We Need to Talk About “We Need to Talk About Marie Kondo’s Method” Blog Posts

Alongside the release of the new KonMari Method™ Netflix show “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, many posts have hit social media.  Mostly in support of the show, but when something hits this level of popularity there are always naysayers.

No method is for everybody.  There are people in my life I would never recommend the KonMari Method™ to; at least in this point of their lives, because I know they will not understand it or be able (or willing) to take it in.  That said, I have to caution you on making your decisions about the method based on other people’s opinions.

When I first heard of Marie Kondo, it was from an article called “This Japanese De-Cluttering Guru Wants You To Throw Out All Your Books.”  I read the article, an oversimplification of Marie’s method, and immediately dismissed the ideas of this crazy lady.  In no way was I going to get rid of my books.  I thought her method was extreme, I was good enough at decluttering on my own, and I wanted nothing to do with it.

Much later, I read the book for myself.  I discovered the KonMari Method™ was much more gentle than I had been led to believe, and the author goes deep into her love of books and how this part can be very difficult for people.  What she said in that chapter convinced me to change my methods.  One line stuck out to me:  “To the book lover, what could be better than a bookshelf full of only the very best books.

Now a KonMari Method™ Consultant, I have a much greater appreciation for how the method works, and with the release of the Netflix series (which, full disclosure – I have only seen the first episode and I will be writing a review once I’ve seen the full show), I started to see these articles pop up.  I’d like to take the time here to rebut some of the points that naysayers bring up about the KonMari Method™.

TLDR: Rather than reading articles titled “We Need to Talk About Marie Kondo’s Method,” please consider picking up The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and forming your own opinion based on the actual book.  It’s a short read.  I’ll lend you a copy.

From CBC’s article: “Marie Kondo’s tidying method won’t work everywhere, says author who believes in the power of mess

“She’s a genius, I think she’s brilliant, but I think that we need to appreciate that her method has limits,” said Tim Harford, author of Messy: The Power of Disorder to Transform Our Lives.

Harford told The Current’s Anna Maria Tremonti that this approach works well in a kitchen or bedroom, but that we apply it wrongly in “more dynamic situations.”

“There’s constantly stuff coming into our lives, into our houses, across our desks, there’s paperwork, there’s email — for avid readers, there’s books,” said Harford, who is an economist, and writer for the Financial Times.

“When there’s this constant flow of stuff in and out of a working space, this one-shot method that she advocates of taking something into your hands and asking yourself: ‘Do I really need this? Does this spark joy?’ — it doesn’t apply.”

Most readers of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (Marie Kondo’s first book) will understand that Marie leaves plenty of room to experience the dynamic flow of things entering our lives.  Marie offers organizational patterns that will help you deal with the incoming paperwork, but this is where it’s important to be discerning.  You do not have to take on every small part of this method.

As a consultant, I will ask that you try.  But if it’s not for you, it’s not for you.  For myself, I took what Marie Kondo had to say about papers, and incorporated it with what I learned from David Allen’s “Getting Things Done.”  For incoming papers such as mail or school letters, I recommend:

  1.  When you receive it, place it in a container (or “inbox”) so it’s not taking up table space until you get to it.
  2. Regularly visit and go through this inbox when you have 5 or 10 minutes, or set aside time as part of a daily ritual.
  3. When you open something, is there a task associated with it?  If you can do that task in under 5-10 minutes, do it now.  If it will take longer, decide on a dedicated time to do it.  If it needs to be done but you don’t have to do it, delegate it.
  4. If it is not actionable, does it contain important information or sentimentality worth keeping?  If yes, file it or find a place for it.

Yes, other things flow into and out of our lives.  It’s still important to consider whether these items Spark Joy for you, and important to give them a place to live while they are here.  Maybe you have a small basket of items in transition.  With more concrete examples from Tim Harford, I would be happy to provide suggestions.

As for books, as an avid reader I can tell you that I have never been happier with my bookshelf.

From Decluttering Club’s Video (linked here.)

First let me say:  I like the Decluttering Club.  I think she makes good arguments on something she doesn’t fully understand.  A lot of her points are due to her perception of the KonMari Method rather than the method itself.

1. The Early Bird Mom talks about a her frustration with what she calls the high standards and level of perfection with the KonMari Method.

Again I’d like to emphasize how much gentler I found the method when I read Kondo’s book, in comparing it to any of the articles I read about her before that point.  I don’t feel there is a standard of perfection.

The KonMari Method offers helpful tools, not high standards.

I do feel it is healthy for us to strive for better.  Kondo’s methods are within reach.  Your results will be your results and they may not be perfect, but as long as they spark joy for you Marie will be proud.  Any ideas of perfectionism are self-imposed.

2.  The Early Bird Mom takes issue with all the folding, and the stress of having to get things “perfectly arranged.”  She finds it unrealistic and too high of a standard.

The KonMari Method is about sparking joy.  As a consultant, I’ll teach you a new folding method that will help your drawers and shelves look magnificent.  It does take a little bit more work, and a lot of Kondo’s followers have found that they now love to take the time & space to fold their laundry, it can be meditative for some (for me, it’s when I listen to my podcasts).

While we try this in a session, we’ll discuss why – it keeps your drawer beautiful, organized, and it puts less stress on your items.  When you don’t stack your tee shirts, you can instantly see them all when you open the drawer and they don’t sit for months with other shirts on top of them.  The method also makes packing way easier!

I will say it was not unrealistic for me, or many others that I know.  Now, I’m not a mom, nor do I have children that I’m doing bucket-loads of laundry for…  but I know lots of moms who do practice the KonMari Method, who are managing to make this work.

Sometimes, I will admit, my laundry sits unfolded in a basket for a day or two until I have the time and energy to address it properly.  The laundry has a place for when it’s in limbo, it doesn’t add clutter, and once I get to it everything is beautiful.

Again, you can use what works for you!  If an element of the KonMari Method doesn’t spark joy for you, let it go with gratitude!

I also want to say we’ll work within the needs of your space.  If you have a TON of hanging room in your closet, and you really like hanging things, we will probably use that hanging space because that’s what is going to work for you.

3.  This is a point brought up a lot.  The Early Bird Mom says her rain boots do not spark joy and you need to keep useful items in your home.  Others say a screwdriver does not spark joy.  This is a pretty common question about the KonMari Method.  She also says some things in her home don’t spark joy for her at all, but do spark joy for her kids.

Do your rain boots keep you warm & dry when you are out in the rain?  Does that not spark joy for you?

Does your screwdriver help you to unscrew a screw without breaking a nail?  Doesn’t this spark joy?

I think often when people take issue with the idea of Spark Joy, it is because they are taking it too literally.  Yes, there are many things in the home that we simply need, or that make our lives more comfortable to have around.  If you need Advil because it helps you feel better when you have a headache, then Advil probably sparks joy for you!  You just have to take a small leap of understanding to see why these items spark joy for you.

If you absolutely hate your rain boots and you struggle every time you put them on, and you hate how they look…  I don’t want to tell you to buy something you don’t need, but I do think there are lots of stylish and comfortable rain boots out there that might work better for you.  Use these until you’re ready to move on, and next time choose to buy a pair you actually like.

If it doesn’t spark joy for you at all, let it go with gratitude.  If it does spark joy for someone else in your home?  Then you should let them have it.  Give them the responsibility of that item.  The KonMari Method advises us to engage kids over 4 with choosing what sparks joy for them, rather than just throwing out their things.

4.  The Early Bird Mom says we’ll never be done de-cluttering, while Marie says you can declutter once and that’s it.

Again, I’m going to file this under misunderstanding.

With the Marie Kondo method, you do a tidying festival.  It might last days, weeks, months.  When you are done, everything has a place, and looks pleasing.

If your drawer starts to get over-stuffed again, the onus is on you to identify how to deal with that, and after practicing the KonMari Method in full, you will be expert.  You may naturally find you continue to move things on throughout the rest of your life as soon as you notice it doesn’t bring you joy.  If you don’t, it may be necessary to redo your tidying festival.

Many consultants will say that redoing your tidying festival is a great way to reset when starting something new.  New job, new house, new partner…  Reset.  It’s okay to repeat the method if you find things didn’t stick.

5.  The Early Bird Mom says we will not get the family on board.  You can just work on you and let your family do their own thing.

I completely, whole-heartedly agree, and so does Marie Kondo.  Never does she say you have to get the whole family in line.  Completing the KonMari Method means doing it for you.  It hurts me that this is included as a criticism of the method, when it’s not applicable at all.

That’s it for today!  One thing I wanted to repeat:

It’s okay to take what you like from the method, and leave other suggestions behind if they don’t spark joy for you.  The KonMari Method is a series of tools designed to help you.  If you don’t find them helpful after giving them a try, that’s totally fine… but please get your information from a book or a consultant, and not a summary article on buzzfeed.

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