KonMari Tidying, Life, Organize, Style

Tidying Up the KonMari Way: Clothes

I recently learned about an organizing book called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of DeclutteringThe author, Marie Kondo, developed a method for sorting, purging, and organizing everything in your house that she calls KonMari. Marie advises her clients to focus on what they want to keep rather than what they want to discard, holding each item in their hands and feeling its energy. Anything that does not spark joy no longer has a purpose in their lives or homes. She insists her clients ruthlessly purge everything they don’t love or need, and apparently, they listen to her, never reverting back to their previously cluttered lifestyle!

If you use the right method and concentrate your efforts on eliminating clutter thoroughly and completely within a short span of time, you’ll see instant results that will empower you to keep your space in order ever after. p. 17

In one of the most compelling sections of the book, Marie describes what usually happens when people clean out and reorganize their belongings:

  • because they store things like clothes, books, and papers in different places in their houses, they can’t see how much they truly have
  • they follow the advice of other organization experts and tackle one room, closet, or chest at a time, sorting by location rather than category
  • they tidy over a long period of time instead of all at once, never reaching the state of perfection that will motivate them to keep everything neat

People also have a hard time parting with their belongings, worrying that they might need them someday or feeling guilty about giving away something that has sentimental value. As a result, most people don’t get rid of enough stuff and end up just rearranging what they already have. They can’t maintain the system and pretty soon, there are mountains of clothes in the bedroom, piles of papers in the office, and an assortment of beauty products crowding the bathroom sink.

Putting things away creates the illusion that the clutter problem has been solved. p. 23

To avoid these pitfalls, Marie recommends that her clients tidy by category and in order; finish discarding completely before putting anything away; and keep only the things that speak to their hearts. She also asks her clients to visualize what it would be like to live in a clutter-free space. She tells the story of one client who, responding to this question, said she wanted a room “as tidy as a hotel suite…with a pink bedspread and a white, antique-style lamp. Before going to bed [she] would have a bath, burn aromatherapy oils, and listen to classical piano or violin while doing yoga and drinking herbal tea.” I don’t know about you, but that sure sounds divine!

To truly cherish the things that are important to you, you must first discard those that have outlived their purpose. p. 61

Two weekends ago, I cleaned out and organized my linen closet. I wrote about it here. I’m proud to say that I’ve kept it tidy for two whole weeks! There really is something about knowing that I’m done, that I don’t have any other linens lurking, waiting for me to decide whether or not they bring me joy.

This past weekend, I decided to do my closet. Marie says the best sequence for tidying is to do clothes first, then books, papers, komono (miscellany,) and last, mementos, because they are the hardest to purge. She further divides clothes into tops (shirts, sweaters,) bottoms, (pants, skirts,) clothes that should be hung (jackets, coats, suits,) socks, underwear, bags, accessories, clothes for specific events (working out, swimming,) and shoes. She doesn’t mention dresses, but I think they belong in between bottoms and clothes that hang. I didn’t follow her method to a “t,” but I tried to apply the basic principles.

I made a short “before” video. I shot it vertically, which is a no-no, but it’s kind of hard to shoot a closet video horizontally. Plus it’s my first video of myself in any form on the blog, so maybe give me a pass on this one?


I started by taking everything that was hanging in my closet and laying it on my bed – tops, dresses, and pants. I recently went through my wardrobe and got rid of some things, so I started a little further along than most people would. I already organize my clothes by category and color (in ROY G. BIV order – once a teacher, always a teacher) so I didn’t take them off the hangers.

Empty Closet Left

Empty Closet Facing

Empty Coset Corner

My assistants were very helpful!

Coco and Muffin

The contents of my closet, laid out on my bed. In the book, Marie says to put everything in a pile, including socks, underwear, workout clothes, etc. I deviated from this, too, because I got a new dresser last fall, and I went through and organized those things when I switched from the old one to the new. I’ll go through it again, along with a lingerie chest, before I move on to accessories and shoes.

Clothes on bed

Other side of bed

Although I knew I would keep most of the clothes, this exercise helped me get rid of many tops I’ve held onto, thinking I would wear them someday. It pained me to pull out clothes that still have their tags on them, but I probably won’t ever wear them, and then they’ll take away my joy, so I relinquished them to the donate/sell pile. My secret to a tidy closet is using the same style hanger for everything. Switching out random hangers for uniform ones brings instant calm to your closet. I like these flocked hangers from Bed, Bath, and Beyond. They come in several colors; mine are stone.

Right side new tops

Maxi dresses, skirts, fall dresses

Getting closer!

One pile of dresses and pants

All the dresses and tunics, hung longest to shortest.

All dresses

One of the things Marie suggests is to arrange your clothes so they rise to the right, with longer, heavier items on the left and shorter, lightweight items on the right, so I made some adjustments in hanging as I worked through each category. I like seeing all my tops when I open the door, and putting the fall and winter tops to the left of the spring and summer tops makes more sense to me than what I was doing, which was stuffing off-season clothes into the corners. Everything can breathe now.

After facing - all tops

I have a love-hate relationship with pants hangers. I can’t make up my mind whether to hang pants from the waistband or fold them over a hanger. These swinging arm hangers from The Container Store are great because they don’t take up too much room.

Right side camis and pants

My closet doesn’t look drastically different, but I like the changes. Hanging my clothes so they rise to the right does make a difference – I can see everything I have now, and the closet flows better.

Left side dresses, tunics, winter tops

This is what I have to donate and/or sell. I sell my clothes in the Houston neighborhood buy/sell/trade groups. There are several, but I primarily use the one for curvy girls.

Donate sell pile

The next step in the clothing purge is socks and undergarments. I’ll go through those, then the accessories and shoes, then the miscellaneous garments. My goal is to have all my clothes done this week, including selling or donating anything I don’t want. I’m looking forward to making the “after” video!

What do you think of the KonMari method? Does it resonate with you like it did me? Are you inspired to try it? I’d love your feedback!

If you live in Houston or the surrounding area (50 mile radius) click here for information about my closet organizing services. I can help you transform your closet into a perfectly ordered space just like mine.

Quotes are from The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Act of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo, Ten Speed Press, Berkeley. 

Kelly Gartner Style KonMari

Click here to read more posts in this series.

10 thoughts on “Tidying Up the KonMari Way: Clothes

  1. Great organizing! This looks like a method worth trying out. I need any and all organization help especially now with spring cleaning underway.

    1. I’m so excited about how simple this method is – the book is a fast read, and you can apply it right away. One of my friends read my post yesterday, then went straight to her closet and started cleaning it out! Another friend is remodeling her closet, so everything has to come out of it anyway. It will be easy to put back only the things she loves!

    1. You’re welcome, Donna! I think it’s going to be great for my overall well-being once I get the whole house and garage done. I have so much stuff, and I probably don’t need or love at least a third of it. I think the energy I’m going to feel when I’m surrounded only by the things that bring me joy is going to truly be life-changing!

  2. I was getting ready to sort through my clothes when I saw Kelly post this article. It didn’t take me long to decide that I needed to get the book and see what it was all about. I am SO happy that I did.

    Before, my half of the closet was stuffed, as well as all of the drawers in my dresser, and a storage box of “off-season” clothes under my bed. I forgot half of what I had, because I couldn’t see it all.

    I read to the end of the “clothes” section of the book and did exactly what Marie Kondo (and Kelly) suggested. I ended up throwing out one bag of garbage and I have three big bags and two medium totes of clothes, shoes, handbags and other accessories to be donated. My clothes now all fits nicely into my closet and dresser and is folded in a way that I can see everything that’s there. No more storage for off-season clothes.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! Kelly, you made my day when you told me about this, and so far I’ve been able to keep up with actually putting clothes away (because there’s room) and wearing things I haven’t worn in a long time. I am extremely happy that I tired this method of tidying 🙂

    1. Megan, I’m thrilled with your success! It was perfect timing, wasn’t it? I think it’s so liberating to open your closet door and see clothes you actually want to wear, hanging in an orderly fashion. I agree – once you’ve purged everything and put what you want back in your closet, it’s easy to maintain it. I find I’m even keeping up with the laundry a lot more. I’m motivated to wash, dry, fold, AND put away! Keep me posted on how the next tidying categories go!

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