KonMari Revisted: A Review of the Method in Tackling the Clutter Demon With Bipolar

The KonMari method, a technique for tidying by Japanese professional organizer Marie Kondo, involves grouping your stuff by category (clothes, books, papers, miscellany, and sentimental clutter). You lay your items out on the floor, hold each one, and ask yourself if it “sparks joy.” Then you decide to keep the item or let it go.

In a previous post, Taclking the Clutter Demon with Bipolar Disorder, I described my first attempts with the method. I noted that the joy of getting rid of clutter is indeed real, and addicting–and for a bipolar person, could tip him or her into hypomania.

I’ve now completed half the method, and am happy to report that I did not suffer manic or hypomanic symptoms after tidying each category. I did, however, endure a brief depressive episode after getting rid of most of my books, which I believe was unconnected to the decluttering, as I didn’t suffer depression after all categories.

During the process, I felt a great deal of overwhelm; my sister helped guide me through tidying my clothes and books, and I tackled papers and kitchen items by myself. Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing claims the tidying up process takes at least six months. I stay at home with a toddler who takes up all of my attention when she’s awake, so I have to depend on people being willing and able to watch her while I declutter. This is why I’ve taken so long to go through the KonMari method, and am only halfway done at the six month cut off. I’ve made progress, though it’s less than I would have liked.

After paring down my clothes, I was tired. Same with the books. I was so sad and exhausted, I felt like crying. But after tackling out my papers, I was happy. I was somewhat tired, true, but shedding the accumulated detritus of over a decade was refreshing–which was ultimately true for all categories, but especially papers.

marie kondo
A picture of Marie Kondo, a Japanese professional organizer, wearing a headset microphone and giving a talk. Credit to flickr.com user RISE. Used with permission under a Creative Commons license.

I still have a long way to go on my house. When tidying my clothes, I found items I’d never worn. When decluttering my books, I’d found books I’d never read. When clearing out my papers, I found stories I’d written in college that I’d lost due to multiple hard drive failures (I still need to learn to back up my digital items). I’d forgotten about those items because I never looked at them. Getting rid of about 75% of my clothes, 80% of my books, and 90% of my papers has enabled me to truly enjoy my remaining possessions. I have since received more asked-for books for Christmas, and bought one, but I am planning to reduce my collection again after I have finished reading the new books.

My husband is not on board with the method, so his stuff is off limits. I’m only decluttering my things, which means we still own massive shared board game and video game collections–containing games we’ve never played–and my husband possesses enough free T-shirts to outfit an army. Still, I need to learn to respect his space, and lead by example rather than nagging. When one partner in a marriage champions minimalism and the other is a packrat, arguments can rise up easily. I’m trying to avoid that, so I keep my spaces clear and do my best to ignore his spaces.

Marie Kondo is now the star of a Netflix show, “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.” I’ve seen the first episode, and Kondo, and her interpreter, also named Marie, are utterly charming. They don’t judge the people who have asked for their help. The first episode focuses on clothes, and on Kondo’s unique folding method (see a YouTube video of it here), which I have put to practice in my own drawers. When you’re finished folding, the clothes stand up on their ends, making seeing which outfits you have available easier. Kondo says that the clothes like to be folded in this manner and will remember how they’re folded, which is part of the touchy-feelyness of her method that turns some people off. I don’t buy into it entirely, but the method is useful to me.

In short, I’ve taken what I find helpful from the KonMari method and set aside the rest, which has enabled me to start down the path of a tidy house. I’m looking forward to doing another review once I complete the method. Keep an eye out for a future post detailing my completed tidying!

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Author: Cassandra Stout

Hi! My name is Cassandra Stout, and I am a freelancer and memoirist who blogs at The Bipolar Parent (Cassandrastout.com/bpparent) and at the International Bipolar Foundation (IBPF.org). My current project is Committed, my upcoming memoir that depicts my time spent in a psych ward after a postpartum psychotic breakdown. I am a ten-year member of a five-person critique group called the Seattle Scribblers. It's nice to meet you!

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