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10 Things Nobody Tells You About the KonMari Method of Decluttering

By now, thankfully, much of the Marie Kondo backlash is behind us. It was inevitable that there would be one, given the swiftness of her ascent and the extent of her reach since the publication of her blockbuster book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, in 2014, which has sold in the tens of millions. But much of the hate has seemed to us unfair. She’s not advocating that we live exactly like she does, which is likely too spartan and too rigidly neat than what most of us aspire to; she simply wants us to feel happy in our homes. Who can quibble with that?

That said, there are things you should know before you KonMari your entire house.

Photography by Dustin Aksland, from Indoor/Outdoor Living, Brooklyn-Style.

1. It will take far more time than you think.

Kondo-ing is supposed to be an all-or-nothing, once-in-a-lifetime project. (The goal is simple: Truly tidy your home once, she says, and you’ll never have to do it again.) If you live alone in a small studio, it will take an entire day, potentially more. All other situations: You’ll want to allot several days, if not more. If you’re part of a household, you’ll also need every member—including children, if you have them—to sign on. And what, exactly will you all be signing up for? A rigorous, exhausting decluttering extravaganza that will disrupt your household routine for much longer than you’re comfortable with. Which leads us to . . .

2. Your home will be messier in the short term.

Kondo-ing will not happen without some major chaos. Accept that your home will be in upheaval as you overturn every drawer and empty each closet. You’ll have to willfully ignore the disarray and trust the process, as they say. If your children are little, consider asking a close relative to take them for a few days so that you can focus on the gargantuan task at hand without having to stop to, you know, feed them and stuff.

3. Kondo’s book doesn’t tell you what to do with the kids’ junk.

Kondo wrote her book before she had kids (she and her husband now have two), which may account for why it doesn’t tackle what to do with children-related clutter.
Above: Kondo wrote her book before she had kids (she and her husband now have two), which may account for why it doesn’t tackle what to do with children-related clutter.

Kondo’s book doesn’t address the Sesame Street-watching elephant in the room that, arguably, is the source of much of the clutter in many households: kids, and all the toys, gadgets, and clothing that they come with. On her Netflix show (see our review of it here), she recommends that you ask them to rank their toys to figure out which ones to keep. We have a better idea: If your kids are younger, just do the toy- and clothes-weeding yourself. If you have older children, though, by all means, include them in the process and help them sort out their favorites.

4. The KonMari method works best for small spaces.

Kondo’s book was originally written for a very specific audience: the Japanese. It’s helpful to remember that houses and apartments in Japan tend to be smaller than what we’re used to in the U.S. (a typical three-bedroom in Tokyo is about 750 square feet). Kondo-ing is a far easier and speedier project when you’re dealing with a small space rather than a 3,000-square-foot house with four kids living under its roof. If the latter is your situation, we suggest, for the sake of your sanity, that you tackle one category (clothing, books, paper, miscellaneous, sentimental items) per weekend in lieu of her all-or-nothing approach.

5. Her folding technique is way more time-consuming.

Kondo’s folding method truly does yield a tidier look. (You can watch her mesmerizing video on how to fold shirts and socks here.) You should try it, but know that it will definitely take longer than what you’re used to. Our opinion: Unless folding your laundry the KonMari way sparks joy, stick to your normal desultory, inexact folding method.

6. KonMari-folded items are liable to collapse.

In general, her folding technique seems to work best for smaller items (socks, underwear, children’s clothing) and more structured pieces like pants. We’ve found that t-shirts, folded the KonMari way, often don’t remain standing in upright position—especially as laundry day creeps closer and there are fewer folded shirts in the drawer.

7. You may want to skip her advice on photos and books.

In her book, Kondo says that she whittled her book collection down to just 30 that spark joy in her. That would take up less than three of the small shelves pictured here.
Above: In her book, Kondo says that she whittled her book collection down to just 30 that spark joy in her. That would take up less than three of the small shelves pictured here.

Kondo can be ruthless about certain categories. On paperwork: “My basic policy is to discard all papers.” That may sound inflexible and unreasonable, but she has a point: When was the last time you had to retrieve an appliance manual from your files? Or needed to consult an old credit card bill? On the matter of photographs, though, we beg to differ. Kondo recommends saving just a fraction of the hundreds of photos you likely own, specifically, “only about five per day of a special trip.” And she cautions against keeping boxes of unsorted photos. Obviously, if you don’t mind her philosophy about photos, then you should follow her advice. But we think it’s also totally fine to have a few boxes of photographs, waiting for you to stumble upon one day and re-discover a younger you.

8. It’s imperative that you have a donation plan.

One of the common complaints from people who’ve gone through the KonMari process is that they weren’t prepared for the size of the giveaway and throw-away piles. So before you start, figure out your post-KonMari strategy: Research junk removal in your town and choose the charity that will receive your donations. Skip this step, and you’ll risk a giant heap of garbage marring your newly pristine and KonMari’d home.

9. You may end up buying more after a weekend of Kondo-ing.

Elizabeth Roberts Ensemble Architecture Fort Green Kitchen
Above: Beware of throwing out everything that doesn’t spark joy: You may just end up without a key essential, say a coffee maker, which will then need to be replaced.

In your quest to keep only things that spark joy, you may end up trashing key essentials or too much of your wardrobe—in which case, you’ll need to purchase replacements. If that’s not an outcome you want, be mindful of not tossing good-enough must-haves.

10. You can hire a KonMari consultant to declutter for you.

Good news: Don’t have the nerves of steel to follow through on Kondo-ing? You can always hire a KonMari consultant. There are currently more than 200 consultants, all of whom had to take a two-and-a-half day seminar, log 50 hours of organizing work, and pass a written test before they they were officially certified. Fees vary but are generally in the $100/hour range.

For our interview with Marie Kondo, see Think Like Marie Kondo: 9 Tips from the World’s Top Storage Fanatic.

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