Image: Instagram / @mariekondo
Unless you've living under a rock (or maybe a pile of clutter?), you've probably heard of Marie Kondo. The affable organizational expert took the world by storm with her method of tidying up. Kondo's book "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up" came out in 2010 to very little fanfare. Some people were into it, but others found the whole process silly. People get real mad when you tell them to throw their junk away! However you felt about Kondo and her Konmari method of tidying up, the book put her on the radar. But when her Netflix show came out, her popularity exploded. For some reason, it's much easier to swallow the idea of parting ways with your clutter when we see how other people do it. The visual aspect of the show opened a lot of people's minds!
The show also have us a chance to fall head over heels in love with Marie Kondo. Like, we all developed a major crush on her immediately. She's like a woodland fairy, so tiny and sweet! It's almost like we don't want to disappoint her and keep living in our clutter. Kondo seems to genuinely love mess, but more than that, she loves helping people work through theirs. But watching the show, we don't learn a whole lot about Kondo herself. She shares little tidbits of her own life, but definitely keeps a distance with the families she helps. We're all so curious to know her story, though! So here are some things you might not know about Marie Kondo. One thing we know for sure: she sparks a lot of joy.
A lot of us heard about Marie Kondo after her Netflix show premiered. But Kondo has been changing lives with her method for quite some time. Her first book, "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up", came out in 2010. She quickly followed that up with "Spark Joy", also in 2012. In 2016, she released "Life-Changing Magic: A Journal". And in 2017, she released an illustrated graphic novel called "The Life-Changing Manga of Tidying Up". Clearly, there's a running theme here. But for anyone who wants to read more about Konmari, Kondo has plenty of titles to choose and learn from!
Marie Kondo is a pretty private person, but an article in the New York Times shed some light on her journey to become the world's organizer. Turns out, the itch to declutter started young with Kondo! According to the article, "When she was a little girl, she read all of her mother’s homemaking magazines, and as early as elementary school began researching various tidying methods, so disquieted was her brain by her family’s possessions." Some kids play with toys or video games. Marie Kondo spent her childhood finding ways to organize those toys and video games in her family's home.
Yes, you read that right! So enamored was Marie Kondo with cleaning and organizing that she actually spent her 18th birthday reading books on the subject. In Japan's national library, there's a large collection of books on cleaning, decluttering, and organizing. But for some reason, you're not allowed to access the books in the library until you reach adulthood. So Kondo did what any freshly minted 18 year old with a passion for cleaning would do: she hit it up on her 18th birthday. Party on, Marie Kondo! Not exactly our idea of a good time, but different strokes for different folks, right?
Marie Kondo attended Tokyo Woman's Christian University, where she studied sociology. But even in college, her love of decluttering and organizing was evident. Rather than write her thesis on something boring or expected, she actually wrote it on cleaning! Her thesis, titled "How to Declutter Your Apartment - From a Sociological Perspective" clearly set the stage for what would become Kondo's calling in life. We have to say, we really admire how she turned her passion into a job! Even if her passion is cleaning other people's homes and apartments and teaching them how to throw away their junk and get organized.
Listen, when you're a struggling college student, you have to find creative ways to make some extra cash! Kondo funneled her organizational energy into a side business as a student, after her friends started offering her money to declutter and organize their apartments. After she graduated, she worked for a short time at a staffing agency, but did decluttering jobs in the early mornings and evenings. She would charge $100 for a five-hour block of time. Eventually, she was able to quit the staffing agency and do that full-time, and the wait list for her services reached six months long!
Shintoism is the traditional religion of Japan, and Kondo's work is inspired by some of the core principles. In her book, she says that cleaning your home transforms it into a sacred space filled with good, pure energy. While Kondo didn't follow Shintoism very closely, she did work for a time at a shrine, selling lucky charms. In her youth, she also served as a Miko, or Shrine Maiden. In an interview, she said, "I loved visiting Shinto shrines when I was a little girl. I didn’t practice Shintoism deeply but it has an influence on my tidying method."
If you've watched the show, you probably laughed more than once at Kondo trying to reach a high shelf. She's obviously on the shorter side, but just how tall is she? Turns out, Kondo is just 4 feet 7 inches tall. For perspective, the average Japanese woman is about 5 feet 2 inches tall. But watching Kondo in action, it's pretty clear that she doesn't let her height (or lack thereof) get in her way. There's always a ladder or a step stool around to help her reach those top shelves! Plus, she packs a lot of power into a little package. She's got people all over the world throwing away their prized possessions like a boss.
Her decluttering business was such a hit that people were waiting months for a chance to have the one and only Marie Kondo come clean up their messes. One of her customers suggested she write a book about her methods that they could read while they waited for an opening for her services. And thus, "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up" was born. The book was published in 2010, when Kondo was just 26 years old. Talk about turning a side hustle into a main hustle! When people love your services so much they ask you to write a book about them, you know you've touched on something really special.
If you do a quick google image search of Marie Kondo, or even scroll through her own IG feed, you might notice that she seems to favor white. It's not your imagination! She considers white to be her signature color, and wears it as often as she can. She told the New Yorker, "It is part of my brand. My image colour. It is easy to recognise me." And that is true! White is often associated with cleanliness and tidiness, and if that's your whole brand, well then. Wear white, girl! It's not like she has a messy house to contend with that would make her worry about smudging her skirt or whatever. It is a little risky to wear it into some of the homes she visits to offer her services, but maybe Kondo likes to live on the edge.
Marie Kondo has two absolutely darling little girls, Satsuki and Miko. And she's been married to her husband Takumi Kawahara since 2012. Kawahara used to work in the corporate world, but once Kondo's book took off and her fame skyrocketed, he left his job and is now the CEO of KonMari Media. Since 2015, he's managed her social media and books deals. He even helped secure her deal with Netflix, and produces Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. The family now calls Los Angeles home. It sounds like they're partners in every sense of the word. We wonder if his drawers are all origami folded, too.
In the first episode of Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, she helps a family with two small children. We were all thinking the same thing - how can you keep a house clean and organized with two toddlers running around?! Well, that's no excuse in Kondo's book. She mentioned in that episode that she gets her own daughters involved in cleaning, organizing, and tidying up. She even said they have fun doing it! We imagine that if you grow up with a mom who makes a living cleaning and organizing, it's probably just something you do, no questions asked. Anyone who can get a kid to not only clean up after themselves but actually enjoy doing so is a real magician.
You'd think that with all that cleaning and organizing she does, Marie Kondo would want to be an comfortable as possible! Well, apparently, she's the most comfortable wearing skirts, and rarely wears pants. Watching her show, she always has a dress or skirt over her tights. In an interview with the New Yorker, Kondo said that she stopped wearing pants a long time ago because they did not spark joy. So clearly she lives by her own rules! We'd love to see what kind of pants she actually has in her closet. There's got to be at least one or two pairs, right?
You won't find Marie Kondo splashed all over the covers of tabloids or magazines. She prefers to keep her private life just that - private. She mentions little anecdotes about her kids, and sometimes gives us little glimpses into her life in interviews. But generally speaking, she doesn't share very much, and that includes access to her own home. We get it! Your home is your sanctuary, one of the few places you can keep sacred and safe. On her IG, she's shared a few pictures of her own space or belongings. But we won't get a look at Kondo's closets or dresser drawers anytime soon. We'll just have to assume her folded items are flawless.
Sure, we can Konmari our closets and kitchens till the cows come home. But then we open our laptops and the disorganization hits us like a Mack truck. Kondo says we can make that spark joy, too. Four years ago she did an AMA on Reddit, and had this to say about email clutter: "This is kind of a common question, even in Japan. Well, I recommend to take the same method as you tidying up your house. For example, you should dedicate the whole day to tidying up your email inbox (or in one shot). In the same way, you move on to the next category of documents and files - for example, you just want to work on this specific folder today. But you want to get it ALL done. It is important to finish up this category in one shot. I know your eyes get very tired! You can take a break while doing it."
Marie Kondo has said over and over again - she loves mess! But we imagine she loves other people's mess, and not her own. After all, how can someone who lives and breathes organization and cleanliness have any sort of mess in her own home?! But as it turns out, there's one thing Kondo just can't keep clean. She told The Guardian, "I love wearing slippers, but I take them off in random places around the house. I can’t keep them on for long, so they’re scattered." That's ... adorable. Slippers all over the house are Marie Kondo's dirty little secret. It's just perfect.
Marie Kondo sure has come a long way from cleaning her friends' apartments for extra cash in college. She's built up quite the empire, with books, shows, appearances, and rave reviews. In 2015, TIME Magazine named her one of their 100 Most Influential People. Even then, it seemed clear that Kondo was destined for greatness. But could anyone have predicted things exploding the way they have?! Nowadays, Kondo spends her time filming her own Netflix show and hobnobbing with celebrities. We bet she's seem some pretty crazy stuff in her line of work, but we'd be lying if we said we weren't dying of curiosity about the state of some celeb's closets.
That is definitely what people have focused on, but Kondo doesn't particularly care how much of your junk you keep. She's not out to turn everyone into minimalists. Yes, you will probably part ways with a good amount of stuff. But Kondo genuinely wants you to keep what sparks joy, however much stuff that is. That's why she advocates for taking each of your possessions in your hands to decide if it does indeed spark joy. If it doesn't, let it go! If it does, great! Just find a place for it to go. Kondo doesn't have some evil plan to get everyone to rid themselves of all their possessions. People should calm down a little.
One man's trash is another man's treasure, right? So many people are jumping on the Konmari train that thrift stores are seeing a major uptick in donations. Which means that all the stuff that doesn't spark joy for you has a chance to spark joy for someone else! That's actually our favorite part of the Konmari method: releasing something from your possession to find a better home with someone else. Goodwill has actually credited Kondo and her show with the increase of donations to their stores. See? Everyone wins when you finally clean out your closet and donate those dresses you loved in college but wouldn't be caught dead in now.
The Konmari method is laid out very, well, methodically. There's a reason the steps are in the order they're in, and Marie Kondo emphasizes that following the steps and doing them all is incredibly important. There are six steps:
Going in order is important, as is tidying in categories and not location. It seems silly when you could just go room to room, but Kondo is the expert here, so we're inclined to believe she knows what she's talking about.
If cleaning, organizing, and tidying sparks joy in you, then we have some good news! You can actually train to become a certified Konmari consultant, and follow in Marie Kondo's very small footsteps. For starters, you have to have read her books and embrace the Konmari system. Then you attend a seminar, have an audition that consists of tidying for two different clients, and pass a written exam. Sounds simple enough! It does come with a pretty hefty price tag, though. Completing the seminar and training and getting certified will set you back about $1,500. Small price to pay to live that Konmari life.
There's always going to be some haters, right? As popular as Marie Kondo has become, other professional organizers aren't such big fans of her work. They don't like that she's getting credit for a lot of methods that are standard for most professional organizers, and they say her success is thanks to clever marketing (duh). Plus, they feel like she's too strict, and don't think their clients would really want to live in a Konmari'd world. Sure, there are definitely some weaknesses in Kondo's methods. But it sounds like a lot of jealousy over the fact that she turned something completely boring into a worldwide phenomenon.
Different strokes for different folks, right? Not everyone is going to like Marie Kondo and her Konmari method. Plenty of people don't like it, or it doesn't work for them. And that's OK! Even Kondo acknowledges that her methods don't work for everyone. In an appearance on Rachael Ray, Kondo gave some props to the in-house organize Peter Walsh for his organization methods. She explained later, "I think it’s good to have different types of organizing methods, because my method might not spark joy with some people, but his method might." That makes a lot of sense! Love Konmari or don't, there might be a better method out there for you.
That look of sheer joy on her face when she walks into an extremely cluttered room? She's not faking that. Kondo really does love mess and helping people work through their clutter and get a handle on their possessions. But if there's one thing she doesn't enjoy, it's smell. Bad smells, in particular. Scent mess, if you will! Says Kondo, "If a room has some garbage, like stinky garbage, old food and stuff, yes it does bother me sometimes. But not because of the amount of clutter, it is just the smell." We are with you on that one, Marie! Nothing worse than walking into a room and smelling something you just know is going to be a foul discovery.
Marie Kondo spent much of her childhood and teenage years cleaning and tidying her family home. But it got to a point where her parents got tired of all the decluttering, LOL. They banned Kondo from tidying the rest of the house, so she focused her attention on her own room. Kondo became obsessed with reorganizing and tidying her room and the stress led her to faint one afternoon. She was unconscious on the floor of her room for two hours, and when she came to, she said she had a vision of what would eventually become her Konmari method of tidying. Rather than focus on what could be thrown out, she started focusing on what she should keep.
Would it surprise at all to learn that Kondo spends her free time cleaning and organizing? We didn't think so. In an interview with W Magazine, Kondo said, "That is a very difficult question for me. Ever since I was little, I have been so focused on my research for tidying, that I am very horrible when it comes to latest trends. I rely on my husband for the newest information, but right now we’re into a Japanese comedy show. It’s called M-1 Grand Prix and it’s a competition among stand up comedians, but they talk so fast that it’s a little hard to follow." Listen, we're a bit obsessed with Japanese reality shows, so we'll take this rec, thank you!
Before she even put pen to paper to write her bestselling first book, "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up", Marie Kondo knew she had a great idea on her hands. In fact, so confident was she that this was going to be a smash, she entered her book proposal in a contest that was looking for potentially bestselling books that will be loved in 10 years. Tomohiro Takahashi was on the judging panel for that contest, and he remembers seeing something special in Marie Kondo. She ended up winning the contest, and she and Takahashi worked together for eight months on what would eventually become her bestselling book.
People living in Japan make do with limited space, so Konmari looks vastly different in Marie's home country than it does here. Even a small studio apartment in the US is probably bigger than an apartment in Japan! In her AMA on Reddit, Kondo said she was researching how different cultures and countries can apply the same Konmari principles. She said, "Japan has more limited space, maybe some people in America might not have that space issue, so maybe they need a different way of thinking to de-clutter the space, just as an example. So I would like to make some method adjustments as well."
We really admire Kondo's dedication to her craft, but let's be honest. EVERYONE needs some downtime! So what does she do to unwind, or kill time, or just for fun? Turns out, Kondo is a big fan of cooking, especially with her oldest daughter. That is so stinking sweet! Kondo told W Magazine, "My daughter just started elementary school, and last year I really got into cooking, so we look at and read quite a lot of cookbooks, and try out new recipes." So she's into cooking, and turns it into a little reading lesson for her kiddo. Talk about multitasking! We wonder how big of a mess she makes in the kitchen.
So what do we think: is Marie Kondo whipping up a bunch of American favorites now that she calls Los Angeles home? LOL, no. Kondo prepares mostly Japanese dishes, and like any Japanese chef worth their salt, she knows that the key to doing it right is having really, really good rice. Kondo says, "I primarily cook Japanese dishes, and rice is a very important ingredient and something we eat every day. Instead of using a rice cooker, I cook with a donabe, which is an earthenware pot. It's becoming more popular in the states too. I cook the rice from scratch, but when I'm preparing a soup, I use a stock." So let's add cooking tips to the list of things we're poaching from Kondo.
People who Konmari usually fall into two categories: those who go all in and throw everything away, and those who have a really hard time throwing away a single thing. Kondo wants people to really focus on the "sparking joy" thing, but also thinks people might be missing the point a bit. When it comes to things that are necessary but don't really spark joy, it's OK to deviate from the program a bit. Kondo told Reddit, "Those things are helping you every single day. So you should appreciate how they are contributing to your life. Change the relationship with those items, by appreciating their contributions to your life." So maybe focus less on the object itself and more on how that object contributes to your life!
We can Konmari the crap out of our entire house. But ... we have kids. And kids mess everything up with their stuff and their toys and the never-ending supply of crap. Marie Kondo understands, and has some advice for parents. She told Reddit, "If the children are much younger than 3 years old, of course, they don't have much ability to decide what to keep or not, so adults can organize children's items in the same way. If the children are over 3 years old, they have some ability to figure out if it sparks joy or not. And they can make a decision based on that. So even for them, if they are older than 3 years old, they can start tidying up the room exactly in the same way - like bringing out all the items by category in one spot, and picking up every item to see if it sparks joy or not." LOL, we'll give it a shot, Marie!
If you've read her book, you probably have a better understanding of how to tackle the mementos and items with a lot of sentimental value. But for a lot of people who started Konmari after watching the show, the concept is a little harder. Marie Kondo understand and has some specific advice for this stage of the process. She told Reddit, "There is a strict order in the Konmari method - which one to start, in tidying up things gradually. And the memento items / emotional items from the past - those are the last category they should do. The reason why the mementos should be the last category to work on is that those items are very difficult to see if it sparks joy or not. So you need to sharpen your ability to figure out and see the difference while you are working on different categories of items like clothes, or books. So that should be the last category you work on."
Marie Kondo's skin is like porcelain, and we are incredibly jealous. Obviously, being Marie Kondo, she doesn't hoard a ton of skin care and makeup products as part of her skin care routine. So what exactly does she do, and how can we get on board? According to her makeup artist Megumi Asai, it's actually pretty boring and basic. Says Asai, "Even as a young person, she was always interested in tidying rather than playing sports or other things outdoors, so I’m sure that helped to keep her skin from excessive sun exposure. She also always wears sunscreen and a hat whenever she goes outside, and her diet is based on healthy, home-cooked Japanese food. She brought her own bento box and amazake (a Japanese fermented-rice drink rich in vitamins and digestive enzymes to promote beautiful skin, among many other benefits) that she’d made every day for the shoot." So sunscreen, limiting sun exposure, and fermented foods - got it!
Yes, yes, sunscreen and a healthy diet are all very important. WE GET IT. But give is the dirt, Kondo! What products does the organization queen use to keep her skin looking it's best? Kondo says she's a big fan of the skincare line SK-II, particularly their cream cleanser. But the products aren't the most important part. Says Kondo, "When it comes to makeup, it’s not so much what I put on my face, but the condition of my skin itself. I’m always careful of cleansing makeup off." Her makeup artist Megumi Asai also says that Marie Kondo prefers products made from natural ingredients, like Tatcha Pure One Step Camellia Oil Cleanser and Herbivore Coco Rose Lip Conditioner.
Marie Kondo says her mother taught her from a very young age that beauty is based on what we consume and put into our bodies. She told W Magazine, "My mother always said that the foundation of beauty is what we consume, so she always recommended a healthy chicken soup, a recipe that she passed down to me that I swear by." That's actually really good advice that we should all be passing along to our kids. Sure, everything in moderation, but when we take care with what we put into our bodies, it definitely shows. And we just love that she has a chicken soup recipe passed down to her by her mom - don't we all?
Her life is clearly very tidy and well-managed, so it should surprise no one that Marie Kondo takes as much care with what she puts into her body as she does with maintaining the space around her. She doesn't diet, exactly. But she is very considerate about what she eats. She says, "One thing I’m very aware of is what I consume, [and] what I put into my body. When I was little, whenever my mother would prepare a meal she would explain what each ingredient does to the body. For instance, we eat pork because it has Vitamin E and that’s good for the skin. It’s great to have an awareness of what we eat and how it functions with the body."
We have to admit, she does look pretty zen when she's cleaning and organizing other people's homes. That is not our idea of a good time, but hey, to each their own, right? But when it comes to really relaxing and just letting go for a bit, what does it for Marie Kondo? Very simple things, which should surprise no one. She told W Magazine, "There is nothing better than Japanese onsen or hot springs to relax." And as part of her daily routine, she burns incense as soon as she wakes up to purify the air. Kondo says she loves the smell of frankincense.
You can Konmari your house all you want - if you let things in your life in other areas that don't spark joy, you're still letting in negativity! You can totally apply the same concepts to, say, how you use social media. Marie Kondo seems to keep who she follows to accounts that spark joy in her. She says, "I’m always drawn to what looks beautiful—that’s what I rely on Instagram for. Certain hashtags I like are for flower arrangements or, #wagashi, which are Japanese confectionery that are very beautiful." We imagine it's very relaxing to scroll through pictures of gorgeous flower arrangements!
In between writing and filming her Netflix show, Marie Kondo shares her knowledge with fans on her blog. She writes about everything from what to do with gifts that don't spark joy to how to do furoshiki, the traditional art of Japanese gift wrapping. One of our favorite posts is about tips for productivity. Her routine revolves around spending time with her kids, and she focuses on utilizing the time she has to stay productive. Kondo writes, "Establishing routines can be difficult – just when you think you’re settled on a schedule, life throws unexpected challenges! To optimize productivity, I start by considering how I want to spend my time in spans of years, quarters, months, weeks – and then I work my way down to the daily routines. By doing so, I align my time with priorities at that particular point in my life."
We always love to learn about who our role models consider role models, and when it comes to Marie Kondo, we were dying to know who her personal icon is. In her own sweet Marie Kondo way, she warmed our hearts with her answer. She told W Magazine, "My grandmother will always remain as my ideal woman figure. She always paid attention to every aspect of her life however small. If you opened her draw it was perfectly immaculate, she decorated with flowers, and carefully cleaned her home." We love that, and it sounds like Marie Kondo is following in her footsteps.