If you’re into organization you’ve probably heard of Marie Kondo. Her book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing,” talks about decluttering and really doing so in a cold-turkey sort of way.
According to the New York Times, Ms. Kondo’s decluttering theories are unique, and can be reduced to two basic tenets: Discard everything that does not “spark joy,” after thanking the objects that are getting the heave-ho for their service; and do not buy organizing equipment — your home already has all the storage you need.
So we decided to hear the pros and cons of Kondo’s theory from the mouths of three professional organizers.
Let’s start with Shelly Collins who is the founder of Clutter Contained, LLC and a professional organizer.
Collins on Kondo’s Recommendations
All at Once Doesn’t Work for Everyone
“Tidying everything at once is often not possible for many of my clients. They are busy professionals with families to tend to, and it is necessary that we plan their projects so that we can organize over time while making sure their spaces remain functional between our sessions,” shares Collins.
Collins adds that if her clients do decide to tackle everything at once, they often end up overwhelmed and “burnt out” before completing a project.
Kondo also suggests going paperless and although this can be something extremely beneficial, a lot of people still like hard copies of documents, not to mention have hundreds of “papers” already filed away which could require a deep organizing before parting ways. The decision requires an online management system as well as a process to make sure everything is accounted for.
“For clients dealing with a large amount of paper due to their industry or financial situation it is simply faster to use a paper system. Some clients also have a tactile preference for physical paper over electronic copies and find it very difficult to work with a completely paperless system,” says Collins.
The Joy Factor
“While loving an item (or having it “spark joy”) is a good measure for whether to keep or part with an item, it is not the only measure. Many functional items may not spark joy. Instead, I like to ask my clients: Do you use it? Do you love it? If the answer is yes to both it is something that should be kept…There are also clients who do not respond to emotional language at all when it comes to their belongings. For these clients, it is important to work together to understand how they can best make decisions about what to keep and what to part with,” explains Collins.
Another perspective comes from Author and Speaker, Janice Holly Booth. She tells us she’s in the process of testing some of Kondo’s theories as well as other expert suggestions for organizing, and shares some of her thoughts on the methods.
What Works According to Booth
Booth says that Kondo recommends the following actions and she believes they can work:
-Putting everything from the same category (coats, dresses, etc.) in one area so you can see how much–and what you have.
“When I did my pantry (a very small category) I was shocked at the unnecessary excess. If that’s not an incentive to purge, I don’t know what is,” says Booth.
-The “roll and store” method is surprisingly effective for keeping items from being buried and forgotten. You can also see exactly what you have at any given moment. That’s also an incentive to avoid shopping trips,” shares Booth.
Rolling things like sushi rolls can help you identify what you have and have visibility of it all at one particular time, according to Kondo.
What Doesn’t Work According to Booth
-Going Paperless: We talked about this previously and now we share another opinion on the theory.
“Kondo suggests we get rid of ALL paper, especially the magazines or books or articles we plan on reading ‘some day.’ Well, as a writer, I have to keep papers around. Scanning them isn’t really an option. When I am researching for a new book, I’ll typically have boxes and boxes of papers, letters, court transcripts, newspaper clippings, etc.,” says Booth.
And she seems to agree with Collins about the “sparking joy” perspective that Kondo suggests.
“Not everything ‘sparks joy,’ yet we must keep it/them. I have a horse and my barn clothes– while very serviceable, do not spark joy but I’m not about to get rid of my mud boots or the big, insulated (and kind of ugly) jacket that keeps me toasty on rides during the winter,” says Booth.
“She also eschews storage solutions, but I need them and they work for me. They actually don’t encourage me to keep more stuff; they make it possible for me to do my work more efficiently,” adds Booth.
Why Kondo Has “The Magic Touch”
Hazel Thornton from Organized For Life shares with us the fact that much of what Kondo says in her book is not that different from what American organizers have been saying for years, however; she has “a magical way of saying it.”
Thornton Breaks it Down
“Keeping only things that “spark joy” is just another way of saying, ‘Do you love it? Use it? Need to keep it?’ or, ‘Do you know it to be useful, or believe it to be beautiful?’…I approve of whatever phrases work to make you stop and think about your stuff. How much of it do you really need to keep? How much is standing in the way of living the life you really want to be living?” says Thornton.
She also says that she loves Kondo’s book title because it keeps that magic feel going.
“’Tidying up’ certainly sounds easier than ‘organizing,’ doesn’t it? Well, that’s because once you’ve sorted, purged, assigned homes, containerized, and created a system for maintaining order it is so much easier to tidy up!” says Thornton. “It really is life-changing and magical! And any NAPO (National Association of Professional Organizers) member can help you do it,” says Thornton.
Thornton says that while she agrees with much of the “KonMari Method,” she has two main criticisms:
- It’s her way or the highway:
“I, too, think that a decluttering blitz is the best way to show quick results and create momentum in what can seem to be an overwhelming project. But that simply doesn’t work for everyone. My clients vary widely in terms of their personalities, project goals, what “organized” means to them, available time, ability to make decisions, physical stamina, and ability to pay for multiple sessions. If professional organizers can’t adapt their methods to accommodate their clients, then many people in need of help will fall by the wayside,” says Thornton.
- No Failure:
“I am skeptical of Kondo’s claim that no one who has followed her methods has ever backslid. I’d like to know how many did not stick with her through the entire process and therefore are not included in the “no backsliding” claim. New habits (of any sort) are rarely established overnight with no backsliding at all,” says Thornton.
Thornton adds that she hopes those who read the book and try to implement Kondo’s methods don’t let any “failures” allow them to get discouraged. She says that even “one step back plus two steps forward equal progress!”
To close, we know that there are many, many organizing resources out there and we’re happy many people are positively impacted by some– or all of them but, take what works for you and don’t worry about what doesn’t. The important thing is that you accomplish what you set out to do.