Inside: Drowning in clutter? There are 4 key reasons the KonMari Method just doesn’t work for most people who struggle with cluttered homes.
With nearly 20,000 reviews on Amazon and a hot show on Netflix, Marie Kondo is seen as the foremost expert in decluttering. Her book spent over three years on the NY Times Best Seller’s List.
Nearly everyone I know who has ever wanted to simplify their lives has read “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” or seen the Netflix series. The question “Does it spark joy?” can be heard echoing from households across America.
But that’s not how it worked out for me.
When I read her book back in 2015, I felt despair. The book was starting to gain recognition and I hoped that this would be the magic pill to relieve my clutter woes.
Sadly, it was not.
Instead of feeling inspired and motivated to take action, I felt even more isolated in my clutter. If her method worked for so many other people, what was wrong with me that it didn’t work for me?
My Opinion of the Konmari Method
I want to state that if the KonMari Method helps you declutter your life, then by all means, use it to your heart’s content. I hate to write a post against any book that has changed the lives of so many people.
The fact is that there are all types of people in this world and what works for everyone else might not work for you. That’s why there’s so many kinds of breakfast food. 😜
There are some very big flaws with the KonMari Method. If you have tried the method and felt frustrated when it didn’t work for you, I completely understand.
I want you to know, regardless of the decluttering method:
Having a messy home doesn’t mean you’re lazy or that you don’t care.
A messy home is just that — a home that is messy. It’s a reflection of your habits. That’s the bad news.
The good news is that habits can change, and I’m here to help you. I spent years of my life being ashamed by the clutter in my home.
I saw my friends juggling full time jobs and young kids, all while making cute crafts for grandparents and cooking dinner from scratch.
Meanwhile, I was still trying to figure out how to move the wet laundry over to the dryer before it started to smell.
That’s where I started. So, I know if I — a life long packrat with a terrible memory and a complete type-B personality — can declutter my home, you can too.
If the KonMari Method works for you, great. But if it doesn’t, it’s not a reflection on you and your worthiness as a human being. It just means you need to try something different to find what works for you.
Here are my four biggest gripes with Marie Kondo’s method and what I think you should do instead.
4 Reasons the Konmari Method Doesn’t Work
#1: “Does it spark joy?”
In Marie Kondo’s signature slogan, she instructs you to pick up an item and ask yourself “Does it spark joy?”
Here’s the problem: there are so many items you need to live a functional life that don’t “spark joy.”
Let me explain. If I ask myself “Does my spatula spark joy?” the answer would be a hard “NO.” I hate to cook and anything related to cooking is such a tension-inducing part of my life.
But — my family likes to eat and so kitchen utensils and pots and pans will stay, even if they don’t spark joy.
Are there items in your home that you want to keep but don’t feel a sense of joy towards? If you keep toilet paper, a plunger or a duster in your home, I’m going to guess the answer is yes.
These items might not make most people feel a sense of joy, but they are definitely useful to your life.
What I do like about this concept is the respect you develop for your things. If you want to surround yourself with things you love, you’ll probably think twice before buying fast fashion on clearance items.
Instead, do this:
I think it was Joshua Becker who suggested these two, more practical questions:
- Do you use it?
- Do you love it?
In other words, there might be items you keep that you don’t love, but you use them and therefore, they’re worth keeping.
On the other hand, there might be items that don’t have much practical value (sentimental items, for instance) but that you love so much that you want to keep them.
Instead of waiting for a feeling of joy to surface, try instead to ask yourself if you use it or love it.
#2: The KonMari Method of Folding
You guys. Real talk. When I started my decluttering journey, we regularly struggled with a mountain of dirty laundry that camped out in our closet.
Laundry was a real struggle for us. We often forgot about the laundry until weeks had passed and we no longer had clean underwear.
It would then take us an entire Saturday to wash, dry, fold and put away 3-4 loads of laundry. Afterwards things would be good…for about 3 weeks until the cycle started over again.
If you struggle with keeping up with the basics, please don’t make it hard on yourself by also learning a specific way to fold.
Marie Kondo’s method of folding so that clothing can stand straight up is brilliant. You can see all your clothing at once and easily grab any item.
Here’s the problem: if you already struggle with basic household maintanence, this step is insanely infuriating.
Instead, do this:
Focus on the basics first. This means going through your closet to remove items you’re no longer wearing.
Then get in the habit of doing your laundry on a regular basis (1-2 times/week). Set a reminder on your phone, write a spot on the calendar…whatever you need to remember this chore.
After a while, you’ll start to get in the habit of doing laundry on a regular basis. You’ll learn by heart that for example Monday and Thursday are laundry days and you’ll remember automatically.
And this habit of keeping up with laundry will start to feel easy.
At this point — and only at this point — If you want to go and learn the KonMari folding method, by all means, you do you.
Here’s the problem with learning the KonMari folding method when you’re in the thick of decluttering.
It’s a little thing called perfectionism.
And if you let it, perfectionism will thwart your progress.
You could easily spend hours or weeks trying to learn this new process and organizing your dresser “just so”, that you lose all the momentum you had by clearing out in the first place.
Because when you start to make progress, it motivates you to move onto bigger and bigger projects.
But if instead, you get sucked into a tiny detail that doesn’t even matter all that much? Well, you lose your momentum.
Focus on progress, not perfection. You can always go back and learn the KonMari folding method.
But please, when you’re in the momentum of decluttering, stick with it and keep making progress.
#3: Remove Everything All at Once
Okay, let’s talk about this common decluttering advice. The idea is to empty out an entire cabinet, drawer or closet and look at like items all at once.
This method is not unique to Marie Kondo. In fact, this is common decluttering advice.
Here’s the problem: If you truly have a cluttered home, you don’t have anywhere to put the stuff.
How am I the only one that noticed this? Am I the only one who read “The Lifechanging Magic of Tidying Up” when I had an extremely cluttered house?
Let’s ackowledge that there are two scenarios when it comes to decluttering: Homes that have a little bit of clutter…and homes that have A LOT of clutter.
My home fell into the second category. We were dealing with years of my accumulation and my extreme pain when it came to parting with things.
When I started decluttering, every flat surface in our home was filled with stuff.
Dirty dishes covered the kitchen counter and sink. Paper, bills and books covered the kitchen table. Our TV stand was littered with video games.
I think you get the idea.
If you are dealing with an extremely cluttered home, the advice to take everything out of your cabinets or closet is absolutely terrible advice.
Instead, do this:
One of the best things to do when you don’t know where to start decluttering is to start by looking for quick wins.
In many cases, we keep things in our home that are obviously trash (even to those of us who struggle to throw things out): Used shopping bags, broken hangers, plastic packaging with one item in them, empty cardboard boxes, etc.
Look around your home to find those things you can immediately throw out.
This could make a huge difference in the space and motivate you to keep going.
My last gripe with the KonMari Method is the category of Komono, or miscellaneous items.
The fact that this category includes everything in your home that is not clothing, books, paper and sentimental items…well, I guess I’m confused why there are categories at all.
Komono includes everything from spatulas to DVDs to toys and can span across every room in your home.
I don’t know about you, but that sounds dang overwhelming to me.
Instead, do this:
Sit down and write out a decluttering checklist of every area you’d like to declutter in your home.
Pick one area and then break down what needs to be done. Keep breaking down the tasks until each task takes no more than 15 minutes to complete.
Using this method of decluttering is much less overwhelming and feels doable, even with a busy schedule.