My Two Cents on the Konmari Method

I’m not one to follow trends, so although I had heard people raving about the Konmari Method, I was never really intrigued, until I found an audible version of the book, which I could listen to on my way to and from work, meaning it wouldn’t take away from any other reading that I felt was actually important to me. So I listened, and I took mental notes. I honestly scoffed at a lot of the author’s statements, as she is unequivocally categorical about quite a few things that would normally seem to be of no great consequence at all. Her unflinching conviction on such seemingly trivial matters carved an even deeper rift between us than had I originally expected solely based on its premise. Being an avid organizer and constant striver for minimalism, I took most of what she claims already for granted, and found very little use for most of her advice. But I do have two big pros, as well as two baffling cons, if you’re interested.

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Two of her strongly held and often repeated beliefs are that you should only keep what gives you joy, and that objects have “feelings.” As far as the first idea goes, it just has so many echoes of consumerism that I shudder each time I hear it. I love clothes, I like my objects, but they don’t give me joy: people give me joy, ideas give me joy, feelings foster joy, … objects?… Not so much. I also own quite a few things that make me cringe, but I cannot throw away, because, frankly, I need them. I know, I know, she also says that if you have to keep something by law, then of course, you should (such as tax returns, insurance policies, etc.), but I’m talking about other things, like the rug at my front entrance (which I detest, but I won’t toss, because it serves the very utilitarian function of holding most of the dirt that we drag in with our shoes before taking them off). Would I buy a more beautiful rug to place in the front entrance? No, this rug is perfect for the job, it’s the right size, the right color, and I detest it enough not to want to put it to any other use. So will I get rid of it because if gives me no joy? Nope.

I read a review of the book, after writing my own review on Goodreads, where someone protested that she anxiously awaited for the author to address the deeper angst of what to do with more serious matters, such as her chemo medication, which, of course, the Konmari method doesn’t even remotely address. You’d think that in order to claim to have had 100% success and brought pure joy to all the people who “put their lives in order,” she might have come across something as life-altering as terminal illness. But then again, it is only a book about organizing your home. So let’s keep things in perspective. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge… Take it all with a grain of salt… or two!

The second aspect that left me confuzzled was her insistence on this idea that objects have being, a soul, an aura, if you will, and they release a positive or negative energy depending on how you treat them. I get that objects that aren’t used gather dust, get rusty, look drab, and can otherwise deteriorate if you don’t store them properly, but from there to saying that socks are in distress when rolled into a ball… that’s a bit too much for even my own esoteric mind to grasp. Granted, socks in a tight ball will stretch out and become virtually useless in no time, but her method of rolling them parallel from the tip first is nerve-wracking, especially since the primary reason for rolling them into a ball, or tying them into knots is to prevent them from getting proverbially lost. Rolling them parallel does absolutely nothing to solve this very existential sock problem! I could go on, but I’d be spoiling the read for you. I suggest you keep reading to find out what I actually liked, and then decide if you’ll give it a chance as well.

So here you have it, my two worst pet peeves about the book. Now to the positives.

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Two aspects that I had earnestly never even considered before, I’ve actually adopted since finishing the book, with remarkable success. I must preface this with a disclaimer, that I did work in fashion retail for a couple of years in my youth, and was raised by an extraordinarily organized set of parents, who managed to fit everything our family of five owned into a small three bedroom apartment, everything we ate in a tiny 1 m by 70 cm fridge (which included an even tinier freezer compartment), and always knew where everything was. So I came into it thinking I knew what I was doing when it comes to folding things and using space efficiently. Having said this, I did try to keep an open mind, and thought I’d giver her a chance.

The two aspects that I adopted with surprisingly great success are:

1) keep all your clothes out (don’t store winter clothes during summer, or vice versa) so you can get more use out of most of your wardrobe (as many clothes overlap seasons and can be layered) and you always know what you own; and

2) fold the clothes that you put in your drawers vertically, so whenever you open your drawer you see everything you have at a single glimpse, AND you use up all empty air space.

I often rotate my clothes at least once per season (sometimes more depending on the weather), but I inevitably run into the dilemma of the transitional clothing, which is really there to cover the in-between, just in case, and the “for lack of a better choice” times, which overlap 2-4 seasons, and are actually quite versatile most of the time. These pieces of clothing never get nearly as much use as they could, simply because I sometimes decide to store them with winter, sometimes with summer, depending on whether the weather is changing quickly or not. Also, rotating means that about half of my wardrobe is out of sight and therefore out of mind, for almost half the year, which in turn means that I don’t actually appreciate how many pieces of clothing I own at any one time. When this happens, I might be tempted to go out and buy things that I forgot I already have, and end up with useless duplicates, wasting time, money, and space. It doesn’t take a genius, then, to figure out the benefits of using the year-round system. Having everything in front of you makes you fully aware of your possibilities, and prevents you from making unnecessary purchases.

Folding clothes vertically can be tricky if you don’t have enough to fill your drawers and keep them upright and tidy, but that’s where shoe boxes can come in handy, as the author aptly explains, so you don’t have to deal with sagging clothes, and your drawers stay nice and neat, displaying everything you need to see at any given moment. By doing this I actually saved 30% of my space, which then meant I could move my winter clothes into my existing wardrobe and dresser, without having to expand the storage units to fit the entire year’s worth of clothes that I own. The only clothes I store now are special event clothes, but I have a feeling that I’ll be transferring those to better use soon, either by giving them away, or lending them to friends.

I have downsized as much as I possibly can, but then again, I thought I had already done so a year ago… and here I am downsizing even more! It’s amazing how much we think we need, and actually don’t. But then again, we do keep evolving, our lives change, our needs, circumstances change, and to some extent our priorities might get a bit of a tweak once in a while as well. So what I might have thought useful a year ago, might no longer be now, and I guess part of the joy that comes from this realization, stems from the recognition that we are moving forward, and that we are still learning and growing.

Appreciating our place in the world, and constantly attempting to make it a better one for ourselves, and those around us certainly is a joy in and of itself. If this is what the Konmari method was meant to teach me, then thank you, it is a valuable lesson, and I’m glad I gave the book a chance!

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