July 19, 2017

My Apologies to Marie Kondo

I recently read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, by Marie Kondo. I have heard rave reviews from many friends--in person and via blog--about this book. Despite the book's claim that if you're reading it fate has brought the two of you together, (which means it is time for your personal tidying journey to begin), I'm not ready!

Not that I'm against tidying or decluttering. Far from it! I just am not cut out for this particular method, I guess. If you haven't read it yet, her method consists of going through your stuff in a certain order: clothes, books, papers, miscellaneous items, and sentimental items. You bring every item you own in that category to one room and dump it on the floor. Then you go through and physically touch each item, keeping only what sparks joy. The rest you get rid of (donate or throw away), thanking it for supporting you up to this point in your life. Then you organize what is left. She mentions several times the number of bags of things her clients have thrown away going through her program. She suggests an average would be 30 bags.

Okay, that's all well and good. I just...can't. I've been trying to analyze what's holding me up from a life-changing tidying journey of my very own. Here are a few things:

1. The part where you dump it all on the floor.
Sounds silly, but this is a real hold up for me. We just moved. We just got everything ONTO the shelves and into the drawers, people! The thought of pulling it all back onto the floor? Just--no. Not doing that.

2. The whole idea of keeping what sparks joy and nothing else.
While I do have a romantic side, I tend to be a practical person. I can appreciate something that fulfills its function without loving it or having it spark joy. Does my toothbrush spark joy? No, it does not. Am I going to get rid of it or go find one to buy that does? Also, no. I just had a baby. Do ANY of my maternity clothes spark joy at this point? A resounding no! However, I will keep them in case I need them again. Kitchen stuff, office supplies, most of the furniture...I could go on, but you get the idea. I feel satisfied with things that function well, as they're intended to do--joy would be stretching it quite a bit. If it actively bothers me every time I use it, then yes, I replace it.

3. This method doesn't cover one of the biggest clutter causers: kid stuff! Again, how many of my children's toys spark joy? Um....[crickets]. Yeah. Exactly. Maybe more importantly, do their toys spark joy for the kids themselves? Well, they would insist that every single solitary one does, from the car with 3 wheels to the stuffed animal they have never once played with. So we can't really go by that criteria, now can we?

Anyway, I do fairly well at going through their stuff with them on a regular basis, because if I didn't our entire house would be engulfed. Maybe I will try this approach with them in our next clean out session. Perhaps the change in wording, from "When was the last time you used this?" to "Does this make you happy?" would help them decide better. Hey, worth a try.

Also, can we talk about how at least half of what I have stored in my garage are kids' clothes? It's hand-me-down city around here! I have to say, this practice has saved us a lot of money over the years, and has been worth it, despite having to find places to put it all. At times it can be irritating to have all those bins, but I can appreciate not having to go out and buy clothes for my younger two all the time. Once we have decided we're done having kids, I will get rid of those clothes without regrets, but until then I'm hanging onto them!

4. Finally, the folding.
I am already the most OCD member of my family when it comes to folding clothes. The last thing I need is an even more precise method! I would never be able to fold with my kids again! (It's already a struggle at times.) Plus, right now my husband folds my clothes when he does laundry, and I am not turning my back on that gift, even for perfectly folded drawers full of clothes. Nor will I insist that he does it my way!

Oh, one more:
5. Throwing away all the paper.
This one stresses me out! Between selling a home, buying another (including applying for a mortgage loan), and transferring everything over to a new state, I have spent the last 6 weeks doing paperwork! Our mortgage lender wanted everything but our dental records, it seemed like. Kondo's blithe reassurances that if you need something you can always call the clerk at the store or look online doesn't really apply when you're trying to buy a home (and get a loan.) Or to most--dare I say it?--grownup paperwork. I'm talking about taxes, insurance, vehicle registration/titles/loan info, other loan documents, etc.

Yes, I have more paper than I need. Yes, I could probably stand to shred a large percentage of it. However. The thought of getting rid of all of it makes me panic, just a little bit.

* * * * *

The book wasn't a total failure for me. I think that, applied selectively, it could be a big help determining what I should keep when I declutter, or whether or not to buy something in the future. Despite her insistence that you do your entire house at once, one time, I can see myself doing much better with it in smaller chunks. Does that negate the entire experience?

I liked her idea about sending things off as a celebration, and focusing on the good that item has brought into your life up until now. Even if the only good you can see from it has been to teach you what you don't like, that item has still fulfilled its purpose. That's empowering.

I have gotten rid of a few things since reading the book. Maybe at a later date I will be motivated to really give her method a chance and do it up right. At the moment, I'm still taking things one day at a time, after the move and the baby. So, if and when I do go back and KonMarie my entire home, I'll let you know how it goes.

* * * * *

What has been your experience with this method of tidying up or this book? If you've done it, have you been able to maintain the organization? Has it made your life more full of joy?


  1. Haha, I agreed with so many of your reactions to this book (except that overall, I LOVED it). First off, yeah, the time to read/incorporate this book is not right after a move (probably would've been a lot more helpful right before, with the packing). Second, yeah, she clearly doesn't have kids (or didn't when she wrote this book). It's not helpful at all with keeping kids stuff clutter free. Third, somewhere else (not in the book) I remember reading about an interview with her where she clarified that utilitarian things bring joy in that we would be unhappy/miserable without them. So while you may not love your toothbrush, you'd be pretty unhappy without it, so keep it. Finally, I love her method of folding, but I only use it for myself. It's worked amazing for me, but for my kids/husband, I let them do whatever. Also with the paper, yeah, that one is still a struggle for me, but I have made an effort to digitize/electronically store more of that kind of stuff which takes a little more time but certainly feels good to keep things under control. All in all, I think this book found you at the wrong time in your life. Try it again in a few years. :)

    1. Yes, I think I may just be in the wrong frame of mind to truly appreciate this book at the moment! I can see how it would help you get rid of stuff you never really liked anyway, or were just keeping out of guilt, etc. I'm glad it's worked for you, though!

  2. The book drove me nuts. I think part of it is cultural. She lives where dwellings are small and things must be mutifunctional. Get rid of my library of garden books? No way. I am happy to declutter but this way won't work for me.

    1. I hear you! I have read of other methods that resonate with me a lot more.