Tidying Up with Marie Kondo has quickly become a popular show on Netflix. Kondo has so many people tidying up their homes using the KonMari method, her unique method for tidying. For Kondo, tidying is more than just cleaning up. Kondo says the KonMari method is a means to realize your ideal life. But does the KonMari method really do all of that for people? Is the KonMari method right for everyone? Is the KonMari method right for you? Today, we are going to explore that and more.
There are people who criticize Kondo’s methods, saying that it doesn’t actually lead to a dramatic enough change (despite people literally going through every item in their entire house). Although I think there is some truth to that, I also feel that the KonMari method has the potential to change our lives drastically…if we choose to allow it.
Just as Kondo states in her show Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, the KonMari method is not easy, and it is not really magic. You are the magic. But is the KonMari method right for everyone?
There are lessons for all of us to learn from watching Tidying Up, and some of us may benefit from the KonMari method more than others. We can learn from the KonMari method in general, from the questions Kondo asks her clients, as well as from Kondo herself.
Sure, we can transform our homes with her tidying methods, but we can transform our lives by applying her attitude towards life.
Marie Kondo began her climb to fame with the release of her book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. And now she has released a second book, Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up.
Through these books, she has taught people across the globe how to tidy using her KonMari method.
And now, through her Netflix original show, Kondo is helping many more people realize what their ideal life is and how to take steps to get there.
Even more, than helping them declutter their homes and organize, Kondo uses the tidying process to teach them valuable lessons…lessons that their clutter seemed to be holding them back from learning.
Ultimately, she brings a whole new level of joy into their homes for each of these people.
Marie Kondo is non-judgmental in her approach to each home and family. She seems genuinely excited to help each one of them and truly believes in her message and methods.
Even more, Kondo’s youthful presence and positive attitude toward their home and life make all the difference for these people. Personally, I found Kondo’s youthful personality to be so fun to watch and quite honestly, contagious. She makes tidying seem enjoyable!
Throughout the show, Kondo helps people in all sorts of life stages, from newlyweds to families to empty-nesters. Anyone is bound to find an episode that really resonates with them and has the potential to speak into their own life.
The KonMari Method
So, what is the KonMari method? In short, it’s about decluttering your entire home by category and in a specific order.
Kondo breaks the home into the following categories (listed in the order in which she recommends tackling them): Clothing, Books, Paper, Komono (miscellaneous), and Sentimental Items.
But is the KonMari method right for everyone? Let’s explore the different aspects of Kondo’s method to find out.
The Tidying Order
Kondo recommends decluttering in this order because this way, “your sensitivity to joy will be honed as you progress through the tidying process.”
She explains that if we tend to get stuck if we work through our sentimental items too soon. So really, this process is designed to make it easier for you to work through your entire home with fewer hangups.
In the show, Kondo always starts the tidying process by greeting the house.
She silently thanks the house for protecting them and communicates that they are about to begin the process of tidying in a prayerful, almost spiritual way, asking the house to come alongside them in the process.
Kondo also speaks to items as they declutter, thanking them for what they’ve done for each person. When she helps people declutter books, she knocks on the piles of books to wake them up.
All of this shows that her culture and religion have likely influenced her approach. For Kondo, the KonMari method truly is a way of life.
The Decluttering Method
Beyond the categories and decluttering order, the KonMari method involves gathering all of the items in a category and touching them one by one.
The KonMari method requires each household to put all of the things in a certain category in a giant pile, allowing them to feel the shock of exactly how much they have.
According to Kondo, “Only when you are confronted with exactly how much you have do you start to realize what you need to do.”
Only when you are confronted with exactly how much you have do you start to realize what you need to do.”Marie Kondo
As you hold an item, Kondo wants you to decide if it “sparks joy” for you.
The concept of sparking joy is abstract, and you can see that in people’s difficulty to grasp the concept at times throughout the show. But, all of the people she worked with seemed to understand the concept by the end of the process.
And finally, anything that doesn’t spark joy for you is to be thanked before discarding. Kondo really does a great job of showing gratitude, allowing people who struggle with the guilt of decluttering to let go more easily.
The Organizing and Folding Method
Kondo might be most known for her organizing and folding methods.
Once the decluttering process is done in a category, she helps the person organize and display his or her items in a way that sparks joy. For clothing, she has a special folding process that leaves clothing in a small rectangle, making it easy to “file” them in drawers rather than stacking them.
This folding method is seriously life-changing for those with storage issues. If you are short on storage, the KonMari folding method will save tons of space.
In fact, I used her method with my own clothing and it allowed me to free up a ton of closet space because I needed to fold more tops in order to keep them all standing up. My drawers that once looked full now looked half empty!
To organize your space, Kondo recommends using boxes right and left during the show. She uses boxes, big and small, to divide up a space (whether it be a drawer, shelf, or closet).
And just as she does with clothing, she always proposes storing items vertically in a box so that you can easily see what is inside.
Questions to Ask While Decluttering
The question we all associate with Marie Kondo is the one that asks, “Does it spark joy?” Not only is this the title of one of her books, but this is also the main question Kondo asks herself and others to help them make decisions.
These questions work well for Kondo because she quickly senses the beauty in things and the world at large. But for some of us, answering what sparks joy for us doesn’t come as easily.
Throughout the tidying process, as you make decisions about certain items, you get better and better about recognizing what sparks joy in you.
Kondo says there will actually be an “aha” moment when you realize what it feels like when something sparks joy. Because of this, she suggests revisiting items later on in the process.
But if we can only ask if something sparks joy, is the KonMari method right for everyone? I don’t think so.
Thankfully, whether or not something sparks joy isn’t the only thing that Kondo tells people to ask themselves. Here are some of the other questions Kondo asks her clients on the show that I find extremely helpful for making decluttering decisions:
- Do I really need this?
- Is it necessary for my life?
- What will you enjoy wearing that will make you feel more mature?
- Is this something I would like to bring with me into the future?
- Will it be beneficial to my life going forward?
So, more than her method being about deciding what sparks joy for you, the KonMari method is about learning what kind of future you would like to have and which items deserve a place in that future. I just love that, don’t you?
The Purpose of the KonMari Method
Exploring some of the benefits and purpose behind Kondo’s methods will help you determine if the KonMari method is right for you. The KonMari method is so much more than a way to declutter and organize your home.
On the show, Kondo states that “the goal is to learn to cherish everything that you have so that you can achieve happiness for your family and live comfortably.”
Additionally, Kondo shares many other purposes and benefits of using her method throughout her Netflix show. The KonMari method has the potential to do the following:
- deepen a couple’s relationship by working together to tidy the home and seeing if you share the same values
- ease the pain of the past
- begin thinking about the future in a more positive way
- learn what is difficult for you to let go of and why
- help you understand what is most important in your life
- create a “welcoming, inviting, positive environment” in your home
- help you “confirm how you feel about each and every item you possess”
So, the purpose of applying the KonMari method isn’t solely to tidy your home, it’s also to begin living a better, more joyful life. And, it isn’t necessarily about learning to love your things as much as learning which of your things you love and why.
Confirm how you feel about each and every item you possess.”Marie Kondo
Problems with the KonMari Method
Honestly, I don’t think there’s a problem with the KonMari method in and of itself. The KonMari method can be effective in decluttering and organizing your home, on both a small and larger scale.
Going through Kondo’s tidying process teaches you valuable lessons about yourself and the life you want to live. Decluttering in this way truly has the potential to change how you view your things, as well as how you live your life going forward.
Although I believe in her methods, in essence, I can easily see how the KonMari method would not work for everyone. The KonMari method is designed to help you learn what you truly love and want for your life. And while this is a good thing, it isn’t what everyone needs.
So, why isn’t the KonMari method right for everyone?
1. Maintaining the Lifestyle Change Isn’t Addressed
First, why does the KonMari method work for Marie Kondo? Because for her, it’s a way of life.
However, Kondo never directly addresses (in her book or on her show) how to actually make this lifestyle change. Instead, it is just assumed that going through the process once will be enough to cause a lasting change.
After watching the show, I couldn’t help but wonder, now what? What tools were these people given so that they don’t go back to their old ways?
This is something that I feel is missing from the KonMari method. It seems like Kondo’s method is a one-and-done sort of deal, but is that really realistic?
Without having a deep understanding of yourself, your habits, and what you want out of life, it is easy to slip back into our old ways given enough time.
I wish that Kondo would address this critical piece because it’s the difference between a lifestyle change and “this thing we did once.”
Decluttering your entire home is beneficial in and of itself, and for a time, you will reap the benefits. However, over time these benefits will diminish as we forget the grueling (albeit enriching) experience of tidying our homes.
Unless we are intentional about keeping our mindset where we want it, we will always revert to our old patterns of thinking and doing.
2. Not Everyone Wants to Find Joy in Things
Personally, finding joy isn’t my #1 priority in life. Do I want to experience joy? Of course! But is it my focus? Nope.
That’s because I don’t want to feel joy from just anything, but from things that truly matter. I don’t want to feel true joy when I touch an item; I want to feel true joy from being in the presence of the ones I love.
The KonMari method actually resulted in me being more attached to my things than I was before. Asking myself if items sparked joy made me give more meaning to my things than I should.
When using this part of her method, I had to begin acknowledging how items made me feel. Then I needed to redirect my thoughts to the person or situation that gave it its meaning, rather than the thing itself.
But, maybe that’s the point. Maybe that is why Kondo says that her method helps you realize what is truly important to you.
For me, things aren’t important, but people are. I think that’s why I really appreciated hearing her ask her clients other questions besides “does it spark joy?” throughout the show.
3. There Should be Exceptions to the Decluttering Order
Furthermore, Kondo’s recommended decluttering order of categories may not work for everyone. It isn’t meant to be set in stone, however, as you can see when you watch Tidying Up.
Sometimes we are sentimentally attached to something like our clothing and that thing should be left for later on in the process.
Besides sentimental reasons, there are other hangups we have when decluttering. So I also think that if it’s easier for you to let go of paper than clothing, then by all means declutter paper before clothing.
I think that Kondo is spot on in her assessment that you should begin with items that are easier for you to make decisions on, but I think that should apply to her decluttering category order as well.
4. There are Issues with Organizing and Standing Items Upright
Another part of the KonMari method that may not work for everyone in the way we are supposed to organize by category and with lots and lots of boxes.
Most of the time organizing by category makes sense, but there are times that organizing by convenience or aesthetic appearance will take precedence.
And, for those of us living a more minimal lifestyle, organizing with bins and boxes simply isn’t necessary for many areas. I consider myself a minimalist (although, I don’t have a minimal amount of everything), and I found that her storing methods didn’t always work well for me.
For example, I literally didn’t own enough shirts for me to store them standing up in my drawer without them all falling over. So, I had to change where I liked to store my clothing just to have enough in a drawer to stand everything up.
For those of us with a minimal amount of items, it isn’t always feasible to buy enough tiny boxes to make everything stand upright.
I don’t want to spend a ton of money on tiny boxes, but maybe I’ll be more likely to keep the ones that find their way into my home. I will also say, this has shown me that I need even less “storage” furniture than I currently have in my home.
What I Love About the KonMari Method
Regardless of all of these potential “problems” with the KonMari method, I think that it is a great starting point no matter what your decluttering end goals are.
If your goal is to just have less stuff and make some more space in your home, the KonMari method can help with that.
If you goal is to live a more minimal lifestyle and drastically diminish the amount you own, the KonMari method is able to help you begin that journey.
For me, Kondo’s tidying method has given me some fantastic ideas for how to organize my home. I now have a great solution for any problem areas where items are tight or overflowing.
And although I have adopted her folding method for my own clothes, I’m not ready to apply it to my kids’ clothes. The thought of doing all that work and having my kids mess it up stresses me out!
Through watching Kondo on Tidying Up especially, I developed a greater sense of gratitude and joy for life.
I think that’s what has made her show so popular, actually. People are drawn to her positivity and joy in a way that inspires them to make changes in their own homes, and for that, I am so grateful.
It’s important that we take the renewed motivation and change in mindset that Marie Kondo gave us and do something with it.
And more than that, we need to do whatever we can to make our new mindset a lasting change. A change that actually has the potential to change the rest of our lives for the better.
Theresa Bedford is a syndicated freelance home and travel writer with regular contributions to the Associated Press wire and MSN. She helps everyday people love the life they have through simplicity, organization, and prioritization.