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Pros and Cons of the Marie Kondo Method of Decluttering

Marie Kondo is all the rage. She grabbed the public’s attention with her books about decluttering. Then she came out with her own decluttering television show on Netflix. The show, called Tidying Up, has brought her work to a whole new audience.

Some people love her. Others seem to hate her. Either way, it seems like everyone is talking about her.

Personally, I loved her first book, The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up. I’m not really a big fan of the television show. However, I think she has a lot to offer. That said, there are also some important limitations to what Marie Kondo shares.

What is the Marie Kondo Method of Decluttering?

Marie Kondo embraces the KonMari method of decluttering a home. Here are some key features of this approach.

  • KonMari begins with discarding any items that do not “spark joy” when you touch them.
  • You say “thank you” and “goodbye” to each item as you get rid of it.
  • First, you get rid of things. Then you can organize what remains.
  • Each area is organized one at a time and all at once. In other words, when you are ready to declutter your clothes, you take out every item of clothing and put them in a pile to sort.

The focus is on decluttering your items. It’s about minimalism. Moreover, it is about mindfulness. The idea is that you should treasure, love, and appreciate your belongings. Therefore, limited quantities are best so that you can best appreciate each of them.

Benefits of Decluttering with Marie Kondo

One of my favorite things about this approach is that it incorporates mindfulness and gratitude. In the Tidying Up television show, Marie Kondo begins each cleaning session by thanking the house for what it offers the occupants.

Furthermore, she asks that the individual hold each item and determine whether or not it gives them a spark of joy. This has the potential to offer you intimacy with your items. You can really see what you have and appreciate it, either for what it adds to your life now or for what it gave you in the past before you let go of it.

As you get to the organizing, the mindfulness practice continues. For example, you fold your clothes in a very specific, intentional way. This provides a practical element of storage. More than this, though, it encourages you to be fully present as you tidy your home.

Here are some of the other benefits of decluttering using the Marie Kondo KonMari method:

  • You do one area at a time (clothes, books) so you know exactly where to start.
  • Sentimental items are saved for last, which is good because they are usually the hardest to declutter.
  • Marie Kondo encourages the entire family to get involved in the process.
  • It works well for people who want to do a lot of decluttering all at once.
  • The emphasis is on choosing what to keep, what you love, rather than focusing on what you’re losing.

Limitations of the Marie Kondo KonMari Method

Many people have come out with complaints about Marie Kondo since the TV show started airing. To be sure, any approach has its limitations. This one is no exception.

The Privilege of Decluttering

First of all, you have to be in the mindset to declutter if you use this method. More than that, you really need to be interested in discarding a lot of items. This isn’t just about getting organized. It is truly about only owning things that spark joy.

Therefore, this method of cleaning simply won’t suit a lot of people. For example, if you’re living on a very limited budget, then you might not have the luxury of only keeping what sparks joy. After all, if you can only afford three pairs of socks, then you don’t have the financial privilege to ask yourself if they “spark joy.”

As a result, this method – along with many other approaches to minimalism and decluttering – tends to work best for people who have a consumption problem. Therefore, it may feel exclusionary to those with financial limitations. Even if you don’t have a low income, it might feel wrong for you if you prefer frugalism to minimalism.

In a similar vein, it does not suit all cultural beliefs. If this topic interests you, there is a great article over at The Atlantic. It’s called “Marie Kondo and the Privilege of Clutter.” The author is Arielle Bernstein.

Other Limitations of the Marie Kondo Method

If you do want to declutter, the method still may not work for you. Here are some of its limitations:

  • It requires big chunks of time devoted to cleaning all at once. If you take all of your clothes out of the closet and place them on your bed, then you need to finish sorting them before you can get in that bed. This method doesn’t work for people who like to tidy small bits at a time.
  • Not everyone can feel sparks of joy. Marie Kondo acknowledges that some people will need to practice this, as they may be tuned out to their sparks of joy. However, if you have mental health challenges – such as depression – then the process can be more overwhelming than anything.
  • Furthermore, it doesn’t address the emotional challenges of getting rid of things. There is some attention to this in the final section on dealing with sentimental items. However, this can be a real psychological challenge for a lot of people. The plan doesn’t account for that challenge.
  • The plan isn’t very customizable. People have different personalities, even when it comes to tidying. This is a one-size-fits-all approach. Unfortunately, it may not fit everyone.

What do you think about the Marie Kondo method of decluttering? Share thoughts in the comments.

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Kathryn Vercillo

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