Wondering whether the KonMari method of decluttering really works, especially in the long term? I first discovered it over three years ago—here are my long-term results.
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Once upon a time, there was a regular mama with two little kids, a husband
They had lots and lots of stuff. So much stuff, in fact, that Mama wanted to pull her hair out. She sat at her dining room table in a sea of markers, crayons, coloring books, blocks, stuffed animals and dried-out Play-Doh wondering if this was just her lot in life for the next couple of decades.
If you hadn’t guessed, that was me, circa 2012. It was around that time that I started thinking seriously about exploring minimalism. Convicted about the sheer volume of our possessions, I tried to purge them.
And then we moved on with our lives. We had another kid. Our belongings reproduced like rabbits.
Defeat. (Been there?)
I knew why I wanted to declutter but I didn’t know how to do it. If only someone magical would hold my hand and walk me through it.
Enter Marie Condo.
I received The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo for Christmas in 2015. I read it from cover to cover and was convinced that this was the answer to my clutter dilemma. I dubbed 2016 the year of tidying up in the Poirier household.
Could this be the way to not only reduce the clutter, but keep it away for good?
What Is the KonMari Method?
Marie Kondo was popular long before her Netflix series, Tidying Up, was released at the beginning of 2019. “KonMari” is a shortened version of her name.
The KonMari method is her unique approach to decluttering that involves systematically going through your possessions category by category, keeping only what “sparks joy.”
If you watch the show, you get snippets of how this process works. Ideally, you’re supposed to have a “decluttering marathon” over the course of a few weeks or months, so that you can get down to the bare bones of your living space.
Supposedly, once you complete this process, you should be able to maintain a state of less clutter in your home perpetually.
Does it work?
In my experience, the KonMari method helped jumpstart my decluttering process and decreased the amount of junk we had in our home. I noticed a significant shift in my wellbeing, especially the first year.
I’ll admit…I didn’t complete the full process the way Kondo recommends. I didn’t take the time to go through every single category in the house, particularly the sentimental items and photos that are shoved into boxes under the stairs. I burned out somewhere in the “
Further down the road, I haven’t found it easy to keep the clutter at bay. At the beginning of 2019, I decided I needed to go through the whole house again. (This time, I chose not to go by category, but by room.)
So overall, did the KonMari method help me? Yes.
Did it solve all of my decluttering problems forever? No.
Is it the only way to declutter? No.
The KonMari method is a great way to help you get a new mindset about your possessions and has some practical techniques to declutter. It is helpful if you don’t know where to begin. I recommend trying it if you feel like you’re drowning in stuff and need a fresh start.
Do Christians and KonMari Mix?
If you couldn’t tell by my tagline, I write to a primarily Christian audience. There
Marie Kondo doesn’t claim to be Christian; in fact, as she explains in the book, she comes from a Shinto background. If you do a little digging about what this means, her method makes a whole lot more sense.
In the Shinto belief system, everything has a spirit—yes, even your smelly socks. When you treat everything as something that is “alive,” you have much respect for your home and everything in it (hence why you also thank an item for its service once you
Marie Kondo exhibits some of her beliefs on the Netflix
- You might find it extremely uncomfortable to watch or even demonic.
- You might observe that she is from a different culture and choose to learn some of her techniques through the lens of your own belief system.
It’s good to be discerning about the spiritual practices we follow in our homes and families. But there is also a ton that Christian families can learn from Marie Kondo—such as family discipleship (yes!) and gratitude. I loved this podcast, which delved into this topic thoroughly.
Personally, I have found Marie Kondo’s tools to be practical and flexible enough to use with my own belief system.
The Beginning of My KonMari Journey
At the beginning of her book, Kondo encourages you to write down “why you want to be tidy” before you start implementing this system in your home. On December 27, 2015 I wrote:
I want to wake up each morning and go to bed each night peacefully, so I can focus on God and my family instead of my life’s distractions.
The hope was that by tidying up my life I would also tidy up my thoughts (and my prayer life!)
I decided to spend a couple of hours each weekend focusing on one category of possessions in our home. I hoped to be done by summer.
I chronicled this process in detail when I first started my blog in 2016. I decided to take some of those highlights and summarize them here.
Step 1: Clothing
The first category Kondo recommends tidying up is clothing. I went through my clothes, my kids’ clothes
This process took about six weeks. We easily got rid of most of the clothes we owned.
The method involves taking every scrap of clothing in your house and piling it all in the same place. You then handle each item individually and test how you feel about it. You keep it if you love it and you trash it if you don’t.
I did my own clothes first and then worked together with my boys (my daughter was too young at the time). Kids’ clothes are daunting because if you’re like me you not only have their current sets of clothes, but also the stuff they’ve grown out of and the stuff they have yet to grow into. We tackled it all.
Even if you don’t go through the whole house the KonMari way, just doing your clothes is worth the effort. Here are some of the initial thoughts I had in the weeks after we tidied our clothes:
Tidying is contagious. I talked about it enthusiastically with my friends and family. While my husband wasn’t following the method exactly, he got inspired to clean up his “man cave” area in the basement. He was very happy with it. Other friends bought the book themselves and started sorting their clothes too.
I had a strange attachment to my possessions that I wasn’t aware of. Why is it so hard to throw out something that you haven’t worn in five years? Kondo says that you’re either holding on too much to the past (the outfit from that special event), or you’re anxious about the future (I’ll keep it just in case I need it). If it has served you well, even if it made you happy for a brief moment, be thankful and let it go.
I don’t miss the things I discarded. I’d forgotten that I even owned most of them anyway. If I really feel like I need something that I threw out, I can go get another one. This hasn’t happened yet.
Tidy drawers really make me happy. I’ve shown them off on more than one occasion. Super weird.
I can find anything I need in a snap. I can also tell if something is missing because if it’s not in its designated spot, it’s probably not in the house.
I have all that I need. I have less than half the clothes I used to, but I find that it is easier to get dressed in the morning because whatever I spot in the drawer is something I like.
Kids can be tidy. The key is having drawers that aren’t overstuffed, with clothes that are easy to find. One of the doubts I had about KonMari was if the method would work for families. Kondo has had many clients who are parents, and she simply says that kids as young as three can be taught how to be tidy.
I don’t need to keep everything given to us. I have an awesome friend with two older boys who had given us all of their old clothes, many of which my kids had yet to grow into. These clothes were generally in great condition. I decided to go through them and pick out the best of the selection and then get rid of the rest. What used to be a huge mess at the back of the closet became a much smaller volume of apparel that I strategically organized by size. When my oldest moved up a size, I could pull out a full wardrobe for him, ready to go. I donated the rest.
It’s easier to be generous. The day after I finished sorting all of the kids’ past, present and future clothes, I had a friend come over with her kids. They wanted to play in the snow but her oldest son didn’t have snow pants. I happened to know that I had a pair his size that my kids hadn’t grown into yet, so he borrowed them. While I was thinking about it, I gave her a big pile of clothes in sizes too big for my boys—the ones that would have been sitting uselessly in the closet and probably wouldn’t have been worn.
Donations are ready to go. I took all of the clothes we didn’t want and sorted through them. The ones in poor condition were donated to a clothes recycling bin, while the ones in good condition were sorted by size and put in bins.
Storage methods can be trial and error. One of the things I initially didn’t like about Kondo’s book was that it leaves a lot of room for interpretation when it comes to how to organize your belongings. I think she did this because your method largely depends on what your personal belongings are like and what type of storage space you have.
Step 2: Books
Step 2 in the KonMari method of tidying up
To declutter, Kondo says you are supposed to pile your books on the floor, pick them up one at a time and assess your feelings about them. As always, if they “spark joy” you should keep them, and if they don’t you should toss them. DO NOT open the books.
Naturally, this gives book-lovers a bit of a heart attack.
At some point in my young adulthood, I recall saying that one of my life goals was to have a massive library. It would be a way to showcase my love of learning, right?
Nonetheless, I decided to put some trust in my favorite new Japanese friend and follow her advice. Do these spark joy?
With a busy schedule, it took me several weeks to complete this. I did the adult books in one session, the homeschool books in another, the baby books in another and the older kid books in another. I also quickly went through cookbooks and sheet music.
Here’s what our family (well, mostly I) learned from the process:
We had a lot of garbage books. You know, the ones you pick up but never finish, the ones that are water-damaged, the ones that you keep after college because you think they have valuable information—but ten years later you can’t remember a thing about them (and have no interest in relearning). These are easy to get rid of.
It’s okay to throw away old books. We had a lot of books that were well-loved but falling apart, like supposedly indestructible baby board books. As Kondo says, thank them for their service and say goodbye. They can go to the garbage can—it’s okay! No one will be offended.
Keep the books you’d want to lend. This might go against KonMari’s advice because I wouldn’t necessarily read these books again myself. But one of the reasons I love to have
Aesthetics matter. I’ve been inspired by Modern Mrs. Darcy, who regularly displays her gorgeous book collections on Instagram. Her books are often color coordinated! This goes against my intuition because I want logical order but dang, her bookshelves look pretty. Thus, it’s okay to keep a book just because it looks nice.
Ditch the educational stuff you don’t use. As
Double-check with the spouse. This decluttering project was mostly my thing. My husband was supportive, but I did the bulk of the work. The challenge with books is that many books are shared. When I went through our shelves, I took everything off as per the KonMari instructions. First I kept the books I knew I wanted as well as the books I knew Marc liked. Then I left a pile of books for him that I wasn’t sure about. At his convenience, he went through them and pulled out the ones he wanted to keep. It was no-drama.
Kids do better with less. Prior to decluttering, we had a ton of kids’ books and I was afraid that I would be harming my children by getting rid of any of them. But the truth was, they couldn’t find half of them anyway! In addition to the falling-apart books, I discarded the ones that they had outgrown or were just not good reads. You know, like the free paperbacks you get with a kids’ meal. When they had fewer books that were much more neatly organized—shocking—my kids started reading more!
Do you really need all those cookbooks
Sheet music—ditch the mess. I have played the piano since I was seven years old and carried around all of my old music with me for a couple of decades. It was time to say goodbye, especially since I don’t play a lot anymore anyway. I kept hymns and Christmas music, which I occasionally play at church, as well as my favorite classical and fun music to play. I had a huge basket full of music that I hadn’t looked at in years. I never missed it.
Step 3: Paper
I didn’t chronicle this part of the journey because frankly, there wasn’t a lot to say. I had been moving towards digitizing a lot of my paper anyway, so this was one of the easiest steps (not including sentimental items like old cards and journals).
Paper doesn’t exactly “spark joy” for a lot of people so with the KonMari method you simply appreciate having what you need and no more. I don’t follow her system to the T, but to this day I contain most of my paper in a simple filing system.
I also have folders stored away for adoption receipts, tax returns for the past three years, and records like titles, social security cards and passports. That’s it!
Step 4: Komono (Miscellaneous)
This was the most daunting stage of the decluttering process and took the longest. It’s also where I lost steam somewhere mid-2016. I stopped chronically my journey online.
However, I did make significant progress in certain areas of my house—particularly with my kids’ toys and the kitchen. I wrote down some thoughts about decluttering toys, which I’ll note here.
My husband called it “the kid creep.” Like none of our space was really our own. What’s more, it was overwhelming for the kids when I said, “Time to clean up!” They didn’t know where to start or where to end.
The toy decluttering process took a long time, and even now I always feel like I can do more. BUT I can say confidently say the first iteration of the process eliminated the majority of our toy clutter. I could breathe again; I felt like I had grown-up space;
If you’re sick of toy clutter, you don’t have to put up with it. It will take some work, but trust me
We were remodeling over a couple of months, so a lot of our stuff was floating around the house with no permanent home and giving me more anxiety. I recall at least three separate occasions when I piled all of the toys from a particular location and “
We threw out A LOT: probably at least half. I only kept those toys which have resale/giveaway value, which I stockpiled with all of the other former clutter…in the garage.
Once we had sorted or discarded every plaything in the house, I wanted to simplify how we organized them. I moved the vast majority of the toys to our newly remodeled family room. It worked to store them in small bins that were easy to access, which made finding toys as well as cleaning them up simple.
I don’t recommend “
A little tip if you have toddlers: store their toys in small bins that are easy to carry. Take one bin out during playtime; then put toys back in the bin and put the bin away. Even after my kids got older, I kept a small bin that I can take out whenever we have young guests.
Step 5: Sentimental Items
Confession: I didn’t really attempt this step.
Not the KonMari way, anyway.
I had to dig our old stuff (photos, keepsakes, etc.) out from the closet under the stairs, and we did go through some of it. But I didn’t have time to truly assess each item when we were also dealing with…umm…everything else.
Most of our sentimental items aren’t taking up a ton of space, and they’re not bothering me. From time to time I get a whim to go through a few of them (like when I’m looking for something). I think we’re cool with this.
3 Years Later: What’s Still Working
Going through all of your possessions is a massive undertaking. But doing it thoroughly really did help us set a foundation for a simpler home.
I don’t think I’m going to win any awards for the
Storing clothes to make them more visible has made a huge difference in being able to keep a simple wardrobe of items we like that are easy to find. I have been pretty consistent about going through everyone’s clothes seasonally. I don’t take them all out and hold them like I did the first time; we do a quick assessment and decide what to get rid of.
Marie Kondo’s approach is to use small boxes and baskets to organize storage space. It takes some trial and error to figure out what works, but whenever I find I need to reorganize a space, I do this.
I don’t remember exactly when I tackled my kitchen; all I know is that this step changed my life. I got rid of a lot of dishes and gadgets we weren’t using, reorganized the cupboards and cleared a lot of counter space. Kondo actually recommends you keep almost nothing on your countertops! While I’m not quite there, I love all the extra space I have for food preparation.
Our dining room area is also much more livable.
While I am not constantly thinking about what “sparks joy” as I go about our home, I am much more mindful about trying only to keep what we need and like. I’m quicker to throw out what we don’t need whenever I see it or whenever I decide that it’s time to go on a decluttering spree again.
3 Years Later: What Hasn’t Worked
It might be because I didn’t follow the KonMari system 100%, but there are some parts of her philosophy that did not help me much over time.
Managing Discarded Items
When I first started decluttering, I didn’t cart everything off to the donation center. I wanted to keep some of it to give away to friends and family, to save for younger siblings, or to sell.
And about once a year, I have a garage that looks like a nightmare. I tell myself I’m going to have a garage sale, but I get overwhelmed and decide to donate it instead.
I know what Marie Kondo would say. She would tell me to just get rid of it in the first place. Maybe I should.
Once you go through your whole home and assess what sparks joy and what doesn’t, you don’t want to do it again, ever. While I’ve had success maintaining some areas, like my clothes, most kitchen appliances
It’s better than it was. But I find it hard to maintain the tidiness of kids’ toys, clothes, books and games without some sort of decluttering calendar (which KonMari doesn’t offer).
That’s why I wrote out a decluttering plan in my PowerSheets this year.
Does the KonMari Method Work?
To sum it up, I’ve found a lot of value in the KonMari decluttering method over the past three years, even if it wasn’t a perfect system for us.
It helped our family systematically go through most of our possessions to set a simpler foundation in our home. It has also helped me have a healthier mindset about our possessions and work towards having less stuff.
Over the long term, it hasn’t been as helpful at providing a system to keep the clutter at bay. But with my shift in mindset, I’ve been able to experiment with other approaches to clutter maintenance.
It’s worth trying if you’re as sick and tired of
I do recommend reading the book, as it goes into much more detail than the show about how to tackle the categories in your home.
Have you tried the KonMari method? Did it work for you? What other approaches to decluttering have you found helpful?
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