Today I’d like to dive straight into a big topic: I’m not a big fan of Marie Kondo.
Before you start screaming at me about joy and tidying and how the Japanese way of life is clearly superior to ours, let me explain. Much like my namesake the hamster, I am something of hoarder. I struggled to keep my home neat and clutter free. So when I came across the KonMari phenomenon among the Internet jungle, I got very excited. Here, I believed, is the answer to all my problems. And like a true hoarder, I swiftly procured a copy of Marie Kondo’s book, which I hoped would save me from my clutter.
But as I delved into the beautiful white copy of the book, I realised that, like with any guide, I was going to find useful things and not-so-useful things between these covers. So today I’d like to talk about things I liked about KonMari, as well as reasons why I won’t be following this method.
A bit about the method
For those of you have never come across KonMari, I’m going to summarise Marie’s approach.
Marie Kondo has put together a method of tidying your home which is reasonably straightforward in its structure.
- Divide all your belongings into the following five categories: clothes, books, papers, miscellaneous items, and objects with sentimental value.
- Tackle the entirety of each category in one session.
- Having gathered all your belongings from each category in one pile, proceed to pick up each item and hold it in your hands. Consider: does this item spark joy?
- Items that have sparked joy are to be kept, the rest to be discarded.
- Repeat this process with every category. Marie does include instructions for storing the remaining items, such as the best way to fold a T-shirt.
I’m going to start with the positives: here are the aspects of the book I enjoyed:
- Marie Kondo focuses on discarding the unnecessary before organising what remains. It’s all too tempting for many of us to tidy the house by reorganising and rearranging our belongings. In doing so, we ignore the fact that entropy is directly proportional to the number of objects in the house, and no degree of rearrangement could generate breathing space. By focusing on getting rid of things we don’t want in our homes, Marie gives us room to live and breathe it.
- Marie Kondo focuses on what we are keeping and why, rather than looking at what we may be able to discard. This approach eliminates a lot of chaff, zeroing in on the wheat in our possessions. ‘Keep what you need, and discard the rest’ is not a bad motto to live by.
- Marie provides some practical instructions for storing the items you have kept, such as vertical storage, and some clever folding instructions.
Unfortunately, there are some aspects of the KonMari method I could not agree with, if only because they would never work for me.
- Marie Kondo insists on going through your belongings one category at a time, the entire category in one go. I understand the reasons behind this covering the whole ground up one’s ensures you don’t miss anything and never have to go back to that category. Unfortunately, this is simply not realistic for anyone who owns a large number of things. The idea of going through all my clothes in one session is too daunting to contemplate, and would easily take more than a day to complete.
- While I approve of choosing items to keep rather than once to discard, I completely disagree with Marie’s criteria for selecting the items to keep. While we could all do with more joy in our lives, the fact of the matter is that using emotion alone to make life choices carries a certain risk. There are items in everyone’s home that spark no joy, but are nonetheless essential to our daily lives: rubbish bins and toilet bowls are but two examples.
Being less flippant, choosing joy as your sole criterion can be incredibly ineffective. The Netflix show Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life made fun of this by having one of their characters, a recently widowed woman, give away the entire contents of her house, including furniture, because nothing was bringing her joy. Being in a state of grief, depression, or any strong negative emotional state can easily make emotion an extremely unreliable compass.
Conversely, there has been research showing that some people become so attached to their belongings that they feel closer to them than they do to other people. In the mind of a hoarder, every single object in the house, when held individually, is a source of warmth and happiness and, indeed, joy. How are you supposed to get rid of your inanimate friends?
- Marie Kondo believes that your belongings have feelings, and need to be treated and stored in ways that make them feel better. This includes folding socks in a way that helps them rest at night, and thinking stuff you’re about to throw away for its service. While there is nothing wrong with this belief in principle, I personally would feel bad for wanting to get rid of any object I considered sentient.
There are things Marie Kondo believes that I find useful, some I disagree with, and then there are others which I believe to be downright ridiculous. While I accept that many people’s lives are quite different from my own, I struggle to imagine many for whom the following beliefs would be true.
- Marie believes that the best way to store important documents is all together in one box, unseparated. Her rationale is that every time you are looking for one specific document, this will give you the opportunity to sort through them all and discard any you no longer need. Personally, I have no desire to look through an entire box of paperwork when I’m in a rush to find my passport.
- Marie believes that you should always discard any notes taken during study. Her logic is that if the learning were important, you would remember it, and would thus have no need for notes. I wish I had been blessed with the phenomenal memory required to remember the full contents of every course I have ever taken, but sadly I am only human, and my memory is flawed, so I would rather hold on to my notes for those occasions (not infrequent) what I need to refer to them.
- One of the key principles of KonMari I have some beef with is the idea that it’s better to get rid of something you don’t currently need, and purchase a replacement later, than to hold on to the item in the first place. I appreciate that getting rid of the item frees up some space. However, this approach completely disregards the convenience of having the item to hand, not to mention the financial burden of the future purchase. Why pay for something twice?
So here it is, my opinion on the KonMari method. There are some good ideas there, but sadly the method in its entirety falls short for me. What about you – are you a KonMari convert? Do you measure your life in sparks of joy?