Categories for decluttering and their best order

What is the best order of categories for decluttering? Marie Kondo suggests to start with clothes and finish with memorabilia. Here is my take on this topic as someone who has been a minimalist for almost two decades, after decluttering all my belongings in just two days… Yes, that happened. And it was nice.

You don’t need categories for decluttering

Decluttering by category has a bunch of useful functions, or effects, if you will:

  • You get an overview over how much you own per category and where your »weaknesses« lie.
  • It makes it easier to create a categorical order.
  • It is satisfying to finish a category and know that you are just done with that part of your process.

I would say that it is in general helpful for people who don’t have an overwhelming amount of things or don’t own a house. Otherwise, this method might be better for you.

  • A systematic order is not needed to declutter
  • You can declutter in any order that feels right for you
  • Categories are something very individual, just start with what is easiest and gives you the most satisfaction to get rid of
The KonMari method suggests decluttering in categories and also explains a lot of details about order and arranging your belongings in a meaningful way.
The KonMari method uses five decluttering categories. Marie Kondo also pays attention to details like how to arrange things and create order. That’s not rocket science. I’m pretty, I’ve put my underwear in my drawer like in this picture for over 25 years. Doesn’t matter. This is the standard for decluttering now, so let’s challenge it and discuss the pros and cons.

The best order for decluttering according to Marie Kondo

  1. Clothes
  2. Books
  3. Papers
  4. komono (miscellaneous)
  5. Memorabilia

So, I really want to challenge this Marie Kondo order of decluttering categories, because it has never quite worked for me… Or wouldn’t have worked, because I was a minimalist way before all of this made it into TV, and I just enjoy theorizing over basic everyday sh*t, like minimalism.

Challenging the KonMari method and including digital clutter

Also, the method has been criticized for not including »digital belongings« as their own category. Rightfully so, I believe, because this is today’s biggest source of clutter. But often we brush that off so quickly, or we even create more digital clutter through first decluttering physical items which we then keep by archiving them as photos. How weird is that? (Please tell me I’m not the only minimalist who thinks that that’s kind of missing the whole point of decluttering…)

Decluttering in categories is a famous concept from Marie Kondo's book "Magic Cleaning"
Marie Kondo’s book »Magic Cleaning« has undoubtedly motivated many people to declutter and sort out their lives. But that doesn’t mean the concepts can’t be questioned or broadened. Especially since decluttering and minimalism are the most common-sensical topics ever, and by definition, there can not be experts on common sense. You can make up any concept you want!

My journey and decluttering process as a minimalist

I started out being somewhat of a hoarder. The floor of my room was covered in stuff. I had trash, mold and old food in my bedroom, pushed behind the doors of three closets and inside of multiple drawers. I had not one but two desks covered in unsorted paperwork and sketches. And up until this days I was unable to recover any of my school report cards, but they must have been in there. That’s how bad it was.

I then lived in a furniture-free apartment, and slowly from there got back to what I’d call moderate minimalism. So I think, I cover enough categories of personal experience that I can speak to this and what might be the best solution in different cases. So let’s have a look at it together.

For most people memorabilia are the most difficult of Marie Kondo’s decluttering categories, and the last one to tackle because of that.

Different orders for decluttering

The best order for decluttering if you are a hoarder

  1. Trash & unrecoverable items
  2. Everyday use textiles
  3. Clothes
  4. Bathroom items
  5. Tools and cleaning utensils
  6. Kitchen utensils, pottery, cutlery
  7. Papers
  8. Memorabilia
  9. Digital clutter

As a hoarder, you want to start with the least emotional items, and move forward to the more difficult ones. I doubt, unless you are extremely strong and stable, that you will be able to do this alone. So please get someone to help you. And that someone should not be a family member, because they are all co-dependent AF and you want a clean cut, not family drama.

Interchange point 7 and 8 if paperwork gives you anxiety, and feel free to deal with memorabilia first. For some people that’s easier.

The best order for decluttering if you’re already a minimalist

  1. Everything that falls under the 2-minute-rule (for the whole decluttering process)
  2. Everything that falls under the 20/20 rule (or any personal adaptation of it, like me, I use the 60/30 rule)
  3. Everything that is voluminous and easy to get rid of
  4. Everything that is easily sold and worth selling (aka making you the same money as working for the same amount of time you’d invest to declutter it)
  5. Everything that annoys you, because you simply don’t like it, or needs replacement (go, reward yourself by replacing something that pisses you off on a daily basis)

The best order for decluttering for the average person

  1. Household textiles
  2. Clothes
  3. Paperwork
  4. Media
  5. Tools & electronics
  6. Miscellaneous
  7. Memorabilia
  8. Digital clutter

The reason why I always separate textiles and clothes is that your average household textiles are less emotional than the things you wear. That’s the perfect way to start the decluttering process. I’ve seen so many people actually struggle with reducing the amount of clothes they own. So I recommend starting by getting rid of those five extra sets of sheets you never use.

Absurd decluttering categories and tips that just over-complicate the whole process

I want to give you a prime example that top-ranking articles you find on Google are not always the best. Like this search-engine-optimized piece of sh_t from Medium.

Sometimes, I really wonder what kind of people write these articles and if they’ve ever decluttered anything or helped anyone do so in their entire life. Or if all of this is just some kind of made-up filler text to get in your search terms, like this BS:

No. You don’t need »sub-categories« to declutter your crap. Let alone check-lists. That is actually the beauty of the KonMari (and other) decluttering method(s). You just start. You get everything out there on the floor, so you see how much you got, and then you get rid of as much as you can for as long as you can. And then you celebrate with an immaterial gift to yourself, like a nice massage or a big fat cake.

Seriously, if I, in my hoarder days, had obsessed about something as ridiculous as dividing all my sh_t into f_cking subcategories, I’d never been done decluttering. Don’t waste your time. Just get down to it and start.

You don’t need some dumb KonMari checklist. You need to get off your a__ and start decluttering.

I think that all of these KonMari cheat sheets and checklists are a total waste of time, intended to hook procrastinators onto a mailing list that will do exactly the opposite of what they need: create more clutter. I.e. in their inbox in the form of emails they never read. I don’t know if you want to be that person, but if you don’t, maybe go check out my YouTube channel if you want some inspiration. And now enjoy decluttering however the f_ck you want!

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