KonMaridiculous: The Flaws in the ‘Tidying Up’ Craze

I am an extremely organized person. From the time I figured out how to line my Barbies up in a row, my organization system has more or less been “a place for everything, and everything in its place.” And it works. So when I first heard about this new Netflix series, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, I thought, Nah, not for me. But after a few weeks of seeing a good 94 percent of everyone on my social media feeds folding their shirts into tiny squares, my curiosity got the better of me. I just had to check it out.

If you haven’t heard about the KonMari Method or the Tidying Up series, here is the rundown. Each episode of the Netflix series features people who need help organizing their stuff…  and, according to the show, their lives. Enter Marie Kondo, touting the magical philosophy that her method of tidying up will offer control over not only their stuff but also their entire lives. And, as if that wasn’t enough, she promises that the process will also “spark joy,” strengthen relationships and provide a permanent solution to clutter.

Wow. Admittedly, I am a skeptic of methods and products that claim to be a cure-all, but I did try to go into watching this show with an open mind. A few minutes into it, Kondo informed her two disheveled students, a frazzled couple with two young children, that they needed to “thank the house” before they could begin tidying up. I started giving the TV the side-eye as these tired, deflated parents sat with puzzled looks on their faces, staring at this woman on their living room floor “thanking the house,” while two rambunctious toddlers swirled around them. But okay, let’s roll with it.

Marie has five categories to her organization method, each to be completed in order, and as you examine each and every item in your space, you are to hold it in your hands, determine if it “sparks joy” in you, and either keep or discard it based on the feeling that it gives you. Then there is a specific order to folding clothing and replacing each item in a drawer, bin, cabinet, etc.

The show follows the couple over a six month period — this is the amount of time that Marie says it takes to properly “KonMari” a space — at the end of which they claim to have changed their lives and their relationship with each other. How convenient that the show wraps up as tidily as a drawer full of square-folded T-shirts. Here’s the problem though: The show seems to take its subjects from messy to “cured” in 47 minutes, but there are fundamental flaws to the KonMari method.

In the real world, there’s no time for this method.

The first thing that popped into my mind as they were thanking a 10-year-old T-shirt before they threw it in a trash bag was “who has time for that?” The time that I get to organize or declutter anything in our home is certainly not hours upon hours to hold each item, assess my feelings about it, and have a conversation with it before I toss it into the donate pile. I would argue that, like me, most people have other obligations and/or must have someone run interference with kids — because also who has time for the meltdowns that will ensue should one of them see you discarding a toy that they haven’t touched in seven months — and therefore do not have an entire uninterrupted weekend to dedicate to purging a closet.

I don’t feel that inanimate objects have feelings.

I am grateful for my things, but it is by no means because they serve me. It is because everything I have I’ve worked my butt off to get. While Japanese culture and folklore may suggest that many items have a “spirit,” I would personally never assign feelings to inanimate THINGS, and go so far as to thank them for whatever I perceive that item has done for me. I do not need to tell my stinky shoes with the broken heel, “Thank you for protecting my feet,” before I toss them. That’s just kinda the unspoken agreement when you buy a pair of shoes, no thanks required. Furthermore, if we’re giving feelings to our stuff, where does it end? If I finish the shampoo before the conditioner, should I not throw the bottle away because the conditioner will be lonely without its friend? NO. Because guess what? It’s a bottle of conditioner and does not have a human soul.

Utilitarian things don’t always “spark joy,” but we still need them.

My toothbrush. A spatula. Coffee filters. Diapers. I do not hold these items and feel enthralled. But I still need them. So what now? Organize them into tiny stacks or in some of Marie’s $89 storage boxes so that they can sneak under the KonMari radar? Nope, I’m keeping them because I need them, and I’m okay with not being riveted by my cooking utensils.

Getting KonMari’d is far from a lifetime solution.

The promise that implementing this method in your space gives you a better life is an unrealistic notion. Even if you follow the steps, talk to your house, go in order, and thank your stuff before you get rid of it, the underlying issues remain. The tendencies that got you to the state of chaos which made you feel that you needed to KonMari will still be there. Whether it’s time constraints, emotional hoarding, ADD, plain exhaustion, or any other number of issues that may be present, folding your socks into color-coordinated rows does not solve any of it. The idea that tidiness gives you control over all aspects of your life is unrealistic. Is it helpful to be organized? Absolutely. Does it save time to not have to dig through drawers and closets to find things? Yes. Will being organized fix everything? No.

Another promise of the KonMari method is that once you go through the process, you will not have to do it again because you will already be tidy. I’d be willing to bet that the natural progression of life with a growing, changing family will take its course in most households, and you better believe that these changes require reorganization. No home stays stagnant. Kids grow, things wear out, stuff needs to move. KonMari-ing one time does not mean that you’re officially tidy for life.

While I strongly agree with the importance of being organized, and even with the idea that being clutter-free helps your mental state and makes day-to-day life easier, the KonMari method is an impractical, unrealistic approach that plays on emotion. It overpromises joyful feelings and a sense of control that no amount of color-coordinating and neatly stacked bins can deliver. I think I’ll stick to my approach of “everything in its place,” and the KonMari method has no place with me.

3 Responses to KonMaridiculous: The Flaws in the ‘Tidying Up’ Craze

  1. Michele Jan 15, 2019 at 6:53 pm #

    I appreciate the common sense approach to organizing your home. I read her book and came away thinking the same as you. Just too much time to do the KonMari method that I don’t have.

  2. Heather DeGrella Jan 16, 2019 at 5:52 pm #

    This method probably doesn’t resonate with you because is not for you.The KonMari method is not for people who are already “extremely organized.” People who have a hard time letting go of items are driven primarily by emotion. By using emotion in a different way, her method has been LIFE CHANGING for me. As a child and young adult, I often assigned emotions to inanimate objects. I even apologized to a shirt once when I decide to wear a different one.The notion of giving thanks to the memories I had with something once the joy it gave me faded is precisely what has helped me start to let go. Judging from the the craze, countless others are in the same boat as me.

    • Anna Jan 21, 2019 at 5:10 pm #

      I can totally relate with you. I had HOARDS of stuffed animals as a kid for this very reason.

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