Her first book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, made Marie Kondo an unlikely house-hold name. To celebrate her new book, Spark Joy, Kondo demystifies her cult methods.

By Real Simple
Updated January 06, 2016
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Marie Kondo mandala
Credit: The Ellaphant in the Room

Your books plot a path for getting and staying organized. Where do some of us go wrong?

A big mistake is organizing belongings before you have completed the process of deciding which items to keep. It can be discouraging to see how much stuff you actually have, but you need it all out there, in the middle of the room, to figure out what stays and what goes. You can have lasting success only if you shrink the piles first. Like with many important life changes, you cannot move in two directions at one time.

You tell us to get rid of things that don’t “spark joy.” That’s still hard. How can we make it easier?

Hold each object in your hand. If it doesn’t spark joy, you know you need to part with it. Many of my clients feel guilty about letting something go, so I encourage them to say “thank you” to the item before getting rid of it. It sounds strange, but they tell me it works—it relieves them of the guilt. When we appreciate items in our lives, even those that won’t be part of our lives much longer, it helps us feel better about our decisions.

You’re adamant about good bra storage—folding straps and sides into the cups so they stand up. Why?

I believe happiness is enhanced by making small moments, even choosing a bra, as joyful as possible. Folding bras so they’re upright instead of flattened, and organizing them by color—darkest in front, lightest in back—doesn’t take much effort. And when you open the drawer and see bras displayed the way they are in finer stores, it’s a positive start to your day.

You touch on wallets in your book. Why is it crucial to have a neat one? And how do you keep it that way?

Most of us look at a wallet as just a holder for things that we’re usually in a great hurry to retrieve. But it’s where we keep some of the most difficult-to-replace items in our lives—it deserves gratitude. I recommend cleaning it and removing anything you do not need on a daily basis. Valuing your wallet can even change your habits, prompting you to spend money with more discretion.

Your kitchen credo is extreme: Keep nothing on counters or around the sink and stovetop so that they’re easy to wipe clean regularly. Can you explain this logic?

I was once convinced that easy accessibility to utensils and spices in a kitchen was key. But cooking is a messy business. Everything on my counter and on hooks was splattered with oil and water. I realized that in professional kitchens, counters are free of items and the entire area is clean. I passed this strategy along to clients. They found it helps them enjoy cooking more, even if their cupboards are fuller than they would like. They are happy to hunt for the right pot if it means their counters remain easy to clean.