Alison Lush on the KonMari Method™

alison-lush

Alison Lush is a certified professional organizer who has specialized training in working with people affected by chronic disorganization. She is a Master Trainer, CPO-CD®, CPO® and President of ICD (the Institute for Challenging Disorganization). Alison recently attended two international conferences: the Association of Professional Declutterers and Organisers  (APDO) in London, and the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) in Dallas-Ft. Worth, Texas. I interviewed Alison about her work as a professional organizer about a year ago on this blog. Upon her return to Montreal after her attendance at these conferences, she kindly took the time to answer some questions I had about the KonMari Method™ from her perspective as a specialist in dealing with people who are affected by chronic disorganization—JH

Janet Hulstrand: What did you think about the KonMari Method™ when you first learned about it? Has your opinion of it changed since then? If so, how has it changed?

Alison Lush: My opinion about the KonMari Method™ has not changed since I first learned about it. On the plus side, I think that several strategies inherent in the Method™ definitely have merit, depending on who is trying to use them. They will work for some people, and not for others. On the downside, I find the “Do it exactly this way, with no modifications” approach unhelpful. I have nine years of experience working with clients, and I find that many people appreciate personalized approaches. They like to pick and choose. They like to personalize.

Also, Kondo claims that it is easy to declutter and organize. That is simply not true for everyone, and I think it is a disservice to those who struggle with it, to say that it is.

Janet: You recently addressed a group of professional organizers in London. What was the topic of your talk?

 Alison: The presentation I gave was called “Making Space for the KonMari Method™”. I’ve talked with two certified KonMari consultants, and was struck by the similarities in our approaches.

My education and training comes primarily from the Institute for Challenging Disorganization (ICD). Ever since Marie Kondo’s book launched in 2014 in English, I’d been hearing backlash from professional organizers, and I’ve been curious about that. So a fellow professional organizer, April Miller, and I performed a detailed compare-and-contrast of the ICD perspective and the KonMari Method™. We delivered this analysis as a class to ICD in late 2017, and I reworked the presentation for the annual 2019 conference of the Association of Professional Declutterers and Organizers (APDO) in the UK. The crux of this detailed analysis is that there are some parts of the KonMari Method™ that would work for people affected by chronic disorganization, and some that definitely would not.

Janet: Why do you think the KonMari Method™ is very helpful for some people, and not all for others? Can it even be counterproductive for some people? Is there a way of creating a “hybrid” approach to decluttering that uses some elements of the Kon Mari Methodand rejects others? 

Alison: One of the things many people lose sight of is that the basis of the KonMari Method,™ as outlined in Marie Kondo’s first book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, is that she insisted that the method must be followed as directed. That is one of the pieces that has generated much of the criticism I think.

As a professional organizer, I listen carefully to what my clients tell me. I suspect that many people who report having success with the KonMari Method™ may actually be having success with some of the strategies presented in the Method. I tried several of the strategies myself, and was pleased at seeing some progress. But I would never attempt to try the KonMari Method™ as prescribed. I believe the most helpful decluttering and organizing strategies are personalized by and/or for the individuals who own the stuff.

If people affected by chronic disorganization attempt this method (which claims to be easy) without support, and fail again, their feelings of inadequacy may be reinforced.

Janet: What do you admire most about Marie Kondo?

Alison: The marketing that has launched her onto the international stage is impressive. Many of the individual concepts she has woven into the KonMari Method™ were already well known, but she repackaged and launched them with great success.

Janet: What, if anything, do you think is misguided or overrated in her approach? Or perhaps simply misunderstood?

Alison: The underlying strategiesand the complete KonMari Method™ are not the same thing. The Method™ includes taking multiple steps, in order, and it is recommended that it be done as quickly as possible, like ripping off a Band-Aid. When the Method™ is executed as directed, dramatic results are promised, including protection from backsliding into clutter. But the Method™ must be followed as directed for these results.

The two primary issues I have with her approach is that it is specified that you must 1) do it THIS way, and 2) that it is EASY. For many people, chronic disorganization is a reality, and decluttering is NOT easy. Telling them it is easy potentially sets them up for more failure.

When I asked the certified KonMari consultants I talked with about their work with their clients, I was impressed by the similarities in their descriptions of their approach, compared to how I work with clients. They describe a client-centered approach – but Marie Kondo’s book is definitely not client-centered. The certified KonMari consultants I met with are positive ambassadors for the profession, and I’m sorry they find themselves on the front lines, receiving much backlash because of the rigid approach outlined in the book.

Janet: One of the areas of backlash to the massive decluttering that is going on in the wake of the huge popularity of Marie Kondo’s Netflix series is the environmental effects of massive, sudden throwing out of things, especially in plastic bags! What advice or cautions do you have to offer about how to go about aggressive decluttering in a way that is environmentally responsible?

Alison: For the record, I have not watched the series, and have no intention to do so. I have studied Marie Kondo’s first book in great depth, many times, over the past five years. At the NAPO conference this past weekend, I heard a presentation about The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning. It involves the notion that when we declutter, we have the responsibility to find someone else who can use the thing. I find this both refreshing and challenging. Because when we are dealing with a LOT of stuff going out the door, it is very difficult to imagine finding individuals to take it all.

I certainly do encourage my clients to first think of anyone they know who might benefit from the stuff, then to donate to charities, then as a very last resort, to send it to landfill. I refer to this as Amnesty – a one-time rebooting of the overall amount of possessions one owns. And hand-in-hand with Amnesty, I hope there will be increased awareness of the responsibility of ownership.

It all starts when we bring stuff home. Bring home less stuff! 🙂

Alison Lush is the only Certified Professional Organizer in Quebec, Canada. You can follow her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Janet Hulstrand is a writer, editor, writing coach, and teacher. She is coauthor of Moving On: A Practical Guide to Downsizing the Family Home and author of Demystifying the French: How to Love Them, and Make Them Love You

 

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