The Best of Marie Kondo: Organizing for Real Life

How to organize your life using Our Version of the marie kondo Method

Who is familiar with the Marie Kondo Method of Tidying Up? Raise your hand. It has not just taken the nation by storm, it has taken the world by storm. She has started an organizing revolution. It’s amazing, and apparently needed by many people. If you unfamiliar you should get her book, The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up, which will help you understand it all.

However, Marie Kondo’s method is not for everyone.

In fact, her method is drastic and for many of us, too daunting. So, Jodie and I have taken her inspiration and created our own modified version. Our recommendations employ the best aspects of her philosophy and process and make it attainable for real life. It is working for us, and we think it will work for you.

For more tips and inspiration to help you get organized this year, be sure to read about how I created my Dream Office and how I organized my Pantry. And, if you missed it, be sure to read about how I created a fun Kid’s Study Space. We love sharing our organizing projects with you.

folded scarves in organized bin using marie kondo organizing method

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What is the Marie Kondo Method of Organizing?

The Marie Kondo Philosophy

In case you’ve miss this whole revolution, let’s get you caught up. Marie Kondo’s “KonMari Method” of tidying applies the philosophy that everything you own should “spark joy” in you. And if it doesn’t, you should let it go. This selective process frees you to more fully enjoy the things you keep and also enjoy your home and ultimately your life.

Buy Marie Kondo’s book here.

Marie Kondo organizing book florals

The Marie Kondo Process

Marie Kondo’s book has you work through all your possessions by category, not area. This is the biggest difference with her method. Her categories are as follows:

  1. Clothing
  2. Books/Papers
  3. Komono (miscellaneous) which is a HUGE category
  4. Sentimental (photos/memorabilia)

The order is important. You start with the easiest category and end with the toughest, which makes sense.

Instead of working by area, it is essential for her method that you tackle an entire category at once. For example, as a first step she insists on having her clients take every single article of clothing they own from every place in the home and pile it in one mountain of clothes. The shock factor is part of the process. Seeing all that you own makes you finally realize just how unnecessary most of our clothing collections are. Now that it is all out, you are forced to “deal with” each and every item. Having the mountain of belongings out and in your way means you can’t get on with your life until you finish.

The Problems with the KonMari Method

There are two main obstacles to her process:

  1. Time. The main problem for most of us busy people is the time commitment necessary. When you take every single item in a category and place it in a mountainous heap in the middle of your bed or floor it needs to be dealt with before life can continue. Who has 10-20 hours at a time available to them?
  2. Anxiety. It’s overwhelming and anxiety producing. This mental roadblock is as real as the timing issue. I couldn’t bring myself to do it. As excited as I was, I couldn’t begin. This girl hates mess. Big time. No promise of a joy-filled future could bring me to create the kind of overwhelming mess necessary to get there.

Let’s Talk About Finding the “Spark of Joy”

Marie Kondo has you hold each piece and decide if it “sparks joy.” Some people struggle with this process. We don’t all connect with inanimate objects and feel emotion. Many people slowly evolve and improve. If you don’t relate on an emotional level to the items you own, how do you decide?

The whole question of need, function, practicality, past, present, and future all come into play as we try to decide what to keep and what to let go of. Marie Kondo says let go of the past and the future in order to be happy in the now. We really agree with this as a goal. We love how this parallels our own philosophy of life. To be happy in our hearts and minds we need to do the same. So, it makes great sense that we should apply this to our belongings as well.

Jodie and I agree with this as a goal, but it can be challenging. It is a bit idealistic because we run into trouble when our ice scraper fails to bring us joy, and yet we know that one day next winter we might need it. Finding joy in each and every possession you hold onto is unrealistic for most of us. We “need” a few more things to allow our lives to properly function.

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cluttered master closet wood shelves


clean and organized master closet using Marie Kondo organizing method

My Master Closet

I used the philosophy of keeping only what sparks joy to help me go through all my clothes in our master closet. But I didn’t take everything out and heap it on my bed. Where would I have slept during the week-long project?

Our compromise advice: Take small increments of time available and work through the closet. You will be encouraged by progress. Remember, the goal is progress not perfection.

My Story with Marie Kondo Method

I first read “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo on a beach vacation in Mexico (of all places) four years ago. I remember not being happy that it was the only book I had left to read. In the first few chapters I remember clearly thinking, “who is this crazy lady?” and by the end I had bought into everything she was saying, mesmerized by her promises of life-changing joy. It was the only book in my life that I finished and immediately turned back to page one to reread it. Yes, I wanted what Marie Kondo promised.

I returned home from that vacation ready to go, just as soon as I could find the time. Mind you, this was before blogging or any big Instagram commitment. I didn’t have a lot on my plate four years ago, and even as excited as I was, I still had a hard time starting. In fact, it was so hard to begin I never did. I wanted to, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. So what progress did I make? None, zero.

Real Life Organizing

We agree conceptually with most everything Marie Kondo presents, and in a perfect world with nothing else to do, maybe we could embrace the process. But the reality is that we are busy, busy, busy, just like all of you. We don’t have 10 hours of time available ever.

So we wholeheartedly believe that progress, any progress, is better than none. Wouldn’t you agree? It has been four years of thinking, hoping, even praying, that I could attack my growing disorganization. It is beginning to weigh me down. My extensive storage in my home is nearly full, which makes me uneasy just thinking about it. I need to begin, so I need to compromise.

pile of colorful scarves

colorful folded organized scarves in bin using Marie Kondo organizing method

Wow, what a difference folding can make! Who knew? This only took me five minutes.

The Design Twins’ Real Life Organizing Method

Marie Kondo is all about perfection. And we think perfection is over-rated. We believe that shooting for perfection can make the task impossible. So let’s compromise.


Most weeks are busy, but within the framework of a week we all have an hour here and an hour there. These small bits of time can be put to use. Sit down with your calendar and peek at the week. Look for openings. Jodie and I like 30 min – 1 hour slots.

Pencil in organizing dates with yourself. Even if you can tackle a drawer or a small closet that is progress. The feeling you get from this will motivate you to do it again. Progress is exciting. It’s not overwhelming. It’s workable.

Besides the planned “dates” when you find yourself “puttering about” use that time to tackle another area. This works really well for me. I’ve started to get into the habit of just opening a cupboard, drawer or closet and getting to work. It’s like the feeling I get from doing a mini workout. I’m mentally energized with the feeling of productivity.

Our System of Disposal

The system both Jodie and I have used for years is simple. We get three bags out.

  1. Trash
  2. Recycle
  3. Donations

The Win/Win of Donation

If you don’t regularly donate items, first identify your preferred donation recipients. Over the years we’ve had various families who we contributed to. We have our church who takes certain things. And we have several donation drop off areas that we can give to as well. If you have a variety of donation options, you might have 2-3 donation bags working at once.

Donating to charities you care about really helps with the process of letting go. When you know that you aren’t just “throwing it away” but giving it to a better home and people that need it you can much more easily let go. Many of us have a deeply rooted philosophy that we don’t want to “waste.” Donating items means you aren’t wasting, you’re giving. It creates a win/win scenario.

For more info on the Mari Kondo’s method of tidying up, check out Good Housekeeping’s article. 

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We Love Marie Kondo

Now don’t get us wrong. We love Marie Kondo and her passion for organizing and finding joy in what we own. Her philosophy regarding simplifying life by letting go of what you don’t need and what may be weighing you down makes wonderful sense. We highly recommend reading her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Or if you prefer, watch her show on Netflix called “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.” Both will inspire you to begin this journey. However, if you are like us, you may find yourself at a stand-still. In fact, you may not even be able to begin. Her method is so daunting and time-consuming. Instead of aiming for a radical overhaul we prefer a compromise. Compromising is better than staying stuck. Our goal therefore is progress not perfection.

Wishing you an organized, joy-filled home!

jodie & julie

colorful folded scarves in bin using Marie Kondo organizing method

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The Best of Marie Kondo: Organizing for Real Life
Article Name
The Best of Marie Kondo: Organizing for Real Life
We take the best of the Marie Kondo Method of organizing and make it doable for real life. We employ her philosophy of simplifying and finding joy to a more realistic system that everyone can accomplish. Instead of shooting for unattainable goals we recommend a compromise that puts progress before perfection.
Publisher Name
The Design Twins
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  1. Brenda Johnson says:

    I agree with you! I have avoided watching Marie because I already expected it would be a bit overwhelming. I’m a pretty well organized person for the most part, but since having a health issue I haven’t been able to keep up so well. I just do small areas that don’t take more than 15 to 20 minutes to do. As for my closet, that will take a while as I’ll do small sections at a time.
    Thanks girls,
    Brenda (myhomeysweethome)

  2. Rebecca says:

    Thank you for bringing common sense to this popular trend!

    • jjdesigntwins says:

      Our pleasure. We are sure the full Marie Konde method is called for in certain cases. We are also certain that in some situations it works wonders, but for all of the rest of us who aren’t drowning and don’t have lives we can put on hold compromise is key. We’re so glad you enjoyed our suggestions! Good luck with your organizing! XO ~ Julie & Jodie

  3. Kimi says:

    I love this so much Julie! Progress over perfection is something I say quite often, but had never really thought about it that way when it came to organizing. I love Marie Kondo too but agree that tackling everything at once might send me
    Into a full-blown anxiety attack! Not to mention deciding why brings me joy…like my smaller clothing that no longer fits brings me way more
    Joy that the size I’m currently in, but it wouldn’t be practical to keep it all and throw away the stuff that actually fits now, would it? You have a great system and I agree, work
    on a little bit at a time and eventually we’ll all get there.

    • jjdesigntwins says:

      Thanks for your awesome reply. We are so glad that you found our compromise ideas helpful. Progress not perfection is a good philosophy no matter what you’re trying to achieve…apply it across life! Thank you for visiting our blog, sweet friend. We hope you will visit often and enjoy. All the best, Julie & Jodie

  4. Talitha says:

    I really appreciate Lisa Woodruff from … 🙂

    • jjdesigntwins says:

      Interesting! We’ll have to check her out. We will be continuing on this organizing journey and love all the inspiration and ideas we can get. Thank you for visiting our blog and your kind reply. Happy Organizing, Julie & Jodie

  5. Anna says:

    We’ve been trying to pare down our four bedroom house for a couple months. I watched Marie Kondo’s Netflix show. I wanted to try it, because it seemed so easy on the show. We have just over three months until we move half-way across the country. So, I’ve been searching for other methods as well. Haven’t found one that sounds like it’s as effective. Then, I stumbled upon your website. As soon as I read the two main problems, it resonated with me. Thinking about the time commitment caused me anxiety before the first time I started. Seeing the mountain of clothes increased my anxiety & I shut down the first time. I have started & restarted going through all of our clothes. It has been overwhelming each & every time. I haven’t finished the clothes & never moved onto the other categories. After reading your compromise, I had an epiphany. In retrospect, I realize I couldn’t see the possibility of compromise past my anxiety. Thank you! I have time off that I plan on using your method to pare down as much as I can, one drawer at a time. I’m excited, again, to begin my project!

    • jjdesigntwins says:

      You have no idea how happy I am that our reasonable compromise approach has made a difference for you. As I wrote in the post, I was SO excited theoretically about Marie Kondo’s method. I understand how, under the right circumstances and guidance, it could be amazing. But, without guidance, time, and the other variables, I couldn’t start either…just like you. I’m thrilled that you found my blog post. I really hope it helps you make progress. It does not have to be an all or nothing approach. Progress is great. Celebrate every little bit! That’s what I say. Good luck, Julie

  6. Thanks for sharing this is such a blog video that you are providing and you give it away for free.

  7. debbie says:

    How about storage suggestions for ITEMS – like pillows, blankets, quilts, towels – what kind of container to use? do you store inside a room or all in the central linen closet. AND for those of us with “normal” small closets, more ideas. Your master closet is beautiful but most people don’t have that kind of space. thanks1

  8. Your work is really good and I appreciate this information. I always prefer to read quality and glad I found this thing in your post.

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