If you’ve never heard of the KonMari Method, it’s probably because you recognize this popular Japanese style of tidying by a different name. Ever heard of Marie Kondo? That’s what I thought. Thanks to our good friends over at Netflix, the whole world (okay, that’s probably an exaggeration) knows about this method of cleaning that requires you to “find joy” in your belongings. Contrary to popular belief, Marie Kondo isn’t the first person to promote this style of cleaning. It’s actually called the KonMari Method, and it’s been around for a lot longer than the Marie Kondo Netflix original. But when it comes to cleaning your house, you don’t really care who thought of it. All you care about is if it works.
Marie claims that having a tidy, organized home is the key to everything from your overall happiness to how good your sex life is. The theory is that when your house is in order, so is the rest of your life. Like countless other Netflix subscribers, I was ready to try out the KonMari Method after watching the first episode of Marie Kondo’s new show. My family is military, and it just so happened that I got bored enough to watch this show right when we were getting ready to move across the world (literally). I like to think my husband and I are generally clean and organized people, but there’s no denying my inner pack rat. I took on the KonMari Method of cleaning to purge our house before our move, and I learned a thing or two that could help you take on the challenge too.
Here are a few lessons I learned when I attempted to “spark joy” with the KonMari Method of cleaning and organizing.
It’s Going to Take Longer Thank You Think
When I decide I want to do something, I need to do it as soon as possible. I have zero chill, and I think delayed gratification is a made-up concept. So even before I finished the first episode of the Marie Kondo Netflix series, I was already planning how I was going to attack my own house. It didn’t matter that it was a random Tuesday night and I didn’t have time to take on a major project. I jumped in like it wouldn’t take any longer than those 45-minute Netflix episodes. That was my first mistake.
I started with clothes, and that alone took all night. And even when I was done deciding if my old t-shirts brought me joy, I still had piles of joyless clothing to deal with. My closet was technically cleaner, but that was only because all my stuff was now laying in heaps on the floor. It was another couple days before I had the time and energy to clean up the mess I made from cleaning up my closet.
And that was only the beginning. It took me about two weeks to apply the KonMari Method to my entire house. And let me tell you, by day three I was already losing my enthusiasm for the project. Don’t get me wrong, I liked it because I could already see a big difference, but it took forever. I have a life, and dedicating all my free time to asking myself if I find joy in a particular object got old. My advice is to only start the KonMari Method when you have time to sit and focus on it. And be prepared for it to take several weeks to do it right.
Don’t Skip the “Thankful” Step
There are a lot of little rules to the KonMari Method, and some of them I found it was okay to skip for the sake of time and my sanity. But there was one rule that I encourage everyone to follow. Marie Kondo explains in her show that once you decide an item no longer “sparks joy,” you must thank it for its service before putting it in your junk pile. Of course, thanking an old pair of socks sounds ridiculous. They’re socks! They can’t hear you. But I argue this step of the process is for your benefit, not the socks’.
I’m what I like to call a sentimental pack rat. I can be ruthless about some things, but I have a habit of holding on to things that I assign some kind of arbitrary sentimental value. I’m not talking about my Grandma’s pearl necklace–that has legitimate sentimental value. I’m talking about the random t-shirt I used to wear on a weekly basis in high school. And the puzzle I remember putting together on a particularly fun snow day. I loved that t-shirt, but I don’t even remember where I got it, and it’s now marked by mysterious stains–I’ll never wear it again. And that puzzle is missing more than one piece, and does anyone really do puzzles more than once?
All of these things were taking up space in my home because I felt some kind of strange guilt or loss at the thought of throwing them away. Maybe you can relate to this or maybe you can’t, but thanking those oddly sentimental items was exactly what I needed to be able to let them go. It was freeing to thank my first pair of Converse sneakers and then send them on to the next part of their journey. At first I was thanking my unwanted belongings just to be ironic, but it was genuinely useful when it came down to it.
Don’t Let ‘Sort by Category, Not Location’ Stress You Out
Besides asking yourself if something “sparks joy,” this category rule is probably the biggest part of the KonMari Method. That’s because almost no one cleans like this. Think about it, when you set out to clean your house, you probably start in the living room, move on to the kitchen, and then make your way to the bedrooms or bathrooms. According to Marie Kondo, this method is wrong. The KonMari Method is all about cleaning, organizing, and purging your house one category at a time.
I’m not going to lie, I cheated a little bit here. I mostly did it because the idea of doing things by category instead of by room seriously stressed me out. What if I forgot about the pile of books in our guest bedroom and messed up my whole flow? And did I really need to walk up and down the stairs multiple times to do things in the right order?
The answer to both of the questions is “yes,” but cleaning by category wasn’t as stressful as I thought it would be. It was actually beneficial, because by doing an entire category at once, I learned exactly what I own and where it is. It helped me make a great mental inventory of everything in my house. If you have to skip around more than what Marie Kondo would advise, don’t sweat it. Try your best to stick to a category (it will honestly help you), but if you need to bend the rule a little, it’s okay. I won’t tell Marie if you don’t.
I’m now one month post my major house cleaning and about two weeks away from our big move. The past month of living in a less cluttered house has been wonderful. I’ve been stressing out about the logistics of moving across the world and wanting to enjoy the last days in our current home, and having a clean, organized home makes me feel like I actually have my life together. The KonMari Method might not work for everyone, but I say if you’re overwhelmed by a messy house, this cleaning strategy could genuinely change your life. You’ll need to put in a good amount of work, but with Marie Kondo as your guide, you’ll see real results.