Marie Kondo attends the 91st Annual Academy Awards. Picture: Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images
Marie Kondo attends the 91st Annual Academy Awards. Picture: Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images

The woman so famous she’s become a verb

SHE stole the show on this year's Oscars red carpet, launching a barrage of jokes about how she had been sent to the famously shambolic ceremony to "clean up the mess", she's taught Ellen DeGeneres how to fold her T-shirts and she's now so famous she's become a verb.

But Marie Kondo, she of the KonMari decluttering method, the millions of Instagram fans, star of the hit Netflix series Tidying Up with Marie Kondo and creator of the now infamous phrase "spark joy" remains both grounded and grateful.

Speaking to The Courier-Mail from Los Angeles, Kondo, 35, says her she finds the level of her global success - now known as "Kondomania" - surprising.

"It feels very strange, I never had that ambition, I never wanted the world to know me," Kondo says in her native Japanese, her words interpreted by her regular ­offsider on Tidying Up, Marie Iiada.

"I am very interior-oriented, I am a very quiet person, so for someone like me to be known globally feels very … surprising."

But if Kondo is a little overwhelmed by her success, she also understands it.

"I think so many of us felt and feel subconsciously that we had too much information in her our lives, both in our homes and in the information we are constantly receiving," she says.

"It's hard to know where to begin, so I think to be shown a step-by-step method is helpful."

Kondo's voice is rapid and musical, it's a little bit like ­listening to a typewriter sing, and her expression on the video link-up screen is, as ­always, serene, bordering on beatific.

"There is a deeper, spiritual connection to our belongings that we may t realise", Kondo, whose two books, 2010's The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and 2014's Spark Joy have sold tens of millions of copies worldwide, says.

"My lesson asks you to express gratitude to our home and what you own. It is a reminder that the things that surround us also protect us and help us.

"It is a very emotional connection and I have witnessed so many of our clients being brought to tears by that. It is very powerful".

Through her Netflix series, and as a private decluttering consultant (there is currently a waiting list of between six months to a year to have the real Kondo come and "Kondo" your home), Kondo has seen hundreds of clients.

One, however, stays with her.


Otti Logan, 16, gets a folding lesson from zen tidiness guru Marie Kondo. Picture: Joanne Rathe/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
Otti Logan, 16, gets a folding lesson from zen tidiness guru Marie Kondo. Picture: Joanne Rathe/The Boston Globe via Getty Images


"I have so many lasting impressions, but there was one female client and her mindset was that she wanted to divorce her husband, so tidying up was part of that process," she says.

"She thought once she had finished tidying, she would gather her things and just leave him, but what happened was once she started to tidy up, she realised that she had lost some of her sensitivity to her husband.

"Some of the frustrations she had attributed to him were frustrations with herself, and she also saw that the clutter in her home had contributed to her feelings of anxiety.

"What is great about tidying it that it allows us to re-evaluate what we take for granted. She said to me, sort of as a joke at the end 'when I touched my husband again, he sparked joy'."

Kondo laughs her tinkling array of bell-like notes. "They avoided divorce and that made me very happy," she said.


Kondo attributes a large part of her penchant for ­decluttering to her Japanese upbringing, growing up with her parents and two siblings in Tokyo.

"In Japan, being grateful for our belongings is a natural part of life and it is a natural part of life from very early on," she says. "In Japan, everyone in the school takes turns every afternoon to clean their classrooms."

It's fair to say for those children cleaning up little Kondo Mariko's (as she was known then) classroom, there wouldn't have been much to do.

"It's true, I was always tidying the classroom all alone," she says. "I did see other kids playing so I knew it was unusual, but I was never teased or bullied about it because I think I never drew attention to it or myself.

"They would just come back to the classroom and it would be tidy - I was just very quiet".

Now married to Takumi Kawahara, with daughters, Satsuki, 2, and Miko, 3, Kondo swears her own home is not always a paean to perfection.

"This is something I struggled with, because when you have a two and three-year-old, your floors get filled with toys and when a delivery man would come to deliver a parcel and get a glimpse into my home, I would spiral into anxiety, but now I know that perfection is not important," she says. "That is not my message at all. I just want people to be happy in their homes."


1 Does it spark joy?

Kondo famously advises people that the best way to decide whether to keep something is to hold it and determine if it "sparks joy". The idea is that once you have finished decluttering your home, you are surrounded only by things that make you happy.


2 Be thankful

As you're turfing out those jeans you no longer fit into, thank them for their service. Kondo says paying your respects makes it easier to let go of an item.


3 Take stock of what you have

Kondo asks that you dump all the items you want to clear out in one spot so you can see everything and start the sorting process from there.


4 Start with the easiest items

Clothes and books should be sorted first, according to Kondo, because they make for easier decisions.


5 Stick to your own stuff

Kondo doesn't recommend sticking your nose into other people's sorting business - and she believes children should be involved in the tidying process. For example, everyone should fold their own clothes.