Marie Kondo offers what is known as the Konmari method of decluttering your house, which seems to polarize people. She’s a best-selling author—evidence that many, many people love her decluttering methods. Ever since Netflix came out with her television show Tidying Up, though, articles seem to crop up everywhere with complaints about her methods. Her approach doesn’t work for everyone, but that’s okay. There are many different ways of decluttering your home. You don’t have to take her approach.
Understanding the Konmari Method
Personally, I like a lot of what Marie Kondo has to say. (I’m not a fan of the TV show, but I like her books.) I think that even if you don’t appreciate everything about her or want to use her method entirely, there are some great lessons she has to offer. In fact, I think that sometimes when people say they don’t like her method, they actually just haven’t dug into it well enough to understand it.
For example, Project Runway mentor Tim Gunn was recently quoted widely as being anti-Kondo. Marie Kondo is famous for saying that you should only keep objects that “spark joy.” Gunn was cited in numerous articles as saying something akin to, “Roget’s Thesaurus doesn’t spark joy, but I want to keep it.” I think this sweeping statement misses the point. I think at some level, if he’s using that thesaurus and he relates to in terms of how it improves his writing or reading, then it does spark joy.
What I Took Away From Marie Kondo’s Method
In any case, before we dig into alternatives to Marie Kondo, I’d like to say that these are the things I personally find useful in her method:
- She practices gratitude. She appreciates each item, even if she doesn’t want to keep it. I think this is a good practice.
- It’s helpful for me to take all like items out and look at them together. This doesn’t work for everyone. Some people find it overwhelming. However, I like to see exactly what I’m dealing with all in one spot.
- I like the “spark joy” concept. It doesn’t always work for me. My medications don’t spark joy, but they’re a necessity. So I think it’s too simplified. But it’s a helpful method for deciding about things I’m unsure about keeping.
- Some of Marie Kondo’s very specific organizing tips are helpful. She has cute methods for folding and storing clothing that I really like.
4 Other Helpful Approaches to Decluttering
Marie Kondo is the name on everyone’s lips right now. However, there are many different methods of decluttering. Some of them have names. Others are just tried-and-true methods. I think it’s worth it to review many different options to find what works for you. You don’t have to use one method singularly and in its entirety. You can pick and choose what works best for you. Here are four different approaches to consider:
1. Your House is a Container
Dana K. White is the author of the book Decluttering at the Speed of Life: Winning Your Never-Ending Battle with Stuff. My favorite takeaway from this book is the idea that every space in your home is a container. Each container can only hold what it holds. Every similar item should go in one container. You should start filling the container with the things you most want to keep.
For example, your bookcase is a container. It can only hold X amount of books. Every single book in the house should fit in this container. In other words, you shouldn’t have extra books on nightstands, in boxes, etc. Take all of the books out and start placing them in the container. You should put the ones you most want to keep in there first. If the container is full, and you want to add a book, then you need to remove one you like less.
Your container may be bigger or smaller. For example, if you have a whole library in your house, then it may contain multiple bookcases. The library is the container. In contrast, the container might be just one shelf. For example, all children’s books might go on on only that shelf. Each room is a container, each space in the room is a container, and that container might have smaller containers such as shelves or drawers.
2. The ClutterBug Organizing Style
Blogger and author Cassandra Aarssen has identified four different types of “ClutterBugs.” When you know your type, you gain a better understanding of the different things that matter to you in terms of organizing. Organizing and decluttering aren’t quite the same thing, but they go hand in hand. The four types of ClutterBugs, briefly, are:
- Bee: Believes in a perfect organizing system and wants their items in sight.
- Butterfly: Likes simple, quick organizing tools and wants their items in sight.
- Cricket: Loves detailed organizing systems with very little clutter in sight.
- Ladybug: Likes simple, quick organizing tools but wants items out of sight.
So, for example, it’s helpful for me to know that I like really simple organizing systems. If a system requires too much work or effort, I won’t bother. That means I’m either a butterfly or a ladybug. Since I like my items out of sight, I’m a ladybug. Therefore, decluttering is easier for me when I have simple systems for out-of-sight but accessible storage (such as bins inside closets).
3. Love It? Use It? Need It?
I’m not sure if this system has a name or if there’s a person attached to it. It’s something I heard about years and years ago and have always turned to when making decisions. Basically, for each item in the house, you ask yourself if you love, use, or need it? If it’s none of those three, then you get rid of it. It’s similar, in a sense, to Marie Kondo’s concept of “sparking joy,” but it has more leeway for other items. For example, Roget’s Thesaurus might not spark joy for Tim Gunn, but if he uses it, then he can still keep it. Likewise, I need my meds, so I keep them.
I find this helpful when decluttering non-physical items as well. For example, when I’m cleaning up my finances, I can turn to these questions. I need electricity. I use my Hulu account. As for “love,” well, I love certain magazine subscriptions but could get rid of others to save money.
4. Swedish Death Cleaning Method
Like the Marie Kondo method, the Swedish Death Cleaning method has grabbed attention in recent years. There’s a popular book about it by author Margareta Magnusson. The idea is that you approach decluttering with awareness that if you died, someone you love would have to deal with all of this stuff. Ultimately, it’s a minimalistic approach; you keep what is most meaningful and let go of the rest.
Admittedly, I haven’t tried this one, yet. However, I think it might work particularly well for my collection of writings and journals. If I die, someone will have to go through this. As a writer, I want more control over what’s kept, where it goes, etc. Therefore, I should start uncluttering that stuff now. It’s also a good reminder to properly store passwords, important financial information, etc.
Why Declutter At All?
I happen to love decluttering. When my space is cluttered, my mind feels cluttered. (Conversely, when I’m mentally cluttered, my space gets that way as well.) I find that my health is better when I declutter. However, not everyone feels that way. Some people love having a lot more stuff than I prefer. That’s okay. Find what works for you. With that in mind, though, there are some good reasons to declutter. It’s worth considering them and seeing if they hold true for you. For example:
- If your home is so cluttered that you can’t find things, then you might spend money on duplicate items.
- When clutter starts to make you feel smothered, it’s time to find a different way of doing things.
- Physical clutter often shows up as disorganization in other areas of life, including finances and mental health.
- You might have an urge to declutter but ignore it because it’s overwhelming.