The Current

Marie Kondo's tidying method won't work everywhere, says author who believes in the power of mess

As organizing consultant and global sensation Marie Kondo's new Netflix show extols the benefits of a tidy life, we look at whether some people just need to be messy.

Organization method shouldn't be used in more dynamic situations, says author

Marie Kondo has won hordes of devotees around the world with her approach to decluttering, and now a new Netflix show is introducing her method to new audiences.

Read Story Transcript

Global tidying-up sensation Marie Kondo has a new Netflix show that extols the virtues of a well-organized life — but one author argues that her method won't work in every aspect of our lives.

"She's a genius, I think she's brilliant, but I think that we need to appreciate that her method has limits," said Tim Harford, author of Messy: The Power of Disorder to Transform Our Lives.

On Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, each week the Japanese organizing guru and bestselling author visits a household where people are drowning in their own stuff. She uses her trademark technique to help them pare down their possessions — urging them to hold on only to items that "spark joy."

Kondo's approach can work in some spaces, like the kitchen or bedroom, said Tim Harford. (Shutterstock)

Harford told The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti that this approach works well in a kitchen or bedroom, but that we apply it wrongly in "more dynamic situations."

"There's constantly stuff coming into our lives, into our houses, across our desks, there's paperwork, there's email — for avid readers, there's books," said Harford, who is an economist, and writer for the Financial Times.

"When there's this constant flow of stuff in and out of a working space, this one-shot method that she advocates of taking something into your hands and asking yourself: 'Do I really need this? Does this spark joy?' — it doesn't apply."

Kondo's methods have won worldwide acclaim however — and an army of devotees.

Everything that's in your life should be there because it makes you happy, it gives you a feeling.- Ivanka Siolkowsky

Ivanka Siolkowsky is a professional organizer who has been officially trained in Kondo's methods; she now runs a Toronto company called The Tidy Moose.

"Everything that's in your life should be there because it makes you happy, it gives you a feeling — and her phrasing is 'spark joy,'" Siolkowsky explained.

"I just found that her method really simplified my life," she told Tremonti.

"I suffer from mental illness, and the structure that this brought and the framing of the positivity versus the negative way to consider decluttering, it's been very uplifting for me in my life."

Click 'listen' near the top of this page to hear the full conversation.

Written by Padraig Moran. Produced by Julie Crysler, Howard Goldental and Danielle Carr.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.