What UX designers can learn from the Marie Kondo book?

What UX designers can learn from the Marie Kondo book? from UIGarage
Daniela McVicker

Updated on December 13, 2019

You’ve probably heard of “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo. In her famous book, the author elaborates on the intricacies of the relationships people have with their belongings. According to the author, people should establish how they feel about certain objects by asking a set of questions about their purpose. This approach should, in effect, help them dispose of the things they no longer need. 

When it comes to creating a digital product, a similar strategy can be extremely helpful. A strategy that will allow developers and designers working on a visual product to declutter their workflow and deliver a superior product. The importance of continually improving the way users interact with interfaces. According to Forrester research, a well-executed, frictionless user experience can increase user conversions fourfold.

So how exactly does one apply Kondo’s teachings in UX?

UX lessons from Marie Kondo

What UX designers can learn from the Marie Kondo book? from UIGarage

In her book, Kondo calls for questioning a thing’s purpose and establishing whether its purpose has been fulfilled since it has been bought. 

It’s safe to say that this inquisitive attitude towards an object’s place in the grand scheme of things is very similar to how UX designers make decisions. Excess is a problem in any interface out there, and a cluttered flow always damages the user experience. 

Here are a few essential lessons designers should take away from the New York Times bestseller.

1. Visualize and outline the final product

What UX designers can learn from the Marie Kondo book? from UIGarage

Kondo suggests that before you attempt to start tidying up, you need to visualize your goals. There is a strong interdependence between the ideal version of yourself and the things you need to keep in or out of your life. To create an effective roadmap, you need to outline your ideal life as precisely as possible. 

The same can be said about designing products. Before starting work on a visual interface, picture an ideal solution for a problem that people need to confront regularly. Precise visualization of the product will provide you with a clearer understanding of the steps you need to take to achieve the desired goal. 

2.   Categorize your design process

Another vital takeaway for designers is proper categorization. The author advises working your way through your belongings based on their categories, not their location. Kondo recommends starting tidying up with your clothes. After you’re done with that, you can move on to documents, books, papers, miscellaneous objects, and lastly, things that have sentimental value. This will allow you to be more thorough in your decision-making. 

There are two important reasons why it’s a good idea to categorize tasks while working on a product: 

  • This type of categorization allows you to move from simpler tasks to the more laborious ones. Kondo’s approach suggests that we need to dispose of things that have sentimental value only after we’ve dealt with objects that are easier to get rid of. The same principle should be applied when working on a product. We should start with simpler tasks and ease our way into the more demanding ones 
  • Working at one particular category of tasks at a time will sharpen your decision-making and help you execute tasks quicker

3. Edit out any excess

What UX designers can learn from the Marie Kondo book? from UIGarage

While UX design should have a minimalist approach, it should never be reductive. Kondo’s philosophy doesn’t strive to limit a person’s assets; it aims to only keep the things that bring joy to their owner. Space, both physical and digital that isn’t cluttered with unnecessary objects is more usable and provides for better human focus.  

Kondo also recommends that her readers don’t keep gifts out of guilt. The same can be said about some aspects of a product — if it’s unnecessary, it should be edited out, no matter the time investment. 

4.  Try it out before shipping

“Once you’ve finished acting as the creator, you need to go back to being a user for a while and review the work you’ve done,” Melina Riley, senior web designer for TopWritersReview, shared. “This is the moment where you improve your design from prototype to final iteration.” 

Kondo herself says that it’s okay if your house doesn’t look as nice right after you’ve tidied it up. It takes some time and retouching. 

You’ll naturally arrive at your goal if you have the right roadmap in mind.

5.  Don’t settle for a style

Usability is superior to style. We often sacrifice comfort for what we perceive as a stylistic consistency. Kondo argues against it — we need to focus on the things that bring us joy, the rest is secondary. Keeping useless things because they complement your other useless things is not a viable strategy for decluttering. 

The same can be said about digital products. UX designers should focus on usability first and only then worry about stylistic consistency. 


The emergence of UX in recent years is an essential change in the history of design. Marie Kondo’s approach can help us focus even more on usability. Furthermore, it helps us ask a fundamental question — do our products bring joy to their users?

Kondo’s book teaches us to be straightforward about the purpose of certain things in our designs and to be brave about editing out the things our users won’t need. 

There is a broad spectrum of ways how Marie Kondo’s philosophy can be applied in UX, and we urge you to find it out for yourself.