It seems like everyone is talking about Marie Kondo and the KonMari method right now doesn’t it? Netflix is a powerful thing, and her show Tidying Up with Marie Kondo certainly makes for interesting viewing. It’s also, it seems, inspiring people to make organizational changes in their own lives, or at least tweet that they are probably going to.
As a person who loves order and organization – and bringing it into the lives of others – I can only say that that is a wonderful thing. And many of the elements of the KonMari Method are fantastic and similar to things I might do myself working with my own clients.
But the KonMari method is not perfect. There are elements of her philosophy that are very shortsighted, and there are three elements that particularly demonstrate this. Allow me to explain what I mean.
Decluttering Is Not a One and Done Event, It’s a Process
For most people there really is no such thing as a single decluttering project that, once completed, will leave them with a home that is forever neat and tidy, one where clutter never rears its ugly head again. But that’s actually at the heart of the KonMari method isn’t it?
The fact is that it overlooks basic human nature and expects too much from people. Even after that first ‘big declutter’ people buy new stuff, forget to put them away in the right places, live with others that then do the same and, before they know, presto, new clutter!
The key to effective decluttering is education. Once the initial decluttering is done people need to be shown how best they can go about putting organization into practice every day and yet still live their lives. And realize that yes, with the best will in the world the clutter may very well come back again and it will be time for another decluttering project to begin. People don’t just tidy up once and then never have to do it again.
No, Not All Items Spark Joy, But We Still Need Some of Them
There is actually a very good reason that shopping is often called retail therapy. Numerous studies have found that often the act of shopping releases a rush of serotonin into the brain. Serotonin is known as the ‘feel good chemical’, and so yes, shopping really can be a form of therapy.
However, this does not mean that everything you buy can ‘spark joy’. Sometimes you just need things for very practical reasons and logical places have to be found for them.
You absolutely do need a drawer full of underwear, and yes, you have to hold onto those bags of crayons and markers for your kids because they really do love to draw sometimes. Are you personally happier because you own these items? No probably not, but you can’t just throw them away either.
There Is No Such Thing As a One Size Fits All Decluttering Method
Getting to the heart of what is really the biggest flaw in the KonMari Method, the fact is that there is no such thing as a one size fits all decluttering method. When Marie wrote her book she was a single woman, in her early thirties living in a typical Japanese apartment. Typical Japanese apartments are what we might call ‘micro apartments’. They are tiny, at least when compared with most American apartments. Therefore living in them means that you have to be more mindful about acquisitions than we all are.
If you are living in a larger home than that, and one that is also home to several other family members, especially if some of them are children, the KonMari Decluttering Method is simply not likely to be beneficial. Sorting out the belongings of six people and decluttering a whole home in one go is likely to be stressful, confusing and overly time consuming. And that is not what an organization project of any kind is supposed to make people feel like.
Bottom line? Marie Kondo is great and she has some excellent ideas. If she’s encouraged you to start thinking more about organization and all of its many benefits that’s great, don’t give up. But discovering the decluttering and organization methods that work in your home is likely to take more than just trying to emulate what you saw on a TV show or read in a book. And that’s okay.
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