5 Organizing Mistakes to Avoid With the KonMari Method

Light and bright living room with lofted ceiling and white furniture
Lumina / Stocksy United

If you're familiar with Marie Kondo’s book "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: the Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing," you might be tempted to apply her KonMari Method of tidying to your own living space. But before you begin this popular way of sorting and organizing, take a minute to consider these five mistakes people make when “​Kondo-ing” their home.​​​​

Don't Rely Too Much on 'Joy'

The breakout idea from Kondo's book is the notion of an object “sparking joy.” Kondo tells clients to hold every item they own in their hands, and physically sense whether or not it sparks joy. If yes, the item stays. If not, out it goes.

For some, this idea resonates immediately. But for others, it’s less useful. Some find it difficult to associate the feeling of joy with any material thing—especially one that is necessary but boring, like a toilet brush. Conversely, some people delight in nearly everything they own, regardless of whether or not it’s helpful to them in their current life. Think of a beautiful skirt you bought 10 years ago and have never worn, but keep in the back of your closet because you just love it. It might spark joy, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be given to someone who would actually use it.

If “sparking joy” doesn’t help you, think of a different question, such as “Is this item truly beautiful or useful?” or “If I saw this at a store today, would I rush to buy it?”

Don't Start Decluttering Without a Plan

Kondo’s book inspired readers to begin discarding things immediately. It’s tempting to simply start decluttering. But the “life-changing” tidying Kondo promotes is not effortless. It takes a good deal of time, and, if you follow her method exactly, mental, emotional, and even physical energy.

If you haven’t done a major purge in a long time, make sure you have at least several days to devote to this project and that you’re rested and free of distractions. (If you have kids or meddlesome roommates, you might want to wait until they’re out of the house). Think of it as preparing for a move; it’s easier when you’re not rushing or multitasking.

Adapt the Method to Your Needs

Kondo is adamant that her instructions must be followed to the letter, but some of them assume particular types of living space, storage capability, and beliefs. If in reading the book all its specifics speak to you, then it’s unlikely you will make this mistake. But if your individual needs or lifestyle makes it impossible to take Kondo literally, you can still declutter and organize your home.

Think of tidying tips like workout, finance, or relationship advice. Take what works for you, but don’t try to squeeze yourself into a mold intended for someone else. Your environment, culture, or living arrangements might make some of Kondo’s steps unnecessary or not applicable, even if the general process inspires you.

Maintain Your New Clutter-Free Space

On maintenance, the book is a bit contradictory. Kondo claims you won’t have to tidy ever again once you’ve done so correctly, yet she also makes a distinction between “special event tidying” (the major purge) and “daily tidying.” It is true that when you get accustomed to living with less, it can become second nature to live clutter-free. But “daily tidying”—such as not letting mail pile up and putting everything back in its proper place—is the real backbone of living a tidy life.

The KonMari method can encourage people to part with unnecessary old items, but don’t assume you won’t have to adjust your behavior long-term to keep it up.

Finish What You Start

With any home project, it’s easy to be excited initially then lose steam partway through. If this happens to you with KonMari, it doesn’t mean you’re incapable of decluttering. Perhaps you aren’t yet ready to change your lifestyle, or you prefer to transform your habits more gradually.

There are many ways to declutter, and if Kondo’s is not as life-changing as you’d hoped, there’s another method out there for you.