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Why the Marie Kondo Method Doesn’t Work for Everyone — And What to Try Instead

We love us some Marie Kondo, but honestly, who among us has the energy to follow her instructions to the letter? Pulling out every single item in our home and deciding if it “sparks joy?” Cleaning out our handbags every single night? Implementing a storage system for our vegetables? Emptying all our toiletries into label-less bottles to relieve yourself of the “noise” of written information? Honestly, it’s all a bit much.

Which is why we were so excited to come across Organized Enough: The Anti-Perfectionist’s Guide to Getting — and Staying — Organized ($11.55, Amazon) by NY-based organizer Amanda Sullivan. The book is about being organized enough. Not aiming for perfection but being happy with having a level of organization that allows you to live your life comfortably. Here, we chat with Sullivan about why the Marie Kondo method doesn’t work for everyone and why being “organized enough” is what we should all be aiming for.

What does organized enough mean? Has this always been your philosophy?

No, it hasn’t always been my philosophy. “Organized enough” was something I came to when I realized that so many of my clients were missing the mark — not because of laziness or being chaotic by nature — but rather because they thought they had to be, and that organizing was more complicated than it really is. Being organized is really pretty simple. You just have to have a plan and stick to it.

How do you feel about the Kondo craze?

I thought Marie Kondo’s book was delightful, but honestly, I couldn’t do it, much less my clients. I think she is young and inspiring, and when I was 25 my apartment was that minimalist, too. Now I’m 50 and I have three kids, so I’m all about systems and practicality. My fear, as an environmentalist, is that people are going to read her book, get inspired to throw out a lot of stuff, and then go buy it again, and I hate that.

You talk a lot about FLOW in the book. What is this system and how does it work?

FLOW stands for “Forgive Yourself, Let Stuff Go, Organize What’s Left, Weed Constantly.” Another thing I learned early in my career is that people are really hard on themselves. They think they should just “be organized” and they feel they have failed when they have clutter. These feelings aren’t helpful. If you think you are bad, you don’t think you can change. I think people can change, so I want them to forgive themselves so we can get into the work. Letting Stuff Go is always first, because I don’t want to organize stuff you don’t need. Less stuff is always easier to manage. Then we Organize What is Left,  assigning a spot, making sure it fits and is accessible, and finding any containers that are needed. To be able to maintain, you need to remember to Weed Constantly, because stuff seems to magically appear in our world.

Organizing and decluttering when you have kids can seem overwhelming. What are your tips?

I have three kids, and lots of my clients have kids too. The secret to keeping kids organized is giving them good systems. I labeled everything when my kids were young, and I made sure they could reach storage bins and so on so they could tidy up themselves. Hooks are good, labeled baskets or bins for small toys are good. And get in the habit of weeding. We have a weed session at least twice a year for clothes and for stuff. Our main rooms are orderly, and when my kids were younger I used to routinely help them straighten out their rooms. Now they are older and I am more hands-off. But my daughter (who has a lot of stuff) has suddenly decided she cares and is really into arranging her room and will often weed on her own, which is a miracle. When she wants to let go of books I really love, I have to be brave and let them go!

This article was originally written by Lauren Sams. For more, check out our sister site, Homes to Love.

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