The Perspective on Marie Kondo’s philosophy

By Talia Klein Perez
 Getty / Dimitrios Kambouris
Japanese decluttering expert Marie Kondo has taken root worldwide. Her bestselling book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, has followers around the world discard everything that does not “spark joy” and steer clear of buying organizing equipment.  But does the KonMari Method truly transform lives, or is it an unrealistic and overwhelming approach to orderly living?
Here are three reasons why Kondo’s method works and three why it doesn’t.


Three reasons Marie Kondo’s philosophy is wonderful


Allows for quick and concrete results

Marie Kondo writes that “when we disperse storage of a particular item throughout the house and tidy one place at a time, we can never grasp the overall volume and therefore can never finish.”  As such, her philosophy declares that decluttering your space must be done comprehensively and all at once, so that objective results can be obtained, driving future upkeep. Otherwise, the tidying process would never be completed, creating a sense that the work is never-ending and leading to subsequent lack of motivation. Sometimes, people need a new approach to tidying up to drive real change. Though extremely intensive, the KonMari Method may help accomplish this task as it forces you to transform your space quickly.


Teaches better appreciation for belongings – and yourself

People tend to ascribe more value to items, simply because they own(ed) them. Adhering to Kondo’s philosophy, asking yourself “What sparks joy?” acknowledges your belongings’ usefulness. It also teaches you a little something about yourself and will help you better decide what to keep. This method takes the form of physical and mental decluttering, giving you a greater appreciation for everything you have in life. It also influences future life choices, purchasing patterns and enables you to acquire only what you need from a place of greater clarity. The KonMari Method prevents physical and psychological clutter from resurfacing later by teaching you what you truly value.


Sorting belongings by category better clarifies your needs

Kondo’s philosophy stipulates that belongings be sorted by category, like shoes or toiletries, instead of by room. Then, for each category, you would gather all relevant items from around the house and sort them together, all at once. This method allows you to remain within context and make focused decisions on what exactly you need. For example, you might not need three English-Finnish dictionaries, but if you went room-by-room, you may never realize you’d bought this item in triplicate. Adhering to Kondo’s category-based decluttering model also saves time previously spent looking for items around them home. Once the tidying process is complete, this extra time can be used for personal growth, quality time with friends and family or blissful idleness.


Three reason’s Marie Kondo’s philosophy is shortsighted


Decluttering is a process, not a ‘one and done’ event

There is no such thing as a singular decluttering project, after which clutter never resurfaces. Yet, this is a tenet of the KonMari Method. People buy new items, store them inappropriately, forget purchases, regret purchases and launch new decluttering operations. It’s human nature. The concept that people tidy once and never have to tidy again, even after acquiring new belongings, is unrealistic.   Such a philosophy expects too much of people.

The one-size-fits-all philosophy doesn’t really fit everyone

Marie Kondo wrote her guide as a single woman in her early thirties, living in a small Japanese apartment. Japanese men and women living in micro apartments with inadequate storage space may mull acquisitions more than the average American. This could also mean that the KonMari Method would be more effective for Japanese people than for Americans.  However, people living in large spaces or with many people, such as families with multiple children, may not realistically benefit from her decluttering philosophy. Tidying an entire home in one go, or sorting the belongings of six family members according to category would most likely be time-consuming, confusing and ineffective.

Not all items spark joy – but we still need them

Shopping is called retail therapy for a reason. Studies have shown that the gratifying effects of shopping causes your brain to release more serotonin, which is a chemical that makes you feel good. But this does not mean that acquiring or possessing all items “spark joy.” Possessions can provide us with a sense of joy and belonging, but sometimes you simply need items for practical reasons.  You absolutely need a drawer full of underwear, or you may have to hold onto bags of pipe cleaners and markers for your kids. Are you happier because you own these items? No, but you can’t do away with them either.


Bottom line: While Marie Kondo’s philosophy does contain some good advice, it is definitely not full-proof. Discovering the decluttering method that fits your lifestyle is quite individual and may require some trial and error. So, will you be trying out the KonMari Method?

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