4 Myths About Decluttering — And What to Do Instead

Decluttering woman in shock

I know it’s been on all the bestseller lists for months. I know it’s been mentioned on every relevant pop cultural source, even the “Gilmore Girls” revival. I know I write blogs about decluttering and home decorating blogs that are posted around the internet – but I just now finished “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo.

I thought I knew the best strategies for cleaning up a house, but after I tried Marie Kondo’s simple strategies, I discovered how wrong I was. If you are, like I was, late to the Marie Kondo experience, here are the misconceptions you have about tidying up – and why you might not have the clean, clutter-free home you always wanted.

Myth: You Should Go Room by Room

Conventional wisdom advises decluttering the kitchen before even trying to straighten up the living room. For years, that has made perfect sense: You gain a feeling of accomplishment, you can check an entire section of your house off your list, and for the most part, rooms are discrete, so there is little travel of clutter between them. It’s efficient, right?

Marie Kondo says wrong. She employs a categorical cleaning strategy, meaning she tackles types of items instead of worrying about rooms. For example, you should strive to rid yourself of all your enormous junk together, like donating that old family boat in the garage or tossing the moth-eaten sofa in the basement and the broken trampoline out back. Then, you should move onto another category, like books, and another, like clothing.

I tried this strategy, and it works so much better than I expected. When you move room-to-room, you never end up decluttering everywhere. Extra unwanted books, stashed in the bedroom, miss getting cleared out when you clean the den’s bookshelf. With Kondo’s tactic, everything related goes at once, so decluttering is a faster and smoother process.

Myth: Hanging Is the Best Method

You’ve probably seen closet hacks that use all sorts of hanging organizers to keep your clothes, shoes, and accessories neat and accessible. In theory, hanging everything up keeps them organized and out-of-the-way – but in practice, it just helps your closet become an overflowing mess.

Marie Kondo is a major proponent of folding everything you can and storing the bulk of your wardrobe in a dresser. Though it might not be possible (or sensible) to fold everything you own, the practice saves space and time. Kondo even devised special folds that stay tidy when packed vertically inside drawers. Here are the steps for shirts:

  • Step 1: Lay shirt face-down on flat surface.
  • Step 2: Fold right sleeve to center of back. Repeat with left sleeve to create a rectangle.
  • Step 3: Fold the shirt toward you, leaving about an inch between the hem and the neck.
  • Step 4: Fold the shirt again, leaving an inch between the edge and the neck.
  • Step 5: Fold in half completely. Stand shirt on edge before placing in dresser.

It is a little difficult to get used to turning to your dresser instead of your closet, but so far, Kondo’s advice has made my wardrobe look positively Pinterest-worthy. Now, the clothing still hanging in my closet has space to breathe, and Kondo’s magic folds are keeping my dresser-bound clothes wrinkle-free and easy-to-find. This is a habit more than a one-time tip, but I think it will work.

Myth: Your Home Will Look Better Right Away

Decluttering file away papersDecluttering is hard work, which is why posts about home organization tend to be upbeat and sugar-sweet. “It goes so fast when you do this,” you read; “After even an hour of tidying, you’ll love how your home looks.”

The truth is, your home will look messy for a while. It took me more than a month to work through all of Kondo’s methods, and during that time, piles of trash, stacks of giveaways, and more littered my halls for days at a time. However, the results were worth the wait. Marie Kondo prescribes a lifestyle that makes tidy living incredibly easy, and after a whirlwind of extra mess, you will have a clean home for longer than ever before.

Myth: Stuff Is Just Stuff

That dated lamp from your grandmother? Give it away. The raggedy towels you’ve had since college? They belong in the garbage. Your kids’ baby clothes? They don’t fit; they don’t belong in your home. Most professional organizers are ruthless with your belongings, asserting that if they don’t provide an immediate use, you shouldn’t feel bad about being rid of them for good.

Marie Kondo doesn’t want you to keep around everything that makes you feel nostalgic, but she isn’t quite as cruel about the process of saying goodbye. Kondo sees personality and emotion in every object – it’s a Japanese religious and cultural tradition – so she is careful not to offend belongings she believes are no longer necessary. When you decide to toss anything, but especially when you are preparing to get rid of something that brings up sentiment, you should thank it for its service and tuck it respectfully into a giveaway box.


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