Making Marie Kondo’s KonMari Method Work for You
By Beth Dumesco, Professional Organizer
Do you own a stack of books on organizing? Have you read Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and wondered where the magic was? Did your New Year’s resolutions include getting organized, preferably now? Did you jump for joy when Netflix announced the Tidying Up with Marie Kondo series? Did you binge watch every episode? Have you made attempts to declutter, only to be frustrated? Does your home still look like the ‘Before’ photos?
Welcome to the non-reality TV reality!
Marie Kondo has certainly made a huge contribution to home organizing, and her concepts are very helpful to most people trying to declutter. But Kondo’s KonMari method doesn’t work for everyone.
Let’s take a look at some perplexing tenets of KonMari, and how we can adapt them.
Keep only items that spark joy. This one often causes eye rolling and jokes, such as “What about my husband?” People want to know about utilitarian items, like frying pans or vacuum cleaners. How do they spark joy? Well, let’s take the frying pan. If it’s beautiful or well designed, that could be joy in itself. More likely, it’s the things you make in the frying pan that spark joy. Bacon for breakfast, anyone?
Start with clothing. KonMari asks all household members to make a pile of all their clothing – all of it! Empty every closet, dresser and storage bin. The reason Kondo gives is that it’s important for all involved to be “shocked” at how much clothing they have. Kondo then wants everyone to sort each item of clothing into new piles: keep, donate, recycle, trash. The keepers are then hung or expertly folded. This has some benefits, but most people do not have a day or two (or more) to focus entirely on clothing. For them, I recommend taking on one storage place at a time, such as the coat closet or the kid’s closet. If you’ve only got an hour or so, take a smaller storage area, such as one dresser drawer, and sort it. Eventually, you want to have all clothes together by type. All your shirts are hung together. All your socks are in the same drawer.
Organize by category, not by area. There is much merit to this concept, as you can literally see all that you have in that category at once, and you are moving towards storing like things in one place where you can find them (as opposed to all over the house). However, there may be areas that really need attention first. If your house has a door that is blocked or a stairway with tripping hazards, these are safety issues that have priority. The books can wait. After safety issues have been addressed, take on those areas that cause you the most angst. Does it take you hours to get ready for work? Take on your dressing area. Are your kitchen counters so cluttered you have to clear a space to chop veggies? Take on the food prep area. Think of areas as the place where you do something, whether it’s office work or relaxing. Make the space work for that purpose.
Fold clothing into rectangles that stand up and “file” them in drawers. Thebeauty of this is that when you open a drawer, you can see everything, and you can remove one without “messing up” the others. The problem is the amount of time and patience it takes to do this. What do I do with items like t-shirts? I roll! Fold in thirds length wise as usual, then fold the bottom end up about one third, then roll it up. Place in the t-shirt drawer standing on end.
Place small boxes inside drawers. Sorry, Marie, but for dividing up the space in drawers, spring loaded or built in dividers are the way to go. Dividers leave no unused space and don’t slide around. On shelves, clear plastic bins that you can see into work better.
Everyone needs to be responsible for their own space and things. Actually, this one doesn’t need adapting. This is just what the doctor ordered for many households, where the woman of the house takes on too much responsibility, such that planning, purchasing, storing, maintaining, cleaning, and disposal of all things is seen as “hers,” whether she works outside the home or not. The man and children might help with a few chores, like taking out the garbage, but she is the boss and the worker bee for a huge share of the stuff. This Kondo rule means everyone learns how to do tasks like folding clothes and putting them away. Ultimately, everyone in the household is happier, having the life skills and an uncluttered house.
Thank things that you are discarding for their service. This one also gets eye rolling and jokes. “Okay, I’m thanking these old, dirty socks with holes in them. Now get out of here!” When adapted for Americans, this can help people with emotional attachment to let go of items. It also helps to teach respect for things. Kondo is Japanese, and she believes that things have life energy, just like plants and animals. You don’t need to believe this to understand that we all have a responsibility to only purchase things that we really like, need and use. Once we have them in our homes, we should care for them, storing them properly. And once the item is no longer useful or wanted, we should let it go. It does no one any good to purchase clothing that hangs in the closet, unworn, tags still on, year after year.
Thank your home. To me, the message here is to have gratitude, be mindful of what your home does for you, and have a vision what your home could be. You want to work with your home, so it supports you in what you want to become, and so you are not held back or weighted down by things from your past. I can’t disagree with that!