16 Things Marie Kondo Says Everyone Should Discard

Woman takes in hands big pile blue and beige laundry with text 16 Things Marie Kondo Says Everyone Should Discard

What is your practice of decluttering? Have you ever considered being a minimalist? I definitely wouldn’t call myself a minimalist, but I don’t love clutter. I want our house to be neat and tidy and regularly make the practice of clearing out unnecessary items.

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Why I Read the Book

About a year ago I came across some of Marie Kondo’s practices, namely, her practice of vertical filing of clothes in the chest of drawers. I loved the idea and it really was life changing for our family. With that said, vertical filing is only one tiny part of the Konmari practice. To learn more, I read her best selling book “The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up” and watched her “Tidying Up” show on Netflix!

Minimalist at Heart

The KonMari method has two basic components 1) discarding and 2) deciding where to store things. Kondo focuses heavily on decluttering or discarding, after all, she’s a minimalist at heart! Let’s take a look at the basics of her method and the 16 things Marie Kondo says to discard.

Foundational Elements

The KonMari Method is a very specific approach to decluttering. Marie Kondo insists her clients make tidying an event…a marathon is actually how she describes it. She wants people to do one major overhaul and then micro activities daily to maintain a tidy home. The KonMari method has people tidy (discarding + storing) by category instead of by room. For example, instead of tackling your bedroom and then your kitchen, she has you sort something like clothing from all of the rooms at once.

Based on her experience with clients, Marie has specified the order to take on the tidying process.

  1. Clothes
  2. Books
  3. Papers
  4. Miscellany
  5. Sentimental Things

She also has an order of categories within each category. For example, when sorting clothing, you should do it in the following order: tops, bottoms, clothes that should be hung, socks, underwear, bags, accessories, clothes for specific events e.g. swimsuits, and shoes.

The Identification Process

In order to identify what things need to be discarded, she recommends gathering all of the category items throughout your house and putting them all in the center of the floor. This helps one to visually see how much they have accumulated as well as makes you deal with it at one time instead of repeating the process with the same types of items multiple times.

Grab one of my KonMari Quick Guides so that you can have a summary of this process at a glance.  You can access it in my free-bee library here (if you need a password to it, sign up at the bottom of the page.)

Selection Criteria

Marie encourages people to focus on what they want to keep instead of what they want to get rid of. She has one very clear criteria – “Does it spark joy?” Her recommendation is that the things we keep we should enjoy, they are things that should make us happy, and thus, the only things that stay in our house (for the most part) are the things that “spark joy.”

This is much different than the criteria I’ve used in the past. My criteria include:

  • is it worn out?
  • does it still have a purpose / function?
  • might I or someone in my family use it someday?
  • is it still in style?
  • could I repurpose it for something else?

I warned you, I’m not a minimalist and I can find plenty of good reasons to keep things! With that said, the book included many good points and I was inspired to immediately prune things from our home.

Here are the 16 Things Marie Kondo Auggests Discarding

1) Everything that Doesn’t “Spark Joy”

We already talked about this earlier and it’s important to note that this applies to all categories, clothing, books, paper, sentimental items etc.

2) All Unread Books

Marie shares that most people have too many books and specifically unread books. In her estimation, the majority of people never find the time to read these books. If they haven’t already, they likely won’t in the future. It’s time to get rid of them!

3) Reference Books

Reference books include study guides, old text books, dictionaries etc. Her logic is that we likely don’t use these and therefore they fall into the same category as the unread books.  She also questions if these bring joy for most people!

4) Papers

Papers include bills, receipts, credit card statements, old warranties, manuals, greeting cards, used checkbooks, and pay slips. Marie recognizes that they serve a purpose for a short period of time, but then it’s time to get rid of them. Additionally, in most cases, none of these spark joy. (See #1!) Once you get your credit card statement, confirm it’s accuracy then shred.

Her “rule of thumb is to discard everything” related to paper. She excludes items of sentimental value like journals, and personal letters. There are 3 exceptions to this rule. Papers that are currently in use, are needed for a limited period of time, and papers that must be kept indefinitely.

5) Gifts

We’ve all received gifts that weren’t exactly our style or perhaps we didn’t have a use for. Marie says to get rid of them! We are not obligated to keep them. The real joy came when the giver gave you the gift, but that time has passed. Cherish the memory and move on.

6) Cosmetic Samples

I have to admit, I was glad to read this one. Lancôme is my make-up of choice and I have made a practice of only buying makeup when they have their “gift with purchase” events.  As a result, I had a ton of face moisturizers, eye moisturizers, colorful pallets of mini-eye shadow sets. I’ve kept them for years and usually never use them. You’ll be pleased to know that they no longer reside in my home!

Marie’s logic is that most people keep these samples in order to take them when they travel, but then they usually forget they have them. But, don’t worry…if you love your cosmetic samples, and they “spark joy” then you are in the clear to keep them!!!

Cosmetic cream, lipstik and perfume on white background. Top view.

7) Boxes for Electronics

Many people keep boxes for their cell phones, computer, etc. They think it will increase the value if they resale. Others keep boxes in case they move. Marie suggests that it costs more to store empty boxes than the value they add to resale. She recommends getting boxes when you move instead of storing them. This is one that is now on my to-do list. We have a plastic bin full of empty technology boxes. I’m pretty sure we don’t need to keep them around!

8) Unidentified Cords

Do you have a bag or box full of spare electronic cords? Maybe it’s one for an old iPod, a camera, or that whatchamacallit you bought in 2010. Throw it out…at least according to MK! I’m in agreement. We never go into our box when we’re looking for a cord. We just assume after we’ve looked in the usual places that we no longer have the cord. Our personal Marie Kondo pile is getting pretty big!

9) Broken Appliances

Now, I can’t relate to this one at all. But apparently, many of Marie’s clients keep broken TVs or radios around. If this is you, it’s one more thing that you can discard!

10) Spare Sets of Bedding

This one hurts a little. I have a hard time getting rid of old comforters, extra linens, and even towels that no longer go with our décor. Usually, they are not worn out and I always believe I can repurpose them e.g. a drop cloth for the next time we paint. KonMari teaches that if you have extra bedding you’ve saved for your guest room, but you don’t have guests very frequently, then it’s time to get rid of it. They will just end up smelling and won’t be nice for your guests. I guess I have some more work to do!

11) Spare Buttons

Do you save all of the spare buttons from new suits, tops, or dresses in case one day one pops off and you need to replace it?   This is another item not worth saving. Marie’s experience says that the majority of people never actually uses these spare parts. Discard!

12) Products from the Latest Health Craze

Machines, gear, I’d imagine even old hobby items could fall in this category. If you bought rubber bands for resistance when you exercise, Suzanne Summer’s Thigh Master, or Buns of Steal 😂 and never use them, then it’s time to part ways.

13) Free Swag

Novelty goods you picked up at a conference while traveling, or even in the office and little gadgets or pens with a businesses name on it. These are unnecessary items and likely don’t spark joy.

14) Small Change

Now this one surprised me! Kondo does not recommend keeping spare change in your house…not in a jar, a bag, a bowl, or even a piggy bank. Change should be spent. Put it in your wallet and get it out of your house.

15) Sentimental Items

Of course, rule number 1 is huge with this bucket. Marie keeps sentimental items as the very last thing to sort through because it’s the toughest for people. She feels we should cherish the memories and not the things. If you’re holding on to old love letters, excessive historical photos, or things your grown kids made when they were little, it’s probably time to check your joy-meter. Does it feel burdensome to keep these things…is it time to part ways?

16) Unusual Stockpiles

Last but not least, Kondo acknowledges that many of her clients have unusual stockpiles. She shares examples of people that kept excessive amounts of plastic wrap, toilet paper, and even cotton swabs. If you have something you frequently buy and store, Marie encourages you to evaluate your actual needs and how much you really need to have on hand. Ahem, that would be paper towels for my family!!!

Ode to Joy

After reading “The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up”, I have my work cut out for me. I can see a long list of things that we can part with, we really won’t miss, and will make our home more manageable in the end. I like the idea of keeping things that bring joy, but I don’t know that I’m fully onboard with that being the only criteria. Perhaps I’m a bit too frugal or practical for that…or maybe I just need to give it a try and see what happens?!?

Marathon or Sprint

Her marathon type approach to tidying would be very hard for moms with young kids unless you have a nanny, reliable babysitter, or family nearby. I would have to do it in smaller chunks, which she discourages. I can live with that. In my mind, progress is better than perfection.

How about you, did you recognize things you can discard? Do you think you’ll do a marathon or several sprints? Here’s to tidy and more manageable homes!





Interested in more organization ideas?  Check out these posts:


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