“To put your things in order means to put your past in order, too. It’s like resetting your life and settling your accounts so that you can take the next step forward.”
So writes Marie Kondo in her book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: the Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing,” published in English translation in 2014 to massive acclaim and success. Now featured in a wildly popular reality series on Netflix, Kondo’s KonMari Method of sorting and discarding belongings to optimize joy has found an even bigger audience of devotees – and skeptics.
Among them are many of our own readers. In a way, we at CNN Opinion are also doing a bit of KonMari here. We’re taking a next step forward by featuring the voices of our readers on topics that hit close to home – in this case, literally. Stay tuned for the next few weeks as we continue to ask you to raise your voice on issues and questions that matter.
On Monday CNN Opinion published an op-ed by Jennifer Le Zotte, a material culture historian, on the Marie Kondo phenomenon and its place in the history of Americans’ relationship to their stuff. In it, we included a call-out to readers to share their own views, feelings and experiences with the KonMari Method, either through Kondo’s book or her show.
We asked you, CNN’s audience, to write in about the Marie Kondo phenomenon, and you responded with stories that ranged from blended-family bonding to dealing with OCD to recovery from Hurricane Harvey.
Thank you to all the readers who weighed in. Here is a sampling of your responses. Some have been lightly edited for clarity and flow and the views belong to the authors.
I don’t need 25 coffee mugs
I think she is very wise! She just really helps me get motivated. I lost almost everything I own in Hurricane Harvey. I learned the hard way on what is important and what is not. I went through PTSD for months. Every day I thought of something else I lost in the flood. I had to basically start all over with just basic stuff. I learned very quick on just how much stuff was important. Pretty much everything is replaceable. I was forced to get rid of things especially when it was covered in slime and mold. I saved a few things that could be saved. I realized that I don’t need 25 coffee mugs. I didn’t go by what sparked joy. I went by what do I really need. That helped me get through it. Harvey helped us decide what to keep or get rid of real quick.
Elaine Maxwell, Dickinson, TX
It helped me change childhood habits
While I have not seen the Netflix show, I have read “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” and I love Marie Kondo’s ideas. My mother has an unhealthy relationship with belongings and growing up I feel like I adopted those unhealthy habits, keeping things only because they were useful, but never using them because I did not like the items. Marie Kondo has helped me mentally separate my attachment to things. I have started small, although Kondo does not advise this, because I have not yet done the initial overhaul as recommended.
But that aside, any inkling of mental change and releasing of unhealthy habits is ultimately worthwhile. I believe the KonMari method is an important lesson many Americans can learn in the wake of television shows like “Hoarders.” The show seems to be an outlet in which we can compare our own home to that of collectors that have more serious addictions, and normalize our own collection of things, while the KonMari method is such that even if your home is spotless, you still likely need to identify the items that do not spark joy. It is beyond just cleaning or tidying; KonMari encourages self-awareness within your own life.
Patricia R.M., Dallas, TX
Doing KonMari helped my blended family bond
My blended family loves it and we needed it. Our girls needed to clean out and claim their spaces. We shared the process on social media and the girls (12 & 14) did a high-speed video of the process. Eighteen bags later, we are living so much more comfortably.
DeDe Alexander, Tucson, AZ
An artist defends clutter
I’ve seen several reincarnations of this come through. Whenever I see some type of a guru, trying to show people a better way, I think everyone should have their own lifestyle. She’s telling you to get rid of stuff, and to get her stuff – she’s selling boxes. I’ve seen it all before, it’s just another go at someone’s wallet. The latest in a long string gimmicky trends. There’s nothing wrong with having a lived-in house that doesn’t look like a dental office. Some of the greatest minds in history lived in clutter filled homes. As an artist…I love clutter filled homes. My house is like a museum, practically…I don’t think it distracts from your life. There’s the idea that clutter creates clutter in the mind. I think that’s bulls—. It’s better than having a home like a waiting room in a dentist office. Sterile and cold.
Rick R. Vagnini, Paso Robles, CA
I love the lighter and freer feeling in my space
I have always been a fairly minimalist adult having grown up in a household where my mother and father hoarded everything, even pencil stubs. That said, my husband and I are recent empty nesters and just completed an all-house top to bottom clean out following the KonMari method. I am known as a very neat person among my friends and even I was surprised that our ‘Spark Joy” recent clean out resulted in 5+ car loads taken to the dump or our church rummage sale! This was an easy process for my personality and I love the “lighter and freer” feeling in my space and my life but many of my friends struggle with where to begin and they have said that they would actually pay me to come to their house to help them with the process. I think it is a very interesting struggle for our consumer-driven society. I think I am rare in my ability to let go of things and to organize my space.
Valerie Gates, Wellesley, MA
Watching Marie Kondo helps me take it one thing at a time
I have OCD. Contrary to what many think of the disease, it isn’t always one where people compulsively clean and/or wash their hands constantly. For some people, the mere thought of doing a task can become so overwhelming…it just never gets done.
That’s how cleaning has been in my house. I have lived a cluttered life for years because I get so overwhelmed by the mere idea of getting things in order that I simply can’t go forward and quit.
However, after watching “Tidying Up,” I finally was able to start paring down, get rid of things, and start actually de-cluttering my house and organizing in a way that doesn’t send me into a blind panic. Why? Because Kondo requests that a person focus on one item at a time, focus on it alone, make a decision and then move on. While it seems simple, I don’t think it every occurred to me before then–it allows me to deal with things on a small scale instead of on the aggregate. Additionally, her kindness and lack of judgement has made me feel better–and helped me learn to let go peacefully.
Lindsey Cepak, San Diego, CA
Kondo’s book headed for the $2.99 bin?
I don’t get Netflix and I have never seen the show, but my friend’s son and his partner were featured in one of the episodes. I think she is a fad. We have had many people come before her and will come after her with their tips for tidying up, paring down, and just simplifying your life. Want to see where she is at the end of 2019 and if her book will be in the $2.99 bin at Half-Price Books. To me, she’s appealing to a very small audience compared to someone like Martha Stewart.
Joanne Barto, suburb of Pittsburgh, PA
A psychologist cautions to take it slow
As a psychologist, I assist people with “tidying” their relationships, careers, and emotions, among other things. While having an orderly environment is important, having realistic expectations is as, if not more, important. While KonMari is a successful method for maintaining an orderly environment for some, for others this method may cause increased stress, rather than inner peace. For the average family, making sure laundry is done is challenging enough. Ensuring that the laundry is folded in the precise KonMari method maybe a bit overwhelming.
When we commit to making sweeping life changes, it is with the best intentions. However, there is a reason that these changes rarely stick. The reason being, change is hard. Setting unrealistic goals can leave us feeling like a failure, our self-esteem bruised and our motivation at an all-time low.
There is no one size fits all when making life changes. As a mental health professional, I suggest that potential converts to the KonMari method choose to follow the tips that fit their lifestyle and don’t feel guilty if they are unable to live up to the KonMari ideal. We also need to look at the reason – why is our house a mess? If it’s because of depression or a shopping addiction, or some other kind of unhealthy relationship with things, reading a book or watching a show about tidying up will not help.
Shelley Visconte, Shreveport, LA
Americans will still fill space with meaningless junk
My wife and I both did the KonMari method. I hoped the trend would get us to take a long hard look at ourselves and see how silly we have all been by thinking that “things” can bring us happiness. Sadly, this article has reinforced my fears that most people will just rush out to fill their space with more cheap, meaningless junk because they haven’t truly understood the hold our advertising-driven society has on us.
Ferris Kawar, Santa Monica, CA
The book really changed me
I have never been a super acquirer of stuff compared to many. I got the first Kondo book out of my library as I read all those types of books! I never expected to have it make any change in my lifestyle as none had ever really done that. Well it did. Once I really thought about what she was intending to say, it made the most sense of anything I ever read about your home. The folding alone was life changing in how easy it made dressing, putting away laundry etc, and my husband and son LOVED the new ability to actually see their stuff. It took a while to really get at the joy thing but when it finally smacked me in the face I was able to see the negative emotional baggage attached to a lot of things I supposedly “valued.” And yes, we have lost some weight, approach life with a more forward looking approach and are just happier and less stressed. People say I have changed though they can never quite say how! It is so NOT a book on dumping your stuff but on how you approach your life and care for yourself and how your stuff supports or hurts you. I did not have all that much to pass on compared to most people either so maybe real stuff collectors/shoppers would get even more from the book. It’s been 3+ years. Still organized, still believe in the method and reasoning behind it.
Mer Frazer, Schwenksville, PA
Not sure I have to thank my clothes, but decluttering is a really good thing
I don’t necessarily swear by it, but I do think that decluttering, in general, is a really good thing! I think she’s dead on when she says we all just have way too much stuff in our house… particularly things that hold no value to us. If we’d just take the time to truly go through it, we could assess what holds real value to us and what doesn’t. I’m not 100% sure that I have to thank my clothes for their service, but I can see how it allows for a calmness with the sometimes-difficult process of letting go. I’m keenly sensitive to her process around sentimental items…I still have items of my father’s in my garage and he passed away almost 6 years ago. I haven’t had the emotional fortitude to go through them, but I can see how her process would likely be the right tack to take with them.
And I also LOVE how she greets each home and thanks it for what it provides each family. It made me appreciate my own home when I saw that! I’ve only watched her Netflix program to date but intend to read the book. My mother-in-law has read it and has been working her way through various projects in her home based on the KonMari method. I’d like to get the deeper understanding of the process and think the program only scratches the surface. I’ve given myself the self-imposed deadline of “this year” to make my way through my father’s belongings, and hope the book helps me to better handle it.
Pascale Royal, Weston, FL