Marie Kondo’s method of tidying up just isn’t for me. Here’s why.
I really WANTED to love the KonMari method. When Marie Kondo’s book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, came out, I was in a place in life where I was very overwhelmed and stressed and I needed some life-changing magic. And I also happened to be more than ready to do some serious decluttering because all the *stuff* in our house was part of my overwhelm.
I kept hearing rave reviews for this amazing new approach to decluttering. And I was really excited. I couldn’t wait to dive in! But when I began to hear about *how* Marie Kondo advises us to purge our belongings, I knew I couldn’t get on board.
I should also mention, I am naturally skeptical of anything promising to magically change my life. Because I know for a fact, there’s no one-size-fits-all magical formula for anything having to do with living well and happiness.
For the record, though, I don’t completely disagree with the minimalism movement. I do think we as a society could place less importance on ‘stuff’. And I think we’d all be a lot happier. And I don’t disagree with the spirit of Marie Kondo’s message that it’s about choosing joy.
It’s not decluttering, living with less, and choosing joy that I take issue with. It’s Kondo’s approach. It’s all wrong for me.
Read on to learn why I just can’t get on board with Marie Kondo’s Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.
‘Big Purge’ Decluttering is Asking for Failure
The logistics of her method don’t jive with how my brain works. This doesn’t make KonMari ‘wrong’, perse. But it’s not right for me. Going through my entire house all at once would take so much of my mental energy that by the time I got halfway through I would be lazy and careless in deciding what to keep and what to toss. I’d lose the energy to be intentional in my decisions.
This primes me perfectly for impulse shopping. Sure, I’ll relish in the newly clutter-free space for a bit. But this kind of purging means I’ll surely throw out some things I will later wish I’d kept. And I’ll be tempted to replace those items, and then some. This method of decluttering doesn’t break the cycle – it perpetuates it.
It’s not that I don’t want to declutter; it’s just that I need a slower system. (Side bar: I think this may have to do with my MBTI type. I’m an INTJ and tend to do big things slowly in general. I’m curious – what’s your MBTI type and what do you think of KonMari?)
True Happiness Isn’t Derived From ‘Things’
While I understand her intent in asking “Does this spark joy?”, I just don’t feel comfortable with the type of relationship that fosters with our stuff. For me, it implies my joy is derived from owning the ‘right’ stuff. If my winter coat does not spark joy, I need to throw it out. But the truth is, it is possible to be joyful even while owning a winter coat you hate.
Of course, I believe we should feel grateful for the things we’re able to own that improve our lives. An ugly, out-of-style winter coat sure is better than none at all. And I’d be grateful to own such a coat on a bitter cold February morning. But that doesn’t mean the coat sparks joy, and that’s ok.
And it goes even deeper. The problem with asking “Does this spark joy?” is that the ability to experience joy comes from a deeper level of inner peace, contentment, and happiness. It doesn’t come from owning things, and it isn’t taken away by the things we own. And if your current mental and emotional state makes it challenging for you to experience simple joys of daily life, this question is irrelevant. Getting rid of things you can’t say spark joy isn’t going to help you.
Minimalism as a Form of Privilege
But my main problem with Marie Kondo’s approach to decluttering is that it smacks of privilege. If you’ve ever reluctantly donated a big box of ‘clutter’ and then kicked yourself because a month later you needed something in that box – but couldn’t afford to replace it, you know what I mean. When funds are tight, purging boxes and boxes of your belongings takes a lot of courage and trust that you won’t need those things again.
As a real life example, think about a dress you don’t particularly love. It’s no longer your style, and doesn’t fit quite right. But it’s your only nice dress. Do you keep it for special occasions? Marie Kondo would say no. But if you know you cannot afford to purchase a new dress to replace it, that would be irresponsible.
This literally happened to me. I was 8 months pregnant and had no plans for fancy events in my final weeks before baby. So I donated all of my nicer maternity clothes. Then a friend unexpectedly passed away and I had nothing to wear to her funeral.
Thankfully I was able to purchase something to wear. But what if I wasn’t? I would have been really frustrated that I’d just gotten rid of those maternity clothes simply because they did not ‘spark joy’. (And truth be told, I was pretty frustrated I had to spend money that wouldn’t have been necessary had I held on to those clothes for another month.)
What I DO Agree With
Again, I don’t disagree with the spirit of Kondo’s message. I believe most of us could stand to own less stuff. And we’d probably be happier for it. And I do believe there are scenarios where getting rid of a bunch of stuff all at once can be extremely helpful. Like when you have SO MUCH STUFF that just the sight of it overwhelms you.
I also agree that storing our items in tidy, organized, easily accessible ways helps to calm a space. And that is great for mental health. And while I personally prefer to hang my clothing rather than fold, I do like the look of a nice, neat drawer.
My point is, you don’t have to jump on board with the latest craze just because it’s promised to magically change your life. So before you tidy up, stop and ask yourself if KonMari really fits with your values, needs, and goals. If it does, great! Move ahead (although if that’s the case, you probably stopped reading this a long time ago. Ha!) But if it doesn’t, that’s ok. Your life won’t be any less magical because you declutter in a different way. I promise.
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