Don’t get me wrong, Marie Kondo is adorable and trendy. Her popularity helped a lot of people get organized, which is wonderful. Simplifying life is always recommended! A friend of mine swears by the way she folds clothes in a dresser drawer, and I like it too. She reminds me of a bonsai plant – an example of highly controlled and regulated perfection. And, if that appeals to you, that’s great. This article is for those of us who can’t really make life happen that way…
In my experience, there are lots of folks who may desire the results, but don’t resonate with her approach. And still those who tried to follow her techniques on their own but failed to get to the end result.
If you’re one of those people, it doesn’t mean you can’t get organized!
While there are a lot of helpful ideas in Marie Kondo’s book and tv show, I know from experience that organization isn’t a single formula that works for everyone. Here are five clear reasons why Marie Kondo may not be the solution to your organizational challenges, and how to find an approach that can work for you.
1. Your Spatial And Organizational Style
At Sane Spaces, we approach getting organized differently with each client depending on how they arrange space, tolerate disorder, and assign value to physical items.
We require our clients to take the Time and Space Style Inventory, which identifies their preferences around six different spatial styles.
Marie Kondo is just one of many organizational experts you can learn from. The TSSI is a great first step in identifying an approach and an organizational mentor who will work in a way that lines up with your natural style.
That’s important, because otherwise the process will feel forced and difficult, and the results will be unsustainable.
Some of the style preferences identified in the TSSI line up well with Marie Kondo’s methods, including “minimalists” and “nothing outs.” However, those people who gravitate toward one of the other four styles will likely struggle, especially if you are trying to be self-directed.
2. You Are Expanding
There are times in your life when you are acquiring stuff – having a baby, moving from college to employment, buying a bigger house.
These transitions require important organizational decisions that are different from the ones needed during down-sizing.
Marie Kondo is great if you need to shrink or if you have too much stuff. Her process with clothes, for example, has you dump everything in one place and then make decisions about what to keep. This is helpful, but it’s not the whole story. What if you need to expand your wardrobe for your career? What if you’re buying clothes for growing children and a growing family?
You have to have permission to expand and contract, both of which are normal at different times in our lives. Make sure your organizational approach allows for both expansion and contraction.
3. There’s Emotional Attachment
I really like that Marie Kondo approaches organization as a sacred process because it helps people connect to their stuff in an emotional way. She asks people to base decisions on whether items “spark joy” for them.
It’s completely true that there is an energy associated with anything you bring into your space. However, not everyone resonates with feeling “joy” from their clothes or their household items.
In fact, physical objects can trigger many emotions. And when those emotional reactions aren’t positive, the solution isn’t always as simple as just getting rid of the items. If someone considers an item an extension of themselves, which is quite common but rarely acknowledged, the purging process has a different level of psychological complexity. If it isn’t addressed, it’s likely that someone will just replace the connection to one item with another. Or worse, repress the emotion altogether.
Sometimes people are attached to their stuff because it represents “success.” Acquiring things is a sign of achievement. In this case, trying to take on a “minimalist” approach isn’t going to work.
Marie Kondo and I agree that energy is an important element in the process of organizing space. Your stuff carries an energy that can support you or it can be overwhelming and toxic. If you have an emotional connection to your stuff that you haven’t dealt with, a self-directed approach isn’t recommended. It’s best to work with someone one-on-one.
4. You Prefer To Organize By Function Over Form
When it comes to organization and interior design, it’s important to look at both form and function. It’s a balance, but everyone has a tendency for leaning toward one or the other.
Many of Marie Kondo’s techniques are more focused on form.
She believes that when things are neat and tidy, that means they function better. If that makes sense to you, great!
But many people find, to their dismay, that neat may not mean findable! In fact, if your goal is neatness, you may stash things away and skip organizing altogether. And although you may look organized and “neatly appointed,” you may not be able to find what you need.
As a result, if you don’t put things away consistently, your neat and ‘Marie Kondo-ized” systems will eventually break down because they don’t really fit your natural style preferences.
If your priority is functionality, then there are solutions that are different from what Marie Kondo offers that may be more effective for you.
5. Your Wiring is… Complicated
The link between mental health and organization is strong. Many of my clients are ADHD and require some very specific things to support them in creating and sustaining organized systems in their life and in their environment.
Other brain-based conditions from anxiety and stress to hoarding disorder, also complicate the process of organizing. You may literally have complicated neural connections that make it difficult to walk through a process of purging and organizing, particularly on your own.
Organizing for life is a multi-phased journey and is best considered such. So, instead of organizing as a goal (or destination), shift your mindset. So many things impact your ability to get and stay organized. Your behaviors, history, family, lifestyle choices, vocation and personality can all impact you along the way. For instance, if you struggle with a scarcity mindset, trying to follow Marie Kondo’s formula will cause problems. When you confront a scarcity mindset, you feel everything has value. And when you struggle to determine the value between items, it may be nearly impossible to let things go. So, if you have not done the essential mindset work to shift to abundant thinking, the Marie Kondo method will likely fail for you.
In all of these cases, you won’t pass the initial culling process, and you may feel that you “failed.”
This brings me back to the Time and Space Style Inventory. Before you judge your own efforts before you dump all your clothes onto your bed before you throw out your grandmother’s china because it doesn’t spark joy… know yourself! Take the inventory and identify your personal tendencies around organizing your space.