How to Apply the KonMari Method to Your Pet's Toys

Dog and Toys
credit: Anda Stavri Photography/Moment/GettyImages

The beginning of the year is always a time for reflection, goal setting and fresh starts, and 2019 is no different. This year's hottest self-improvement trend isn't to shed pounds, but to shed stuff. We're talking about decluttering, specifically the brand of it made famous by Japanese tidying expert Marie Kondo. Our first collective obsession of 2019 has been the KonMari method, thanks to Kondo's Netflix series.

If you've been digging into the KonMari system, but find yourself stuck when it comes to decluttering your pet's belongings, then you are certainly not alone. To help, we've put together a handy guide for applying KonMari to your furbaby's belongings.

What is the KonMari Method?

The KonMari Method is a decluttering system developed by Japanese tidying expert Marie Kondo. The method has been popular for years. Kondo's book about her method, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, is an international best-seller and was translated into English in 2014. Since then, Americans have been KonMari-ing like crazy.

The KonMari Method's popularity is enjoying a resurgence right now thanks to Kondo's Netflix show, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, in which she works one-on-one with people and families who need her help decluttering their homes and bringing harmony to their lives.

Why is it hard to apply the KonMari Method to your pet's stuff?

The basic tenant of the KonMari method is to hold each and every object in your house, one by one, and search inside yourself to see if they spark joy in your heart and soul. This works really well for people, who can hold a ratty old t-shirt and realize that, no, it does not spark joy in their heart anymore or who can clutch an old tchotchke, thank it for the joy it used to bring, and say goodbye.

This is not, however, a helpful barometer for, say, a dog. Why? Because literally everything brings your dog joy. His newest, shiniest, most expensive toy brings him joy. The shredded carcasses of old toys bring him joy. Loose pieces of string and shards of dirty cardboard bring him joy.

If you want your pup to declutter with you and you want him to be actively involved in his own KonMari journey with you, here are some tips you can try and rules you can live by.

How to get your dog to KonMari

If you want to make your dog KonMari with you, it will take some patience, but you can do it. Here are some tips for translating the "does it spark joy?" process into dog-speak (and the parts of the process you'll just have to take the lead on).

Step 1: Sort your dog's stuff into categories.

This is huge because it's also a key tenant of the KonMari Method for humans. Marie Kondo believes in decluttering by category, not by room. The reason behind this is sound. If you commit to decluttering all of your clothes before you declutter anything else, for example, you avoid the pitfall of shuffling items into different rooms to deal with them later, which just redistributes the clutter, instead of actually clearing it.

Golden retriever dog puppy playing with toy
credit: Photology1971/iStock/GettyImages

Some obvious categories include: Toys, chews, treats, clothes, leashes/collars, and grooming products. Anything that you have a lot of, pet-wise, should be its own category. Try to keep any "miscellaneous" category down to objects that truly don't fit with anything else you have for your pet.

Step 2: Divide your dog's stuff into fun and functional.

Next, take your categories and sort them into two larger umbrella categories: Fun and Functional. "Fun" will include toys, treats, chews, pillows, blankets—the things that make your dog's tail wag and clearly spark all of the joy. "Functional" will include the things your dog needs, but either doesn't care about (the extra stainless steel bowls for food and water) or actively dislikes (the brushes that you need to keep him groomed).

Step 3: KonMari the "Functional" items on your own.

Your dog can't help you here. It's up to you to decide which of your six pairs of clippers to keep or help you check expiration dates on bottles of puppy shampoo and the stock pile of dog food you bought when it was on sale that one time. Some things will genuinely spark joy for you (like special sweaters or costumes or a fancy collar that was gift from your mom) and others will just be things you need.

Dog accessories on pink background. Top view. Pets and animals concept
credit: Sergey Nazarov/iStock/GettyImages

When it comes to the latter, apply the same standard Marie Kondo tells people to apply to functional human items, like small kitchen appliances: Is this something you want to take with you and your dog into your shared future? That's a good way to decide if it's worth hanging onto some dog gadget you've never actually used or extras of things like grooming products and bowls.

Step 4: Do a preliminary KonMari of the "Fun" items.

Naughty dog
credit: Chalabala/iStock/GettyImages

Your dog is eventually going to help, we promise! But first, you need to do a preliminary KonMari of his toys yourself. Anything that sparks the opposite of joy for you should be cut automatically. It's not that your dog's toys are likely to make you sad, per se, but they might very well bring up another far-from-joy emotion: Disgust. If your dog has gross, chewed up and shredded toys that you can't stand to have in your home anymore, toss them.

Step 5: Put your dog to work.

Finally, as promised, your dog is going to help declutter his own damn crate of stuff. It's best to start with toys and to separate them even further by type of toy—stuffed animals, balls, ropes, etc. Now, you get to get down and dirty playing with your dog. Like with the human KonMari, it might take several days or even weeks to work your way through all of the items, but make a point to engage in play with him with each and every toy individually.

Adult shetland sheepdog seen from above looking up with on the floor all kinds of doggy stuff like bones, toys and food
credit: MirasWonderland/iStock/GettyImages

He'll feel joy every time, but there are different degrees of joy. You know your dog best and you know the toys that really do it for him. And, what's more, by doing it this methodical way, you'll also get a sense of which toys spark the most joy in you, whether it's the joy you feel playing with the toy with him or the joy of the dorky way he gets his face stuck in a Kong.

If you get stuck and want to put the ball more in his court, you can try picking up all but two toys every day and only keeping the one he plays with the most.

Happy dog having fun with rubbish toy
credit: YakobchukOlena/iStock/GettyImages

Repeat the same general process with all of the fun items your dog owns and before you know it, you'll have KonMari-ed together.

Step 6: Donate any items that are still usable to a local shelter.

While you will, admittedly, end up throwing away a lot of the dog-related items you declutter, like the destroyed toys, there will also probably be items that are still totally great to use and just aren't right for you and your pup anymore. This is especially true in the "functional" category, but in some cases you'll see it in the "fun" category too.

Animal Shelter Charity Box Vector
credit: THPStock/iStock/GettyImages

If you have items that can still be used and loved by other dogs, contact your local animal shelter and see if they accept donations and, if so, if they need the items you're getting rid of. Your dog will love knowing that his old stuff is going to help a pup in need (or you'll love knowing it, at least).