This Is Why the Konmari Method Didn’t Work for My Neurodivergent Brain
And why the traditional little-by-little tidying method did
When it comes to decluttering, I’ve tried everything. For most of my life, I failed at keeping my home tidy.
I have Asperger’s syndrome and ADD. Like many people with ADHD, I often get excited about new things. A few years ago, I read Marie Kondos’ book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I was hooked. I completely immersed myself in the Konmari method.
I thought the Konmari method was the all-in-one solution that would make my home tidy forever. But it turned out that the Konmari method wasn’t a good fit for my neurodivergent brain.
What Is Konmari Method?
The Konmari method is a tidying method created by the Japanese Marie Kondo.
The idea is to keep only the items that spark joy in you and discard the rest. According to the Konmari philosophy, you should thank the things you choose to discard before you let them go.
In the Konmari method, you need to organize your items by category, not by location.
First, you organize your clothes, then books, papers, komono (miscellaneous items), and finally, sentimental items. The reason for the order is that you start with an “easy” category. Clothes are easier to discard than sentimental items. You work your way to harder categories.
When you move on to sentimental items, you have already become better at recognizing what sparks joy for you.
The Konmari Method Made My Life a Tidying Festival for a Year
This quote by Marie Kondo really hit me:
Life truly begins only after you have put your house in order.
― Marie Kondo
I’m autistic, and I tend to take things literally. So, I thought I shouldn’t do anything else until I had finished my Konmari project.
After all, Marie Kondo says your life doesn’t truly begin until you’ve organized your house. And I did feel like I wasn’t living life fully because I didn’t feel good about my clutter.
I spent a year mostly sorting out my belongings. I had started a website, but I mostly ignored it. I didn’t have time to write because tidying up took all my time and energy.
In her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up Marie Kondo calls the Konmari project a “tidying festival”.
Well, my life became a tidying festival for a year. I became hyperfocused on decluttering.
The nature of the Konmari method makes it easy to become hyperfocused with it. According to The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, the Konmari project is an intense once-in-a-lifetime event. You’re supposed to immerse yourself in tidying up once. Then, your house will never be cluttered again.
I thought I would only have to organize my home once. Of course, that’s an unrealistic expectation.
Dumping All Your Clothes on the Floor Is a Recipe for Disaster When You Have ADD
The danger of hyperfocus for neurodivergent people is one problem with the Konmari method.
Another problem is the tendency of a person with ADD to leave things unfinished. As an ADHD coach Dana Rayburn points out in her blog, people with ADHD struggle to finish what we start. Also, things need to be easy for us to do.
In theory, reviewing your things one category at a time could work. After all, that gives you a clear structure.
In reality, sorting out items category by category is the biggest problem of the Konmari method for ADD adults. You’re supposed to dump out all your clothes (or whatever group of items you’re working on) on the floor and sort them out.
As Dana Rayburn points out, a person with ADHD gets bored and goes do something else. That did happen to me. I dumped all my books on the floor and sorted out some of them. I didn’t finish the piles at once, so I often had piles of stuff lying on the floor.
That’s why it took me so long to finish the Konmari project. The method didn’t motivate my brain. Also, I didn’t sort out all categories thoroughly.
When I finally finished the project, I wasn’t satisfied. I still had clutter in my home. I got rid of some clutter, but the Konmari method didn’t help me get the tidy dream home I had pictured in my mind.
Organizing Guides Made for Neurotypical People Don’t Work for Neurodivergent Adults
My experience with the Konmari method is a real-life example of how organizing guides made for neurotypical people don’t work for neurodivergent adults.
I had failed with other organizing methods before. I thought the Konmari method would finally be the right fit for me.
But I didn’t realize I might have failed with other methods because I didn’t have my AS and ADD diagnoses at the time. I didn’t have my ADHD meds, and I failed at many things before I got them. Also, I didn’t know how to modify the methods for my neurodivergent brain because I didn’t even know I had a neurodivergent brain.
Could I have made the Konmari method work for me if I had modified it? I don’t think so. That’s because the principle of sorting out your stuff by category is a poor fit for a neurodivergent person.
I really wanted the Konmari method to work for me. I love the philosophy of Marie Kondo. I love the idea of being grateful for your items and thanking them. I also love the concept that you should only keep stuff that sparks joy in you.
Some parts of the Konmari method have worked for me. For example, I love the Konmari way of folding clothes. I still fold my clothes in an upright position.
The Traditional Little-by-Little Organizing Method Is the Best Fit for My Neurodivergent Brain
After failing with the Konmari method, I still struggled with clutter. I still had too much stuff. The chaos of my home overwhelmed me.
I didn’t give up on my dream of a tidy home, but I realized I needed to give up on the Konmari method.
I read more organizing books, including Nagisa Tatsumi’s The Art of Discarding, Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui by Karen Kingston, and Judith Kolberg and Kathleen Nadeau’s book ADD-Friendly Ways to Organize Your Life.
Finally, something clicked. I had failed with the traditional little-by-little organizing method before. But now I understood myself better.
Also, the other organizing guides made me realize something that Marie Kondo’s books didn’t mention. Organizing your home is an ongoing process, not a one-time event. Your house won’t stay tidy unless you tidy it up regularly.
No matter what you do, you will gather more clutter over time. Organizing your home needs to become a habit.
I don’t abandon other areas of my life for a full-time tidying festival anymore. I make organizing a small part of my daily life.
The Konmari method judges the little-by-little approach and tidying one drawer at a time. But decluttering one small area at a time works for my neurodivergent brain.
Now I’m finally seeing progress. I still have clutter to clear, but my home is much tidier now. I don’t feel as overwhelmed anymore.
I agree with Marie Kondo’s philosophy that tidying up your home can change your life. The Konmari method just wasn’t the right way for me to do that.
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