Q1: How—exactly—does your tidying-up
advice for Americans differ from that of Marie Kondo’s? Anything more you can
tell us about this?
A: If your household is as simple as that of an apartment with a small on-premises storage locker (included in your rent), I would follow Marie Kondo’s advice, more or less as written in the English language translation of her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.
If, on the other hand, you live in a house of more than 1500 square feet and you’ve lived there for several years, and a place that once seemed big enough but is now overflowing with your possessions, I’d depart from her advice, not so much to change it as to add to it. I’d do a custom decluttering plan that considers the following:
Decluttering in America vs. Japan
1. You can add a major garage sale or professionally run estate sale before beginning the formal decluttering process. Capture the cash you generate and hold onto it until properly deployed in a financial plan.
2. You can do a room-by-room, storage space by storage space decluttering to remove the first 50% of your clutter… before going through the category-by-category analysis advocated by Marie Kondo. This avoids the time and logistical challenges of pulling categories together in one place and holding individual items in your hands as you look for those that provide you some special spark of joy. Not that the spark of joy idea is a bad one, but it’s inefficient and probably not necessary for getting rid of the first half of your clutter.
3. Because you are not trying to be comprehensive, you can handle the first round of decluttering fast. Save the harder decisions for the KonMari Method of the second round.
4. As you go room-by-room, you can identify those categories in which you own many more possessions than Marie Kondo or anyone could have anticipated. Add such categories to the five she identifies (clothing, books, paper, mementos, and miscellany). Dispose of the obvious clutter from your personal categories and save the rest, pending the category-by-category review outlined by Marie Kondo. (You can, if you like, do this for her five categories, as well.)
5. After you’ve applied the KonMari Method but before you’ve finally disposed of the second half of your clutter, you can quickly do one more room-by-room, storage space by storage space review. You want your rooms to end up looking right, particularly if you will be staying in your current home. You want them to function right, particularly if you will be taking on new functionality [as in using part of your home for an Airbnb guest room(s)]. And you may identify a storage shed (no longer needed and free-standing, not tied to your property) that can be listed for sale on CraigsList.
6. Before the final disposal of the remnants of your clutter, you can consider whether you want to hold another garage sale or contract an estate sale professional. Decluttering a major household can take six months. Consider holding such event as you start and again, six months later, as you finish the process. In each case, the unsold items can then be donated, recycled, or, as necessary, disposed of as trash.