I Tried the KonMari Decluttering Method: Here’s What Happened

Marie Kondo has a unique way of folding clothes, allowing you to stack them in a way where it’s easy to identify each item of clothing.
Image from Marie Kondo’s official Facebook page.

This article was supposed to be a how-to article.

In my mind, I was going to discuss with you what the KonMari method is, give you a checklist, show you before and after photos of my home after trying the method myself and hope that you try it, too.

The whole week I was excited to spend the weekend clearing out my home, but the weekend ended, and I was only able to sort out my clothes. Early into the decluttering process I already stumbled upon a problem: I had to answer the question “does this spark joy?”

Why is this a problem? Let’s backtrack.

The KonMari Method – in Theory

The KonMari method is the organizing method of Japanese tidying consultant Marie Kondo. Marie Kondo rose to international fame because of her best-selling book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.”

If you clean your home properly, you’ll never have to clean again
Image from Marie Kondo shop.

Her book quickly gained traction because it’s built on the premise that if you organize your home properly, you’ll never have to do it again

The book centers on decluttering a space, whether a home or an office, prior to organizing the things in it. You’ve probably seen lots of Japanese life hacks where people cleverly hide things in concealed shelves and storage units, but that’s not what Marie Kondo advocates.

According to her, “putting things away creates the illusion that the clutter problem has been solved.”

Unlike other decluttering methods that makes you think of when you last used an item or if its warranty is due, the KonMari system is revolutionary because it is simple: you only need to ask yourself if an item brings you joy.

Broken down into steps her decluttering method goes like this:

1. Visualize your destination.

Visualize how you would like to live or work; how your home or office can be a reflection of this vision. This vision will help you as you hold things and ask yourself if it gives you joy.

2. Set the date and dress the part.

Try to view decluttering as a special event in your life: allot time for it and wear the right clothes for it. Although Marie Kondo says decluttering can take you a few hours to six months, she also discourages doing it bit by bit per day. Taking too long to declutter, gives you time to revert to a cluttered home

3. Discard per category.

Gather all the items falling under one category (e.g., clothes, kitchenware, toys, etc.) in one spot. Take an item, and listen to your mind and body’s reaction when you ask yourself, “does this spark joy?” If it doesn’t, you discard it or donate it. Once you are finished with all the items in that category, you move to the next.

The decluttering process should start with clothes, then you move to books, papers, komono (miscellaneous stuff), and finish with the sentimental items.

Following the order is supposed to help you practice strengthening your intuition and listening to yourself, preparing you for discarding the things that are harder to let go: the sentimental items.

Once all the discarding is done, only then can you start the process of organizing your things and finding the right home for each item. Giving everything its proper place makes maintaining the cleanliness of your home easy and will stop you from filling in the newly freed space with things that don’t give you joy.

If you read other articles about it, you’d probably see a lot of people say the method makes decluttering easy.  You’ll also find free downloadable KonMari decluttering checklists, like this one from Making Lemonade:

I thought I could swoop through my house with this method. But I was wrong. Now that I’m writing about it, I’m starting to think that the people who made articles saying it was easy probably didn’t really try the method, are living alone, or are very happy people.

Let me tell you about the hiccups I faced following the KonMari Method.

What is joy, anyway?

I thought it was easy to tell if something made me happy or not, especially with clothes. I have a “fuck it” attitude when buying clothes and buy whatever is cheap and comfortable. I thought that I was so practical that I would find joy in meaningful things and only keep what’s important.

But what I got from holding an item was mental noise.

“Does this really make me happy? What if it’s superficial joy? Someone gave me this, I wish I felt happy about it. I don’t feel joy from this blouse, but I need it when I need to look decent for meetings or interviews.”

If I gave away things based on how I felt about them alone, I probably would’ve ended up with just my pambahay. Unfortunately, I don’t have the money to replace the things that don’t make me happy with things that do.

Feeling stuck, I wondered if I was doing this right and I Googled how to tell if something gave me joy. I stumbled upon this cute, kooky video of Marie Kondo sharing her wisdom on how to tell if something gives you joy.

It did help a bit, but I was able to finally accept that many of my clothes don’t give me joy, and the reason behind it: I bought them when I was struggling with my weight gain.

I had very little money so I went to ukay ukays. Frustrated that most of the things I tried on didn’t fit, every time I found an item of clothing that went past my shoulders, I bought it. I ended up buying clothes that weren’t my style, clothes that were too loose, and clothes that fit a bit but were constricting in the armpit area.

After that realization my mind went back to the present and I was left wondering – again – what to do.

The KonMari Method in Real Life

To help me through the confusion, I Googled some more and encountered questions other people raised.

Like me, some people can’t find joy in a lot of their stuff, others can’t let go of stuff because they find joy in almost all of them; some encounter stuff that they don’t like but couldn’t let them go for sentimental reasons. There are also people who want to keep stuff even if it made them sad (like clothes that don’t fit) thinking that the clothes will make them happy when they lose weight.

I also saw the Netflix trailer of “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” and saw that even if Marie Kondo is with you through the process, decluttering can be a stressful experience.

I was overwhelmed to discover other people’s problems, but I also found solace in the fact that decluttering following the KonMari Method isn’t easy for everybody. And it doesn’t have to be.

From reading threads on Reddit and Quora, I also found it comforting how complete strangers helped each other through their KonMari decluttering journey. It’s also from these threads where I found the answers to my own problems.

Some people find things simple, some don’t. I fall under the latter, and that’s OK. I can’t afford to replace every item that makes me sad but is useful (like the clothes I don’t like), and that’s OK, too. When I have a bit more money and the energy to go through thrift stores again, I can replace those items.

For now, I shall revel in the little victory of significantly reducing my clothes. It doesn’t look like it from the photos below, but from a wardrobe that occupied my whole cabinet, a few shelves of my girlfriend’s cabinet and a few storage boxes, I was able to downsize to just my closet. Now I just have to work on folding my clothes immaculately uniform the way Marie Kondo does.

Before (L) and After (R) photos. Each shelf of my cabinet had two stacks of clothes and I had seasonal clothes in plastic boxes, now everything is in my closet
Photo by author

I shall tackle the books, papers, komono, and sentimental items in the following weeks.

Would I recommend the KonMari method for other people?

Definitely.

It may not be perfect for everyone, but as a decluttering method that shed light into some of my personal issues, it is helping me declutter physically, emotionally, and mentally.

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