In 2019, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo debuted on Netflix and exposed a whole new audience to Marie Kondo’s method of tidying and decluttering, the KonMari Method™.  Although the show did not depict any KonMari consultants working directly with the individuals or families spotlighted in the show, it did give viewers an idea of some of the key aspects of the method, including harnessing the Power of the Pile, tidying by category in a particular order, and keeping only those items that spark joy.

A year later, Netflix has introduced its audience to another popular home organizing approach called The Home Edit. The co-founders of that company, Clea Shearer and Joanna Teplin, have built an Instagram following of over 3.8 million with their rainbow-inspired approach to organization.

If you watched Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, the chances are very good that Netflix suggested that you watch Get Organized with the Home Edit. Like Tidying Up, watching people get organized can certainly provide some inspiration to anyone who is struggling with clutter or in the process of decluttering. But comparing the two methods also illustrates the ways in which working with a professional organizer differ from working through Marie Kondo’s method either alone or with the help of a KonMari consultant.

Leaving aside differences in the projects tackled in each show (and the differences in clientele), here are some of the key distinctions between traditional organizing and the KonMari method that are illustrated in the shows:

  1. Active client participation vs. minimal client participation. One of the clearest differences from the beginning is that once Clea and Joanna get the lay of the land, the client leaves. In Tidying Up, once the clients learn from Marie, she leaves. In other words, the person doing the decluttering takes the central role in Marie Kondo’s method, whereas a client working with a professional organizer (as depicted in this show) leaves Clea and Johanna and their assistants to do the real work. Both Netflix shows oversimplify this process, of course. In Tidying Up, it appears that the clients were left to their own devices, but in fact they worked with certified KonMari consultants behind the scenes, who offered them guidance throughout the process. In the Home Edit, Clea and Johanna are shown asking their clients about items that they could discard (edit), and they frequently reassure their clients that they will not discard anything without asking. They tended to move items to another location that the client would decide about later. So ultimately, even the Home Edit clients would have decisions to make, but generally speaking they are not present when the bulk of the organization is taking place. In the KonMari method, the client is involved every step of the way.
  2.  Buying products at the beginning vs. the end (if at all). In the Home Edit approach, nearly the first step is to buy organizing products. Clea and Johanna do make a preliminary assessment of the space and the number of items to be organized, but after that they immediately shop for products to use in the space. Of course, this is not surprising for a company that has a collection at the Container Store, but it does illustrate a bigger emphasis on using organizing tools that are uniform and aesthetically pleasing. Marie Kondo is not opposed to beautiful organizing products and her company also sells products for tidying and organization, but Marie emphasizes in her books that all storage should be considered temporary until the entire decluttering process is complete. She often points out that storage items you emptied at an earlier stage of the process can be repurposed at a later stage. When I worked my way through my own apartment, for example, I emptied a small bookshelf while tidying books that I realized I could use to store my shoes. If I had run out and bought new shoe storage while working on that category, I would not have found a new use for my bookshelf, and I would have spent more money on organizing products than I needed to. There is nothing wrong with wanting to look at beautiful storage items every day, but the KonMari method often makes it unnecessary to buy anything new unless you truly want to give yourself a storage “upgrade.”
  3. Routine, or life-changing? One of the starkest differences between the two methods can be seen in the fact that several of Clea and Joanna’s celebrity clients mentioned that they had worked with the pair previously and were now having them back. And why not? If outside help can come in and transform a space drastically while the client is getting on with daily life, there is not much downside to allowing the space to become cluttered again, other than the expense of hiring organizers. But the awe-inspiring transformation, alone, is not enough to inspire lasting change. In contrast, the confrontational nature of Marie Kondo’s method — confronting yourself with your piles of stuff, confronting yourself with your feelings about your stuff, and so on — is truly life-changing, especially when done all at once, however long it takes. Maintenance is necessary to keep clutter from coming back no matter what organizing method is used, but having made all of the decisions along the way, a person who works through the KonMari method is well-equipped to make decisions regarding new items or new spaces without having to call in any experts.

Next time, I will address a few other differences in the two shows (and methods) while pointing out a few similarities. What do you think? Did you relate to any of the clients in either show? Did either show (or both) provide you with some needed inspiration?