Last year was a very long one for professional organizers. Some have jumped on the bandwagon, some have been openly critical, and others are just trying hard to stay above the fray. Not a day goes by but what I don’t see an article about, or at least mentioning, Marie Kondo, or someone asks me if I’ve read her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (yes, I have). And now her new book, Spark Joy, is out (no, I haven’t).
Before I continue, and for the record:
I believe Marie Kondo to be 90% just like any other organizer (with fantastic PR and timing), 5% lost in translation, and 5% unique.
My problem is not with Marie Kondo. It’s with the media hype surrounding her.
I think folks are, more than ever before, ready to hear the message of how much their lives will improve with some decluttering, downsizing, and simplifying. She’s just preaching the loudest right now. I don’t agree with everything she says, but I don’t agree with everything my NAPO (National Association of Professional Organizers) colleagues say in their books, either. (Gasp!) We all take slightly different approaches to helping our clients, and that’s OK.
The Five Stages of Marie Kondo
With apologies to Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, here is what I have personally been going through:
Denial – How is it even possible that this one organizing book is outselling all other previous organizing books put together? (I have no proof, but it sure seems that way!)
Anger – No, no, no! “KonMari” is not a verb! And “Kondoed” is not an adjective! Arrrgh! Why do the media act as if Marie Kondo invented organizing?!?!
Bargaining – OK, media…you can praise Marie Kondo all you like, but no blindly jumping on the bandwagon without even reading the book, OK? (Example: A Place for Everything: How To Use Labels to Help KonMari Your Home – Uh, no. She is more likely to remove a label than to add one. I know because I read the book.)
Depression – It’s so hard to know what to say about her and her book, when asked, without sounding jealous or unprofessional. And I don’t even have a competing book! (I offer information products on my website, such as Clutter Flow Charts, but not a paper book sold on Amazon.)
Acceptance – This isn’t going away, is it? A new book…a sitcom in the works (yes, really!)…an app….a U.S. consultant program…OK, well….whatever draws attention to the field of organizing is a good thing….right?
Now that I’m ready to talk about it publicly, here are just a few select ways – we’d be here all day if I addressed them all — in which I agree…and disagree…with Marie Kondo (let’s just call her MK from here on out, shall we?):
Does it spark joy? This phrase captured my imagination, as it did millions of other readers. Of course, it doesn’t apply to everything (think tax records and toilet paper). But…isn’t it just another way of saying, “Do you love it? Use it? Need to keep it?” or, “Do you know it to be useful, or believe it to be beautiful?” or, “If you were shopping right now would you buy this again?” I approve of whatever phrases work to make you stop and ask yourself: “How much stuff do I really need to keep? How much is standing in the way of living the life I really want to be living?” Is it catchy and inspiring? Yes. Unique? No. Same song and dance; different music.
“Tidying Up” That certainly sounds easier than organizing, doesn’t it? Well, that’s because once you’ve sorted, purged, assigned homes, containerized, and created a system for maintaining order it is so much easier to tidy up! It really is life-changing and magical! And any NAPO (National Association of Professional Organizers) member can help you do it. I could be wrong, but I believe MK’s use of “Tidy” in place of “Organize” is one of those lost-in-translation things. Even “organize” is subject to interpretation — to me it automatically includes purging unwanted and unused items, but to some it apparently just means neatly arranging what’s there. Also, we are not housecleaners! Well… except, of course, for those who are housecleaners, in addition to being organizers. Here is my take on Organize vs. Tidy vs. Clean: How Clean Does Your House Really Need To Be?
Tidy up “quickly”. No messing around. It seems that no one in the media has noticed that “quickly” means six months, according to MK (p. 35). Or that six months is an eternity if, as it seems to me, the majority of Kondo’s clients are young adults living in one room of their parents’ home. Lost in translation? Maybe, but I don’t think it’s possible to say that one person’s project was not completed “quickly” enough. There are too many factors to consider, such as the scope of the project, how quickly one makes decisions, how much help is needed and available, and real-life challenges that crop up during the project.
It’s her way or the highway. (My phrase, not hers.) I, too, think that a decluttering blitz is the best way to show quick results and create momentum in what can seem to be an overwhelming project. But that simply doesn’t work for everyone. My clients vary widely in terms of their personalities, project goals, what “organized” means to them, available time, ability to make decisions, physical stamina, and ability to pay for multiple sessions. If professional organizers can’t adapt their methods to accommodate their clients, then many people in need of help will fall by the wayside.
Organize by category, not by room. It’s true that I will ask a new client what room is bugging them the most, so we can start there. But… let’s say we’re organizing their home office, and they store office supplies there. It would be counterproductive of me not to ask them, “Where else in the house do you keep office supplies?” Because until we gather them together, how do we know how much we can purge, where best to store the keepers, and what containers would be most appropriate?
Anthropomorphizing. This is the thing I notice people joking about the most, but…I confess to doing it myself. I might say, of a pile of clutter, ”Those things must not have homes, or if they do, they must not like their homes.” Of course, what I really mean is that YOU must not like their “homes” (Too far away? Too small? Too ugly? Drawer sticks? Lid in the way? Etc.) or you would be putting them away and they wouldn’t be piling up. The problem with anthropomorphizing is that some people (those who hoard) take it way too far, and it pains them way too much to “hurt” their things by casting them off or sending them away. But I don’t work with hoarders, so it does my clients no harm. Also, I love the idea of thanking one’s belongings before discarding or donating them. My version of that, when a client seems hesitant, but on the verge of letting go, is to say, “It’s been a good friend, hasn’t it? Time to say goodbye?” I also talk about “honoring” the things they keep by using them, displaying them, and taking care of them.
Sunk cost. I forget if MK actually uses that term when she talks about it, but I do, in my Sunk Cost of Clutter series (“But I paid good money for that!” and Is it Really Worth Doing?), and this article does too: The Economics of Tidying Up.
No backsliders, ever. That’s what she claims (p.1, for starters; she calls it the “rebound effect”). Really? I’d like to know how many did not stick with her through the entire process and therefore are not included in the “no backsliding” claim. Plus, she’s young. Too soon to say never, if you ask me. New habits (of any sort) are rarely established overnight with no backsliding at all. I hope those who read the book and try to implement MK’s methods don’t let their “failures” discourage them.
Empty your bag everyday. (p.153) No. Just no. She is not just talking about emptying it of trash and loose change. She wants us to designate homes for our wallets, sunglasses, and keys and put them away every night and get them back out again the next day. I don’t know about you, but my wallet lives in my purse!
Storage Experts are Hoarders. (p. 22) Really, MK? I always tell my clients to not buy anything new until I get there, as they may already have everything they need. (Organizing Myth #5: The perfect gadget or container will get you organized.) But this is harsh. Everybody, no matter how Kondo-ized, will have something that needs storage of some sort. That does not make them, or the expert who is helping them, a hoarder.
And now the backlash begins. Example: The real reasons Marie Kondo’s life-changing magic doesn’t work for parents Ha ha, is it wrong that I enjoyed reading this article so much? Especially the last line: “So tell me again how the real problem is that I don’t fold my underwear correctly or thank it enough?” I agree that one can’t help but wonder how “Kondoed” Marie feels now that she has a little one of her own.
The media have finally started interviewing organizers to see what they think of MK. I was honored to be included in this article, which I thought was pretty fair and balanced: Is Organizing Like Marie Kondo Right for You?
This blog post about my sock drawer was not written with MK in mind, but I wonder if it would make her cringe? Is it possible she would approve of my “sending my socks on holiday” (p.81) by not balling them up? Confessions of a Professional Organizer (I’m organized enough, and not one bit more.)
The Life-Changing Magic of Doing What Works for YOU
Here’s the bottom line: Do what works for you. Her way. My way. Your way. Even if I said something helpful… but it was awhile ago, or you weren’t ready to hear it yet… and Marie Kondo said it more recently and/or better …or you think she did … (so she gets all the credit)…. just do it!
And, if you are in the mood for more reading here’s a great list: Need Decluttering Inspiration? Read These 7 Books
Yes, it includes Kondo’s book. The list was written in 2015, so it had to. It’s the law.
From my website home page:
Organizing skills can be taught…but not every organizing system works for everybody.
I can help you create the RIGHT organizing system for YOU!
Less clutter in your home, office, schedule and mind means more room for the life you really want to live.
Less clutter. More life.
Have you read the book? Do you love it.. or hate it? (There seems to be no middle ground.) Please leave a comment!
Copyright 2016 by Hazel Thornton, Organized For Life.
Social media links directly to this page are encouraged!
Please contact me for other types of reprint permission.
I have not read the book but have read many articles, hear many of the same discussions you have and I still don’t get what all the hype is. I think you are spot on when you said that her pr and marketing are just better than 99.9% of ours. Some many of the things that she seems to endorse are things I’ve been telling clients for over 6 years and many other organizers for many more years. I actually had one client receive the book as a gift and told me that it gave her such anxiety, she couldn’t finish it. Nothing should do that to you! I think your analysis is spot on! And by the way,my wallet, and key and checkbook and lipstick ALL live in my purse which lives on a hook on my dresser and we are ALL very happy with that living arrangement!
One of my organizer friends says her clients feel yelled at when they read it. The comments I hear from clients (and from what I thought to be prospects) are about loving it (and forgetting that I’ve said the same things repeatedly…sigh). There seems to be no middle ground! But…whatever works….
I read the book when the GA Chapter of NAPO hosted a book discussion for Round Table in October 2015. It was indeed a very lively discussion!
Hazel, thank you for articulating beautifully what most of us have been feeling. I held a book discussion this past Saturday for GO Month at my local library (I live in Cartersville, 40 miles north of Atlanta). There was an overwhelming response (the Adult Services Director’s word, not mine)–65 in attendance! At least all the hype has gotten people thinking, talking about, and yearning for more information on how they can simplify their lives, so for that, we can thank Kondo. A rising tide floats all boats!!
I like that — a rising tide floats all boats — thanks, Vicki!
Great post and spot on Hazel! I think you nailed when you said that most of her clients live in a room with their parents! MK is coming from an Asian society where homes and quantities of stuff are vastly different than ours here in the Western World (I lived in China for 2.5 years so I know first hand how small their spaces are and how little they actually own). You can’t compare the 2 and expect the same results! Like you, that’s just one of the many reasons why I’m not a fan. Thanks for your honesty and humor!
Glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for your comment, Liana!
I listened to the audiobook and couldn’t get past the first few pages. Her strident tone and insistence that she is successful with 100% of the people she works with, who never experience clutter relapses, annoyed the heck out of me.
I didn’t think she had anything new to add to the conversation and I wondered what made her an “expert.” She is known in Japan for her cleaning services, which somehow morphed into organizing. She truly has a great PR team.
What annoys/amuses me the most, maybe, is that people ascribe her process with so many details that are inaccurate (like the labels). If I hear one more person say “I’ve been Kondoing my kitchen for the last year” I think I’ll scream!
Thank you for writing this, Hazel. It’s the article I’ve been wanting to write but didn’t because I didn’t want to sound unpleasant. As usual, you have captured the essence of the issue in style.
Glad to be of service! I wrote it largely as therapy for myself. 😉
I couldn’t agree more! Thanks for saying everything I have been thinking.
I know in future we will find her book, as we have found so many others, buried deep in a pile of clutter… and possibly a second copy purchased when the first copy was lost.
I know I speak for a lot of us. Not all, but a lot. And it is pretty funny how many organizing books we find in piles of clutter, eh?
Thanks for your comments, Hazel. I won’t say I loved it or I hate it.
I have been reading the book too. I felt that some do not apply to people in the US. My husband has been to Japan and it influenced him so much that when he returned, we talked about the behaviors of different countries and their view on clutter. My specialty in college was international business so I learned a lot about peoples’ behaviors and beliefs in other countries. When I started reading this book, I realized that it was translated so I took it more lightly than others may have. I knew that not everything would apply to US individuals.
I heard from several friends and family who tried the clothes organizing and they were successful at it. But, I think clothes are easy to do. You love it or you don’t. I think where it’s difficult is memorabilia which is what she said to do last in her process. I also recommend that with my clients. I did go through my photo albums personally and trashed some photos that brought me negative memories. I did observe a contentment and lightness. Though I heard of this when I took a Feng Shui class.
I agree that her “does it give you joy” statement is nice for marketing. But, I always said to my clients for over 20 years now, “does it give you a positive or negative memory? Do you like the memory?” I say it to help them determine what they wanted to do with an object. Of course, that doesn’t roll off the tongue easily though.
I am inspired how her marketing team marketed the book in the U.S. Look forward to reading the discussions.
Yep, fantastic PR and marketing! Thanks for commenting, Sabrina!
Oh, Hazel. You wrote the post I so wish I had wrote. But yours is much better than mine would have been! You hit it spot on. I ended up reading the whole thing out loud to my husband who laughed because I kept exclaiming ‘yes!’.
LOL! (Imagining you and your husband.) Thanks, Liz.
So agree, Liz. Never read an article that so echoes my own opinions – I was like one of those nodding dogs you see in the back of cars.
It is NOT that anyone hates MK – everyone has value to contribute – but she is not responsible for the organising industry. People have been doing great work for years already.
Excellent thought out review. I really enjoyed your take on this. I enjoyed your quote “We all take slightly different approaches to helping our clients, and that’s OK.”
Thanks for putting this out there.
Thank you, Terry. Glad you liked it!
Thank you, Hazel. You went a little further than I did in my TLCMOTU review earlier last year, but I agree with everything you say.
I have a client who told me that she bought the book and how much she learned from it as if she learned nothing from working with me. I bit my tongue so hard it almost bled, but I said, “I’m so glad for you.”
One thing I tell people who ask me about the book is that while it is mostly solid organizing advice, she has some funny ideas. I tell them about the pocketbooks, and how she advises taking the shampoo out of the shower after every use, drying it off with a towel, and putting it away under the sink, because it gets “slimy” if kept in the shower (p. 157). The reaction I get is priceless.
Ha ha, I’d forgotten about the shampoo! Thanks for chiming in!
LOVE this! And I’m with you on the purse concept. You’re ‘No. Just no.’ made me laugh out loud! Truth be told, I have started folding my t-shirts the KonMari way and I’ve shared with my clients the technique of thanking items before tossing which has helped some. I didn’t realize she has another book. I’m unsure if I’ll read it. Will you?
Actually, I just read she has four books, but only two in the U.S. I don’t see how organizers can resist reading the first one to see what all the hype is about. But I’m not rushing to read the second one.
I’ve been folding my t-shirts this way for YEARS. Marie Kondo did not come up with this method of folding shirts — just saying. Another instance in which she gets credit for methods and advice that others have said often and earlier.
Frustrating, isn’t it? I mean, I think we’re all used to the fact that many of us use many of the same techniques. But usually none of us is getting massive media attention for it!
Yes! A thousand times.
Thank you, thank you, thank you Hazel! THIS is the article I will be sharing with my clients, friends, family, neighbors, family’s neighbors when they ask me what I think about “that magic organizing book”! 🙂
So well written and spot on in capturing how I’ve been feeling – thanks again!
Glad to be of service, Julie. I worked hard on capturing how I’VE been feeling!
Excellent post Hazel! Thank you for articulating what so many of us have been feeling. The next time someone asks what I think of “MK” I will direct them to your post. You especially captured the frustration of dealing with clients who think “does it spark joy ” is a magical phrase that will somehow enable them to make magical organizing decisions.
Another thing that cracks me up is when people who love MK misquote her. That’s what makes me think it’s not the phrase itself, but the reader being open to the message at this time.
I have enjoyed this article! I did not read the book. What I did read were the reviews on amazon which many said that the book needed to be “Kondoed”. Some reviews even gave a nice little summery so that I could get the basics without having to “suffer” through the book as they did. And now I wonder why (if we are supposed to have such few items) did she write four books for us to add to our collection of books that we are supposed to get rid of! I always enjoy good tips to improve my home and I think I have gotten enough from the reviews of her book that I will not be buying the book nor will I be drying my shampoo bottle which I did not hear about until reading these comments. So much fun had by all!
Take the good tips and run with them! Thanks for your comment!
Hi Hazel. Great article. I have to say I love the book because it is a great conversation starter around being a professional organiser and how one size does NOT fit all. I encourage people to read it but also offer alternatives.
I also giggle….haven’t seen hype like this around a book since Fifty Shades of Grey!
Really good point, to use it as a conversation starter! Or at least an opportunity, when the subject is raised. I would pay good money to see a parody of “The Fifty Shades of Marie Kondo”!!! LOL!
I take it for what it is … a trend. Sort of like one of Gladwell’s “Tipping Point” contenders. The fact that the book has done so well should be good news for organizers, because it reminds us of how overwhelmed and stressed out people are. For some, Kondo’s method will work, but I agree not for all. Few things work for everyone. I say let it ride, and keep cultivating our own expertise for solving the problems of disorganization.
Hi Seana! I agree that few things work for everyone! Something to keep in mind at all times, with or without a Kondo media storm!
I loved your five stages!!! It is frustrating with so many great organizing books out there that the one the media has latched on to can lead those who can’t follow the method to believe they are failures.
My personal pet peeve with The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up is the idea that you have to sort through your possessions in a particular order to get organized. Some of my clients are emotionally attached to their clothes and it would be easier for them to start with books. The process of organizing is personal to each person. Yes, there are some basic steps, but organizing your entire home takes introspection and a personalized plan, not a generalized declaration of how it must be done to succeed.
Thanks for the great article!
You said it, Jamie: The process of organizing is personal to each person.
Thank you Hazel for saying what I’ve been feeling for a year. I agree that the book has brought more awareness to organizers and our clients that there is a real need to declutter. But the one-size-fits-all approach irks me. And how different the approach needs to be with families and larger North American homes. I’m not a fan of personifying things either so I honestly had to skip over sections of her book that focused on the feelings our belongings have. OK, I’m done venting 🙂 I have already and will continue to share this post!
I’m glad you could relate, Hilda! We need to keep in mind that anthropomorphism is a large part of the Japanese/Buddhist/Shinto culture.
But I often ‘Hazel’ an area! In fact, if I don’t get in and Hazel my desk pretty soon it’s going to take permission from the State Archeology Department.
What a funny and entertaining article! I know this is uncharitable, but I kind of want to punch MK in the nose. But I’m not going to because I know it is NOT What Hazel Would Do.
And I do have to admit that I can’t throw away my kitty measuring cups that have broken tails because it seems like such a shallow way to judge them.
I will get you new, unbreakable, measuring cups (if I can find something cute….do you still have old ones?) if you promise to toss the broken ones….?
I agree with so much that you shared Hazel Thornton. As a Professional Organizer I can’t count the number of “Organizing Books” that my clients have bought with the hopes that the book will be the answer to their clutter and to getting organized. Just my two cents – it doesn’t happen all because of a book. While the material may encourage change, I sincerely doubt that it is a lasting change for many more than a low percentage.
For me, it is all about creating the right attitude (mentally and physically) that creates habits and change that lasts. I just saw this last week with a client while organizing her craft area. She worked with a designer who came up with some ideas (frankly just spent a lot of money unnecessarily)…and I’m not knocking designers – it is very pretty! However, what wasn’t addressed was her ability to create the space that was: usable, creative and they could work with a year from now (when the girls are “pre-teen”).
And lastly, #5 – I agree Hazel, most people already have everything that they need to get organized. They just haven’t utilized it in the right manner – and this does not make them Hoarders. I have worked with hoarders (and have a family member who is a hoarder). trust me…I know.
Hi Linda! We do find a surprising number of organizing books in our clients’ homes, don’t we? I don’t know what kind of lasting effects is will have, but it does seem that many are motivated by her words to do some purging! Hard to argue with that.
I haven’t read any of her books, but if they help someone (even one person), that’s great. Some strategies will resonate and some won’t. Sometimes they need time to marinate before they’re effective.
That said, I have to agree with you — though the terms she uses sound new, lots of other organizers have basically said many of the same things.
And, I’m curious how her strategies might change now that she has a partner and a child. Or, if she has more children or adds elderly parents or pets to the mix of her life.
I think the world has been “marinating” (as you said) in the decluttering/simplifying/organizing message and they’re finally ready to hear it again and put it into action. But…how can you resist reading her book? I read it a year ago because, even then, I was hearing so much about it I felt the need to know what it was really all about! It will be interesting to see how her life and career pan out, won’t it?
Well, that (i.e., her topic) is not my space anymore, so I find it quite easy to refrain from reading her book. When I’m curious, I read posts like yours. =)
Well said. I am reading the book mainly so I can talk with my clients about their expectations due to all the hype. I agree with many of your observations. For me, organizing, like almost anything else in life, is a personal process and experience. What works for one of my clients would probably not work in the same exact way for any of my other clients. It is a little disheartening to see everyone jumping on the bandwagon.
I’m with you, it’s a personal process and experience like almost anything else in life. Thanks for the comment, Rhonda!
And the heavens have opened up and a triumphant “Hallelujah” was heard amongst all professional organizers after reading this article! LOL!
Thank you SO much Hazel for putting in print what most of us have thought but weren’t really sure how (or were too afraid) to put into words without worrying about a huge backlash.
While reading this article, I (like others) jumped up and down and yelled … “YES! … YES! … YES! … HALLELUJAH!!”
I, like you, do not have a problem with Marie Kondo herself, but all the huge media hype surrounding it. No, she did not invent organizing and yes, she does just present in a different way the same exact things professional organizers have been teaching for years. Instead of saying does it “spark joy” … we usually DO say something like “do you use it or do you love it?”
I applauded her for her marketing/PR team and wondered if she could write a book on THAT! LOL! As for the book itself, I just figured (hoped) that the hype would die down soon so we could all get back to our own well tested ideas for helping our clients get organized. However, now not ONLY has the media jumped on the Kondo bandwagon, but so have a large number of OTHER professional organizers!!! UGH!!! Instead of riding it out and letting the hype die down by itself, I’ve seen a number of organizers putting posts, articles and in a couple of cases … classes or webinars together on “how to” implement the Kondo method!
UGH!!! STOP THE INSANITY!!!
Ha ha, Lisa, this might be my favorite comment yet. 🙂 Thanks for chiming in! P.S. I just read a blog post on a topic that more or less went, “Here’s what Marie Kondo has to say about that topic.” :-/
Spot on!!! I alternately got mad and laughed so hard I cried when I read her first book. I’ve been doing this for over 30 years and nothing she says is new, just, as others have said – she has amazing P.R. Also mentioned is the face that typical Japanese house and rooms are much smaller, even though younger people ARE collecting more stuff than their parents. Every one of my clients now laughs and says “it doesn’t spark joy, so I’m throwing it away.” And then they’ll laugh. Hey, they threw it away, right? Whatever works, I say. Great article, Hazel – thanks.
Yes. Whatever works! Sigh…. Thanks for stopping by my blog, Karen!
Hazel, your article on Marie Kondo made me smile. My copy is marked up in the margins, highlighted with snarky comments, dog-earred… I agree, most of it makes smart sense. But other things seem to be lost in translation, based on a too-young, inexperienced woman, or simply weird. But overall, I enjoyed it and will add it to my list of “inspiration books” for my clients who ask for recommendations. I think it will be a motivator for many, and a reason to call their friendly professional organizer for some hands-on help!
Hi Sara! There’s no question that some readers find it highly motivating. Can’t argue with that!
Thank You Hazel!
Your article made me smile from the inside out. Lost in translation is a great way to describe what I felt reading Marie Kondo’s book. Not only are you gifted with the skill of organization, you are blessed with an excellent ability to get to the heart of things clearly and with practical soundness.
Thank you so much for the compliment, Lorraine. It means a lot to me!
Dear HT (I like your idea to use initials; very efficient!)
For me, the bottom line is that anything that sparks zillions of conversations about organizing/tidying up is, “a good thing” (as MS would say)
Wonderful read; throughly enjoyed your post!
Thanks, Geralin! That’s the bottom line for me, too….but it took me awhile to get there. 😉
Wow!!! This is a fabulous article. I enjoyed the book AND I happen to think MK is adorable. But you hit on every thought and feeling that I have had. Her methods aren’t vastly unique but have been perfectly packaged, marketed and shipped out for the world to consume.
Perfectly packaged, indeed….and adorableness is part of the package! I think there’s room for both admiration and dismay. Thanks, Sandra!
Hazel, I thoroughly enjoyed this post. I haven’t read the book and largely have ignored it because I felt it was only a different spin on the same thing I do with my clients. There aren’t original ideas anymore- somewhere at sometime someone else has thought, said, or done the exact same thing. The communication / marketing is what makes the difference.
And you are correct. But…how can you resist? When the whole rest of the world is saying it is unique and fabulous, don’t you want to know what “it” is?
Wow. This is awesome! I’m a new organizer, so I feel somewhat unbiased about MK. I didn’t realize how controversial she was amongst the other professionals. I hope she doesn’t take it personally.
I love how you express yourself, Hazel; you say each emotion & the reasons behind them in a very organized way;-) Also, I’ve been reading NAPO POINT conversations & am so impressed by everyone’s regard for you & am slowly coming to understand why, as I read many of your posts & articles. You’re sensible, fair & caring and you don’t worry about expressing how you actually feel about things.
I have not read MK’s book (gasp!); although I have heard of her (at this point who hasn’t?) & the basics of her system. You have confirmed my instincts with your article that she has mostly rephrased old concepts. This is partly why I haven’t read her book, besides- as you mentioned, that she’s young & I wanted to see what people who came before her have said first. (Also, I’m a bit if a rebel & specifically like to go against what’s popular sometimes:-)) I think the reason she has gotten so much attention, is because she is teaching people- without actually saying it, to appreciate what they have. Appreciation is the root of happiness & many times it’s the key to letting go of something. Truth be told, I have a similar ideology as you’ll see if you check out my website; although, it’s still a work in progress.
All in all it’s been a pleasure reading what you have to say about MK’s book. I hope I get to read more from you in the future.
Thank you for your kind words, Shmuel. Regarding appreciation for what you have being a key ingredient for happiness and letting go of what doesn’t serve you…and the fact that you have a similar idealogy…off the top of my head, besides you, me, and Marie Kondo…Lorie Marrero, Joshua Becker and Oprah Winfrey all preach the same thing…and probably a dozen other organizers reading this comment thread. It’s a message that people are ready for, and listening to, but it’s not the first time they’ve heard it. Now…holding and thanking out loud each and every object before discarding….here in the U.S. THAT’s new, LOL!
You did a wonderful job writing that article and expressing how so many of us organizers feel about the book. WHY her? WHY NOT one of us?
My own sister sent me a text the other day about an article she was reading,
“Spark Joy” my sis said to me. I like this, I think I’m going to try this.
Thank you, Kerry. Ouch, indeed! And yes, that’s how I feel when my clients say something similar. But I, too, hear things all the time that I’m not ready for, or didn’t relate to the words that were used, until I hear them again later.
Hazel what a great post. I have a feeling that this comment might turn into a blog post for my own blog…
From day one I have had a feeling about the MK hype that I have had a hard time articulating. Then I realized what it was.
Emperor’s New Clothes.
At the considerable risk of sounding like an unprofessional and envious shrew, there is nothing new under the sun, as they say, in the world of organizing except perhaps calling it “tidying up.”
She brings her own voice to the concepts and practices we’ve all been doing with clients for decades. She chooses different words to say the same thing we’ve all been saying, and these “new” words combined with a killer PR / marketing team have garnered her amazing results. Good for her.
Are the principles sound? Many of them are! Again, they’re what we’ve been teaching for years so yes they’re tried and tested. However many of them are also not sound for every person too.
Is it realistic to EMPTY an entire room all at once and “tidy” it in one fell swoop? Maybe if your entire living space is one room. Maybe for her. Maybe for her clients. But not for everyone.
There may be only one Steve Jobs. There may be only one Elvis Presley. And of course there can be only ONE Highlander. But there is not only one “method” of getting organized that works for all people.
So as much as some of her philosophies and methodologies are sound and realistic, some are not so much and frankly, I think some of them are just plain loonytoons. There, I said it.
Empty my purse each night, individually thank each item, then put them in ANOTHER SPOT to sleep until reloading my purse in the morning? Not only NO but HELL NO. Good grief, I have work to do and exercise to do and dinner to make and cat puke to clean up, sister. I’m not emptying my purse every night. My fully loaded, 10-pound Butler Bag is content sitting next to my bed every night and in the morning, it’s just as chock full as it was the night before.
Take my shampoo out of the shower every day, dry off the bottle and put it away UNDER THE BATHROOM SINK? Are you out of your ever-loving mind, woman? That goes directly against the concept of “Make things easy to access and use.” My shampoo bottle and all the other little things in my shower LIVE IN THERE for my convenience and it’s gonna stay that way.
Fold my underwear? HAHAHAHAHAHA! Ummmm, lemme think… NO. I’m not folding my underwear. At all. There’s absolutely zero ROI on underwear folding. Who am I kidding, you can’t fold a thong anyway.
And I’m not even going to pretend that her t-shirt fold is something that half the planet hasn’t already been doing for the past 875 years. Seriously. Who among us hasn’t seen, done, or recommended that exact fold a gozillion times? You invented that fold? Ok well guess what? I invented wine. Top that.
This is what I mean about Emperor’s New Clothes. Okay sure there are some good ideas in the book that are in every other organizing book. But it’s as if people are so enamored of this adorable Japanese girl and her fabulous “new organizing clothes” that nobody wants to be the witch who says, “HEY MAN, SHE’S NAKED! IT’S NOT NEW. IT’S NOT REVOLUTIONARY. AND THAT FOLD ISN’T EVEN HER IDEA!”
ALL that being said, good for her. She should enjoy her success and I acknowledge that YES she has brought more people into the conversation and inspired action in people who had never felt inspired to action before. For that I’m grateful and pleased. The pie is indeed plenty big and she’s made it bigger, so good for her and all of us. I just prefer not to call it new or magical.
Hi Monica! Your comment is, indeed, a blog post unto itself. Don’t you feel better now? 😉
Yes and I already edited my comment and posted it on my own blog as a new post. Thanks for the inspiration! LOL…
Tell it like it is, Monica! I am rolling on the floor laughing!!!
Hazel! I love this post – funny, spot-on, and realistic. I read the book, well as much as I was able (probably 3/4). She lost me early when she said that most people have clutter because they’re lazy. Tell that to my chronically disorganized, ADHD, hoarding clients. Lazy is what they are not.
Thanks for being such a great colleague.
Monica Ricci – you crack me up.
Thank you, Regina! I have mostly only heard from other organizers and my own clients, who are not CD (well, not overly much so)…I would pay money to see them add a segment to the Hoarders TV show in which the clients are read select portions of the book to see how they react! OK, now I’m just being silly.
This is a wonderful post! I also read the book, and have many of the same thoughts and concerns that you expressed. This book has definitely brought awareness of Professional Organizing to many people, and many of her tips are helpful. However, I definitely disagree with her “one organizing method/system fits all” idea. Thank you for this in depth review.
Thanks, and you’re welcome, Nancy!
Wow. Just wow. I don’t even know where to begin…
First, this article is perfection! As most everyone else has already said, it articulates so well my many thoughts about MK’s book. In a more neutral and charitable fashion than I could have without more revisions than I have been willing to undertake 😉
On top of the article, we have all of these incredible comments! I nodded my head so much I’m surprised it hasn’t fallen off. It is a rare thing indeed that I read every single comment – I usually get bored quickly, but not this time.
And, as an added bonus, we have the hilarity! “The Fifty Shades of Marie Kondo”, “The Emperor’s New Clothes”, “No. Just no.”, and so much more…
Yeah. Not taking the stuff out of the shower daily. Not taking the stuff out of the purse daily. Heck, I never even change my purse to match my clothes or shoes or whatever the rule is, because I just don’t see the payback for the time investment. I have better ways to spend my time 🙂
Thank you all so much for the fun discussion!
Hi Pat! It took me a year to figure out what I wanted to say, and to finally say it. I’ve enjoyed the comments too! 🙂
“The Five Stages of Marie Kondo” – Brilliant, Hazel!
I read the book months ago to see what all the hoopla was about. Parts of the book had me shaking my head because as organizers, we know it’s not all black and white and cookie cutter. While I realize the culture in Japan is very different than in America, surely not every person and every situation is that simplistic.
It kind of reminds me of the countless diet aids that claim “miraculous” results if you just follow their formula. Maybe that’s part of the lure of the book, using the word “MAGIC” and, of course, a great PR team. Everyone wants a little magic in their lives, especially if it’s something they’ve struggled with for a long time!
Coincidentally, I have two clients right now who are reading the book and they hired me to help them. So … if it motivated them to get the practical help they need, it’s a good thing indeed. 🙂
I agree, Terri….if it motivates people to hire us (or do it themselves, for real), then it’s served everyone well.
Thank you Hazel! I agree with what you and everyone else has been saying about the content of the book, but I’m not so sure its success is all about good PR and marketing.
It’s very curious to me how MK has gotten so many people to suddenly listen to ideas that organizers have been talking about for decades. Maybe it’s just a matter of a different cultural perspective and the serendipity of how it translates, but I have to wonder if MK has tapped into something we’ve all been ignoring? And if so, what could that be?
I’d love to see a cultural anthropologist do some research on why this book is such a phenomenon.
Well…there’s “Life-Changing Magic” and “Sparking Joy”…and tidying up sounds like more fun than organizing, doesn’t it? …and she’s little, and young, and cute (never hurts), and Japanese (which brings to mind stereotypical zen surroundings and ancient secrets)… and she shows her things appreciation. Even without PR and marketing I agree there’s a lot to be said for MK and her methods!
First of all, thank you for writing this article. If you only knew how happy I was to read this. What’s so funny is last week one of my clients mentioned her book to me. She told me it was given to her as a gift but she hadn’t read it yet. Also, after attending a networking event, I was encouraged to read the book from non organizers. I was like “What rock have I been under”!
After reading it I thought I found the holy grail for organizing and I was going to implement most if not all of her techniques moving forward. I started practicing the techniques on myself and realized how difficult a lot of her suggestions would be to my average clients. It didn’t make sense how individuals who obviously needs help with order and time management would benefit with such techniques that even I as a Professional Organizer couldn’t handle. Not realistic to say the least!
I loved the Does it spark joy? paragraph because it mentioned the practicality of “non exciting” items to keep doesn’t always spark joy. I don’t know about you but my tax records never spark joy for me but I guess the only time “it sparks joy” is when I’m told I don’t have to pay back an arm and a leg. That definitely SPARKS JOY! I also loved the way you rephrased it to mean the same but in different ways. Anyway, Thank you Hazel again for such an amazing article. I now have a rebuttal when I’m asked about my thoughts on her book. Keep up the great work you Rock Star!
I’m glad you liked what I had to say, Judi. In addition, though, did you see the long comment from “Not an organizer” today?
Hazel thanks for concisely putting into words what’s been on my mind since starting to read MK’s book. I’ve read a third of it & can’t bring myself to pick it up again & continue. It sits patiently on my night table (not my bookshelf) as I try to wrap my head around the idea that my clients are “lazy” or it’s helpful for them to “empty a room all at once.” WHAT? Some of my clients can’t even enter rooms in their home, much less empty them. As said by all, there is no “one size fits all.” Understanding that our clients are not “broken” & we as PO’s are not here to “fix” them, but rather partner with them to address challenges they face. That in itself might be a difficult concept for many to understand. I appreciate that MK has again brought up the fact that our profession exists. That there’s help for those that feel overwhelmed, stressed or hopeless. Thankfully Monica has invented wine to spark joy in the world. May I confess that I’ve invented dirt to help the world have something to tidy up.
I, too, am grateful to Monica for inventing wine! 🙂 As for you, young lady….I don’t mind that you invented dirt as long as you are wiling to come over and help me clean my house….?!?! 😉
Wow…what an interesting thread Ive stumbled onto here! I listened to mk’s audio book two and a half times in two months time last year. It helped me tremendously to purge prior to moving across the country with my husband and two kids.
Id like to be honest, if I may, and say that as a non organizer reading these comments I couldn’t help but think “well, they’re preaching to the choir.- they should really take a step back and see what people- regular people- gleaned from the book that they perhaps haven’t gleaned from organizers, articles, other books.”
I think Caroline, at the very bottom Is the first to mention it- this indescribable “magic” that her book creates. Shmuel tried but….
Here’s what I got from her book – as best as I can describe it.
Now, I should preface that I’ve never worked with a professional organized except for one day once and though she was great, we barely made a dent.
—MK is selling the result, not the process.
The process is just the tools she uses to get you to the results, so your whole organizing experience is about creating peace, harmony, beauty, calm, control- she paints a very clear picture of an ideal *in control* life.
Now, I’m sure all organizers are technically doing that but somehow the “work” part overwhelms the results, which seem so far away, and are not constantly painted so gracefully into your head the way she does it.
Yes- she uses words that invoke deeper emotion, and she makes the process itself a kind of emotional rebirth and cleansing- a therapy of sorts.
Again, I’m sure many of you do that, but are you able to make the process feel like that?
Asking “do you love it?” Is NOT the same as asking if it invokes joy. The latter is a purely deep emotional response, the former is higher to the surface. I might love an article of clothing I own but subconsciously every time I look at it I think of the ex who broke my heart while wearing it, so no, on a deeper level it does not invoke joy and despite how much I love it, I should purge it from my life. Seeing it in my closet every day doesn’t serve me well. Asking if I love it would never give me the clue to the underlying truth about the dress, and most likely, id keep it.
(For the record, it’s possible a book is a *better* delivery method for her message. Many people- myself included- would give MK a big ol’ HELL NO if she told them this stuff in person. And yes, id roll my eyes big time.
But I rolled my eyes while listening to the book too… Yet it still helped me. A lot.
And finally, id probably never invite back an organizer that told me to wipe down my shampoo and empty my purse. I listened to the book knowing id never do that stuff (I do fold my shirts her way now though- something I’d never seen or heard before) – but when she offers such extremes, and you know she’s from an entirely different Japanese culture, you take it with a grain of salt and think “well I won’t get there, but I’ll get close enough and that’ll be a huge step up.”
As a “real life” American organizer you’re likely teaching much more practical stuff- the easiest and most efficient way to get the end result that’s easy to maintain.
But the leaves no room for slippage. You think you’ve already got the easiest method, if you can’t maintain that, well, you’re hopeless. So the first few times things don’t go where they’re supposed to, the whole process quickly tumbles after.
For MK- she’s so extreme, there’s so much room for slippage, and you’re still able to congratulate yourself on what you have maintained. Yeah, my sock drawer may be a wreck, but my pantry is still pretty organized so that’s a win! Before, it felt more all or nothing. And it often felt like nothing.
And finally, when I visualize the shampoo thing, or the perfectly folded and color coordinated sock drawer, it feels romantic in a way. Calm. Affluent and like the world and space of a person who has time and the leisure to create and live in such a space. By painting this picture, she’s giving me tools that I can turn to when I need a dose of calm in my life. Now, my home is a lot less cluttered in general, but when I want a dose of calm, I can just open my sock drawer, organize it, and tap into something I yearn for on a larger scale.
So, that’s my two cents. I hope I don’t cause a big backlash or anything. I kinda hope someone sees something in what I shared and maybe it helps them. As an small business owner myself I know how hard it can be to look at what someone else in my field has created and try to make sense of why they are flying while I’m struggling.
So that’s what I, for one, got from her book and my insight into why it’s successful. If it matters at all, in my real life I’m a branding expert.
I THINK YOU’RE RIGHT! (I only emphasized that so it might catch someone’s attention if they are scrolling through the many comments.) I’m delighted to have a non-organizer chime in! Most organizers do mention results and how good you will feel once you achieve them, but they kind of rush by that on their way to discussing methods and packages. And some are definitely more eloquent than others. Most of us suck at marketing ourselves. I love that you differentiated between reading MK’s book and what it might be like to work with her in person. 🙂 And I had to read the part about “slippage” a couple of times before I (think) I understood it. (At first I thought you were referring to her claim of no backsliding among clients. But now I think you mean there’s more distance to begin with between you and the ideal picture she paints than there is between you and the practical picture I paint. Right?) That might be the key to whether a reader loves or hates the book — whether they, themselves, see things in black-and-white, all-or-nothing, or if they are comfortable with shades-of-grey and better-than-before.
Thank you for your thoughtful comment. I can’t imagine, since you posted anonymously (with clues to your identity), that you would mind if I shared this with my colleagues in another forum. But if you would like credit, let me know! Keep in mind that my issue all along has been with the media more so than with MK (i.e. picking her more benign tips to use in their articles while ignoring her controversial ones; making common concepts sound like she invented them; attributing methods to her that are not in the book). I suppose she sparked joy in them too! I think there are branding lessons here to be learned by all of us.
Thank you Not an organizer. 🙂 for your most thoughtful reply!!! And thank you Hazel, for pointing it out to us!
As someone who wanted to understand the whole phenomenon a bit better, this really helps me. Everything you said makes total sense, and I really appreciate your taking the time to articulate it so well.
I am a Professional Organizer and the best part of this piece and the comments are that I was annoyed/confused by all the book’s hype, but I thought I was alone!
Now I am wondering if the success of MK’s book says something about today’s readers of DIY organizing books. Hers was pretty short and easy to read. Do you think that the short length of Kondo’s book contributed to its success?
I absolutely do think that the size of the book — little and cute, like MK herself — is a factor. And I have no problem with DIY…..I’ve had a whole DIY section on my website for a few years now, in fact. But meanwhile, you are not alone! And, apparently, I’m not either! 🙂
Hazel, I just have to add a “me, too!” to all the commenters who have praised your post. What a wonderful analysis of the Marie Kondo phenomenon!
I picked up her book when it came out, got so turned off by the hype in the opening chapters (100% of my clients have 100% success? Puh-leez.) that I set it aside. But I teach a course on eliminating excess and felt duty-bound to digest the book, so I went back to it after a few months, skipped past the self-congratulating yuck in the first part, and was able to approach it with fresh eyes. I am now a fan with a few reservations.
I appreciate that she has helped people in another culture and another generation to hear what we professional organizers have been working to perfect for decades ourselves.
And while my shampoo will continue to live in the shower, I do believe that many modern Americans would do well to try an experiment: imagine that in order to make time for drying off the shampoo and putting it under the sink every day, we were to take our kids out of one activity, or take one fewer recreational shopping trips, or watch fewer TV shows. Once we get over the powerful fear of missing out (so prevalent in our time that it goes by its acronym, FOMO) I predict that many of us will feel more calm, less frenzied, and happier, not because shampoo under the sink is the key to happiness, but because when we trade busy-ness for mindful activity, we get more done, like it more, and experience more freedom.
Thanks for sparking this conversation, Hazel! I’ve enjoyed ALL the comments, too.
In addition to your brilliant insights, Margaret, and my gratitude for your stopping by to leave a comment……imagine, too, that you forgot to get the shampoo out from under the sink, and your feet are now wet, and you go to retrieve it and slip and fall. I think some forms of organizing can be considered a safety hazard, don’t you? 😉
Hmmn, there’s a mat between my shower and my sink, so I hadn’t considered the hazards, but you’re right – that’s a bad one! So let’s trade thanking our socks, or whatever, for drying off our shampoo. Different experiment, same predicted outcome 😉
(Not an organizer).
Actually, I will be drying off my shampoo bottles and putting them away under the sink. Not because Marie Kondo says so, but because her saying so first made it cross my mind as an idea, and I’m realizing it works for me.
If you’ve ever lived somewhere where the battle against humidity and the things that grown in it are a major struggle (parts of Japan, parts of the US, many other places), then wiping down the shower and the shampoo bottles can make sense to you. I did it for years, have slacked off during an illness, but will be doing it again.
Many years ago I had to invent for myself ways of doing basic housekeeping with no help, with minimal chemicals of any kind, and without the strength to do ANY scrubbing. That’s a challenge.
Wiping I could do, so wiping wet things after every use was a game-changer. No scrubbing, no chemicals, AMAZING results.
Whatever Kondo says, I will not be putting my hand soap and hand lotion away at any of the sinks — I made sure to put the good hand soap and the good hand lotion at every sink because I want to encourage more handwashing, not less.
As for taking the already-wiped shampoo bottles out of the shower and putting them away, that sounded stark mad to me too at first. But last time I stayed in a Japanese home, the family members did that. Basically it meant nobody else in the family had to wipe off your stuff when drying the shower after they used it for themselves.
But I live alone, so why would I bother? I actually — I can hardly believe I’m saying this — have a reason where I now think that’s a great idea.
I have very dry, sensitive skin, prone to eczema. Dermatologists tell me to wash it twice a day in cool water and cover it with lotion. Yeah, thanks, like that’s easy to do without drying it further with hot water or freezing from the cold water. So I got a bathroom heater that get’s the tiny shower area nice and hot, and I do shower in cold water. It’s great. But the heater also cooks my carefully-chosen conditioner and bodywash. Putting them away after the shower, and only bringing them in to the shower when I go in to the already-heated room to get in the shower myself, will fix that problem.
My impression, though it may not be correct, is that Japanese housecleaning practices commonly use more (and more frequent) elbow grease and less/fewer chemicals than is most common in the USA. Kondo’s advice may sound crazy if you’re used to giving things a good scrub with powerful chemicals every so often, but American cleaning agents may very likely sound crazy-toxic to people used to lots of wiping making harsh chemicals unnecessary.
Hazel, you are brilliant and so is your article. I am asked over and over by clients and friends what I think about MK and her book! You have expressed, so eloquently and precisely, how I feel about it and judging by the comments above, I am happy to see I am not alone. You nailed it! I am going to share this with everyone that asks me about this book. Thank you!
Aw, thanks, Jackie! I was happy to see that I’m not alone either!
Great read Hazel! You always leave the best advice and tips in the NAPO boards (which is how I found this article). You perfectly described my feelings on this new craze. On the one hand I’m glad there is something out there promoting PO other than Hoarders, on the other hand, I feel so bad for all of those people who will fail and get discouraged because they don’t realize that they need a system that’s specially tailored to them. I’ve already shared this on my business facebook! thank you thank you thank you!
Thank you, Kelsey! It’s always the extremes that get the most attention, isn’t it?
My first post was harsh after reading “Not An Organizer’s” post & others. It offered me the opportunity to reflect on the “joy” aspect of our work. As mentioned, asking a client whether they like a possession or that possession brings them joy are quite different. That thought stayed with me since reading her post. I even said it to a number of clients since. Their expression & answers where visibly & audibly different when asked. Hazel, thanks so much for bringing this opportunity for sharing amongst us. These posts have offered introspection & growth like MK’s books has provoked.
Very interesting, Randi. Thanks for sharing your experience and thoughts!
Hazel, thanks so much for taking the time to put your thoughts in print to share with the rest of us who are looking at what’s happened with this book that is now “the current Bible” of clutter clearing and organizing. I too have been puzzled by the the hype and the incredible publicity it has gotten.
I’m half way through the book and have found myself smiling at the impossibility of some of what she presents as dogma and repelled by ideas like putting all items of one category in the middle of a room to then begin clearing. Yikes! That is labor intensive and seems like a setup for leaving the space in a mess when the session is over — because you run out of time to go through the whole pile. I was particularly struck by her desire to “tidy up perfectly.” Tidying up is a process, but she presents it like it’s an event that you can do to a perfect completion point. Not possible! Not realistic, and probably encourages readers to attempt to do the same. I could say more, but you get the idea.
I’m mostly curious about what she did to attract so much media attention. Does she know people in the right places? Did she spend mega bucks on PR and marketing? Or, is the attention generated by including the word Japanese in the title?
I’m not an organizer, and I think I may have read about 1.5 home organization books ~20 years ago.
But based on the Kindle sample, I decided to get the first of Kondo’s books, and based on what I liked there, I just ordered the hardcopy of the second.
I can tell you why fairly easily. First, I could tell she and I were on the same page with respect to some fundamentals — the bit about EVERY item “sparking joy” when you take it in your hand sounded like a lot of things I already do. I drink tea every morning (Japanese fukamushi sencha), and the items on my tea tray and the tea tray as a whole have that effect.
And when I break my cup or my saucer, which happens about once a year, I get a new one (well, usually a new old one from a thrift store). They are beautiful, precisely chosen for exacting properties with respect to green tea, I only ever need one, and when it’s time to let it go, I get a new one.
I keep the sencha in the same exquisite cloisonne jar that I have for years. I only need the one, so I got a really beautiful one that fits my exacting requirements for storing my precious sencha.
And so on, on the theme of having just the items I need to do a certain job, but aiming to have them be beautiful as well as functional. I wanted to spread that to more of my life.
And I wanted to not have things I didn’t need, while keeping what I did. This woman, talking about how you can have what you need for a single woman like myself in a tiny Tokyo apartment, if you prioritize right, made me think that I might not follow everything she says, but I would probably benefit from having my thinking broadened by whatever she might have to say.
I’ve also been having some situational disorganization and some life changes. And Kondo’s first book said that the critical first step was to decide how you want your life, your daily life, and the more detailed you get before you try this massive tidy-up, the better your success, the less backsliding, the greater the sense of freedom, and so on. That was exactly the lesson I needed to hear when I got her first book — my life has changed a bit, so I need a detailed vision of what I want my daily life to be *now*, and then I can achieve that, even if physical limitations will slow me down a bit.
So I bought her books, and I am giving full mental room to her ideas (whether I keep them all long-term is yet to be known), because she had elements of the right lessons for me, at the opportune moment for me to hear them.
Oh, and I was still having a bit of trouble with the “sparking joy” when it came to say, socks, let alone thanking my old socks for their service, until I read a commentary recently that Kondo’s approach ties into the wabi-sabi aesthetic and the concept of the kami of a thing — all of a sudden I got it, and it works for me. One of my yoga teachers told me repeatedly that above all, the practice of yoga is the practice of compassion. Kondo seems to be extending that to compassion for the kami of the things in one’s life, as a way to drive having few things at any one time but cherishing them during the time they are with you.
That works for me enough to give it a serious extended try. Your mileage may vary.
THANK YOU FOR CHIMING IN, Helen! (Non-organizers get ALL CAPS because they are so rare on this comment thread, so I can find them later!) Your observations on having only one of something that you value and use reminds me of an article I read years ago (and wish I could find again…maybe it will sound familiar to my colleagues?) about someone who had ONE nice pen that she used all the time. One of the benefits of only having one was that she always knew where it was. I do notice that sometimes (depends on the persona, of course) the more pairs of, say, reading glasses one has, in multiple locations, the more time is spent looking for them, not less!!! Also, you (and Kondo, and me, and lots of organizers, but certainly not all) are correct (I think) when you say that the critical first step is to decide how you want your life to be, and to be detailed about it. I always ask new clients, “How does this room make you feel?” and, “How would you rather feel in this room?” (In addition to how is it being used today, and how would you like to be using it?) It gives me (and them) something to come back to each time they resist parting with (or finding another home for) something that does not support the desired use and feeling of the space.
Thank you, Hazel! In my previous comment, I was just trying to answer why I personally bought Kondo’s books, though I know I may not have had the most typical response to them.
But the question of why her books are selling so highly when, as you all are discussing, she’s not saying something new from your perspective — well that’s an interesting one. I’m sure I can’t answer it. I’m sure really good marketing and presentation are a piece of it.
I can tell you why I bought her books, as opposed to other books on organizing I have looked at over the years and not bough,t or why some other article or book excerpt I saw at some point didn’t lead to me looking for and buying the associated book.
It’s a common enough truism that to truly change your behavior, you have to change your thinking. That’s easy enough to get — the thinking drives the behavior. But I’ve had many, many, MANY aggravating frustrations in my life where someone or other tells me I need to change my thinking/feelings/”how you are on the inside” in order to successfully do something-or-other, but they would not or could not tell me HOW.
All too often the advice boils down to some variation on, “you just have to” or “you should just know how”, or at least that’s how it seems to the frustrated recipient of such advice.
Or they pretty much tell you constantly to remind yourself that you’ll like the outcome. All that gets you in most things is decision-fatigue, because basically the prescribed change in thinking is to continually re-make the decision to do whatever it is. That gets overwhelming and impractical fast, as endless recent research on decision-fatigue shows.
So with learning yoga, I had this teacher who kept buzzing in my ear, not just saying that I needed to change my thinking, but to what specifically, in real time, in the middle of a yoga session. I mostly wanted to punch him, but it sank in, it worked, and I am forever grateful.
It’s worth noting that he never, ever told me to focus on a result.
Too many people had been telling me variations on “Don’t think about your injury as X or in Y way”, which is not a lot of help, because the question is, WELL WHAT THEN??? That teacher was at least giving me something to change TO.
That’s my basic reaction to Kondo — I’ve heard/read I don’t know how much buzz over many a long year about just choosing to be the kind of person who is happy with less, yada, yada, yada, without a lot of explaining how you get there. How do you change your thinking, your inner dialog, so profoundly that when you grew up in the hoarder-producing American culture, raised by people with some serious hoarder tendencies, you become a person who feels like they have abundance with little?
It’s a fine goal, to be sure, but how?
Kondo is at least suggesting how. I have no idea if it will work, but at least she’s giving me something to work with. An inner dialog that extends the insights of compassion as I learned it in yoga to cover the things in my environment. An explanation of an inner dialog that allows BOTH cherishing every possession AND letting them go without hesitation, and sees no conflict there.
I figure it’s worth a shot. At least she’s giving me something I can try.
Thank you for letting me spiel on your blog. 🙂
I thoroughly enjoy your writings! I do believe you talk for many of us. I am just starting out in this business, yet I get that one size does not fit all. At first I based my operations manual on the konmari method, yet I soon found that that was not the way to go with realistic help for clients. I do draw so much from your posts and it does not ever feel like information overload, yet encouragement while reading.
Once again, thanks Hazel and keep posting these wonderful articles!
Thanks, Rosemary, and welcome to organizing!