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magic in tidying up

I’ve had no less than 12 people text, tag, and message me over the past 3 days informing me of Marie Kondo’s new show on Netflix. It appears Tidying Up has at least taken new years resolutioners by storm. But what if there is no magic in Tidying Up?

As a declutterer myself who writes about simplifying, many presumed I would love the show. I watched all of the available episodes over the past couple of days. As I continued watching, my thoughts and feelings were confirmed. There are some things I liked and other’s I didn’t.

Sidenote: if Marie Kondo’s methods haven’t worked for you, fear not! There are other ways to tackle clutter. I created the 2 page free Declutter Plan of Attack Worksheet to help you start a decluttering plan today. Use these simple straightforward steps to regain control over your home & your stuff!

Is there magic in Tidying Up?

I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up in 2014 not long after it released. Over 11 million copies later, Marie Kondo has continued to become well known.

I attribute her book to starting many conversations on minimalism and decluttering. Her methods have helped a lot of people declutter their homes.

It must be interesting for Marie Kondo to help declutter homes in the United States. Homes in the U.S. are on average larger with likely more junk than she tends to see in Japan. (The average size home in Japan is 1310 square feet compared to 2432 square feet in the U.S.).

She does a good job of not seeming shocked or judgemental of what she sees despite there likely being some differences in how people live and what we collect hoard value here.

On the show, Kondo is an encouraging cheerleader and seems to care a lot about the success of her clients. She’s joyful and clearly really enjoys decluttering and organizing.

Her eyes light up and she gets giddy every time she sees a mess. If you’ve read her book, you know she has always been quirky and had a unique bent toward decluttering even throughout her childhood.

magic in tidying up

Helpful elements to her process:

  • getting everything out
  • group by type
  • assign a home
  • using boxes and clear storage

Getting everything out when working in a closet, garage, or storage area is beneficial. It’s easy to leave boxes that haven’t been touched in years and continue to do so.

Likewise, you could assume everything on a shelf is being used unless you take the time and effort to take everything down and look through it. Forcing yourself to take everything out means you have to make decisions.

Grouping the items by type and gathering it all together can be useful as well. It allows you to see the amount that you have and eliminate duplicates.

Seeing the total amount of something that you own is also a reality check and can help solidify your decluttering goals.

I’m also an advocate for giving everything a home. One of the causes of clutter is not knowing where an item belongs. If you assign it to a particular space, then you always know where it belongs.

Kondo’s method for organizing is wonderfully simple. I love that she reuses boxes and doesn’t do anything complicated or expensive for storing items. I also like that she focuses on being able to see what you have.

Where there isn’t magic in Tidying Up

You know when you watch your kids put away the clean dishes you’re glad they’re doing the work, but at the same time it’s hard to watch because they aren’t doing it the ‘right’ (i.e. your) way?

I had that feeling watching this show because Marie’s process is different than mine.

Kondo’s order of operations:

  • closet
  • books
  • papers
  • komono (everything else)
  • sentimental items

This isn’t quite the order I would recommend for most people in decluttering their home. Starting with the easiest space and working up to the hardest works better and for most people.

Also, the category, komono, is vague and encompasses many different things. For people who need concrete steps, this method may feel like it lacks direction at this point.

There are different methods to decluttering your entire home so pick and choose the aspects that resonate with your personality and home. I created the free Declutter Plan of Attack worksheet to help you make a plan. Use these simple straightforward steps to regain control over your home & your stuff!

Time and accountability

I’d be so curious to know how much time the homeowners spent decluttering their homes during the filming. They show you that it is a process that takes about a month with her visiting every week, but how many hours per week are the homeowners working on this?

The magic of television makes it look so simple when it is all completed in 35 minutes.

Be forewarned that if you don’t have large blocks of time available in your schedule, the KonMari method may not be for you. Sorting through all of certain kinds of items will take while so be prepared for that before you pull everything out and put it on the floor or on your bed.

There is quite a bit of accountability when you know a camera crew is coming back to your home to check on your work. In normal life, this could get you into trouble if you are a starter who struggles with finishing projects since likely a film crew will not be showing up at your house to check on you.

Sparking joy

It’s interesting to consider whether or not certain items in your home ‘spark joy’, but I don’t think it’s the be all end all of why you should or shouldn’t keep each item. The question seeks to evaluate your emotional response to an item, but it doesn’t take into account your thoughts or goals.

Does my can opener spark joy? No. But should I still keep it? Yes. Does my college sweatshirt with holes in it spark joy because of the memories it evokes? Yes. Does that mean I should keep it? Maybe not.

So often we attach our memories to our belongings, so items that ‘spark joy’ are really just sparking happy memories. That doesn’t necessarily indicate the item should be kept.

I prefer the decluttering questions: do I use it and do I love it? These questions take into account both thought and feeling. It’s easier to make a decision when you know how often you use an item and if you truly love it.

I like that Kondo would often follow up the joy question with do you want this item to be a part of your future life? That can be a helpful clarifying question.

Some things may have had meaning for you in the past, but aren’t part of your future and acknowledging that can help you release it.

magic in tidying up

Fancy folding

People are polarized on this one. Some people have tried her folding method and are converts who swear by it. Others try it and don’t find it to be sustainable. And some find it too cumbersome or fussy to give it a chance in the first place.

I personally only use it for a few specific areas in my house, but I do find the pictures of drawers folded so neatly to be visually satisfying :). It’s a method that works great for some people and places, but don’t worry if it doesn’t work for you.

Will I keep watching?

In a word, yes. I do enjoy and understand the appeal of the show. It makes us feel better to see people who have more ‘junk’ in their homes than we do.

It’s also cathartic seeing all of those piles ‘magically’ disappear in 35 minutes. I’d love it if they followed up in a year to see if the families were able to maintain it.

It’s awesome if the show inspires people to start decluttering their homes. If KonMari works for you, great. If it doesn’t, don’t despair.

There are other methods for decluttering that help the process feel more manageable. You can check out my favorite resources, which have more specific steps to the process HERE.

As Marie herself said, Tidying Up and her method isn’t magic. The only magic is thinking you can declutter your home in 35 edited minutes đŸ˜‰

However, if you commit your time and effort to the process and declutter your home in whatever way works for you, you may find there is magic in tidying up after all.

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16 Comments

  1. Hello, I enjoyed your article. My biggest problem is what to do with items that don’t have a home and I don’t know where their home should be. Do you have any suggestions? Thanks in advance.

    1. Hi Becki. A great piece of advice I read in a book once was to store the item where you would first think to look for it. Think about what seems logical to you. If you have similar or related items, store it with that. I hope that helps!

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