De-Cluttering Your Life: The KonMari Method

A Messy Table

The Japanese certainly have a way with doing even the most mundane things. Have you ever thought that spring-cleaning might be a bit more fulfilling if you talk to your stuff? Marie Kondo definitely thinks so, and much like ikebana or chado, de-cluttering your stuff requires an affectionate ceremony dubbed KonMari.

What the Heck Is a KonMari?

Even at a young age, Marie Kondo’s obsession with organization has earned her a curious, if not outright peculiar, reputation. She would sneakily organize things wherever she encountered them: her siblings’ rooms or her classrooms’ bookshelves, to the point where she made organizing rooms a part-time job. Along the way, Kondo realized she was up to something.

Years later, she wrote a book. “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” arrived on western shores with very little fanfare, if any. The book details Kondo’s signature organization method, involving categorizing all your possessions, then touching every one of them while asking yourself if it “sparks joy” in you – if not, it is discarded but not without thanking the object for its service.

Indeed, assigning feelings to inanimate objects is just one aspect of the trademarked KonMari method of tidying up. Its finishing act has you folding and rolling up your clothes in a prescribed sushi-like shape and keeping everything visible anywhere for easy access. KonMari is an arduous task that requires commitment, and which Kondo herself asserts as “once-in-a-lifetime tidying marathon”.

De-cluttering the Soul

While initially ignored in the U.S., a couple of New York Times articles lit the fire of KonMari among Americans. Suddenly Kondo’s book is on the New York Times best-seller list for 86 weeks straight, and people are adopting the KonMari method en masse.

Digging deep into Kondo’s de-cluttering theories and philosophy, KonMari espouses re-orienting your relationship with your belongings. There is nothing new about the concept of cleaning’s therapeutic benefits, but KonMari ponders sentimentality for material possessions as much as for real people. The things that make you happy stay, the things that do not go, after a few words of gratitude.

Opposing Views

After discarding and organizing your space, the only stuff left will be the ones you really like. Professional organizers in the U.S., however, take issue with Kondo’s methods. They claim that the attention she is getting is entirely due to her incredible marketing machine, rather than the merit of her techniques. Of course, the internet had a few things to say about the KonMari method.

Kondo’s response to criticisms that KonMari is nothing new is simple: her de-cluttering methods might not be for everyone, and she thinks other organizers’ methods are great, as well.

It does demonstrate that though KonMari is not the ultimate solution, it does work effectively for certain groups of people. These adopters have found that KonMari profoundly changed the way they conduct not only their housekeeping chores but also the minute details of their lives.

Different people find different meanings in this distinctly Japanese art of spring-cleaning. But perhaps the most striking realization about KonMari’s introspective tidying-up is that it is less about throwing out things you obviously don’t need. It is more about rediscovering yourself, unburdened with the obsessive need to seek happiness in the wrong places.