Why I Don't Follow the KonMari Method When Decluttering

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If you haven't heard of Marie Kondo and her books The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up  and Spark Joy, you've probably been living under a rock (or maybe a mountain of your own clothes) for the past few years. Kondo is a Japanese organising expert and her unique methods for decluttering have made her well-known worldwide. She even has her own show, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, on Netflix right now and is inspiring more people than ever to part with their possessions. 

When I first started my decluttering journey (before I found minimalism), a lot of YouTubers I watched all recommended and raved about Kondo's book and how it had changed their lives. I wanted to find out for myself what was so great about it, so instead of buying the book, I listened to the audio version - the last thing I wanted when I was letting stuff go was to buy more stuff.

Kondo certainly knows what she's talking about and her methods have been effective for so many people. There were many things I did like about The Life Changing Magic, such as the idea of decluttering by category (eg. all your clothes or all your books) rather than room by room, and doing it all in one fell swoop instead of little by little. I've even adopted her method of folding clothes and socks.

The main issue I have with the KonMari Method, though, is the premise that possessions bring us joy. The principal theme running through the entire book is that everything you own should make you happy. This is not a bad idea, per se, because obviously you don't want to keep items which make you sad. But for me, inanimate objects don't bring me joy. I couldn't pick up a t-shirt, however pretty it was, and honestly say it 'sparked joy' in me. Things that bring me joy include spending quality time with my husband, visiting my mum, having coffee with a friend and cooking a good meal to share with someone. All of these things are experiences and involve spending time with people, not things.

When decluttering, instead of wondering whether something sparks joy, I ask myself:

Do I really need this?
When was the last time I used it?
Am I going to use it in the near future?
It might look nice, but is it practical?
Does it have a bad memory attached to it?
Does it still work/fit?
Could someone else get better use out of it than me?
WHY am I holding onto this?

Answering these questions often makes it easier to let go.

The other thing I find a little disconcerting is that Marie Kondo wants us to treat our possessions as if they're alive. Emptying out your handbag every night to give it a rest after it's worked so hard carrying your stuff around all day, saying "Thank you" to items you're letting go. Yes, treating your things with respect is important and you should feel grateful that you had the opportunity to own a certain item you've now decided to donate - however, in my opinion, acting as if it were a person is going a bit too far.

Like I said, there are many things I love about this book and have embraced into my life (the sock folding thing is revolutionary) and would still recommend it to someone starting out on their decluttering journey. It's helped thousands of people clear out their crap and that can only be a good thing. All I can say is that not all of Kondo's ideas work for me personally, which is why I decided not to follow the KonMari method.

Have you seen Tidying Up with Marie Kondo on Netflix or read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up? Do you follow the KonMari Method and what's your favourite/least favourite thing about it?

Related: Six Ways to Have an Eternally Clean House (Without Paying a Professional)

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  1. I guess whether something brings you joy depends on how materialistic you are as a person. If you have items that you saved for or got for a special occasion, looking at those could still bring you joy. But I completely agree that the method is flawed. There are lots of things in life you have out of necessity or for the sake of practicality that don't bring you joy. I don't really understand the hype around her method...but maybe that's because my life isn't that minimal to begin with! x



  2. I can relate to the thanking your objects part. That was the only thing I was like... mmmmm that's a no. I agree, we should be appreciative of everything we have and treat it nicely... but by treat it nicely I mean make sure it stays in good condition, not to say nice words to it :P

    I actually do understand what she means by something bringing you joy. I don't think she meant it should be more meaningful than the things you said, but say clothes, for instance. You should only keep the articles of clothing that you really enjoy wearing. You feel good in them, you feel pretty in it or it makes you feel super comfy and cozy. This is not the same kind of joy as family and love but it is a form of joy. If something doesn't bring some sort of good feeling for you, then it shouldn't be kept. If it is useful and helps you get a job done, then that is a way that it brings you joy. I find feel happy not washing my dishes by hand, therefore my dishwasher brings me a type of "joy."

  3. I definitely don't thank my possessions before I put them in the thrift store box, but I think Marie Kondo's method is the best I've seen. Her spark joy phrase is short enough to be memorable, but also vague enough to let you interpret it in multiple ways, which is genius.

    1. "Need it?" is as short as "spark joy" and much more practical. Vagueness is not a virtue - anything can spark joy. There is a difference between need and want, and Spark joy feeds the want, not the need.
      Don't mean to argue or belittle your comment, just my thoughts. Sorry if it was offensive.

  4. I haven't read her book yet, though I did watch her series on Netflix. I do think she has some great ideas when it comes to decluttering and organizing but I do agree that the spark joy aspect isn't perfect. I can see if working for some things, but with others, not so much. I have a number of things in my house that don't necessarily spark joy but I still need them, so I can't get rid of those items despite the lack of joy. I think in the end, whether you go with the KonMarie method or a different method for decluttering, you have to make it your own, make some adjustments to what is expected and that way it will fit.

  5. I think there are both pros and cons with the entire konmari trend. Most people are hoarders (in the words lighter sense) and very materialistic, so it's great to take a good look at what you have and how much of it is actually excessive. Decluttering and getting organized are excellent habits. At the same time, I don't agree with be ridding yourself of "everything". I'm guilty of having waaay to many things, but at the same time, for example in regards to crafting supplies, I rarely have to go out and buy something new for a project, instead I have everything handy already. I also don't agree with throwing away things that you are likely to need in the near future, say for example you have two electric whisks, you get rid of the other and the first one breaks. You have to go out and buy a new one, even though you would've had one already. For me I think the trend pushes towards unnecessary consumerism, which further burdens the environment etc. and supports a sense of materialism in a completely different way.

  6. I've heard about this, in fact my sister is currently reading The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up and offered it to me afterwards. The ideas do sound a little crazy, especially treating your possessions as if they are alive (?!) so I think I'll be giving this book a miss for now, ha ha. Although I think I'll go ask her about the sock folding thing when she gets to that page - I'm intrigued! :) Thanks for sharing your thoughts Nicola! <3 xx

    Bexa | www.hellobexa.com

  7. I've watched a few episodes on Netflix, and it has really made me want to declutter my home lol I'm part of those that finds joy in "things", but I also go by the rule of "do I really need it ?" when decluttering, otherwise I would keep everything lol

  8. Personally I love the Kondo method. I don't empty my purse every night or thank my things, but pretty much everything else works for me. I think the disconnect for some people is the difference between eastern and western thinking - Feng Shui is a commonly accepted practice there but here it's seen as a bit odd. Just a different cultural thing.
    As for the common complaint that many practical things don't spark joy but you keep them because you need them, maybe try this approach. Imagine you have 3 vegetable peelers in your kitchen drawer. All of them are clean and ready to use. Do you usually grab a certain one before the others? If yes then that one brings you joy. You want to eat those potatoes and that particular tool gets the job done efficiently, feels comfortable in your hand, washes well or is just a great color. If you always grab a certain tool, or cutting board, or garden shovel, etc when you have multiples of that item, then there must be a reason. It is your favourite one from the several you own. Think about why that is. The job it's doing may not be joyful, but having the right tool to get it done make that job more pleasant in some way. If feeding your family a home cooked meal brings you joy, then the well curated tools you have to get the job done are helping you experience that joy. I think the complaints about the process are usually due to people taking the "spark joy" thing too literally when it comes to the practical items in our lives. You can easily tell if you love a certain sweater or piece of art. I am not in love with my peeler but boy do mashed potatoes bring me joy. I got rid of the two cheap old peelers that were starting to rust and kept the one with the fresh blade and comfortable contoured handle. Throwing out the two nasty ones wasn't wasteful. When the one I kept eventually fails I'll replace it with a similar one, I wouldn't resort to using the ones I never liked and were just taking up space.
    Now that my closet has been Kondoed, it's like walking into my own personal store where they sell only fabulous things in my size, in the colors that look good on me and all the pants have been hemmed to my perfect length. Everything in there is perfect for me and my current life. No historical items to remind me of a time when I was another size or lived a different sort of life, and no items meant for some future fantasy life.
    When I look at my book collection I smile because they represent all my current interests. There are none that make me feel guilty because they were bought and never read. There are none about hobbies I gave up long ago, or tried but never really got into. I've kept only books on travel, gardening, decorating, and specific arts and crafts that I currently enjoy (calligraphy, watercolors, and custom gift cards). I culled my novels down to less than 10 which I intend to read again before donating them. I now rely on the library for novels. If I start a book and it turns out not to be for me I return it. No investment, no half read book sitting on a shelf glaring at me for years waiting for me to feel guilty enough to read it only because I spent money on it. If someone recommends a book I put it on my future reading list and eventually I'll get to it, without any investment and without adding to the accumulation of stuff in my home.

  9. I have a huge problem with this sparking joy thing. Its easy for any stuff to spark joy if you are a materialistic person, and then there is no end to collecting stuff.

    I believe in the philosophy of "joy is for people, not things". I follow the practice of holding something in my hand and asking "have I used this in the past one year? Will I use it in the next year? Do I need this", and the answer helps me throw things out.

    Her practical tips on folding and stuff are fine. Even brilliant. Her philosophy? Poppycock.

  10. The concept of thanking items comes from Shintoism, which Kondo has stated is a big influence to her philosophy on tidying. In shintoism, objects are believed to be inhabited by deities. This is why she greets the house, thanks items, etc.


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