I love how Marie Kondo’s books and Netflix show have brought decluttering into the American zeitgeist. It is clear that her philosophies have encouraged Americans to reconsider the contents of our closets and drawers. I would not go as far as to say that the introduction of Kondo-ing to our cultural consciousness has necessarily made us rethink our consumption habits, but it is still progress towards living more intentionally.
Decluttering is personal and the method you choose to use has to make sense to the individual. People who live in cities have different needs than those who tend to have more space in rural or suburban areas. The stage of life you are in can have an impact on how you relate to material objects. I think that differences in Japanese and American societies along with environmental concerns call for some alterations to the Kondo method. Below are six ways that the Home Decluttered method differs.
Sustainability: While watching the show “Tidying Up,” I would cringe every time the camera panned to the mounds of plastic bags full of items to be discarded. The disposal of the unwanted items was never explicitly discussed on the show, but the assumption was that they were headed for the landfill, single-use plastic bags and all. Decluttering is a good first step, but we also need to take responsibility for what comes after we decide not to keep something. At Home Decluttered, I donate, repurpose, resell, and recycle whenever possible. I focus on either repurposing containers for organization (as does Kondo) or on purchasing a few attractive, non-plastic options.
Design: I approach decluttering and organization with an eye towards design and making a space pleasing to the eye. While having less stuff overall is the first step to a more appealing space, I take it a step further. Could we rearrange the furniture in this recently decluttered space to improve the flow? Would repurposing a rug or artwork from another room make this room come alive? My goal is to go beyond simply decluttering and organizing to create a home where clients truly love to spend time and look forward to hosting guests.
Form vs Function: If you know one thing about Marie Kondo, it is probably her iconic concept of sparking joy. Kondo instructs clients to hold each item in their hands and decide whether or not it sparks joy. While I think this method can work well for going through your closet, it becomes less useful for the more function-driven areas of the home like the kitchen and bathroom. My guiding phrase comes by way of William Morris: “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”
The Decision Making Process: On the show, Marie Kondo plays the role of a high-level strategist, but abandons clients for the nitty gritty decision making part of the process. I find that an outsider’s perspective is vital to keep clients on track and offer tips to help make decisions easier. This is why you hired a professional after all. At Home Decluttered, I will be there to hold your hand every step of the way.
Folding: Marie Kondo advises a vertical file system for folding everything from socks to T-shirts. While it does look beautiful, I find the system to be impractical and that it actually promotes filling drawers with too much clothing. A neatly folded stack of jeans is preferable in my mind to a drawer full of painstakingly file folded jeans. Storing items vertically is a great way to maximize space, but often in American homes, the larger issue is that we have too much stuff rather than not enough space to store it in.
It’s Never Done: Marie Kondo encourages the “do it once and never again” method. A deep decluttering of your entire home is definitely the place to start, but the flow of things coming in and out of our lives never stops and thus periodic reevaluations of your stuff and space are vital. Closets need to be weeded out of worn out or ill fitting clothing. Pantries and refrigerators need to be purged of expired or unused food. We replace items resulting in duplicates, receive gifts that we may not love, accidentally accept SWAG, change our lifestyle or tastes, the list goes on and on. Learning to be more conscious consumers and having less stuff in general results in spending less time dealing with your stuff, but occasional check-ins are still important.