Marie Kondo's Netflix special 'Tidying Up' has gone viral after seemingly changing people's lives, but experts stress a clean space isn't for everyone

Seth Wenig/AP; Carlos Ciudad Photography/Getty; Yutong Yuan/Business InsiderSome have pointed out that Kondo’s method comes from a place of privilege.
  • Ever since Marie Kondo‘s “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” topped the New York Times Best Seller list in 2014, her cleaning method has gone viral and inspired others to organise their homes.
  • Kondo’s method sets itself apart from other cleaning styles in that it focuses on organising by item type rather than by each room of your home.
  • The method, however, is not one-size-fits-all and it may not be helpful to everyone who tries it.
  • Some people, in fact, are organised even if they aren’t “tidy.”

Ever since Marie Kondo’s “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” topped the New York Times Best Seller list in 2014, her cleaning method has gone viral, inspiring others to organise their homes. It became so popular that Netflix recruited Kondo for the show, “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo,” in which she walks people through her method, seemingly transforming their lives in the process.

Kondo’s method sets itself apart from other cleaning styles in that it focuses on organising by item type rather than the room. This method, Kondo told Business Insider, allows people “an opportunity to reflect on yourself.”

While Kondo’s Netflix series has inspired hundreds of thousands to clean up their clutter and remove all non-joy-sparking items from their lives, some have taken to criticising her method.

I deeply regret Marie Kondo-ing my books a few years ago, just in case anyone is toying with doing the same!” one Twitter user, D.L. Mayfield, wrote. Another Twitter user said she regretted discarding some of her children’s baby toys using Kondo’s method.

https://twitter.com/d_l_mayfield/status/1081208923783221248?ref_src=twsrc^tfw

Others have pointed out that Kondo’s method comes from a place of privilege. In The Atlantic piece “Marie Kondo and the Privilege of Clutter,” author Arielle Bernstein wrote that, for many, the ability to even ask “does this spark joy?” isn’t possible since everything they own is out of necessity, rather than want. “It’s particularly ironic that the KonMari method has taken hold now, during a major refugee crisis, when the news constantly shows scenes of people fleeing their homes and everything they have,” Bernstein wrote.

In addition to the question of privilege associated with Kondo’s KonMari method, experts suggest tidying up isn’t for every personality type.

A massive purge can create anxiety for certain people

Messy closetkatykash/Flickr‘I want public figures to embrace diversity rather than saying we have to (organise) a certain way.’

While purging a space of superfluous objects may fulfil some people’s needs, the action can have a negative effect on others, Dr. Daniel Levitin, a neuroscientist and author of “The Organised Mind,” told INSIDER.


Read more:

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“Some people take comfort in knowing ‘I have a hammer I haven’t used in five years and have a handyman, but if I ever do need that hammer, it’s there,'” Levitin explained. Kondo’s method focuses on the opposite personality, the person who is unburdened by the purging process, which Levitin said is problematic.

“I’m wary of a prescription for everyone because we are all different and need different things,” he told INSIDER. “I want public figures to embrace diversity rather than saying we have to [organise] a certain way.”

Some people are organised without being tidy

Messy deskFlickr/josephleenovakTo someone else, it may appear a professor is unorganized because their space isn’t tidy, however, that same professor could know exactly where everything is in their office.

Another problem with the KonMari method, Levitin said, is that “the program isn’t distinguishing between tidiness and organisation.” In “The Organised Mind,” he dives into this idea that a person can be organised without appearing so to others.


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Take, for example, a professor whose office is piled high with stacks of papers. To someone else, it may appear the professor is unorganized because their space isn’t tidy. That professor, however, could know exactly where everything is in their office, meaning they are indeed organised.

Unless your profession makes it mandatory to have a specific organisation method that others understand, like a research scientist or police detective, Levitin said tidying isn’t going to necessarily make your life better or easier.

Your inherent values will help determine if tidying up Kondo-style is right for you

Instead, the best organizational method for each person depends on their inherent values, Marla Deibler, a clinical psychologist and executive director of The Center for Emotional Health of Greater Philadelphia, told INSIDER. “When it comes to possessions, it is individualized what meaning people give to stuff,” she explained.

Additionally, some people actually find joy in the clutter. Deibler explained that the Konmari method appeals to people who, “can feel overwhelmed and struggle by being around clutter.”

The key to determining whether you should KonMari or not comes from realising which of these two people you are. At the end of the day, however, Deibler says Kondo’s method is a fad and warns people that decluttering has no research-backed benefit.


Read more:
16 of the best organising tips from Marie Kondo’s new Netflix series ‘Tidying Up’

Still, if tossing objects and clearing space in your home makes you feel better, go for it.

“If things like clutter get in the way of moving towards your values, like not inviting friends over for dinner because you’re embarrassed of your space, [cleaning] is a way to move towards your values,” Deibler said.

The core of Kondo’s approach, reflecting on one’s self, gets at just that, but maybe the way we all achieve that state of reflection isn’t as concrete as a five-step method.


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