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Does Decluttering Give You Joy? Not These People

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Do your possessions spark joy? Organizing expert Marie Kondo asks that question in her bestselling book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing,” on her popular Netflix show “Tidying up with Marie Kondo” and through her rapidly growing network of certified Konmari consultants.

Marie Kondo's passion for de-cluttering, infectious smile and seemingly endless supply of tiny boxes have inspired people across the nation to say "thank you" to old T-shirts and mismatched silverware before dropping them at a thrift store.

But do neatly folded underwear and purses organized by size really increase your happiness? Reaction has been mixed. The following people are not convinced.

5.  Hoarders

As Olga Khazan points out in “The Atlantic,” “When you’re a hoarder, everything ‘sparks joy.’

Kondo’s approach alone may not help a person whose clothing collection overflows a garage. Sometimes hoarding is best addressed with the support of a trained therapist, not a self-help book. In fact, Kondo’s belief that it is ok to hold onto cherished possessions may actually validate and enable the hoarding behavior.

Not all experts agree with this assessment. Self-proclaimed hoarder Rachel Kramer Bussel found the television show inspiring and useful because of Kondo’s empathy. She writes, “No matter how much clutter someone has, there is no moment of horror. Instead, she focuses on the different reasons people accumulate clutter, like the death of a loved one, moving to a smaller home, expecting a baby or plain old sentimentality. By doing so, she makes the mess feel less like a problem, and more like the detritus of a real human being’s existence."

4. Book Lovers

Some bibliophiles are horrified at Kondo's call to prune a large book collection down to 30 volumes or less.

In many households books are cherished mementos. A shelf full of cookbooks represents culinary possibilities. Travel books can be pored over for hours in planning the next vacation. Old picture books get set aside for future grandchildren. Novels may remain on a shelf for years before being re-read. The possibility of each book sparks joy. Some people spend a lifetime filling their homes with beloved tomes.

The backlash to Kondo’s suggestion to “keep no more than…” was so strong that Kondo had to publicly explain that she is not the enemy of home librarians everywhere. Instead, she encourages people to give away books that no longer spark joy. There is no magic number.

3. Maximalists

Some reject Kondo's approach wholeheartedly. “Maximalists” embrace the curation of many items at home that reflect one's personal style.

For hundreds of years, this group has derived joy from collecting everything from spoons to stamps to Christmas ornaments. And everyone knows the sting of realizing that a beloved memento was accidentally given away. Is the risk of that loss worth a clutter-free house? For some people, when a house embraces form over function, it loses warmth and nostalgia.

Maximalist Architect Hannah Martin writes of Kondo’s method, “Perhaps the lesson for maximalists is this: Take your possessions, hold them in your hands, thank them for all they've done for you and then put them right back on the shelf where they belong.”

2.  Retail stores

While the popularity of Kondo may be bad news for retail stores, it has been great for secondhand stores. Konmari devotees are unloading all matter of cherished items, from baseball cards to gowns to bicycles.

Visit your local Goodwill or consignment shop to benefit from the onslaught of high-quality goods. You can even shop the sales in your PJs: online listings like ebay, Poshmark and Threadup are designed to aid your wardrobe and your pocketbook.

The benefits of buying secondhand are multifold: help the environment, avoid the trends of fast fashion and provide a financial incentive to spring cleaners everywhere. Just be sure your purchases spark joy before entering your closet!

1. Parents

From outgrown baseball gloves to highchairs to a wardrobe of dance costumes, the clutter that comes with children can take over a household. Can one maintain a tidy house amid the tornado of parenthood? To many parents, it sounds unrealistic.

But Kondo herself is a mother of two young children. She insists that children can help tidy a home, and that her own 2 year old has already begun to tidy. A toddler that folds her own clothes? What could be more appealing to a parent of young children? But while the idea of modeling tidiness to your children sounds great in theory, Kondo’s example may feel unattainable to busy parents just trying to get dinner on the table.

Will decluttering make you happier? The one thing that all Kondo critics agree on is this. The only way to truly spark joy in your home is to keep only what makes you happy and healthy as an individual. And Kondo would agree with that.

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