I discovered The Life Changing Magic of Tidying up when I was working at a bookstore, and these books were flying out of the store in what seemed like a gust of wind (stopping at the three cash registers first). My life could certainly used some changing, I thought. I was in between jobs at the time, so my side hustle had become my only hustle. I actually had the time to throw all my life’s belongings on the floor, hand select the items that sparked joy, and set them back in my closets and drawers in a respectful, organized way—the basic tenet of the KonMari method.
Of course it changed my life. It gave me a sense of purpose, a way to keep me inside the house, instead of out in Manhattan buying more clothes from H&M that looked great on their mannequins but confusing in my mirror (a matching shorts-and-shirt set with gold jaguar motif?). I told my neat-freak Dad that I had finally found joy in cleanliness, and it annoyed him: “I’ve been telling you this your whole life! Why did you only listen when she told you?”
Marie Kondo has that allure: the way she anthropomorphizes coats and socks (“they work so hard for you”), but does not mince words when she tells you to let go of sentimental objects (like books, which, no thanks). She's the modern woman’s ideal mentor, a fruitful mix of whimsy and tough love. So when I heard, last week, that there is a new KonMari app, I was thrilled. It was finally time to revisit organization-inspired life lessons I had surely slacked off on in the two years since I read the original book.
The app serves as a type of social media platform for tidiers, where the first screen you stumble upon is a feed of other users’ "before and after" photos. I saw a post where somebody tried to use the app to sell her soon-to-be-discarded accessories. If the brains behind the app play it right, the app could turn into a valuable resource, a kind of Craigslist for Marie Kondo fans (Kondoslist, if I may).
Some users ask for advice. Some even express doubt: "Is it okay to find something that doesn't spark joy every time I open my closet? Does it mean I wasn't honest with myself when I did my first joy check?" I find this a little worrisome, because the KonMari method seems to have caused this user to overthink her joy, an emotion that, at its core, is carefree—the antithesis of over-thinking. Who determines the user's joy—the user herself, or Marie Kondo? The KonMari method, in this case, seems to have sparked more anxiety than joy—and anxiety causes people to spend money on self-help books like Marie Kondo's.
To the app's credit, however, it's free, and the helpful, sensitive responses the inquiring user got from fellow app users was also free.
What’s immediately irritating, though, is how buggy the app is. You can only upload one photo at a time, and check off either “before photo” or “after photo.” So if you want to upload your after photo, the one people actually want to look at, you have to repeat the process. (An interface where you could upload both simultaneously would more the most sense.) Plus, it’s not intuitive, so I ended up uploading my before/after photos three separate times, crowding the feed. I’m clearly not the only one who bungled this, because other a few users' uploads also show up multiple times. “Why don’t you just delete it?,” you ask. I couldn’t! There is no option for deleting photos; you can only report them as inappropriate.
I don’t like how an entire section of the app, “Consultants,” is dedicated to info on how one can apply to become a home consultant for the KonMari method. To boot, that page doesn't even carry the information; it only links out to a different page on Konmari.com.
It’s okay for the info to be there, but does it need to take up so much real estate? That space could be better spent on a few of the handy diagrams from the original book, to show you how to fold t-shirts or store plastic bags. It gave me the feeling that the app cared less about helping people clean their homes, and more about recruiting more Konmari evangelists. As Heather Havrilesky pointed out in The Cut, that expansion of the Marie Kondo empire is ironic in itself: How are more books and stationery and knickknacks supposed to help you declutter? If tidying up is supposed to clear headspace for you to follow your dreams, passions, and goals, how far into those are you going to get if you spend all your time decluttering?
Maybe our Design & Home Editor was right to lose her copy of Spark Joy.
But here’s what I do like about the app. It’s nice to track your Spring Cleaning progress. You even win little badges for every section of the house you clean up and upload photos of. (However, I was a little peeved that I did not win a badge for cleaning up my baker’s rack, which falls under the category of komono, or miscellany.) And "Kitchen" doesn't even have its own category, which it totally deserves. But hey, that’s not the point. Look at what I did to my (and my three roommates’) tea collection:
This made my weekend. It added extra counter space to my small kitchen, which I used to cut onions for our no-recipe vegetable chili instead of ordering take-out. It inspired me to tackle my clothes next, when I finally tossed that jaguar motif two-piece set, grimly accepting that it looked heinous on me, and made some money selling my clothes at a secondhand shop while donating the rest to charity. I know the KonMari method strongly suggests getting all your Spring Cleaning done in one day, but the app could be used as a sort of progress-tracker, so you can split the categories you cover over multiple weekends, which is great if you are working full-time.
So should you get the app? It’s really up to you. If you feel like sharing your Spring Cleaning progress with a social network of likeminded folks will motivate you to clean out, go for it. But what I loved the most about the original book is that it changed my habits for the better. I went from being perpetually messy to having a natural alarm clock in my head every Sunday saying, "tidy up!" My weeks are better for it.
A 20-minute process that I can finish while listening to a podcast, tidying is now a personal ritual that I don’t want to spoil by sharing it on social media or winning a badge for. Its rewards don’t work in a traceable system; they are purely mental. Marie Kondo's first book conveyed as much—but for me, the app only sparks indifference.
Have you tried the app? Let us know your thoughts!
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