Clutter Craze: Why “Tidying Up” Might Be Making Matters Worse

Tidying up has never been more popular than it is today. This is thanks, in no small part, to the Marie Kondo craze. Her books have been spreading the joy of decluttering for several years now. However, her KonMari method has really taken off thanks to the new Netflix series called “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.”

Although it’s not the first or only method of decluttering a home, it’s really caught on like wildfire. That might be a great thing. Focusing on creating a tidier space can increase mental health. After all, a cluttered space often reflects a cluttered mind. Working with one can help resolve issues in the other.

However, the KonMari method is only one approach to tidying up. It might not be the right one for you. Moreover, the tidying up trend can have some unintended mental health consequences. It’s important to be aware before you embark on a decluttering spree of your own.

What is the Marie Kondo KonMari Method?

Marie Kondo has a very specific method for tidying up a home. Here are some of the key elements:

  • Give thanks to the home before you begin. Furthermore, “wake up” your belongings by tapping them gently before you begin to declutter them. Finally, give thanks to the items you decide to get rid of.
  • Declutter one area of a home at a time. Kondo recommends the following order: clothing, books, papers, komono (miscellaneous stuff in the kitchen, garage, etc.), and sentimental items.
  • Gather all of the items from a category in one place. Therefore, when you start out, you’ll place every single item of clothing that you own in one pile. Then you’ll sort through it.
  • Hold each item in your hand. Ask yourself if it “sparks joy”. If it does, then you keep it. If it doesn’t, then you give it your thanks and give it away.
  • Replace the items in an organized fashion. Marie employs specific tips for properly folding and storing items, which you can learn through her books and TV show.

Benefits of Tidying Up like Marie Kondo

There are many elements of the KonMari method that can be helpful. The process isn’t just about getting rid of stuff. Instead, you mindfully select the items in your home that provide you with joy.

Furthermore, as you give thanks to the home and the items, you gain a true appreciation for the life that you are choosing for yourself. These elements are all excellent for mental health. The more you appreciate and enjoy your space, the happier you will be in it. Plus, a mindful approach to decluttering can really provide you with a strong sense of why you have the things that you do.

Also, completing the tasks of decluttering in this way can increase your feelings of self-efficacy. In other words, if this method works for you, then you’ll feel like you truly accomplished something. Moreover, this will lead to enhanced feelings of competence in other areas of life.

Potential Drawbacks of Tidying Up in this Way

The potential benefits of tidying up can be great but it’s important to understand that the method isn’t without its drawbacks.

First of all, there’s the tricky task of unloading all of your items into a pile at once. If you have several closets full of clothes, then this can create a huge pile in your space. If you don’t have the time or energy to work through that pile quickly, then seeing it there could be very overwhelming.

That overwhelm may worsen if you already struggle with mental health issues. For example, depression may sap your energy, so that even looking at such a pile can make you want to go back to bed.

In addition, such a pile can make you feel indecisive. Even though you like the idea of only keeping the clothes that “spark joy,” you may sit there in front of the pile thinking, “and what does “spark joy” actually feel like?” If you haven’t felt joy in some time, this can be stressful, rather than invigorating.

Furthermore, our possessions can hold a lot of emotion. Decluttering your childhood toys, the dishes a deceased parent passed down to you, or the papers from your divorce can all trigger intense emotions.

Even less-obviously-loaded items can be triggering. If you don’t have someone to help you work through those emotions, then the process can become overwhelming. Not only won’t you get anywhere with decluttering, but you’ll also stir up emotional baggage that you’ll need tools to cope with.

There is an Issue of Privilege Too

Many recent articles point out the fact that there are some cultural considerations when it comes to tidying up in this way. While the method can certainly cross cultures, it implies some level of privilege. After all, if you only own one pair of shoes then you don’t really have the luxury of asking yourself whether or not they spark joy.

While your situation might not be so drastic, it’s important to be aware that decluttering through this method can also bring up thoughts and feelings around privilege. This is particularly important if you’re decluttering as a couple or family, where there may be very different generational perspectives about keeping vs. discarding items.

Of course, none of this is to say that tidying up is a bad idea. In fact, it can be a great thing. However, you may need to tweak your approach or work with a therapist to untangle some of the emotions that arise from “tidying up.”

Learn more about my counseling approach here.

2019-03-14T13:55:53+00:00