For a little over a year, it’s been hard to escape the white-hot fervor that is the KonMari Method of decluttering and winning at life, based on the best-selling book. “Kondomania” as it’s called, has reportedly become the juice cleanse for our homes, the Soul Cycle for our souls. A societal colonic after decades of gotta have it consumption of the unnecessary.
Equally hard to ignore is the smug enlightenment that radiates from her Konverts both IRL and on social media. I have this theory that anyone who invests a lot of time, money or energy into anything – whether it’s plastic surgery, renovating a home or losing an entire weekend to purging all your stuff, has a form of Stockholm syndrome whereby you’re in a numb state of “it’s greaaaaat!” to post rationalize your decision.
I know because I too was a Konvert.
Last Labor Day I embarked on the KonMari cleanse for not just me, but with my entire family (one husband and reluctant 12-year-old boy). I mean you’ve gotta purge at some point, so why not do it this way? Kondo challenges us to rethink what we truly value and opens our eyes to the potential for creating space, beauty and harmony in our living and working space (something I take for granted).
The basic premise is that you take a couple of days and purge by category, not room like most of us have been brought up to believe. There’s an order to this, first clothes, personal care, books, etc. You have 9 months (like a pregnancy!) to KonMari your entire house and fold all your clothes into tiny tight squares. You decorate the inside of your closet and thank your belongings for their service.
Free from the bondage of stuff, you ascend into the 7th realm of organization, angels sing and you bask in the serenity of spaciousness.
6 months later and in the shadow of her second book, “Spark Joy”, I’m not sure I’m up for the master class of decluttering. Living a KonMari life against the messiness of reality versus one weekend of purging are two different things. She claims no one ever relapses, but there’s a first for everything and it seems to be me. And frankly I don’t need another movement making me feel like I’m running short on #lifegoals.
Despite the fact that I’m not a model Konvert, I believe KonMari is a worthy endeavor and will forever change how you think about the burden of stuff, as long as you have eyes wide open to some of the over promise that comes with the hype.
Here’s my take on the good, the bad and the messy of KonMari:
1) During your cleanse, your place will look like a scene from “Hoarders”.
Gird your loins, it’s going to be a long weekend, especially if you live in a small 2 bedroom in NYC. Just shut your eyes and give into the suck sandwich that will be your world for the next few days. You will be tired, you will want to give up, there will be tears and you will need equal parts coffee, wine and pizza. There will be dustiness all around, so open the windows and take a Claritin. Turn up the music and just power through, you can do it. Look on the bright side, it’s not a juice cleanse.
2) Trust in the “spark joy” question; it works.
In the past, it’s been easy for me to cling to “someday” or sentimentality and shove stuff into a storage container or second closet for the time when those extra pounds finally come off (or back on). Also, because I was dirt poor in my twenties, I have a slight hoarding mentality that translates into thinking I’ll need stuff for the eventual apocalypse (which is when those J Crew sweaters circa 2004 will really come in handy).
But by asking yourself “does this “spark joy?”, you get a lightening rod of truth that connects to your gut. Having this question be the one criteria for whether or not you keep an item gives you a psychic hall pass on any obligation from past purchasing mistakes. Fast forward to today and it’s also a question for those impulse clothing purchases, when I find myself settling for anything short of spectacular.
3) It’s easy to over purge.
I pruned a little too much and found myself going out and re-buying some of the unsexy but necessary basics that didn’t bring me immediate joy, like black leggings, white t-shirts and underwear. Not a bad thing, I needed an upgrade, but I got a little trash happy. I had the most regret with my books, especially cook books. I thought most would be available online and they are, but I hate miss the tactile experience of an actual book when cooking.
And papers – beware the papers, especially at work. Using my “spark joy” filter and wanted to finish, I basically ran my arm across my desk and escorted anything that wasn’t nailed down into a Hefty bag.
Spark joy and critically important document are two different things. Purge mindfully.
4) The folding approach seems precious, but is worthwhile. It may seem like a tedious chore, but it’s quite meditative and creates a ton of space. There’s also something ritualistic about the act of touching, caressing and folding your clothes, although thanking them for their hard work conjures up memories of playing with stuffed animals in a uncomfortably mental way.
However, KonMari suggests folding most things and to hang only things that feel like they need air. I’ve broken this rule and hang whatever I can’t easily fold, or something that has a unique shape that’s easier to find when hung. Plus, I’ve concluded life it’s too short to wrestle with bras, underwear and socks let alone thank them.
5) If you don’t have lots of drawer space, you’re a bit screwed.
KonMari believes everything should neatly live in drawers. Great if you have, drawers. I have a few and generally like this approach, but there are some drawbacks. One, unless you’re opening the drawers all the time and can see way into the back, it’s almost impossible to see everything. Second, unless your clothes are visually distinctive, it’s tough to tell one black sweater from the next when folded. Hence, going back in the closet.
6) The seasonless closet is unrealistic.
The KonMari way also suggests you don’t store your offseason clothes elsewhere other than your one and only year round closet. I am assuming Kondo hasn’t ever visited a tiny NYC closet. Truth be told, I did give this concept of the one season closet a try, but I just can’t. I live in a 4 season environment, my weight fluctuates and I’m an executive in a creative, casual field which makes it hard to have a solid work uniform. And who am I kidding, I just like clothes.
7. It will have a positive impact on everyone you live with. To be clear, I was only able to get my son to do this as punishment for back talk, and he complained every chance he got. But, there’s been a major shift in how he thinks about his things. It put him in control of his stuff instead of me and made him take ownership of what he values and what he doesn’t. We’ve all relapsed to some degree as a family, but not on the ritualistic folding and giving our stuff a home. For this, I am forever thankful.
At the end of the day, I’m glad I persevered thru KonMari even though I won’t be buying Kondo’s second book. After all, in a world of fast fashion and tech that’s obsolete minutes after it’s launched, nothing lasts forever. And it puts a sober lens on what I buy today, especially if it’s something that takes up space, like that hang drum I almost purchased this weekend.
Happy Spring cleaning!
The Illustrated Guide to the Kon Mari Method (Goop)
How to Tidy the KonMari Way/Video (Lavendaire)
Lets Celebrate the Art of Clutter (The New York Times)
Proof the Kon Mari System Works (Pop Sugar)
I Decluttered with Kon Mari and Here’s What Happened (Huffington Post)
The Backlash Against Kon Mari is Stupid (Jezebel)
Alas, I Will Never Declutter My House (The Cut)
Kissing Your Socks Goodbye (The New York Times