Tag Archives: clutter-clearing

7 Reasons I Disagree with Marie Kondo’s “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.”

I love the subject of clearing clutter.

For me — and for most people — outer order contributes to inner calm. I feel this phenomenon in my own life; it exhilarates me in practice and fascinates me in theory.

So I was eager to read Marie Kondo’s blockbuster bestseller, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. And I found it thought-provoking, and I got some great clutter-clearing tips from the “KonMari method.”

I also have some profound disagreements with Marie Kondo.

As I write in The Happiness Project, and Happier at Home, and Better Than Before, I’ve come to believe deeply that we all must find the way to happiness and good habits that’s right for us.

There is no magic, one-size-fits-all solution. Just because something works for you — or Marie Kondo — doesn’t mean that it will work for me. We can all learn from each other, absolutely, but there’s no one way to achieve anything. You indulge in moderation; I abstain. You exercise in the afternoon; I exercise first thing in the morning. You like lots of abundance; I like simplicity. No one’s right, and no one’s wrong. It’s what’s true for the individual. (You can read more about this in Better Than Before, in the chapter about “Distinctions.”)

And Marie Kondo does argue for the one best way. And here’s the thing: you read five pages of this book, and you know that Marie Kondo is an extreme, idiosyncratic personality. Which I love! Which makes the book much more interesting! But what works for Marie Kondo isn’t necessarily a great guide for what works for another person.

From her own description of herself, she makes it clear that she’s a simplicity-lover, who likes to take big steps, who’s a sprinter, and a person who  who doesn’t feel strong emotional attachment to possessions. (Though at the same time, she shows a strong feeling of animism, which I found intriguing.) But some people are abundance lovers, and some people like to start small, and some people are marathoners, and some people have strong emotional attachments to possessions. So her guidance may not work for you.

Here are the 7 main concepts where I disagree with Marie Kondo:

 1. She advises putting every item in a category on the floor as the first step in clearing clutter.

She advises that that if you’re cleaning your coats, take out every single coat, if you’re clearing your bookshelves, take out every book. In my experience, this can easily become overwhelming and lead to more clutter that lasts a long time, because people bite off more than they can chew. Know yourself.

2.  She advises having a joyful relationship with every item you own.

She recommends asking yourself whether an item “sparks joy.” This is a terrific question, and can be very helpful. But I don’t think I can realistically expect to have a joyful relationship with every item in my apartment. I find it exhausting even to contemplate having an emotional reaction to so many common objects. It’s true, though, that for many people, “spark joy” has been a revelation. Know yourself.

3. She advises clearing clutter alone and in quiet.

For me, that’s very true. For many people, it’s helpful to have a clutter-clearing partner. Another person can help with the grunt work, give advice about what to keep or discard, and can make a chore more fun. Know yourself.

4. She suggests taking everything out of your handbag, every day.

This would not be a good use of my time or energy, and I don’t think it would achieve anything. On the other hand, when Elizabeth and I talked about “the challenge of switching bags” in episode 55 of our podcast Happier, many listeners let me know that they followed Marie Kondo’s suggestion, with great success. Know yourself.

5. She suggests going big and doing a giant purge rather than tackling a little clutter each day.

But, as I write about in Better Than Before, some people like to start big, and some like to start small. It’s exhilarating, and highly productive, to tackle a big, one-time goal, and a clean slate is powerful — it’s also true that we can get a lot done, by doing a little bit each day over a long term. Know yourself.

6. She says that the best time to start is early morning.

That’s true if you’re a morning person, but I doubt that’s true if you’re a night person. Know yourself.

7. She suggests that folding is the best way to store most clothes.

She’s a big proponent of folding — and a very particular method of folding. I myself just can’t handle that high level of commitment to folding.

Know yourself. Use what works for you.

The problem arises when you beat yourself up for not being able to do things the KonMari way, “the right way.” When it comes to clearing clutter, there is no right way, only what’s right for you.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Marie Kondo’s book. I found it thought-provoking, helpful, and engaging. The minute I finished the book, for example, I got rid of a million coats.

Here’s the thing. As I was writing Better Than Before, it seemed so obvious to me that there’s no one “right” way or “best” way to change habits. So why, then, do so many experts assert that they’d found the one true way?

There’s something about human nature…when it comes to getting advice, we love to be given the true plan, the precise template that’s going to reveal exact directions to success.

And when it comes to giving advice, it’s easy to assume that because some strategy works well for us, other people will use it with equal success.

But it’s always a matter of the individual.

I learned a lot of little things from Marie Kondo, but there was one big thing I learned: that we should stay grateful for our possessions — for having served us well, for embodying someone else’s affection for us in the form of a gift, or for giving us a thrill upon purchase. An “attitude of gratitude,” for even inanimate objects, makes us happier. I know that I’ve never let go of an old laptop without taking a moment to think, “Farewell, my old friend, we’ve had some great times together, but now it’s time for you to rest.”

The relationship between possessions and happiness! One of the most fascinating themes I’ve ever studied.

Did you read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up? What KonMari Method strategies worked for you — or not?

Podcast 57: Choose a Daily Mantra, Avoid the Awful Habit of “Awfulizing,” and the Problem of the “Chair” Where Clothes Collect.

It’s time for the next installment of  “Happier with Gretchen Rubin.

Update: Elizabeth is still in New York City. She’s working so hard on a pilot (glamorous, right?) that I’ve hardly seen her.

We also share a before-and-after story from our listener Kate, who has used the knowledge that she’s an Obliger to great results — also Pairing.  She sent me this before and after photo to share. Congratulations, Kate!

1pixTry This at Home: Choose a mantra for the day. In episode 26 , we talked about picking a one-word or one-phrase theme for the year. (Elizabeth picked “Novel,” I picked “Vision.”) Picking one for the day works well, too — for instance, Elizabeth chose “I can” when she felt out of control. Listen to the end of the episode if you want to hear Joe Gideon say, “It’s showtime, folks.”

Happiness Stumbling Block: The awful habit of “awfulizing” — dwelling on the worst possible scenarios. I talk about my fear of driving, which I discuss at length in Happier at Home.

Listener Question: “Having a clean apartment makes me feel less stressed. But we have ‘the chair’ where once-worn clothes get stuck.” Listeners, do you have any other good solutions?

 Elizabeth’s Demerit: Elizabeth didn’t start packing for her long trip to New York City until the afternoon before she left.

Gretchen’s Gold Star: I give a gold star to one of my favorite movies, All That Jazz.

As always, thanks to our terrific sponsors

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1pixHappier with Gretchen Rubin - Podcast #57

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Want to know what to expect from other episodes of the podcast, when you listen toHappier with Gretchen Rubin?” We talk about how to build happier habits into everyday life, as we draw from cutting-edge science, ancient wisdom, lessons from pop culture—and our own experiences (and mistakes).  We’re sisters, so we don’t let each other get away with much!

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Podcast 14: Cultivate a Shrine, Know What’s Different about You, and Fight Hostess Neurosis.

It’s Wednesday– time for the next installment of  “Happier with Gretchen Rubin.

Updates: we have listeners in 192 countries! Zoikes. And we’ve heard from a lot of people who have successfully used the “one-minute rule” that we discussed in the first episode. Great to hear that it’s working for people.

This week:

Try This at Home: Cultivate a shrine.podcastMugShrine As promised, here are photos of Elizabeth’s Shrine to Mugs and my Shrine to Smell.shrinetosmell If you’d like to read more about shrines, check out Happier at Home.

Better Than Before Habit Strategy/Know Yourself Better: Use the “Strategy of Distinctions” to figure out the habits that will work for you. Which might be very different from what works for other people.  The book I mention is Internal Time: Chronotypes, Social Jet Lag, and Why You’re So Tired by Till Roenneberg.

Listener Question: “How do you stick to your habits for the long run?”

Gretchen’s Demerit: Gretchen confesses to “hostess neurosis,” which is our family term for the irritable, demanding frame of mind that descends when it’s time to act as a hostess.

Elizabeth’s Gold Star: Elizabeth gives a gold star to Jeff and to the website CaringBridge. Elizabeth’s longtime friend Suzanne is dealing with cancer, and her husband Jeff is doing a great job of keeping everyone updated on CaringBridge.

How do you like the photo? That’s Elizabeth’s back yard in Encino. Orange trees!

As always, thanks to our terrific sponsors. Check out The Great Courses for a wide variety of fascinating courses. Special offer for our listeners: go to thegreatcourses.com/happier to order from eight of their bestselling courses, including Practicing Mindfulness: an Introduction to Meditation, and get up to 80% off. Limited time.

Also, thanks to Squarespace — the easiest way to create a beautiful website, blog, or online store. Go to squarespace.com, and enter the offer code “happier” at check-out to get 10% off.

Want to get in touch? Email: podcast@gretchenrubin.com. Twitter: @gretchenrubin and @elizabethcraft. Call: (774 HAPPY 336).  Facebook Page. Or comment right here.

And we would love to hear from you — whether you’ve cultivated a shrine. Comment here, or even better, post a photo of it on Facebook! Also let us know your questions and any other comments.

To listen to this episode, just zip to the bottom of this post and hit the red “play” button.

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Want to know what to expect from other episodes of the podcast, when you listen toHappier with Gretchen Rubin?” We talk about how to build happier habits into everyday life, as we draw from cutting-edge science, ancient wisdom, lessons from pop culture—and our own experiences (and mistakes).  We’re sisters, so we don’t let each other get away with much!

HOW TO SUBSCRIBE: If you’re like me (until recently) you’re intrigued by podcasts, but you don’t know how to listen or subscribe. It’s very easy, really. Really. Instructions here.

Or for an amusing short how-to video made by Ira Glass of This American Life, click here.

If you want to listen to more than one episode, and to have it all in a handier way, on your phone or tablet, it’s better to subscribe. Really, it’s easy.

Again, be sure to subscribe and listen and subscribe on iTunes so you never miss an episode. And if you enjoyed it, please tell your friends and give us a rating or review. Listeners really respect the views of other listeners, so your response helps people find good material. (Not sure how to review? Instructions here; scroll to the bottom.)

HAPPIER listening!

Secret of Adulthood: If You Can’t Find Something, Clean Up.

Further Secrets of Adulthood:

 

I’m amazed by how true this is. I repeat it to my daughters about once a week.

Do you have any other tricks for finding things that you can’t find? (One of the most annoying things in life.) Like the great Secret of Adulthood: Always put your keys away in the same place.

NOTE THE NEW FEATURE: I’ve added a Pin It button to the top of the post, so you can easily pin to Pinterest (I’m there myself.)

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