It’s no secret that Marie Kondo and her books “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” and “Spark Joy,” along with her Netflix series, are a huge deal, inspiring post after post on social media channels and even earning a place in Urban Dictionary.
But while most organizing experts appreciate the attention KonMari has drawn to their field, the method has some issues, and while decluttering, in general, is a good thing, we’ve uncovered some downside to the craze.
THERE IS A CULTURAL DIFFERENCE
Probably the biggest issue with Kondo’s method is cultural: It’s trickier in the United States than in Japan, where it first gained popularity. “Her methods are awesome, you just need to realize they are written through a Japanese cultural lens,” says Lisa Woodruff, founder of Organize 365.
The average Japanese dwelling is half the size of the average U.S. dwellings, and Japan doesn’t have garages or basements.
Many rooms in Japanese dwellings are multi-functional, and when our rooms have singular functions, it makes a difference in what is kept in them and how things are organized.
SOME OF HER METHODS SEEM ODD
Another cultural difference: Kondo writes from a Japanese religion perspective in which items have spirits, Woodruff says. It’s the origin of the notion that we should thank every object before we get rid of it, which has some people shaking their head.
While it’s good to be thankful and admit how wonderful it is that an object served you, many of us don’t have the same beliefs — and it may feel a bit silly to thank every sock you get rid of.
‘SPECIAL EVENT’ TIDYING CAN TAKE TOO MUCH TIME
KonMari is all or nothing and encourages you to make tidying a “special event” in which you go through every single thing in a home following a specific order and guidelines — great for people who have time to do this all at once, but not for everyone.
Parents of young kids might find it hard to set aside time, not to mention the mental and emotional space. Kondo revised some of the methods once she became a parent herself, and recommends tackling kids’ belongings in phases, with the understanding you’ve taken care of your own items before becoming a parent.
That’s not likely for most of us, who will have to work in stages, picking a few categories to start with and planning when to tackle other areas, ideally when the kids aren’t around. But Woodruff isn’t even sure parents of young children should bother. “Parenting and organizing children under the age of 7 is like a losing battle,” she says.
IT’S HARD TO MAINTAIN
According to KonMari, once you’ve completed the tidying-up event, you won’t have to do it again. Sounds amazing, but too good to be true. “Marie preaches you can go through your house one time and that you are done. That is not true. There will always be maintenance,” Woodruff says.
“This idea of one and done, and then I don’t have to do organization anymore, is like a false hope.” When you go through your house and declutter, every time after that should be easier, but you will still have to do a little organizing here and there.
Woodruff says that about three times a year you need to go through closets and other spaces to clear out what has come in.
SOME ITEMS MAY NOT SPARK JOY BUT ARE NECESSARY TO KEEP
While ideally everything you keep should spark joy for you in some way, the idea leaves many people wondering how something like a vacuum cleaner or toilet brush can qualify.
Instead of relying on the aspect of “joy” for each item, try thinking this way: Can it be used to spark joy? A clean house does spark joy, and these two items help achieve it.
MANY PEOPLE DO IN FACT REREAD BOOKS
Kondo believes that once you’ve read a book, the chances are slim you’ll reread it. This strikes a nerve with many people who do reread books or refer to them here and there. “If you like books, you just love them,” Woodruff says.
If they mean a lot to you, then keep them.” Woodruff would much rather you err on the side of keeping something — but recommends you go through your books once a year and assess which ones you’re ready to get rid of.