Marie Kondo gets productivity. Her KonMari method of tidying up taps into the emotional and psychological issues we have with our possessions and the clutter they create. It may not explicitly tackle productivity, but she’s spot on in seeing that the need to declutter has as much to do with making emotional and mental space as physical space.
But her method misses a few important points that everyone needs going forward if they want to stay decluttered in mind and space so that they can focus on whatever’s most important.
A Previous KonMari Skeptic
I have to admit, when her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up first came out, I took issue with some of its basic tenets. For one, it seemed wasteful. The one pair of flip-flops I own do not bring me joy, but they have utility, and it’s less wasteful to keep them rather than throw them out and replace them with a prettier pair. Second, I didn’t like that it neglected poor people, which is related to my first point. Finally, some of it does sound a bit hippy-dippy.
My opinion changed, however, since watching her show, Tidying Up With Marie Kondo on Netflix. Only through watching have I realized that (of course) minimalists, utilitarians, and poor people are not her audience. The book and method isn’t for them. It’s for people who do have unnecessary stuff taking up unnecessary space in their homes and heads. To see her methods reach them helped it all click for me.
I love watching and listening to her clients on the show as they declutter their homes. Many of them, when given a moment of silence to fill, dig deep into their inner thoughts and feelings. Their disorganization is preventing them from being who they want to be. It’s disrupting their relationships. It touches a nerve. Some of the clients keep a steely exterior, but even with them you can sense that they have deep rooted emotions about the process of letting go of their possessions. “What does it say about me that I have all these things in the first place? What does it say about me that I’m having a hard time deciding what I want and don’t want? How are my possessions and how I store them a reflection of my true self?”
It’s immensely satisfying to watch. In particular, I like seeing people start to connect the idea that physical clutter creates mental and emotional clutter, too. When your space is disorganized, how can you focus on what needs to be done? Seeing clutter is distracting. Not being able to find what you need quickly hinders productivity. The stress of always feeling like you should have cleaned up more holds you back from putting 100 percent of yourself into whatever you want to focus on.
What’s Missing: One-Time Decluttering vs Hygiene
The show Tidying Up With Marie Kondo focuses entirely on a one-time cleaning binge. It makes for great television, with radical before and after shots. But doing a one-time deep clean isn’t nearly the same as staying organized long after.
Staying organized, however, is a matter of hygiene. Good hygiene doesn’t come from a one-time cleanse. It comes from daily habits. This is something I go over in detail in my book Get Organized: How to Clean Up Your Messy Digital Life.
Doing a deep dive to declutter and clean can be a great kickoff, and it might even propel you forward with a little momentum, but it won’t necessarily keep you on track for long. Some of Kondo’s techniques, such as folding and putting away clothes in a new way, are more likely to have a lasting effect than others. I’d love to see how quickly some of her clients gather up new papers, as she doesn’t seem to have an ongoing hygiene method for handling them.
What You Can Do
If you’re into the KonMari method because you want to be more organized and have clearer head space (or emotional space) as a result, I’d definitely encourage you to think about the system you will use after you finish your one-time dumping project.
Image by Deidre Woollard, CC.