In The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Marie Kondo emphasizes the importance of “tidying efficiently all at once, as quickly as possible, to make the perfect clutter-free environment.” (p.34)  This section of the book also says to tidy “in one shot, as quickly and completely as possible.” (p.35)  These statements sometimes cause confusion, and I’ve often been asked if this means that the entire process should be completed in a weekend, or even in a single session. Do these statements mean that you need to sprint to the finish to do the KonMari process right, or is it more of a marathon?

Harry Jerome Statue, Stanley Park, Vancouver. Photo by Bernard Spragg.

The answer is that the process is more like a marathon than a sprint. Like a marathon, however, it is important to continue to make steady progress. Otherwise, you may lose momentum and experience the “rebound effect” that you are trying to avoid by using a decluttering method that can help you achieve lasting change.

So what does “all at once” or “quickly” mean in terms of days, weeks, or months? Marie Kondo mentions in the book that, in her experience, “quickly” means “about” six months. Even this statement is sometimes misinterpreted to mean that you are doing something wrong if the process takes you longer than six months. But this is incorrect for several reasons:

  1. Marie Kondo says this process takes her clients “about” six months, not “no more than” six months. “About” means that six months is an estimate. Some homes make take more time; some may take less time.
  2. This six-month estimate is also for clients having “private individual lessons” with Marie Kondo. When working with a KonMari consultant, it may be easier to keep the momentum going than for those who are completing the process on their own.
  3. This six-month estimate was based on Marie Kondo’s work with clients in Japan. Homes in many other countries, including the United States, tend to be bigger than Japanese homes, and they also may start out more cluttered.
  4. The amount of time needed will depend not only on the size of the home, the number of family members, and the number of items in the home, but also on other factors, such as the speed with which you are able to make decisions about your belongings. For example, if you find that you can’t decide whether to keep certain items of clothing without trying them on, the clothing category will take longer than if you only have to hold the items to decide.

Ultimately, just like any other lifestyle change, I recommend that you view it as a marathon, not a sprint. If you keep moving forward, you will eventually reach the finish line. And if you have kept making steady progress over that time, you will see the drastic changes that come with that progress. That is the reason to complete the process “all at once”: to transform your environment to the point that you have changed your mindset and will never want to return to the “previously cluttered state.” (p.34)  If it takes six months, a year, or more to achieve a level of tidiness and organization that is easy to maintain from then on, without having to repeat the entire process over and over again, wouldn’t it be worth the time?