Decluttering: Categories vs: Rooms Which Is More Effective?


KonMari Insight Blog Series.

One thing that Marie Kondo repeats over and over in her books Spark Joy  and The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, is that permanent decluttering only really happens when you declutter by categories. The response to that, which I often hear, is that separating things into categories is much more difficult than it is to start out on just one room. Also, people feel like they’re accomplishing something because they can at least have one or two rooms that presentable for visitors. I understand the feeling. It is overwhelming when your house is full  and everywhere you turn, all you see is more stuff.  I’ve been there.  But, after many, many, many years of attempting to declutter my home, and failing, I am completely sold on Marie Kondo’s method of category purging.  Here’s why:

For years, every January I would bring out the storage magazines and look at my messy house and try to figure out how I could store all of this stuff. And every February, I was still looking at my messy house and still trying to figure out how to store everything. I would go through my rooms, decide what their purpose would be; then I would toss out the trash and take things out of the room that shouldn’t be there. I would buy pretty containers and not fill them because I couldn’t decide what should go in them.

It seemed like a sound plan; having just only the things in my  rooms that belonged there. But because those other out of place things didn’t have homes, and I didn’t have  a plan, I would just “temporarily” put them into a different room. Eventually, “the temporary,” became permanent.  At least the rooms  were less messy, but my house still wasn’t organized or completed.

Granted my house didn’t look that messy.  I kept a few rooms for show, in case people would stop by. But there were closed doors and packed sheds that told a different story.  And  that didn’t stop me from having to do a frantic cleaning whenever I heard someone was coming over.  I still felt embarrassed and frustrated after cleaning. I was failing a basic skill; keeping a clean house. Trying to organize by rooms just didn’t work, at least not for me.

I also found myself constantly rearranging my stuff. I didn’t feel settled and I couldn’t get to a place where I felt content in my own home. I also had a lot of things that I felt I had to keep. I didn’t like them, but they were family treasures.


Enter KonMari. Enter a new way of looking at purging my stuff that I had never considered before: Purging by categories, selecting to keep what only sparked joy, doing the easiest things first, and saving the hardest for last. Here’s why this system worked for me.

  • I had to put everything I owned into one pile  and that was  sobering. You don’t realize how much you have until you have gathered it from every box and closet, and dumped it out before you.


  • Going by categories forced me to go through every nook and cranny  in the house. I found a lot of  things I forgot I had and a lot I didn’t remember buying.  I didn’t see the small things when I decluttered  going room to room.  I just saw the surface stuff.


  • Going by categories taught me how to hone my  joy sparking skills. I went  from easy to hard. When you go room by room and  if you run into something hard to deal with, you still have to make a decision. Inevitably, you end up ignoring it, or moving it to another room, without a plan. When I went by categories, I put the tough stuff in with my other sentimental items and kept going.


  • By the time I finally got to sentimentals, I was ready to face all of the emotional stuff. I felt confident in my choices. I had a mini celebration when I finished.


  • Because the house was done by categories, I knew I had fully purged all of my stuff.


  • Dealing with my possessions was an emotional process. Because going by categories gave me a plan, and it lessened the emotional toll of purging my things.


  • By the time I was halfway through my Komono categories, my house was righting itself. The whole house felt energized and lighter, instead of just one or two rooms being “ok.”


  • When I was finished tidying and did my final organizing, I found new ways to store the things I had selected to keep in my life. In fact I got rid of a lot of storage boxes because they just weren’t needed. Some things actually got stored in different rooms than originally, because I had the extra space.


To sum it up, when I followed Marie’s method, her way, the result was totally different than I had ever gotten  before. I finished. I actually finished. Yes, it took longer. It does make more of a mess in the interim.  And it can be frustrating. But,  when January comes around, I’m doing other things and not reading storage magazines.

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