As the winner of an Ebay contest, I had the pleasure of asking Marie Kondo personal questions. She is the bestselling author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

VM: Where do you begin when you are dealing with your own sentimental items and your children ‘s?

MK:  The first thing I want to say is that I applaud you on your energy and your ambition to put your entire life in order. You are exactly the kind of person I hoped would read my books, and it makes me feel very good that you seemed to have gained benefit from my method.

The next thing is that I want to say that each of us on a journey, and while we may be fortunate enough to have those who we love and who love us as traveling partners, we are basically on this journey alone. I will try to help you as I respond to your questions, but if not everything I say seems right for you, then you should instead do things in the way that you choose. Nobody knows you better than you, and if I may say, now that you’ve almost completed my method, I think you may know yourself better than ever before.

As you know from reading my first book, I have been tidying for nearly my entire life, and my KonMari Method began to develop in my early adulthood, so to think about where I “begin” is not, frankly, something I can do.    For me, I began to tidy almost even before I knew that I was tidying, it was just ingrained in my personality.

But I can offer this counsel: the fact that you have gone so far into my method, and trained yourself and your tidying instincts, you have a fabulous “head start”. There is a reason that sentimental items come as the final category in my method, and that’s because they are definitely the most difficult. But please think of yourself as a well-conditioned athlete, who has trained and performed for years, and the tidying of these sentimental items is a contest for which you are very well-prepared.  And really the process is the same as the other categories:  all at one time, so you begin with the gathering together of all your sentimental items.

Finally, make good use of the things you choose to keep for the next stage of your life. If you’re going to go to all the trouble of choosing sentimental items that spark joy, then it’s important to keep them in a way that lets you enjoy them whenever you want.

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