Selling the House and ‘Tidying Up:’ What We Learned From Binge-Watching Marie Kondo’s Netflix Show

Unlike an HGTV makeover show, “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” is less about the shock factor of a total transformation and more intuitively captures the power of how our lives improve when we focus on the things that make us happy.

So it’s no wonder that the popular Netflix series caught the attention of so many Americans who on average hoard 23 items they have zero use for. Her viral catchphrase “Spark Joy” spread like wildfire and had thrift stores overflowing with donations to the point of capacity.

After a delightful 8-hour binge of the show, we couldn’t help but notice that many of its takeaways run parallel to the types of challenges that arise when you sell the house. So we’ve pulled out episode-by-episode gems on the art of how to stay organized, move forward, and show gratitude for every life chapter—from one house to the next.

En-’joy!’

A toddler in the Marie Kondo Netflix show.
Source: (Maresa Smith/ Death to the Stock Photo)

Episode 1: “Tidying with Toddlers”

Summary:

In this episode, we meet Kevin and Rachel Friend, who struggle with clutter and communication in their single-family home. They explain their frustrations over time management and chore delegation (laundry was a main point of contention), but as soon as Kondo enters the house, they breathe a sigh of relief.

As they go from room to room, Kondo asks the Friend Family a simple question: “Does this spark joy?”

This simple method puts their relationship with “stuff” in perspective.

Lesson for sellers: Find the joy in decluttering

One of the first steps in preparing a home to sell is decluttering. It’s going through old U-Haul boxes filled with high school yearbooks and old clothes, and figuring out what you want to keep for the new home. The KonMari Method makes the process quick and fun.

When you ask yourself, “Does this spark joy?” you force yourself to confront your connection with possessions that you either have or don’t have the space and heart for anymore.

But Kondo reinforces to the Friends Family that decluttering isn’t about tossing any old thing away. It’s about focusing on the objects that are important and meaningful to you.

As you sort through the piles of stuff in each room, grasp each item with care. Feel for that punch in your gut or instant excitement when you pick them up.

Separate the clutter into two stacks: Joy and No Joy. The first few pairs of pants might take longer to get through, but as you start feeling the rhythm, decluttering becomes a breeze.

Apply this strategy to all of your belongings and you might find items you haven’t touched in years that you love (Kevin Friend unearthed sentimental weddings photos stuffed in old garage storage that are now hung on their wall).

Remember, you’re decluttering for peace of mind, but also for the buyers who will walk through your home, unimpressed by the unorganized kitchen cabinets and clothing tornado in the bedroom closets.

Episode 2: ‘Empty Nesters’

Summary:

Kondo walks into the home of Wendy and Ron Akiyama, a retired couple who want a revamped house for themselves after their adult children have left the nest.

Ron has kept every single baseball card he collected with his children and Wendy has enough Christmas ornaments to decorate the entire neighborhood. Their home has become a storage unit filled with three generations of Akiyama belongings.

The piles of stuff they have in each room looks discouraging to the average Netflix binger, but the episode isn’t over yet and neither is Kondo’s positivity. She hops around the home and teaches the Akiyamas to categorize.

They go from room to room, pile to pile, and separate each action item into manageable chunks.

Lesson for sellers: Compartmentalize your home prep

We won’t sugarcoat it for you—selling a home is daunting. With so many steps, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and defeated before you even start the process. But just like how the Akiyamas sorted through pounds of stuff using categorization, you can break down your to-do list into manageable tasks.

Start with creating your own home preparation schedule that’s separated by tasks and weeks. In less than a month, you’ll move through decluttering to home maintenance to deep cleaning.

A girl in a downsized home with Marie Kondo's help.
Source: (Paige Cody/ Unsplash)

Episode 3: ‘The Downsizers’

Summary:

We meet Katrina and Douglas Mersier and their children Kayci and Nolan, who call themselves the Fantastic Four. Immediately, you sense their closeness as a family and bond as a team, but their teamwork was put to the test when they relocated from a four-bedroom house to a two-bedroom apartment. After living in a cramped and cluttered space for over a year, “it still hasn’t felt like home,” says Katrina.

Kondo sets the goal for the Mersier family: “Their new challenge is to downsize the thing that they own, so it will fit in their new home.”

As they show Kondo around the apartment, the Fantastic Four feel exasperated by their living situation. The kids own up to their faults, explaining that though their mother organizes the space for them, they can’t keep it that way.

But, as the episode progresses, each person in the family learns to take responsibility for their own belongings. “We each play a role and we only have a limited amount of space and we all need each other,” says Kondo.

Lesson for sellers: Involve your family and make projects a team effort

If you’re selling a house with your family, it shouldn’t be your single responsibility to get through it. Every family member should pitch in, and together you’ll finish the job faster.

One of the Mersier family’s biggest takeaways is that organization and cleaning are now values instilled in their family and children. “We didn’t know how to declutter, how to tidy. Now we have the ability to continue to help the kids to learn it, and they’ve learned it at this early age.”

Get your kids involved with tasks, such as decluttering. Have them apply the same method of asking, “does this spark joy?” for their toys, clothes, and other keepsakes. They have ownership over their rooms, so there aren’t any surprises at the new home when they can’t find their favorite stuffed animal you forgot to pack up.

Episode 4: ‘Sparking Joy After a Loss’

Summary:

This episode introduces us to Margie Hodges, a widow who loves her home filled with memories, mementos, photographs, and reminders of her late husband. More specifically, she is struck with the challenge of tidying up all of his belongings that she hasn’t touched since he passed 9 months ago.

Margie has left every jacket, shirt, magnet, and mug that he owned in its exact place; she’s afraid of disturbing the last tangible reminders of who he was. His presence is so strong throughout the house, but Margie knows she has to move on. “I have to make room going forward, I can’t just live in the past,” she says to Kondo.

Margie is emotional from start to finish, but through Kondo’s process, her sadness evolved to catharsis, as she worked on accepting this loss, starting fresh, and reflecting on her own life.

Lesson for sellers: Infuse mindfulness into the selling process

Detaching from your house is essential to preparing your home for sale. If you’re emotionally charged and feel gutted every time you move things around or pack up, the process becomes grueling and will take too much time.

To begin letting go, first acknowledge that your emotions over the house exist and are valid. Kondo reinforces to Margie that she values how she feels about her past and her memories. And throughout the episode, she helps Margie gently confront the passing of her husband by tidying up at a slower pace.

Next, put yourself in the buyer’s shoes and depersonalize the house. If you were a buyer, would you want to see all of the previous owners bowling trophies on display or children’s art projects plastered across the fridge?

You’re preparing your house for other people now. And, as harsh as it sounds, this is no longer your home. Understand that this house has served its purpose in your life, and it’s time to pass it on to another family starting theirs.

“My head is full of 40 years of memories. So, I have that and no one can take that,” Margie says as she donates her husband’s clothes.

Clothes hanging neatly with help from Marie Kondo.
Source: (Photo by Thom Bradley from Burst)

Episode 5: ‘From Students to Improvements’

Kondo helps lovebirds Matt and Frank transition from young adulthood to maturity through their home, in which they’ve lived in for 3 years. They want their parents to see their progress and ability to live as adults with each other to demonstrate growth.

But from disorganization to hoarding personal items, the couple struggles to find the perfect balance of what to keep and what to toss.

So, before they start tidying, Kondo asks them to picture their visions for the home. Immediately, Frank responds with a vision of joy as people and his parents walk through this home, and him and Matt feeling content with their home.

And, though hit a few emotional roadblocks, they keep this image in mind to raise their spirits and commit to their goals as they tidy the house.

Lesson for sellers: Visualize what you want for this house and the future

One of Kondo’s key lessons is about peering into the future. “Before you start, visualize your destination,” she advises.

The concept of visualization and mental imagery is a method supported by sports psychologists and athletes, who use it as a way to picture their success. It helps with performance and allows them to calm down and focus before a big game.

If it can help professional sports players, visualization can also help you sell your home. What do you want to accomplish with your home sale and how do you want to see it carried out?

“It’s very important to have a vision and communicate the vision to your home. It allows the rest of the process to go much more smoothly,” says Kondo.

If your vision is to have a successful home sale, think about what emotions and feelings you want to feel at the end of the process. Picture the success of a home sale as motivation.

To achieve that ultimate goal of selling a house, you’ll need to get through every step with ease. Communicate your vision to your real estate agent—they can help you figure out how to achieve it with the right tools and skills.

Episode 6: ‘Breaking Free from a Mountain of Stuff’

“Daddy, can we go to Toys R Us?” “No, Ashton. We’re getting rid of things not going out and getting more.”

College sweethearts Aaron and Sehnita Mattison have been married for 17 years. They moved to their home to start a new chapter in their life and to start a family. With two kids and hopes to add a third, they realized that they need to revamp their cluttered house jam-packed with belongings and junk.

The couple plans on staying in this home and must declutter to welcome a new family member, but what’s keeping them from accomplishing their goal is stuff. That’s it—they have too much stuff and aren’t able to let go of them due to emotional and sentimental attachment.

Kondo appears in their lives not to bestow tidying “magic,” but to teach them a lifestyle change of recognizing what is most important to them in their lives. Through this process, the Mattisons learn to respect their belongings and what they have.

“This process of looking at what’s in our life makes it so that we’re not gonna take the items we have for granted, that we’re not going to just bring more things into the household,” says Aaron.

Lesson for the seller: Recognize whether your belongings have purpose

Throughout the season, Kondo teaches her clients that every item deserves a home and serves a purpose. She preaches to treat the tidying process as a way to respect what you have, while making sure that each of your belongings has a role to play.

So when it comes to showing the house to buyers, check that whatever you decide to use as decor has a reason to be there. This cuts down on clutter and makes your home look and feel inviting.

For example, add spice racks and cookie jars to the kitchen for a homey atmosphere, but take away the dirty pots and pans that clutter up the sink.

In the bedroom, place a floor length mirror in the corner to make the space feel bigger and switch out the floral bedspreads for a crisp, and gender-neutral white.

Create a focal point for the living room, one of the main places buyers will want to look at. Hang up a three-piece wall art that ties the colors of the room together.

This process makes you realize what needs to be there for staging and what will help you sell your home.

A positive pregnancy test on Marie Kondo's Netflix show.
Source: (Photo by Sarah Pflug from Burst)

Episode 7: ‘Making Room for a Baby’

“Tidying is not just about cleaning, it’s also about creating a space that sparks joy. By doing this, you get one step closer to your ideal life.”

Mario and Clarissa, who have been together for six years, hold up an ultrasound picture to the camera. With excitement in their voices, they reveal that they’re expecting a baby boy in the coming months and want this opportunity to clear up space for their kids to grow without chaos.

It was a difficult process at first—Mario’s sentimentality gets the better of him, as he struggles to throw away prom invitations from high school and shoes from his 165-pair sneaker collection. Kondo teaches him and Clarissa to show appreciation toward their belongings, helping them to detach and learn how to create their ideal life.

She asks them, “Is this something you’d like to keep as part of your life going forward?” If you answer no, say thank you, and put it aside.

Lesson for the seller: Show gratitude

To Kondo, gratitude is a crucial part of tidying up and the main lesson she hopes that her clients take from the process is to have an appreciation for the items that they decide to keep and “confirm how you feel about each and every item that you possess.”

Here’s your opportunity to rethink what’s essential for you to bring to your next home. And, in that process show gratitude to the things that don’t make it to the next stage of your life.

This is why Kondo asks every client to place all of their clothes or all of their shoes in a pile at the center of their bed. They see everything they have, which puts how they feel about their belongings into perspective.

If you find yourself attached to many things during the tidying process, ask if these items are important for the next chapter of your life in your new home, then express gratitude. “Many people may feel guilty when letting go of items. By expressing gratitude towards the items you let go, it will lessen the feeling of guilt,” says Kondo.

Additionally, for things that you’ve never worn or used, it’s even more important to say thanks, because they taught you that you don’t like these kinds of shirts or use this kind of item.

Episode 8: ‘When Two Messes Become One’

We’re introduced to Angela, a flight attendant and Alishia, a veterinarian, newlyweds and new homeowners, who had their meet-cute on one of Angela’s flights. Though they’ve lived with each other before, this new space brings the challenge of figuring out what they should share and what they should keep separate.

The tidying process becomes a roadblock in their relationship, causing tension and bickering. But, after each visit and lesson from Kondo, they start to meet in the middle, clean with the same mindset, and develop clearer communication.

Much of their issues with tidying comes with getting used to their new house. When Kondo visited, they only lived there for 3 weeks. Throughout the process, they started to understand the intention for each room in their new home and who should be responsible for what space.

Lesson for the seller: Be kind to your house—old and new

Before she imparts her clients with any cleaning wisdom, Kondo asks to greet their home. For this ritual, she kneels on the floor, closes her eyes, clasps her hands on her lap, and expresses her goals to the home.

“[Home] is the place where we appreciate all the things that support us. It is where we review and rethink about ourselves,” she says. From her experience in a Shinto shrine, she believes that every object contains life—she taps on books to wake them up and yelps when her clients throws a shirt on the ground.

A home is one of the most important transactions and belongings in your life, so be kind to it! In your old house, leave it in good condition as a way of showing appreciation for what it has done for you. Maintain it with home updates that not only add value to your home, but also help close the deal faster.

Even a simple paint job in the kitchen with a neutral color revamps the entire room and keeps the home clean. Use this chance to thank your house for bringing so much joy and for protecting for so many years.

Then, like the newlyweds in this episode, apply the same process for your new home. Keep it tidy with the KonMari Method and maintain it regularly, so that it’s in tip-top shape for years to come.

A woman using the Marie Kondo method to fold clothes.
Source: (Kostikova Natalia/ Shutterstock)

‘The KonMari method is a means to realize your ideal life’

Marie Kondo heralds the importance of tidying your home, but the main takeaway of her show isn’t just about throwing away old T-shirts and papers. We learn about how meaningful improvements in our life help us appreciate what we have and achieve happiness.

Selling the house comes with loads of stress but a joyful mindset can help you see the big picture, run on the fumes of gratitude, and do more with less stuff weighing you down—physically, and emotionally.

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