Konmari v. Flylady

In decluttering using the Konmari method, I am quite struck with the differences between it and the FlyLady methods of tidying. They’re both good; even if I find FlyLady a bit twee and Marie Kondo a little silly in her animistic attitude towards possessions.

The Basics of the FlyLady Method

Shine your sink every day before you retire for the night.

The idea behind this is to have some island of cleanliness and order to inspire you. Many people (*ahem* ME!) do have a bad habit of leaving random dishes in the sink rather than putting them in the dishwasher or washing them right away. The clean sink is supposed to help inspire you. Honestly? YES, walking in to a clean sink in the morning is helpful. (A clean kitchen is even better, but this is about starting small and presuming a great deal of clutter and disorder)

Get dressed to the shoes every day, even if you are not going to be leaving the house.

Sounds goofy. The idea behind it is that when your shoes are on, it puts your brain in work mode rather than lounge mode. If you’re dressed, did your hair and face (if you wear makeup) and are wearing shoes, you’re in Get Things Done mode.

There is some truth to this. I have on my personal to-do list today to declutter my sewing and knitting supplies. I did not get dressed this morning, it’s about ten and I am still in a purple caftan I really love to lounge in. So, my mind is kind of in screw around mode (writing this blog post is definitely screwing around rather than getting what I planned to do done). When I was working harder than I do now on my consulting business, no, I did not work in my pajamas! Putting on clothes and all does give you something of a psychological edge.

The shoes part? I don’t wear shoes in the house. I could put on slippers or something, but I don’t when it’s warmer than about 65 degrees. I don’t intend to change that. Never did. I just never felt the need to whine about it on mailing lists.

Have a morning routine and an evening routine

I do this. I love this. It helps. There some be a few (not too many) chores that bookend the day. For me, it’s making my bed in the morning, and prepping for the next day before I go to bed. I’m not organized by nature, but this helped me learn how to do so.

Break your house into zones and spend a week in each zone either detail cleaning or decluttering fifteen minutes a day.

This wound up not working for me. The idea is that detail cleaning can wait until you’ve decluttered, which has its point if you’ve got so much stuff you don’t need that you can’t get to the table to dust it.

I found that by spending fifteen minutes a day in each zone, I was re-doing a lot of things that didn’t need it and really avoiding the hard parts because I knew I’d be getting to that zone later on. This means that my clothes are actually organized, but I spent years before I decluttered papers and never tried to touch my books.

And I’m better at heroic effort rather than daily plodding. Do I need to learn a certain amount of daily plodding in my desperate attempt to pretend to be an adult? God, yes! I work on that, and I am better at it, but my personal preference is to dive intensely into projects. My house did look nicer using FlyLady. But oh, my closets and desk drawers!

Make sure you take baby steps.

Baby steps have their place, as does starting small. But at a certain point, you need to assess whether or not you’ve developed enough skill that those baby steps are really lazysteps.

I’m a swimmer. When I started, my workout was 450 yards. That was a baby step. My workout now is more like a mile. Baby steps were great for starting, but after a while, you need to get your full adult stride.

The Basics of the Konmari Method

Understand clearly why you are decluttering

I love this. It’s something that really gets missed. The assumption is that everyone wants a neat house so of course you’re going to spend all this time to have a showcase home.

That’s silly, when you think about it. What do you hope to get out of this project? Why do you want to do it? Ms. Kondo recommends that you ask yourself “Why?” each time you give yourself an answer until you get several layers down into why you want to have a tidy space.

It not only helps your focus for the job, which in the Konmari method is pretty big and dramatic. But it also will help you have an idea of when you are done rather than make it an endless project.

I actually stopped up short when I started asking myself why I wanted to do this. I was a very messy child and I always envied the girls in school with their neat desks, their perfect homework turned in with perfect report covers and pretty drawings on them. I envied the fact that their perfect handwriting got great grades even though for the most part they’d copied the answers to questions from the relevant paragraphs in their textbooks. My sloppy handwriting, but original content, wasn’t graded as highly and I resented it. I recognize now that neat presentation is important because it helps people get to that content and understand it more easily, but I didn’t understand the point at twelve.

In my mid-thirties, the priority and motivation shifted. I started associating clutter with some extremely bad times in my life. Neatness to me now means a kindly household where people and possessions are valued, and the neatness is a staging area to help the members achieve whatever goal makes them happy without baggage or unpleasant distraction. It means calm. It means order. It means abundance and creativity and living consciously and a safe place to return to after a serious challenge.

These days, my house is neat enough I wouldn’t freak if the tidiest person I know dropped in. I find creative work is easier to do without the distraction of a lot of visual clutter, which is why I keep it that way. I would not bother if I did not get anything out of it personally, since I spend a vast majority of my time alone, anyway. It’s been that way for several years, so why this intense decluttering of the stuff behind the closet walls?

I want it to be easy to maintain the neatness. When it is easy to put things away, you are more likely to do it. So, sheer laziness.* And I can even feel good about that.

Declutter all at once

Ms. Kondo is not a fifteen minutes a day baby steps kinda gal. In her opinion, when you declutter, you should do it all at once. This might be a period as long as six months, mind. I’m nearly done, I live in a four-bedroom house, and it’s only been a month.

The idea is that when you declutter, you’re pressing a reset button on your life and that the dramatic change will help reset habits. I was dubious about this one, but I have already done all of my clothes and my closet and drawers are as neat as ever.

Keep what sparks joy

Now, this isn’t really too different from what FlyLady recommends. She has a few questions to ask yourself when it comes to decluttering, but both of these women do strongly recommend asking yourself it the item makes you happy in some way.

Declutter by item category, not location

The idea behind this is several-fold. First, it is easier to tell when something sparks joy. The principle is that when you get everything in a category out and put it on the floor (no, really, you do!) – all of those things are by default going away. You’re sorting through it to decide what you want to keep. Holding something in your hand and asking yourself, “Does this spark joy?” is incredibly powerful when trying to decide what you want to keep. The psychological shift of taking everything out and putting it on the floor packs a subtle punch I didn’t realize until I got to the books. See, your mind doesn’t see stuff on a floor as being as valuable as stuff on a shelf. When you pick it up, that little sense of “Yes I love this!” is going to be a lot more accurate than if you leave everything stored on their valuable shelves.

The order Kondo gives is:

  1. Clothes
  2. Books
  3. Papers
  4. Komono (Miscellaneous. This has several sub-categories)
  5. Sentimental Items

You’re supposed to practice your sense of what sparks joy on things that are easier like clothing before moving on to harder categories like books, and then leaving sentimental items for last when you’ve built your intuitive muscle to its strongest.

Don’t Worry About Putting Things Away Until After You Declutter

I don’t know if she means I’m supposed to leave my house entirely in chaos until everything is decluttered in every category or if you put things away after you take care of a category. I did the latter, because I’m not going to leave my clothes and books on the floor for a month. Just ainta doin’ it!

But after you declutter a category, if you’re only keeping what sparks joy, I promise you’ll have a place for your stuff. It’s okay. I was wondering if I was going to need to buy one or two storage items in the process of my decluttering. It has turned out so far that I have not needed to buy a single thing.

A Final Analysis

I think in reviewing this (and giving it considerable thought while actually getting dressed, taking a break from writing this and actually decluttering my knitting and sewing supplies), that FlyLady is a lot more about household management, and especially helping the forgetful run their lives well. The Konmari method really is focused almost entirely on the tidying process and storage, while not really having a lot to do with household routine. I do have routines I’ve kept up with from the days when I was faithfully trying the entire FlyLady method, and I’m glad I did.

In my session with getting my sewing and knitting materials properly sorted by the Konmari method so that I can keep what I love, I am going to have to say that there is no way in the world I could have properly accomplished it in focusing on it in fifteen minutes a day. It needed a couple of hours and a decluttering all in one go. Doing one little drawer at a time doesn’t do what I really need: Give me that reset, and give me the space that I can put away what I keep with ease.

I think what method you choose might have a lot to do with whether you’re feeling overwhelmed or not. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, my word yes, nibbling away a bit at a time at an issue has huge positive results over a period of time. It lets you progress and can keep you from procrastination paralysis. If you’re feeling motivated and rarin’ to go, I think that going full bore until you’re done can work very well, indeed.

I don’t agree that you burn out from going full bore, necessarily, unless you take an all or nothing approach. If you only clean the bathroom to perfect spotlessness and never just take a simple swipe at it, yes, your bathroom can get pretty nasty between cleanings. If you give yourself permission to take the swipe, or clean to perfect spotlessness, you actually have a cleaner bathroom overall.

Aiming for perfection is fine. Saying “Perfection or nothing” isn’t really going to help.


* Well, in “The Man Who Was Too Lazy to Fail” sort of way, anyway. (You can find the story in Robert A. Heinlein’s Time Enough for Love. It’s a cute story.)

Komono and the Konmari Method

komono-1More in my decluttering saga using the Konmari method.

First of all, Komono and Kimono are different words. Kimono means clothes. Komono is miscellaneous stuff.

So, I’ve finished sorting my clothes, books, and papers – including shredding things with personal info on them. Next is Komono. This is actually kind of a large category because it includes household items, valuables, craft supplies, stuff for hobbies, office supplies, electronics, and kitchen items. Mostly, it’s anything left that is not a sentimental item.

Yeah… This is going to take a while.

While technically skincare products were supposed to be a single category under komono, I combined it with bathroom supplies in general because while I wear makeup, it’s kind of like my clothes. I keep it kinda minimalist.

Or so I thought. I took everything out of the bathroom cabinet and out of my makeup drawers, as well as some drawers where I had some nail polish and stuff. I actually filled an entire trash bag of stuff that I no longer need or love.

The image is my makeup drawer. This was after the purge and there was a lot more in it. Stuff that was out of date, colors that didn’t suit me, hair ties and hairbands I never used…

When I originally finished this, I did not have dividers for my makeup. One of the things that Marie Kondo recommends is not worrying about buying too much in the way of storage solutions, and that in your decluttering, chances are good that you’ll have suitable items already in your house. She was not kidding!

I commented to my husband that I wanted him to be on the lookout for some boxes that were of a certain dimension that would fit inside the drawer to my vanity so that I could organize my makeup a little. He mentioned that when I got to the kitchen that it was likely I was going to discard at least some of the bento boxes that I have. Goodness knows I have some very nice ones, but I also have far more than I need.

*Blink* Well, yes. So I was going to discard some of them. So I took a couple to use as organizer boxes inside my vanity drawer. And by golly if that wasn’t exactly what I needed!

komono-2My hair ornaments could fit in a drawer, but I admit I store them in a way that makes me totally happy and I have no intentions of changing it. Know that “sparks joy” thing? My hair sticks bring me joy. Completely. And storing them in this jar also makes me happy.

Remember the whole “sparks joy” thing? That’s important to this method. It’s not about living in a completely Spartan environment – unless that sparks joy, of course. The point of doing this is to keep what you love and to order your household the way you love.

I was thinking about this as I was comparing what sparks joy for me compared to my mother’s house.

Mom is an artist with her home. Anyone who goes to her house always admires it because it’s just so pretty. I mean, like really gorgeous in a way that most people hire serious expensive professional designers to get the look, but Mom doesn’t need that. She has a great eye and the house is Victorian/Georgian mix that sounds weird, but she really makes work. There are display cabinets full of lovely items, lace curtains, warm, low lighting, and pretty oriental rugs over hardwood floors. It’s pretty and so much expressive of her character and tastes.

That’s the point. What I’m going for is different. What I want is more like the old Samurai homes. Very, very little clutter around, and beautiful art showcased by great wodges of space. Not that I’m ripping up my carpet and putting in tatami mats or anything. I don’t want an actual traditional Japanese house so much as the minimalism as a guiding principle.

Not that this means I am giving up my hutch and china display, mind. I smile every time I look at it, even though it doesn’t have that whole Samurai house principle.

Clothes, Papers and Books

We finished with our books last night. We’re getting rid of a couple hundred, and are probably only keeping three or four hundred. Considerably more than Marie Kondo’s thirty, but I expect we’re more of bibliophiles than she is and books bring us more joy.

It went a lot better than I was afraid it might. Getting the books down, as I showed in the last post, was pretty difficult and overwhelming, but after that, the sorting went really well.

The criteria, “Does this spark joy?” is such a great one, because it throws out the “shoulds” and “oughts” and can be immediately intuitively obvious what stays and what goes.

Because books are more or less communal property in our household, I asked my husband to go through the pile that did not spark joy in me to see if anything in it sparked joy in him. He kept half.

This could have been cause for argument, but that’s not the way the system works. If the answer is “Yes!” to “Does this spark joy?” then you keep it and you can’t argue with it.

It was funny, though, because as we were shelving the books, he did explain why he kept some of the books. I laughed and said that there was no need. Sparking joy is internal and it’s subjective and no-one can possibly argue with it. The only question we’re allowed to ask each other in this process is, “Are you sure this sparks joy?” If the person again says “Yes!” then ya can’t argue with that! It does and that’s the criteria by which we keep or discard.

We have about four or five empty or near-empty shelves that we’re going to use for storing other things that have not been stored properly like games and photo albums. It will be nice to get them out of piles and into proper places, but the photo albums, like other sentimental items, are going to be in the last category for sorting through.

I’m going to say that in terms of deciding what to keep, the Konmari method seems goofy on the surface, but is actually insidiously brilliant. By sorting by category, you do build your skill at making quick decisions about sparking joy or not, and you do it in such a way that you’re better at it when you start encountering the more difficult categories.

Next on my list is supposed to be skin care products. I am sure this is a much more onerous task for a single lady living in Tokyo than it will be for me. I have a bottle of skin lotion I like and a bottle of soap I like. I think that’s actually it, though I will faithfully go through my bathroom to find out.

In fact, I may just roll it all into makeup, hair ornaments, and toiletries, then declutter that way. The reality is that my most egregious clutter problem is handing on to some bottles of shampoo that don’t work for my hair and some hair ornaments that I am not really fond of.

After that, it’s going to be knitting and sewing supplies.  That, I expect, will be quite the challenge even if my stash isn’t as huge as many.

More of a Dissection than a Decluttering

img_20150611_115546352_hdrI am decluttering my house via the Konmari method. If you are not familiar with it, the basic gist is that you declutter by category. You take every item in your home in that category, put it all in one place and then sort by one criteria. Hold it in your hand and ask, “Does this bring me joy?” If the answer is yes, you keep it. If the answer is no, you let it go.

I just emptied every book I own from my bookshelves and bedroom onto the floor upstairs. I did not touch my husband’s bookshelf downstairs, nor did I touch my children’s shelves.

There are still some books downstairs I need to get to bring upstairs before I begin my book decluttering.

When I did my clothes, it was easy. I like clothes and I like looking good, but I tend to be a bit of a wardrobe minimalist (well, by American standards, anyway) and my emotional attachment to clothes revolves around whether I am presenting myself well when I wear them out of the house, or if I feel attractive or comfortable in them inside the house. Not hugely emotional to me. Or maybe I dealt with anything emotional about them years ago and am cool with my clothes now. Even so, I rid of three lawn bags of clothes when I did my clothing purge.

I did papers before I did books, and that was not too terribly hard. I pruned a two-drawer file cabinet of stuff down to a single drawer. I may actually prune more after I finish this, and get rid of the file cabinet and keep the papers in folders on the bookshelf.

But books.


Books were how I survived school, and I do not mean as a scholar, but how I could ignore being picked on. Books were how I could learn there was more to the world than the rather Spartan culture I had to confront every time I left the house, and confront how that outside of my family, I was considered more of an inconvenience to be gotten rid of than anyone of any real worth. Books where how I escaped and books were how I grew. My identity as a bookworm was important to me because it could be how I was important or special.

It’s not that I still don’t love to read. I do. On average, I read a book a week, so that’s still part of my life and a part I treasure and enjoy.

In going through all these books – holding each one in my hand and asking, “Does this spark joy?” to decide which ones to keep, I am also confronting not only my past choices, but how I have changed and who I have become now. Even the act of taking all the books down from the shelves was much more emotional than I thought it was going to be.

KonMari Method

konmarimethod-1I just read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. I am decluttering the house according to a method where you declutter by type of item rather than by room. It’s called the KonMari method, and was created by a Japanese woman who is a fanatic about tidying and organization — even by the standards of a culture that values order. (Though if you think Japanese people don’t let their homes get cluttered, you’re wrong.) She claims if you follow her method in full, your habits will change, and you will keep your house tidy forever. It revolves around getting rid of stuff by taking each item in your hand and asking yourself one question: Does this spark joy?

I don’t know if her claims of never backsliding will pan out. I have to finish doing this whole method to the house, and I’ve only started with my clothes today.

I consider myself something of a clothing minimalist. I dress in capsules, I try not to keep what I don’t need, I deliberately plan to get most of my variety out of accessories.

I quite literally got rid of nearly half the clothing in my closets and drawers. What I got rid of was almost as telling as what I kept.

I got rid of all but one t-shirt with writing on it. I NEVER wear them, and only one got a yes at “Does this spark joy?”

It felt good and happy to do. It’s really a great question to ask, as it makes it easier to make the decision as you go on. You’ll pick up an item and smile. That’s a keeper. It doesn’t have to be practical. It doesn’t have to be suitable. It just has to spark joy.

I did get rid of a lot of stuff that I had made for myself, which had startled me until I started doing it. I had several pieces that belonged to capsules that had worn out and didn’t suit my new capsules. But the idea of getting rid of them sparked joy. That was the funny part. I had loved the clothes at one time, and had enjoyed making them, and enjoyed wearing them. I was happy they’d been so useful to me, and it was pleasing to let them go now.

It went a lot faster than I thought it would. It only took me a couple of hours to pile the clothes on the bed, sort them then put away what I wanted to keep. Then again, clothes are supposed to be the easy part, which is why you’re supposed to start with that first.

I’m just wondering if I am going to run out of steam before I go through every single item on the list. My husband, who wants to pare down our bookshelves, (we read in electronic format mostly these days) is on board with using this method for our books, which is next.

So, that would be at least two categories out of the way.

I’m going to do my best to post each and every decluttering session I do via this method to see if I actually A) Go through the entire course, and B) have it stick.

I figure there’s no real down side, even if it doesn’t. A big purge of things so you’re keeping only what sparks joy can’t be BAD no matter what.

Here’s a picture of a couple of my drawers. She’s big on folding and stacking vertically, too.

konmarimethod-3 konmarimethod-2