The KonMari Method is So Popular, Why Does Almost Nobody Discuss One of the Most Important Steps?

Last week, I posted “How I Imagined My Ideal Lifestyle for My Tidying Process”. Why did I post that? Because, in retrospect, it was possibly the most helpful part of the KonMari method for me, I wanted to compare notes with other people, to see how other people went about creating a vision of their ideal lifestyles. And since everything Marie Kondo has been super-popular in 2019, surely it would be easy to find many examples and commentaries, right?

Wrong.

I am amazed at how hard it was to find people discussing this part of the KonMari method. You can find endless writings about the ‘does it spark joy’ technique, from people who think it’s the best thing since sliced bread, from people who think it’s awful, from people giving detailed advice about how to tell if something ‘sparks joy’, from people talking about how it impacted their lives, and my personal favorite, people discussing the language and translation issues (example, example, example). People have written just about anything once could say about the ‘does it spark joy’ concept, and it easy to find a lot with one’s search engine of choice.

What did I find about imagining one’s ideal lifestyle in the KonMari method through my search engine of choice? One of the top findings is from Marie Kondo’s official website, which basically just repeats what’s in the book. I found a couple of discussions on Reddit (here) and here), I found this post from a KonMari consultant in the UK, from a Bay Area KonMari Consultant, I found this podcast by KonMari Consultants, and this guide to making a vision board. When I list it all out there, it seems like a lot, but it took more time than I expected to get that much material together, and in the various internet searches I’ve done … that is pretty much all I have found that goes into any kind of depth.

YouTube was even less helpful – I found that video from Marie Kondo’s website and that podcast again, and in this video about Marie Kondo in New York, she reviews some drawings that a client has made about her ideal lifestyle, and then the drawings are mentioned again near the end of the video. But other than that, I did not find anything more of substance (if you find something on YouTube which goes into more depth, please leave a comment).

Though I can find plenty of writing which is critical of many other aspects of the KonMari method, the critics are completely silent about the ‘imagine your ideal lifestyle’ step. I find this silence the most striking.

You know what is a common theme in the writing that is available about this step of the KonMari process? That skipping this step is the most common mistake. In her second book (which I read only recently, I had not read it when I was going through the KonMari process myself) Marie Kondo says that skipping this step is the most common reason why people who try her method fail to complete it. And the essay I linked about making a vision board says:

I learned about the Marie Kondo method in 2015. I read the book and I drank the Koolaid. With the song “Turning Japanese” buzzing through my head, I made it well past the sock drawer. But, my efforts fizzled somewhere in the land of komono.

Yup. I became a tidying up dropout. And I know why.

I skipped visualizing my ideal lifestyle. The #1 mistake that KonMari newbies make.

In the podcast I linked, the speakers also say that many people tend to skip this step. They speculate that it is because people are so excited about tidying that they want to hurry up and start sorting items, but I think the essay about making a vision board is probably more accurate:

What stopped me from doing this crucial step? Truth? It was scary to let myself dream. Fear of disappointment had me holding my hands over my ears saying “la-la-la” during that part of the book.

After I wrote the first draft of this post, I listened to this later episode from the same podcast about common KonMari myths and missteps. The very first misstep they discussed was, you guessed it, skipping imagining one’s ideal lifestyle. They said again that people may skip it because they are so excited about sorting items, but they also say that many people find it intimidating.

I myself was tempted to skip imagining my ideal lifestyle. It was not due to an excess of excitement – it is because trying to imagine my ideal lifestyle is intimidating and scary. But the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying UP also makes it very clear that it is a necessary step, and I wanted to follow the method described in the book as much as feasible. I was only able to get myself unstuck when I gave myself permission to limit the question to ‘what is my ideal lifestyle in my room’ so it seemed less overwhelming. To quote a comment I found in one of the Reddit discussions I linked, “Underneath [the question ‘what kind of person would you like to be/are you?’] is a lot of baggage. Be prepared to examine the true, honest, awkward “why’s” in your desires.”

To be clear – nobody is obligated to do any of this. If someone does not want to imagine their ideal lifestyle because it is too overwhelming/scary/intimidating, I think that’s a good reason to avoid the KonMari method completely. If someone wants to avoid this, but they still want to make their homes tidier, there are methods which require less introspection – such as the methods of Dana K. White.

I suspect the reasons the critics of the KonMari method have nothing to say about this step is that they simply have not thought about it – or perhaps they don’t want to think about it.

It is because this can be so scary that I wanted to know more about how other people went through this. And when I failed to find as much discussion about how people do this as I hoped to find, I decided to help remedy this by at least discussing how I went through this step.

What about you, my beloved readers? Have you tried doing this? If this is so personal that you do not want to discuss this on the internet, I understand, but if you are willing to discuss it, I hope you will leave a comment.

5 thoughts on “The KonMari Method is So Popular, Why Does Almost Nobody Discuss One of the Most Important Steps?

  1. For me, everything starts with an idea. Every story with a premise. Every project with an end result in mind… I never really did write down what I wanted, aside from a quick list I jotted down and the goal I kept in mind for each type of stuff in each section. For example, I wanted my clothes to be a) stuff I loved, b) stuff I wore regularly and c) to fit in my closet. My overarching goal for my own bedroom was “A place for everything, everything in its place (e.g. only one clothing closet for clothes),” but I was so in tune with what I wanted to have a place, based on my lifestyle, I never defined it beyond that.

    For the common parts of the house, it felt like more of a strategy for a war I wanted to win before it was begun… and then sit down the rest of the army, ahem, my roommates, and convince them that I was totally in the right and why (reasonability is a fantastic cultural standard, I am now convinced). So yeah, that was pretty well defined, but almost more by what I knew of others’ lifetstyles as well, and what I could convince others needed to be done, than even what I wanted for my own life beyond “I want to reach all the cabinets in the kitchen and know what’s on each shelf.”

    • Oh, I did not try to apply the KonMari method at all to common areas of the household. For example, in the kitchen, I only applied the KonMari method to spices and tea because I’m the only one in the household who uses those items and thus I consider them to be ‘mine’ as opposed to ‘ours’. With regards to other common rooms, my principle was to pull out my own items and store them in my room unless it did not make sense (for example, storing a wet towel in my room instead of on a towel rod in the bathroom does not make sense), and to only insist on changes if I thought there was a safety concern and/or something physically got in my way, otherwise I let my parents (dis)organize as they please. I am still assisting my father with managing his items, but only to the extent that he wants my help, and at this time he is not on board with doing a full KonMari.

      EDIT: Do people in the Netherlands typically have closets? Because I learned a few months ago that people in the U.K. generally don’t have closets.

      • Fair… for me it definitely was a pet project and only worked cause I got the go-ahead… and not sure I obeyed the method when it came to community spaces… it just felt similar enough for me personally, I suppose.

        I include dressers etc. in closets if they’re big cause it’s all the same word in Dutch. We’ve generally got one under the stairs or in the kitchen? Not so much attached to bedrooms, that’s usually a piece of furniture you buy in IKEA 🙂

      • I was about to say that closets are (usually very small) rooms which are built-in, just like bathrooms, and that wardrobes are furniture, but I looked it up and found that it is actually correct to use closets and wardrobes as synonyms, that ‘closet’ can be used to refer to furniture instead of a room. However, my references also say that it is very common in US English to use ‘closet’ to refer to a room and ‘wardrobe’ to refer to furniture, so … I guess my language was more specifically American than I realized?

        What I really wanted to ask is, do people in the Netherlands typically have specific, typically very small rooms for storing clothing and other items built into their homes, just like a bathroom, and based on your response it seems the answer is ‘no’.

        Come to think of it, the only Taiwanese homes I recall which had closets (as in, small rooms for designated storage built into the building) were ‘Japanese-style’ places, other homes (including the places I lived) had furniture, not dedicated rooms, for storing clothes and other things.

  2. Pingback: I poke at the essay “The empty promises of Marie Kondo and the craze for minimalism” | The Notes Which Do Not Fit

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