Minimalism and KonMari - Different Paths or Just Different Names?

published on 12 March 2022


“Truthfully, though, most organizing is nothing more than well-planned hoarding.” 
― Joshua Fields Millburn, Everything That Remains: A Memoir by The Minimalists

“The things you own end up owning you.” 
― Joshua Fields Millburn, Everything That Remains: A Memoir by The Minimalists

KonMari Method

“Discarding is not the point; what matters is keeping those things that bring you joy. If you discard everything until you have nothing left but an empty house, I don’t think you’ll be happy living there." 

― Marie Kondo, Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up

“The important thing in tidying is not deciding what to discard but rather what you want to keep in your life.” 

― Marie Kondo, Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up

This article is to respond to the question I am often asked,  by clients and media, about whether the KonMari Method is the same as Minimalism.  

The above quotes show a tension between Minimalism and the KonMari Method.  My intention is not to argue that the philosophies are completely at odds or that one is better than the other. Rather, I’d suggest that they have much in common and both approaches are good for people and the environment.

In fact, I'd argue that KonMari can be a good starting point for approaching Minimalism, but only if that's of interest. That does not mean they are the same, and there are some notable distinctions. 

You Say Goodbye and I say Hello

Minimalism and KonMari differ in their approach.  Minimalism asks you to say goodbye to everything except that which is essential.   In contrast, the KonMari Method asks you to identify what you love – what sparks joy.    It may seem like a minor difference but it shapes the way you look at your belongings.  For Minimalism, stuff is a necessary evil. For KonMari, what you keep, which could be a lot or a little, is celebrated. 

Experiences Rather Than Stuff

"Minimalism is the thing that gets us past the things so we can make room for life’s important things—which aren’t actually things at all." 

Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus

The idea that we should value experiences over belongings is one that I connect with.  But this core tenant of minimalism is not implicit in the KonMari Method.  The KonMari Method suggests that things are important and do bring pleasure – items can Spark Joy, after all.    

The distinction is important to my clients (or prospective ones) who may be nervous I am going to ask them to throw away all their stuff – even what they love.  This is not my expectation. I tell them that there is no minimum number of items that they must discard and that the decision to keep or discard something always remains in their hands. 

That said, when people clear the clutter they create space, in their home and in their mind.  This space is often filled not by new items but by new passions: hobbies, learning, family time and traveling, among others. 

Benefits of Both

In many ways, KonMari and Minimalism are complementary. Here are a few benefits to both:

•    Critical Consumption

One way or another, we all consume.   The benefit of both KonMari and Minimalism is that we approach purchasing from a critical, analytical standpoint.  When you go through the KonMari or Minimalist process of analyzing every possession, you do some soul searching about what is important to you.  This self-reflection allows you to view buying from a different lens and to ask important questions: Do I need it? Will this make me happier?  Often the answer to both is no.

•    Buy Nice or Buy Twice

Both concepts encourage people to critically buy and responsibly dispose. That means donating or reselling items that you no longer require rather than throwing everything away.   We should all know the negative environmental effects of “fast fashion.” KonMari enthusiasts and Minimalists alike come to understand the value of quality over quantity. When I think about quality, I think about a company like Patagonia. If you don't know the history of this company, I encourage you to read this wonderful profile of its founder.

•    The Joy of Less

While KonMari accepts that possessions can bring joy, there is no question that unwanted items clutter the mind and can drag you down.  Both concepts value the lightness – the Joy - that comes from less.  Less gives you more time, space, money and freedom.  

KonMari - a Path to Minimalism?

In some ways, the KonMari Method is a gentle introduction to Minimalism.  The method has introduced minimalist thinking to a huge number of people through Marie Kondo's bestselling books which have sustained popularity much longer than a standard pop-culture fad. 

I believe this is due to the power of the central idea that connects Minimalism and KonMari - that consumer culture is out of control and that accumulation does not lead to satisfaction.   

Once you go through the KonMari Method,  it opens you up to minimalist thinking, where before you may have rejected it outright as stark and anti-society. 

I look forward to continuing on my journey through both KonMari and Minimalism, recognizing that everyone's path will be different.  

I'd love to hear about your journey and whether this comparison resonated with you. 

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