Thursday, July 30, 2020

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up – Discussion

In this article, I will discuss some ideas related to the KonMari method and I will give an overall evaluation of the book. Then, I will clarify first the difference between KonMari and the Minimalism and second the difference between tidying and cleaning.


1. Tidying is a one shot process

It is very hard to tackle the tidying process in one shot, especially if you have children, a job or studies. I think we can focus on one category or sub-category at a time, set small objectives and try to make progress slowly. Finally, what matters is the result, not the time spent on the process.

2. Don't involve your family

I agree with the author that family can discourage you both in the discarding and the storing processes, but sometimes you have no choice, because either you need their permission to discard or organize their stuff, or you need their help. In my opinion, if you have to involve them, just live with it and try to focus on your objective.

3. Process Order

Marie Kondo insists on starting with discarding then storing. I agree with this but in an iterative manner. As a software engineer, I don't like the waterfall method in anything. It is very consuming and discouraging. I believe we can do the tidying (discarding then storing) even not that perfectly, then refine our work continuously until we feel completely satisfied.

4. Talking to Objects

As she explained in her book, Kondo's need to talk to objects and to greet them came from the fact that she is intermediate child and she didn’t receive enough interest from her family. The solution she found maybe worked well for her, but we can't consider it as a sure solution for everyone. Kondo is not a psychologist to know what's good to do for people who feel marginalized and lonely, and honestly, I don't think that talking to objects is the right thing to do here. In addition, as a pragmatic person, thanking my stuff and telling them goodbye is not what I need to be able to discard them, I need something more convincing and more rational. But I don't say this method is completely inefficient, maybe it could work for emotional people.

5. The "KonMari" Impact

In the book, Kondo presents some positive impacts of her tidying method such as losing weight, good fortune, changing career. These impacts could be indirect consequences of tidying, but they are not consequences of the method itself. I found this part very exaggerated and commercial.


What I liked about the book

1) I liked Kondo's courage to share her simple tidying method with people. I am sure there are many people in the world who have found their own methods to tidy and organize their houses, but few had the idea of writing a book about it and building a career upon it. I found this very intelligent!

2) The book encourages you to start tidying even if you didn’t have the intention to do that. When you read it, you discover that you are not the only one who has a tidying problem and that it is possible to be tidy, you just have to follow some techniques, which is encouraging.

3) The techniques Kondo proposed (not the whole method), such as folding vertically, storing in boxes, sorting by category, etc. are all efficient. I've already tried them and I can tell you they work well.

What I didn't like about the book

1) The book structure contradicts completely the KonMari spirit. It is weird how a book about tidying is not tidy itself. The book chapters are not well organized, there is no logical order for them. The same ideas are repeated in different places, which makes the reader lost. Kondo keeped talking about a place for each category. She could apply this technique in her book to be more tidy: a place for each idea.

2) The author seems very sure of what she proposes. She said that her method worked for all her clients. I don’t contradict her, but I think we should wait years and come back to see if these clients are still tidy. 

3) Kondo insists on applying her method literally or we will fail. I think a method should be flexible. After all, it is just a method that she adopted based on personal experience. So why not to personlize the method to suit my personality and my needs and to achieve my own objectives?

For all this, I rate the method 4/5 and the book 3/5.

KonMari vs. Minimalism

When I first heard about Marie Kondo, I was told that her method belongs to the minimalist school. However, when I read her book, I noticed that her ideas have nothing to do with minimalism. So I went to her website to look for an answer and fortunately I found what I was looking for. In her article "KonMari Is Not Minimalism"[1], Marie Kondo says:
Many people have equated my tidying method with minimalism, but it’s quite different. Minimalism advocates living with less; the KonMari Method™ encourages living among items you truly cherish.”

In the following table, I will present some differences between the two concepts:

Minimalism is intentionally living with only the things you really need - those items that support your purpose. [2]
KonMari is living surrounded only by the things that spark you joy.
Minimalism is a tool that helps you find real freedom* and focus on your life purposes.

* (Freedom from fear. Freedom from worry. Freedom from overwhelm. Freedom from guilt. Freedom from depression. Freedom from the trappings of the consumer culture)[3]
KonMari helps you find happiness through tidying and organizing. An indirect consequence of this can be to discover your life purposes, but it’s not the main reason for it.
Minimalism is a lifestyle.
KonMari is a tidying method.
Minimalism is applicable to all domains (art, software engineering, architecture, music, science, literature, etc.).
The “Spark Joy” criterion can be generalized to many things, but the whole method is specific to Tidying.
Minimalism encourages people to reduce consumption as much as possible.
KonMari allows you to consume whatever you want since it makes you happy, even if it’s expensive and even if you buy a lot. You can see this clearly if you visit Marie Kondo’s online shop where items are sold with an exaggerated and unjustifiable price.
Minimalism is not only applicable on material possessions, but also on relationships, work, health, food, hobbies, activities, etc. What is important is to discard any unnecessary thing in your life.
KonMari focuses on keeping the material things (clothes, books, papers, miscellany, and mementos) that make you happy.
Minimalism doesn’t give importance to material objects but to higher values.
KonMari cherishes objects and treat them like living beings by greeting them, talking to them, and thanking them.
Minimalism focuses on what you really need and what is really necessary.
KonMari focuses on what you love and sparks you joy.
Minimalism recommends discarding things if you don’t need them.
KonMari recommends keeping things if you love them.
Minimalism is about owning a limited number of things.
KonMari doesn’t find it a problem to own as many things as you want unless you love them and you dedicate a home for them.

Tidying vs. Cleaning 

People sometimes confuse tidying with cleaning. They are completely different. Tidying is about organization, it is having everything in its natural place. Cleaning is the action of making something clean. So a house can be clean but not tidy. It could also be tidy but not clean.

Marie Kondo’s book is about tidying. It proposes a method with useful techniques to make your house organized, but it does not give solutions for making your house clean. Furthermore, tidying according to KonMari is a one-shot process, but cleaning is a daily activity that you should necessarily undertake, otherwise, your house will be an unhealthy place.

For me, tidying is fun. I used to do it since I was a child and I like doing it. It’s art somehow, because you make the conception of how a place must look like and you organize this place in an artistic manner to have a beautiful look. However, I find cleaning a boring and a tiring task. It is something that doesn’t spark me joy and that I would always be happy to delegate.




[1] M. Kondo, “KonMari is not Minimalism”, [retrieved: July 2020]
[2] J. Becker, “What Is Minimalism?”, [retrieved: July 2020]
[3] J. F. Millburn and R. Nicodemus, “What Is Minimalism?”, [retrieved: July 2020]