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Language Seven Japanese Phrases All KonMari Fans Should Know

Who's KonMari?

If you haven't heard of her, you just might have been living under a stone. KonMari is the short form for Marie Kondo, the latest Japanese author with a cult-like following.

KonMari, the Japanese Decluttering Expert

Marie Kondo is a Japanese cleaning and organizing consultant and an international best-selling author, with four books on organizing under her belt.

Her books have been translated from Japanese into English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Hungarian, Romanian, Chinese, and Korean.

She runs an acclaimed consulting business in Tokyo helping clients transform their cluttered homes into spaces of serenity and inspiration. And her courses, Lessons on Organization and Storage for Women and Lessons on Organization and Storage for Company Presidents, have many dedicated fans.

She has been featured on more than thirty major Japanese television and radio programs, and international press such as The London Times, The Sunday Times, Red Magazine, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times.

The KonMari Method

With a three-month waiting list, the KonMari Method of decluttering and organizing has become an international phenomenon.

Fans worldwide are implementing her advice and "kondoing," or tidying up, their homes. People are drawn to the philosophy not only due to its effectiveness, but also because it places great importance on being mindful, introspective, and optimistic.

Belongings are acknowledged for their service and thanked before being discarded if they no longer spark joy. The KonMari Method is widely regarded as a new approach to decluttering based on Japanese values, which includes the spirit of Zen.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

Marie Kondo is most well-known for her bestseller The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. This is a guide to decluttering your home using her revolutionary KonMari Method for simplifying, organizing, and storing.

This book is a best seller in Japan, Germany, and the UK, with more than two million copies sold worldwide. It has also been turned into a television drama for Japanese TV.

As of 2015, this book is available in 30 countries. In the book, she takes tidying to a whole new level, promising that if you properly simplify and organize your home once, you will never have to do it again.

Most methods advocate a room-by-room or little-by-little approach, which dooms you to pick away at your piles of stuff forever. The KonMari Method, with its category-by-category system, leads to lasting results.

In fact, she claims that none of her clients has lapsed. Her book contains detailed guidance for determining which items in your house "spark joy" (and which don't).

The goal is to help you to clear your clutter and enjoy the unique magic of a tidy home.

Seven Tidying-Related Japanese Phrases (The Best Way to Learn Japanese for KonMari Fans)

If you are a true blue KonMari fan, familiarize yourself with these tidying-related Japanese phrases below.

  1. Your house looks like a thief ransacked it and it's been ages since your last attempt at tidying up.

    Even your poodle looks on disapprovingly at the big pile of Christmas decorations, birthday gifts, and those cute Louboutin heels and Diane von Fürstenberg dresses from summer sales.

    (I know, how can you resist?)

    You've just finished reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and you're feeling super motivated. You decide that it's time for some action, an action called:

    Kata zuku (かたづけ, 片付け)

    This means "to tidy up."
  2. Man, will it come to no end? It's been 3 hours and the pile in the middle of the living room doesn't seem to get any smaller. In fact, you only succeeded in fishing out a stack of dirty laundry.

    Hmm, you see some jeans and shirts that you don't even recognize. When on earth did you buy them? By the smell of it, it seems like they've been lying there for months. Ewww…

    You hurriedly put them into the washing machine and you:

    Sen taku suru (せんたくする, 洗濯する)

    This means "to do the laundry."
  3. Great, now the washing machine is gently humming along. You start to imagine all the sparkling clean shirts and jeans that will emerge from the washing machine and how you'll look in them.

    Perhaps it will make a preppy outfit for a date with the hunk from the finance department. You decide that the zebra print scarf you got as a birthday gift would be a nice touch.

    You fish the scarf out from the bottom of the pile and flip the label. Unfortunately, it says, "hand wash only." With a sigh, you proceed to:

    Ara u (あらう, 洗う)

    This means "to wash."
  4. Beep! That's the sign from the washing machine that the cycle is finished. Happy that you now have clean clothes, you put the wet laundry in the dryer and hang the scarf up to:

    kawakasu (かわかす, 乾かす)

    This means "to dry."
  5. Now, the laundry is done and in the dryer. With hands-on-hips and eyes narrowed, you survey what's left on the living room floor.

    With an eagle eye, you spot some skirts that are so last season; you'd never be caught dead wearing them. Some knitted tops have shrunk so much, there's no way you can squeeze in them.

    So you decide to do a purge and:

    Sute ru (すてる, 捨てる)

    This means "to throw away."
  6. Next, you move on to your shoe collection and start cataloguing them. Wait a second, can this be right —do you really have 56 pairs of shoes? Guess you spent more on shoes than you thought.

    What's even worse is that some of these shoes are in pretty bad shape, with broken straps and worn-out heels. You really should have fixed them earlier.

    You decide to take these shoes to the cobbler to:

    Nao su (なおす, 直す)

    This means "to fix," or "to repair."
  7. At long last, you see some progress being made after all that tidying up and purging. There's a precious patch of clear space on the living room floor now, and you can finally sit on the sofa.

    But clear doesn't mean clean and to your utter disgust and horror, you realize that your carpet floor and sofa is full of your poodle's fur.

    Time to bring out the heavy artillery and do a thorough spring clean. You take out your vacuum cleaner to:

    Souji suru (そうじする, 掃除する)

    This means "to clean."


If you are a KonMari fan, be sure to learn these 7 decluttering-related Japanese phrases to get into the swing of things.

And if you are really motivated to impress KonMari, you can pick up some other simple Japanese phrases before you attend her meet-ups.

For those who are interested in learning how to sort, rearrange and put your house in order, Marie Kondo holds Joy-Sparking Tidying Up courses nationwide in Japan.

And for those who want to be professional cleaning and organizing consultants, she holds licensing courses.

If you are not in Japan, don't despair. KonMari has plans to open new courses in the near future. You can check out her Joy-Sparking Tidying Up association for more information.
About author
Karen's love affair with the Japanese language started from the song "Say Yes" by Chage & Aska. She currently runs a Japanese learning website to marry her love of Japanese and flash games. You can learn and listen to other useful Japanese phrases at her website, JapaneseUp.

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