I recently checked in with more than a dozen people who did their first KonMari-style cleanouts in 2015, 2016, or 2017. They were generally enthusiastic (even Martin Law) about the way Kondo’s book made them reconsider their relationship to material things, although many of them lamented the onslaught of new stuff that must always be kept at bay.
Read: Marie Kondo and the privilege of clutter
That process has come more easily to some than to others. “My house has never gone back to the way it was before I started doing this three years ago,” says KK Holland, a 37-year-old who lives in Santa Barbara, California. Yes, clutter occasionally mounts, but she works to keep it in check. “I remove items that no longer spark joy on an ongoing basis, and I am a pretty fierce guard of what comes into my house,” she told me.
At the end of 2017, she and her husband had a baby girl. “I’m happy to report our KonMari survived an infant,” Holland says. She insists that nothing makes her uniquely good at vanquishing clutter, but that Kondo’s approach has staying power because it prompts people to fundamentally revisit why they own what they own.
Most people I talked to, though, carved out exceptions to or ignored certain recommendations in the process outlined in the book. A couple of them kept more books than they thought Kondo would want them to. And two women—one in Massachusetts, the other in Hanover, Germany—independently told me they thought it was too onerous to remove everything from their handbags each day upon returning home, as Kondo prescribes.
And for some people, the project of going through every last thing they own, one by one, was too much to handle. Mike Fu, a 33-year-old Brooklynite, estimates that he made it through about three-quarters of the KonMari method three or four years ago. “I probably chickened out at the point where it was going through all the papers and non-clothing or -book objects,” he told me. Fu says he’s since come to terms with having a bit of clutter, but he and his partner are planning to give the KonMari method another try, “at our own glacial pace.”
Jasmine Bager, who’s 35 and lives in New York City, also tried a KonMari cleanout but decided it wasn’t for her. After she piled up all her clothing for a Kondo-style review a few years ago, she found the prospect of carrying through with the project too exhausting and avoided the pile, shifting it back and forth between her chair and her bed. She later came up with her own decluttering system, which she says works for her: Every day, when she leaves her apartment, she forces herself to take three items with her to get rid of.
There is some flexibility to Bager’s rule (a bag of garbage counts toward the quota, and she doesn’t follow it if she’s in a real hurry), but she has been sticking with it for more than a year. In the course of what she calls her “little game with the city,” she’s been leaving behind various objects—a magazine, a key chain, a book, shoes—around town, unlabeled, with an expectation that someone who needs them will claim them. Once, months after abandoning a headband she’d made herself, she was pleased to see a stranger wearing it at a subway stop near her apartment.