Tried Marie Kondo's method and still need help? Here's why.

June 15, 2020

As a professional organizer, I’m often asked about the difference between my methods and Marie Kondo’s

If you aren’t familiar with Ms. Kondo, I’d first ask, “where have you been?!”

She wrote a book a few years back called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, which outlined her KonMari method of organizing. 

I deeply appreciate my colleague, so you won’t find any baseless, incendiary insults here. 

And, it’s important to point out some fundamental differences between our approaches in case you’ve tried KonMari and are still struggling with too much stuff OR haven’t tried it and for whatever reason it doesn’t speak to you.


The central idea behind the KonMari method is to go through your home and physically touch every item. If a thing brings you joy, you keep it. If it doesn’t, you get rid of it. 

Either way, she puts a lot of emphasis on showing gratitude to your belongings—to the point of thanking your clothes at the end of each day for protecting you.

And while I’m all for gratitude, touching every single thing in your house to see if it sparks joy is STILL all about the stuff first, and then your reaction to it. 

And this is a fundamental difference between the KonMari method and mine.

Because… it’s not about the stuff.

Don’t get me wrong; of course the problem presents as clutter, as too much stuff—that’s for sure.

But at the end of the day, the objects themselves aren’t important. At least not in the way you probably think they are. 

After 24+ years of doing this work, it’s crystal clear to me that the stuff isn’t the problem—you are. 

And that’s actually a good thing, because it means you can DO something about all that clutter ONCE YOU tackle the underlying problem—your relationship with stuff.

In other words, stuff is just stuff… only you can change how much of it you have or where it lands in your home or office.

Your life, your values, the experiences and relationships where you choose to spend your time … those things on the other side of inanimate objects are what’s important. 

Because the whole point of getting organized is to FREE yourself so you can spend your time on what’s most important in your life.

What good is thanking your socks at the end of each day when we so often miss opportunities to thank the people we love the most?

(And, hey – when was the last time your socks thanked you?)

If we only focus on the objects, we’re really just focusing on the problem, not the solution.


Less stuff means less clutter... unless you don't have a system for organizing it. 

Which begs the question, is this about minimalism OR organizing? 

On the face of it, testing all the stuff in your house for its “joy” level sounds like a smart idea.

After all, we want to surround ourselves with things that mean something to us, right?

Yes… and no. Yes, those objects we choose to surround ourselves with should support how we actually live, and be beautiful, whatever that means to you. 

To tidy up, or curate your items based only on your relationship with the object itself, rather than how you'd really rather spend your time, is not an organizing principle.

When you hold an object and ask to see if it sparks joy, you give that object the job of telling you a story about what it means and how that makes you feel.

This technique can be useful for determining what stays and what goes … maybe. We’ll look at that a bit later.

Right now, let’s focus on the fact that determining an item’s joy factor doesn’t, however, tell you where those objects should live or how else they should be organized.

All you’ve done is make each thing responsible for a story that’s meaningful to you. 

And once you’ve done that, of course you’ll keep it. (More than half the declutter battle is separating the story from the thing you’ve attached it to.)

You still need to know where to put it so you can easily find it when you want it.


Konmari can be a great starter system, but for the same reasons I mentioned above, it won't keep you organized. 

Simplifying your life by getting rid of stuff accomplishes the immediate goal of decluttering. 

However, it's not sustainable because you're still stuff-focused. 

Shopping for or accumulating more things that spark joy will just create more clutter.

So you’ll have lots of joy around you … until you don’t … and then you’ll be right back where you started … although possibly worse off.

Because NOW the story about joy only makes it MORE difficult to separate yourself from the stuff … because each object crossed that first hurdle and convinced you that the joy quotient was significant enough to merit keeping it.

Can you see how this becomes a circular challenge for many folks?

KonMari technique seems more about minimalism than organization so if that’s your bag, it could be a great fit.

Less = less, that's the equation, but that's not necessarily the solution for everyone. (Ask anyone with kids or a business!)

Many clients come to me after having started with the KonMari method, with the question, “Now what?”

Exactly—organizing principles should support you to get and STAY organized, for the long run.

So let’s look at WHY you keep doing this dance with stuff instead of living your life full out every day.

What do you get out of putting what you claim is most important to you off until “someday?”

Folding your clothes can’t possibly be more important to you than experiences and intimacy … can it?!


Stuff doesn’t change; people do. The tidying up will follow. (So don’t focus on the stuff.)

Whether things spark joy may be a great way to initially clear the clutter… but the KonMari method doesn’t provide a system on how to stay organized after that, making it unsustainable for many people.

Focus on your values and what matters most to you. 

Don’t spend your time chasing the system itself. The method turns into madness pretty quickly if it’s not serving you and you become a slave to it. (But that’s a whole other article.)

Ultimately, it’s people and experiences that should spark joy. Not stuff.
If you’re ready to step into a life that’s more about the joy and less about the stuff, sign up for my De-Stress Your Mess 5-Day Challenge. Click here to learn more and sign up!

Declutter Your Life Podcast by Andrew Mellen. Available on iTunes!