6 Myths of Decluttering

by Stevie Zvereva

The KonMari way celebrates minimalism and defies organizational standards.

Minimalism is all the rage, and for good reason. According to Marie Kondo, bestselling author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, the benefits extend far beyond just having fewer things to maintain. Tidying up means more freedom and time to pursue your health, hobbies, relationships and the peace of mind that defines quality of life.

“When your room is clean and uncluttered, you have no choice but to examine your inner state,” she writes. “You can see any issue you have been avoiding and are forced to deal with them. From the moment you start tidying, you will be compelled to reset your life.” And the time to start is now, she suggests—in one fell swoop. But first, you’ll have to forget everything you thought you knew about tidying…

  1. The myth: Make it a habit to tidy a little bit every day.
    “Tidying is a special event. Don’t do it every day,” writes Kondo. Tidy a little… and you’ll be tidying forever. Changing lifestyle habits can be difficult, but tidying in one shot can dramatically improve your mindset, which is critical to the process of change. “After you’ve finished putting your house in order… your whole world will brighten.”
  2. The myth: Discard everything you haven’t used in two years.
    “Even if this method temporarily results in a tidy space, automatically following criteria proposed by others… will have no lasting effect unless their criteria… matches your own,” Kondo says. Act on intuition, not rule, and focus on the things that inspire joy. “We should be choosing what we want to keep, not what we want to get rid of.” Take each item in hand and ask: “Does this spark joy?” If it does, keep it. If not, dispose of it.
  3. The myth: Tidy by location.
    This is a fatal mistake because people often store the same types of items in more than one place. Instead of tidying by room, set goals like “clothes today, books tomorrow.” Gather all the items in that category into one place so you can accurately assess what you have.
  4. The myth: “It’s a waste to get rid of it.”
    “To get rid of what you no longer need is neither wasteful nor shameful.” If something is hard to discard, consider why you have it to begin with. If you purchased a sweater because you thought it looked cool in the store, it has already fulfilled its function. If you never wear it, then it taught you what doesn’t suit you. “It has completed its role in your life,” Kondo writes. “Let it go.”
  5. The myth: The answer is storage.
    “A booby trap lies within the term storage,” she writes. “Most people leap at storage methods that promise quick and convenient ways to remove visible clutter.” But true tidying requires discarding. Resist the storage trap until you’ve decided what you really want and need to keep.
  6. The myth: Decide where to store things on the basis of where it’s easiest to take them out.
    Clutter has only two possible causes: too much effort required to put things away, or confusion over where things belong. “Therefore, storage should reduce the effort needed to put things away, not the effort needed to get them out,” Kondo suggests. Designate a spot for everything.

Kondo acknowledges her techniques won’t work for everyone. “You won’t die if your house isn’t tidy, and there are many people… who don’t care if they can’t put their house in order.” Plus, is it really possible for every item in your home to “spark joy?” Good luck feeling giddy about a colander. But does that mean you should throw it out?

Others even find beauty in the very clutter Kondo detests. “In living, we accumulate,” writes New York Times blogger Dominique Browning. “We admire. We desire. We love. We collect. We display. And over the course of a lifetime, we forage, root and rummage around in our stuff, because that is part of what it means to be human.”

But however you feel about the Konmari method, it can’t hurt to occasionally take pause, reprioritize your possessions, contemplate your values and define your own personal joy. a&s