she said.

Her schedule for the year is booked, and Kondo has put a stop to her one-on-one consulting lessons. Now she is focused on creating more cleaning experts like herself.

Kondo trusts a group of 120 trainees to pass on the KonMari Method to those who do not know how to treat their socks with respect or handle their Victoria’s Secret collection with loving care.

As the trainees replace her on home visits and speaking engagements, Kondo is preparing to launch an English app of her step-by-step cleaning method for mobile devices to be released this spring.

“Right now there are more job requests coming from overseas,” said Kondo, who relies on an interpreter when abroad. “I’m taking private English lessons. I’m hoping to do a complete session in English. That’s something I’ve never done before,” she said.

It came as a surprise that the New York Times dubbed her the “Zen Nanny” and The Washington Post called her the “Decluttering Guru,” while many others make reference to what they perceive as her spiritual approach to cleaning.

“I always did love visiting shrines as a child because of the way it made me feel. But only after I started working as a consultant and getting feedback from my clients did I realize cleaning and Zen may have a connection,” Kondo said.

The KonMari Method is unique in that it asks people to physically hold objects in their hands before deciding where they will go. This tactile examination of household items, she said, leads to less shopping once you determine an object’s intrinsic value.

Possessions you touch that spark joy can stay but those that do not are destined for the trash heap — though of course only after you have thanked them for their service.

“It’s not really about the amount of things you own. If your house is full of things but they’re things that spark joy, it’s perfectly fine,” she said. “I just tell people to try it and see for themselves the difference they will see in their lives.”

  • Lisa Cunningham

    After purchasing Marie’s first book and reading it I was amazed at how simple and fun it was to start tidying up properly for the first time. Everything she suggests makes perfect sense and I was delighted with the results after tackling my bedroom cupboard first. I am now tidying up the rest of my home using her “does this spark Joy in my life” tactic and feel much more in control of my life and my home environmemt! Thank you for a wonderful book Marie and so excited to hear that you have a 2nd one out too!