10 Reasons the Marie Kondo Method Isn't for You

Why Marie Kondo Isn't For You


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Why Marie Kondo Isn't For You

Pro and Konmari

It's no secret that Marie Kondo and her books "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up" and "Spark Joy," along with her Netflix series, are a huge deal, inspiring post after post on social media channels and even earning a place in Urban Dictionary. But while most organizing experts appreciate the attention KonMari has drawn to their field, the method has some issues, and while decluttering in general is a good thing, we've uncovered some downside to the craze.

Related: 25 Things to Toss From Your Closet Right Now

Cultural Difference

There Is a Cultural Difference

Probably the biggest issue with Kondo's method is cultural: It's trickier in the United States than in Japan, where it first gained popularity. "Her methods are awesome, you just need to realize they are written through a Japanese cultural lens," says Lisa Woodruff, founder of Organize 365. The average Japanese dwelling is half the size of the average U.S. dwellings, and Japan doesn't have garages or basements. Many rooms in Japanese dwellings are multi-functional, and when our rooms have singular functions, it makes a difference in what is kept in them and how things are organized. 

Related: Things Americans Obsess Over That Puzzle the Rest of the World

Odd Methods

Some of Her Methods Seem Odd

Another cultural difference: Kondo writes from a Japanese religion perspective in which items have spirits, Woodruff says. It's the origin of the notion that we should thank every object before we get rid of it, which has some people shaking their head. While it's good to be thankful and admit how wonderful it is that an object served you, many of us don't have the same beliefs — and it may feel a bit silly to thank every sock you get rid of. 

Related: 17 Places to Donate Clothes and Clutter for Money

Time Consuming

'Special Event' Tidying Can Take Too Much Time

KonMari is all or nothing and encourages you to make tidying a "special event" in which you go through every single thing in a home following a specific order and guidelines — great for people who have time to do this all at once, but not for everyone. Parents of young kids might find it hard to set aside time, not to mention the mental and emotional space. Kondo revised some of the method once she became a parent herself, and recommends tackling kids' belongings in phases, with the understanding you've taken care of your own items before becoming a parent. That's not likely for most of us, who will have to work in stages, picking a few categories to start with and planning when to tackle other areas, ideally when the kids aren't around. But Woodruff isn't even sure parents of young children should bother. "Parenting and organizing children under the age of 7 is like a losing battle," she says.

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Hard to Maintain

It's Hard to Maintain

According to KonMari, once you've completed the tidying-up event, you won't have to do it again. Sounds amazing, but too good to be true. "Marie preaches you can go through your house one time and that you are done. That is not true. There will always be maintenance," Woodruff says. "This idea of one and done, and then I don't have to do organization anymore, is like a false hope." When you go through your house and declutter, every time after that should be easier, but you will still have to do a little organizing here and there. Woodruff says that about three times a year you need to go through closets and other spaces to clear out what has come in.

Some Items are Necessary

Some Items May Not Spark Joy But Are Necessary to Keep

While ideally everything you keep should spark joy for you in some way, the idea leaves many people wondering how something like a vacuum cleaner or toilet brush can qualify. Instead of relying on the aspect of "joy" for each item, try thinking this way: Can it be used to spark joy? A clean house does spark joy, and these two items help achieve it.

People Reread Books

Many People Do in Fact Reread Books

Kondo believes that once you've read a book, the chances are slim you'll reread it. This strikes a nerve with many people who do reread books or refer to them here and there. "If you like books, you just love them," Woodruff says. If they mean a lot to you, then keep them." Woodruff would much rather you err on the side of keeping something — but recommends you go through your books once a year and assess which ones you're ready to get rid of. 

Old Photos Spark Joy

Old Photos Do Spark Joy

Shoeboxes filled with old photos are a definite don't in KonMari, in which only the most powerful photos from a given time should be kept, and in an organized album. Woodruff agrees — sort of. "We as Americans love to pass those things on to future generations," she says. "That's really important to us, but I don't want you to store that in a box somewhere." So while she doesn't believe you should be throwing out boxes of old photos, she does encourage displaying those items so they can be shared. Put photos that mean a lot to you in photo albums. Sew saved baby clothes into a quilt. "Whatever memory you're saving, figure out how to save a portion of that and put it on display," Woodruff says.

Related: Photo Tile Face-Off: Mixtiles vs. Shutterfly vs. Mixpix

You Won't Always Agree
Orbon Alija/istockphoto

Not Everyone Will Agree on What Sparks Joy

Decluttering is easier as a single person without roommates, spouses, or kids, since what sparks joy for one person may not for another — a major flaw that isn't addressed in KonMari, which recommends merely taking care of your own belongings and letting everyone else worry about theirs. That's unlikely to work where a mom treasures every piece of her child's artwork, and her husband just sees them as clutter. You're going to have to sit down with a spouse, roommate, or child and meet in the middle on things you don't agree on. For example, picking a few pieces of kids' artwork to keep displayed, and storing a few you love but your spouse feels are taking over the space.

Some Things Could Be Useful
Adene Sanchez/istockphoto

Some Things May Prove Useful in the Future

Holding onto things that "might come in handy" is a trap Kondo warns against — but what about parents with more than one child? Don't throw away clothes the next child will use, or baby gear and maternity clothes if another pregnancy is planned. Woodruff suggests setting up an organized storage area — an extra bedroom, the attic, basement, or a storage unit would work — with shelves around the perimeter. Use uniform clear storage tubs on each shelf, labeled for the contents inside. "It's okay to have things that don't spark joy and you aren't going to use immediately, like baby items that you might use again in the future. The key is not to just have those, but to have them in an organized storage solution," Woodruff says. It's basically like your own retail store in your own home.

Some Papers Are Important

Her Idea of Organizing Paper Is to Throw It All Away

Kondo reasons that you can always find what you need digitally, so you should discard almost every paper. Again there's a cultural difference: There are so many more forms and certificates and identification cards we must have access to here in the United States than is necessary in other countries, says Woodruff, who suggests a solution called the Sunday Basket. "It's basically a system that you go through every Sunday to look at every request that's come at you through email, through the mail, through a phone call, through text message, through your own ideas in your brain. You look at them all at once and you decide which ones you're going to take action on in the next seven days. It's a safe place for all those ideas to live until the next Sunday," she says. The rest you should commit to keeping organized in a portable binder system — ditching the filing cabinet, so if you are forced to evacuate, important papers can go with you.