Becoming a KonMari Consultant Is Like Undergoing Group Therapy (With a $2,750 Price Tag)
Marie Kondo’s empire—New York Times-bestselling books, two Netflix series, a Container Store collaboration and OK, countless memes—all build off of a single question she posed back in 2010: Does it spark joy? It was a radically different approach to organizing, beyond the typical “sort into keep, toss and donate piles” advice that’d been rehashed for decades. She shared a framework to make room for a happier way of living, inspiring thousands—myself included—to study to become KonMari Consultants, professional organizers well-versed in her teachings, known as the KonMari Method. Becoming a certified consultant allows you to market yourself as an expert in Kondo's techniques, serving as the next best thing to being guided by the author herself.
The KonMari Method may be 11 years old, but one year into a global pandemic, it feels more relevant than ever. We were barely past introductions in the three-day virtual course when an instructor posed a question that caused our Zoom chat to suddenly fall silent: What do you do when your client looks at her closet and says, “I don’t know what sparks joy—I don’t even know what joy feels like anymore,” besides breaking out in a cold sweat?
This is the reality Kondo and her team face all too often, which is why it’s covered straight out of the gate on Day One. I had been prepared for folding demos and dealing with hoarders, but what I soon realized was that people weren’t just flocking to the KonMari Method to declutter their lives. After a year that’s beaten us down, we’re hoping to reconnect with whatever it is that sparks joy within us. So why not turn to the guru herself? Or, as is the case of the 130 students in Kondo’s first KonMari consultant class of 2021, seek to become one yourself?
The Course Is the Easy Part
Simply signing up for the program—and shelling out the $2,250 it costs to attend—doesn’t guarantee you’ll be certified. You’re expected to come to the first session having read Kondo’s books (particularly her breakout hit, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up) and having tidied your own home. Once you’ve done the work on yourself, you’re ready to learn how to apply it to others—and what it takes to turn those skills into a business. (Oh, and if you're there to become BFFs with Kondo, sit this one out: She appears in videos at the start of each day, but she no longer teaches the program. A team of instructors do.)
Completing the course earns you the title of CIT, or consultant-in-training, and from there, you’ll still need to log at least 30 hours of practice tidying two clients’ homes, complete with before-and-after photos and a lengthy report to explain what you did. If you pass that phase, you’ll be invited to take an online exam. Ace that, and you’re still not done: You’ll need to complete an onboarding interview, then pay a $500 “activation fee” to become a consultant.
Even then, there’s no guarantee of a set amount of work. You’ll be listed on KonMari’s Consultants page, but it’s on you, as an entrepreneur, to secure clients and set your rates. (I’ve seen consultants charge $75 to $100 an hour, with that rate increasing as organizers gain more tidying experience.) What you’re getting in return is the ability to market yourself as a KonMari consultant—as opposed to a traditional organizer—as well as access to KonMari’s client management software and a private community for consultants to mentor each other and share best practices for growing their businesses. In fact, the entire third day of training focuses on launching your company, from identifying your target market (say, KonMari for the TikTok crowd) to what services to use to schedule client meetings (Calendly is a fave) or when to send an invoice (after your initial call and before the first tidying session).
It’s an involved process, to say the least, but despite how rigorous it is, last year’s students had a 92 percent first-time pass rate. “The fail rate is very low because people are well trained by the time they reach the exam,” Tracey LeWorthy, senior director of the KonMari Consultant Program, told me via email. After the course, CITs are paired with an evaluator, who serves as a Sherpa of sorts, guiding them through the process. Should you fail the exam, you can take it again. You just have to put in the work to get to that point. And that work can be taxing, even if you’re the tidiest person on the planet.
“Sometimes the Truth Isn’t Joyful”
Take, for example, facing the “I don’t know what joy feels like” dilemma. It can stop an organizer in their tracks, which is why it’s a huge focus of the first day. Should it happen to a CIT—and there’s a good chance it will—senior instructor Patty Morrissey recommended asking practical questions to help people home in on whether an item—to quote Kondo—gives them “a little thrill, as if the cells in [their] body are slowly rising.” In KonMari parlance, it’s a practice known as “Joy Checking,” and it involves questions like, “How long have you owned this?” and “How often do you use it?” Or “where are you having trouble deciding what to do with it?”
After the heaviness of the past year—and considering many people seek out KonMari consultants after major life changes, like death or divorce—sometimes, all a person can say is, “Nothing sparks joy for me anymore.” When that happens, Morrissey suggests digging deeper: “How does it feel to acknowledge that?” She lets the question linger.
In moments like this, consultants need to sit in the discomfort, staying cool, calm and collected as the client thinks through an answer. Why? “It’s a fast-track to truth, and sometimes the truth isn’t joyful,” she explained.
That’s what makes KonMari so different from most organizing methods. You’re not arranging books into Roy G. Biv order or automatically donating anything that hasn’t been worn in a year (though those strategies can be delightful and effective). The role wavers between camp counselor and project manager, keeping things moving while asking questions that help people arrive at their own conclusions.
You’ve Got to Check Your Judgments at the Door
A huge part of the three-day training is—to quote Ted Lasso quoting Walt Whitman, “be curious, not judgmental.” And it’s much trickier to do than you’d think.
If all you can get out of the person is, “I don’t know, it fits,” as a reaction, “that becomes your baseline for joy,” Morrissey told us. Your job, she explained, is to meet people where they’re at. Gradually, as you go through more items, you’ll start to see glimmers of happiness: the story behind the faded blue tee he was wearing when she proposed, or the tattered drawing of a dinosaur their now-grown daughter drew when she was four. That’s also why a huge tenet of the KonMari Method is that the consultants do not decide (or even weigh in on) what to keep. It doesn’t matter how ill-fitting the dress is, how raggedly the pillow or how crumpled the paper. You joy check and ask questions, observing your client closely, as they decide what to hold onto and what needs to be “thanked for its service” and let go of.
This was a challenge for many CITs, who peppered instructors with questions in the chat, like: What if they ask you how something looks on them? Shouldn’t you be honest? What about someone who’s really indecisive?
“You hold space for them,” Morrissey replied calmly.
You don’t rush things (which, admittedly, works in a consultant’s favor, if they’re charging by the hour). Ultimately, what sparks joy is deeply personal, and you don’t want a client to feel pressured into making a decision they’d later regret. That’s also why KonMari consultants are told not to ask to keep anything being donated or discarded. You can help them find the right organization to donate to, and if it’s offered to you, you’re asked to politely decline. After all, if you took everything everyone wanted to give away, you’d have your own tidying problem to contend with, Morrissey joked.
Accept the Mess, Then Move On
Throughout the day, CITs were sent to Zoom breakout rooms, where they practiced dealing with client issues in small groups. With each one, the 130-person class seemed to grow more comfortable, vulnerable and—dare I say it?—joyful. People shared stories of what drew them to the KonMari Method, of the toll the past year has taken on them and how they were finding a way through it, one tidier bookshelf at a time.
I thought about my own journey; how, at the start of the pandemic, I turned to things to create a sense of sanctuary at home. The world felt scary and uncertain, but I’d buffer my daughter from it by buying an indoor slide and a ball pit! It had gotten so out of hand that, after six months of quarantining in Florida, I had to rent a minivan to haul everything back to our home in New York. I found security in stuff, but slowly, I found myself drowning in it. I turned to KonMari to recalibrate my relationship with what I owned, so it wouldn’t own me.
As a media attendee, I’m not officially a CIT, and to be honest, I’m not sure I’m ready to launch an organizing business. But if those three days taught me anything, it’s this: Recovering our spark takes time, and in these uncertain-yet-hopeful days, the best thing you can do is stop judging yourself for not having your life together, let alone tidily organized into hikidashi boxes.