Published on January 22, 2019

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photography by Cody Guilfoyle

Everyone has a lot of feelings about Marie Kondo. With the debut of her Netflix series Tidying Up With Marie Kondo, her decluttering strategy (though known in the U.S. since the release of her book in 2014) has enjoyed a new surge in popularity. Instagram has been filled with shots of neatly arranged drawers, while Twitter is full of jokes about messes and sparking joy.

On the show, the featured subjects who require Kondo’s help are shown picking up after themselves, disposing of garbage bags filled with non joy–sparking things, and finding themselves able to breathe a little easier after organizing their homes. But there remains one question to be answered: After KonMari-ing your home, does it actually stay organized?

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According to Rachel Friend, who you might recognize from the first episode of the Netflix series, the answer is yes, but the reasoning isn’t inherently obvious. For her, the KonMari method isn’t just about a folding method or the idea that you only own (as much as reasonably possible) things that spark joy. It’s a reset button that makes keeping your home organized much more feasible.

“The decluttering process is daunting, and I felt myself getting anxious through it, but then you finish the first step and put your clothes away, and suddenly you’re like, okay, I did that,” explains Friend. “Then you tackle the second step, and the next. Miscellaneous [the final step], was the most daunting for us, and, oddly enough, as I was going through it, I thought, We got this. We already proved to ourselves in the first three steps that we could do this.”

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While some might feel compelled to only use Kondo’s strategy in certain parts of their homes, tidying up here or there, Friend attributes the maintenance of her home’s cleanliness to the fact that she and her husband followed Kondo’s method step by step. Not, say, just keeping up with her folding strategy, while allowing the garage to reaccumulate clutter. For the Friend family, the KonMari technique is an all-or-nothing strategy.

That’s not to say that the method itself is something that can be done over the course of a weekend. In fact, Friend says that the longer process—tackling one step per week—helped decluttering feel more manageable.

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“It’s important taking your time and doing it bit by bit and it’s more important to really focus on the task rather than doing things bit by bit,” she says. “That’s a huge reason we keep it up now. If someone wants to take on her method, I’d suggest that they are ready to confront it head-on in those steps right off the bat. It sounds like a lot, but once you do it, that’s how you maintain it.”

Others who have embraced Kondo’s teachings have also adopted a longer timeline for their tidying. For Alina Wall and Tina Neufeld, who have been running their own 90-Day KonMari Challenge since 2017, after they first read Kondo’s book, the same strategy holds true.

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“In an effort to keep ourselves accountable, we decided to launch a 90-day challenge to finally tackle all the areas of our lives that have accumulated clutter,” Wall says. “By being somewhat realistic, as we juggle careers, babies, and before-and-after school routines, we didn’t want to attempt this challenge with a quick fix approach and set ourselves up for failure. A consistent, category by category, week by week, meticulous declutter approach worked and left our homes transformed.”

The method is for perfectionists only, though. As Wall testifies, too, the Netflix series shows that even Kondo deals with some of the same problems she helps others work their way through. “She admits that even she has issues with clutter in certain areas in her home and that she isn’t, as most of us assumed, perfect,” Wall says. While Kondo’s method seems to operate best when done by the book, small adjustments can still amount to a well-organized home.

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“She offers her method, but she doesn’t want things to feel more difficult for you or take anything away from your home that is working,” Friend says. “For instance, she has a hanging method for your closet of hanging the longer things on the left and shorter on the right, so you have things going longer to shorter. I ended up hanging things grouped by category, so I have my jackets, then my flannels—it’s not grouped by length, more so by like items. That’s an adjustment that works for us.”

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Still, the greatest change that can come from Kondo’s teachings doesn’t seem to deal with clutter alone. For Friend and Wall both, the philosophy, at surface level, is about tidying a home, but that ends up accomplishing an even bigger-picture goal.

“It’s not just about your home. I didn’t realize how much what I felt about my home was really hindering me in other areas of my life,” explains Friend. Once we organized, this cloud cleared. I had this boost of productivity and I felt so good about the house that I was able to do what I cared about.”

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For those—like Wall—who have been followers of Kondo’s method for years, that same belief holds true. “As young moms, we needed to get a grip on our homes’ clutter and hit reset so that we could make space for all the things we wanted to accomplish and more time we could spend with our children instead of moving clutter from room to room or closet to closet,” she says.

When Kondo talks about sparking joy then, she’s not necessarily only focusing on single objects or belongings—she’s showing how a home, once decluttered, can truly feel like a sanctuary. If there’s anything to learn from her teachings and those who have embraced them, it’s that a happy home is one where you don’t feel any inhibitions. Decluttering is ultimately a personal activity, and when you take your time to do it thoughtfully, step by step, you can actually maintain a tidy home.

More organization:

Fresh Desk Decor Ideas for a Stylish and Productive New Year

These Are the Most Cluttered Areas of a Home (and the Hacks to Fix It)

9 Things Your Bathroom Doesn’t Really Need (and What to Replace It With)

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