Organize & Clean

What Makes Things Hard to Get Rid Of, According to the Gospel of KonMari

published Apr 7, 2017
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(Image credit: Diana Liang)

By now you’ve probably heard of Marie Kondo and her method of getting rid of everything—and she really means everything—that doesn’t “spark joy.” But what about those things you just can’t let go of, no matter how they make you feel? You know, the piles of old photographs, stacks of unread books, and that ubiquitous single-use kitchen gadget you’re gonna use someday because it cost x amount of dollars. Wait… do you even know how you feel about these belongings? The WHY that makes them so difficult to part ways with?

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According to Kondo, you don’t, and that’s precisely what makes it impossible for you to get rid of them. In her book, she identifies these clingy possessions as having functional, informational, or emotional value, which combined with rarity, makes them extremely difficult for you to get rid of. Her solution? Know thyself. Figure out why you want to keep something, and you’ll be well on your way to getting rid of it.

Don’t know your Kondo? Check out the book:

Informational Value

Items have informational value if they contain helpful information. Books, product manuals, or in my case, old work notebooks are a good example of these items. I’ve been dragging these valuable notebooks around for 15 years, and I’ve never once cracked one open again. Marie Kondo would tell me to thank my notebooks for the organization and knowledge they once offered up, and let them go.

Functional Value

Items have functional value if they can still be used, and can be confusing to part ways with since you may feel rather ambivalent towards them. Does your trash can immediately spark joy?

Probably not, but does that mean you should get rid of it? Not necessarily. Kondo advises you to appreciate the purpose these items serve, or in the case of that kitchen tool, ask yourself how that item feels languishing in the drawer, unable to serve it’s purpose? If the item would be happier elsewhere, send it on its way. Yep, belongings have feelings in Kondo’s world.

Emotional Value

These are the big guns, the items we attach sentimental value to. Those piles of photographs, old letters, or other personal ephemera you rarely, if ever, look at, but still can’t bring yourself to get rid of. Combined with the fact that these items are usually one of a kind, or rare, they pose the greatest challenge, and should be the very last items you tidy.


Kondo prescribes a very specific order in which you should tidy up based on recognizing the way we value our belongings and their perceived rarity, which determines just how difficult they are to get rid of. She defines rarity as “things that are hard to obtain or replace.” It’s important to identify how and why you value things, so that you can tackle discarding them in the right order, starting with the easiest things first.

The Konmari Method gives us a framework for recognizing and questioning the value we assign our possessions. So while “sparking joy” may be the magic tagline, I think it’s this deep consideration of, and for, our belongings that makes the method so compelling. You can put your possessions to work helping you know yourself better and in the process you’ll discover what you no longer need. Through the practice and repetition of tidying each area of your home, you hone and develop your awareness of what “sparks joy” for you, allowing you to make better, quicker, and more decisive choices in all areas of your life. The tidying is the journey and the destination. But is it magic? Maybe. Or like so many other successes in life, maybe it’s just doing the work.