Marie Kondo is officially a household name, which is fitting considering the tidying expert’s rise to fame is all thanks to her trademarked home organization philosophy.
The New York Times bestselling author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and, more recently, the star of the hit Netflix show “Tidying Up With Marie Kondo” is such a sensation that her name is frequently used as a verb (as in, How to Marie Kondo Your Desk) and her nickname, KonMari, is a trademarked tidying method.
Ahead, Kondo opens up to Create & Cultivate about starting her first business when she was just a 19-year-old student, waking up every morning at 2 am to write the first draft of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and learning to slow down in order to mindfully reflect on her (many) accomplishments.
CREATE & CULTIVATE: You have helped people all over the world “spark joy.” What does sparking joy mean to you? Why do you think this concept has resonated so much with people?
MARIE KONDO: I believe the concept of sparking joy resonates with so many people because it’s about assessing what’s truly important to you. It’s about understanding your values and what your ideal life is.
You started your first business when you were just a 19-year-old student—and organization is a very competitive market—why do you think your business has been so successful?
The KonMari Method is about tidying up in a way that will spark joy in your life and change it forever. Organizing and decluttering are not the end goals—they are steps you take along the way.
You are a New York Times bestselling author and, more recently, the star of Netflix hit show “Tidying Up With Marie Kondo.” What inspired the decision to move to the entertainment space and bring your brand to TV? What has the response been like?
After witnessing the response to my book in the United States, I wanted to share the joy of tidying with more people. I’m thrilled—and deeply grateful—that people around the world have connected with the show. What surprised me the most was the speed at which people put the KonMari Method into action—folding their clothes and joy-checking their belongings! It all happened so fast.
You are new to the world of entertainment—what have you learned in the process of making your show? What advice can you share for others who are interested in turning their books into TV?
A little known fact is that “Tidying Up With Marie Kondo” was not my first foray into entertainment. Back in Japan, I often appeared on late-night television shows as a tidying expert! My advice is to surround yourself with people who believe in what sparks joy for you.
When you hit a bump or hurdle in your career, how do you #FindNewRoads + switch gears to find success?
For me, everything goes back to tidying. By physically organizing the environment around you, your mind is cleared. Being aware of what you have in your life—and where you are placing everything—allows you to understand the thoughts and emotions you’re carrying with you. When your home is tidied, you are better equipped to handle bumps in the road and the emotions that come with them calmly.
You’re now building an empire around your books. What advice can you share for aspiring authors out there? How long did it take you to get your first book published? What was the process like?
When I was writing The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I would wake up at 2 am, write until 7 am, and then focus on my tidying lessons. It was a labor of love! I didn’t know the first thing about publishing a book, so I entered a publishing training course and won first prize with my book proposal. I was very fortunate that one of the judges believed in my work and became my editor. To aspiring authors out there, I’d say to believe wholeheartedly in your work and do what brings you joy.
What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned throughout your career and what have they taught you?
After the success of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I became so focused on work that I took a long time to respond to texts or emails from my family or would forget to send thank you messages when someone did something thoughtful for me. My father reminded me that when you receive recognition for what you’ve accomplished, it’s not only a reflection of your own efforts but also of the people who have supported you along the way. I’ve learned to always cherish my foundation and where I came from.
What traits do you need to succeed as an entrepreneur or founder in the competitive start-up environment? Why?
Trust in your own sense of what sparks joy for you. Above all, work on something you are passionate about with concentration and dedication. Investing time in work that excites you will help you acquire skills that will distinguish you from others.
You’ve had incredible success bringing the KonMari Method to the masses both as a book and a TV series. What’s next for your brand? How do you hope to grow?
My first children’s book, Kiki & Jax: The Life-Changing Magic of Friendship, came out in November 2019; and this spring I’m publishing Joy at Work, which is about applying the KonMari Method to your career. We’re also launching the Spark Joy Shop, a collection of items that I use in my everyday life and that spark joy for me. My hope with each of these projects is to inspire others to make room in their lives for things that spark joy.
With success comes opportunity, but that also means you have your hands full. What keeps you inspired and motivated to keep going even on your most challenging days?
The time that I get to spend with my family.
What is the #1 book you always recommend (besides your own!)? Why?
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. Elizabeth’s approach to work and life celebrates many of the same values as the KonMari Method. I admire her vulnerable path to self-discovery.