Spring (believe it or not) is coming! With the promise of spring showers comes another annual event, spring cleaning. Cleaning out old and broken items can bring simplicity and efficiency to everyone’s life.

Marie Kondo has popularized the movement of decluttering the home. With her show Tidying up with Marie Kondo and her best selling book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Kondo has sparked a movement to remove items that no longer “spark joy” in our lives.

Her method, the aptly named KonMari method, remarkably does not require the purchase of any organizational system or items, making it one of the most applicable ways to “spark joy.”

This month, as many of our thoughts turn to cleaning and organizing our own homes, we’re excited to compare and highlight the KonMari method to something that sparks joy for all of us – the work we do here at CI. Marie Kondo describes a six-step framework to address the seemingly daunting task of “a lifetime of tidy” that relates well to therapeutic services.

Step One: Commit yourself to tidy up.

Sounds simple, right? The first part of this step, commitment, captures a large part of any therapist’s responsibilities: goals! Just like clients are working towards goals in therapy, committing to cleaning requires goal-setting and follow-through. Goals should be realistic and attainable – instead of committing to “let’s clean the entire house”, focus on the parts of the whole. Start in one room, or with one category of items.

To maintain commitment, remembering what motivates you and the reasons you’re working towards tidying up is important. While means of cleaning may not be directly rewarding the end result (finding of toys, extra room for desirable activities, etc.) can be!

Step Two: Imagine your ideal lifestyle.

The role of imagination and to abstractly think about hypotheticals is an important part of therapy and cognitive development. Through role-playing or similar activities, kids can practice using strategies to interact with peers in an expected way, self-advocate for their needs, or play safely. Being able to imagine a goal you’re working towards is important to stay motivated and on track – not just in therapy, but in work, school, and several other contexts.

Step Three: Finish discarding first.

Declutter! It’s always harder to work on a challenging task with other things going on in the background, versus working on a challenging task in a quiet, calm room. A similar analogy can be drawn when using the KonMari method. The more objects, knick-knacks, and items to get rid of there are, the harder it can be to focus on the other parts of cleaning and even seem more daunting. Promoting ease and supporting the ability to focus is a helpful strategy for both cleaning and working towards therapeutic goals.

Step Four: Tidy by category, not location.

Look at any therapist’s desk, and you’ll see a wide variety of binders, post-it notes, colored paper-clips, and several other organizational odds and ends. No matter the specifics, we each have our own way to keep our activity ideas and materials in the right categories. Keeping things in a logical order is important to make sure these are easy to find and use, a common motivator for any type of cleaning activity.

Step Five: Follow the right order.

Something we love to talk about in therapy is “multi-step activities”. Sure, you can throw a ball, turn your head, and take a step in isolated opportunities. And it looks like you can get a shoe on and put your pants when you’re given the item. But…can you do it in the right order?

Putting on pants is remarkably hard when your shoes are already on. And if you’re falling to the ground after turning your head and taking a step or two, it goes without saying that throwing a ball will likely be a challenging task. The same applies for cleaning. With many things, there is a process to follow – it may be matter of works best for you, but it may also be there is one process, and that’s just the way it is (see above statement about pants).

Step Six: Ask yourself if it sparks joy.

The most well-known (and our favorite) step! Therapy at CI is joyful and FUN! Whether it’s working on our speech sounds or writing our name, we make sure we find and celebrate the joy in everything we do.

A highlight of Kondo’s approach is that it emphasizes the benefits and joy of cleaning, a highly undesirable and negative task for many. It’s no secret that we work on challenging or difficult areas with our clients at CI – but like Kondo, we make sure to bring out the joy in our activities and that our clients are having a great (and therapeutic) time.

Written By: Ismail Umer, MS, OTR/L, Occupational Therapist


Kondō, M. (2014). The life-changing magic of tidying up: The Japanese art of decluttering and organizing. Life Changing
Magic of Tidying.

Kondō, M. (2016). Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up. Life Changing Magic of