When Sparking Joy Doesn’t Work: 5 Decluttering Alternatives to Marie Kondo

What can you do if Marie Kondo’s “spark joy” method of decluttering fails to fix all your problems? The so-called life-changing magic of tidying up promises a world without clutter and chaos.

If the KonMari method doesn’t work for you, here are a few other styles of decluttering that might help.

1. Swedish Death Cleaning

We put the spotlight on Swedish Death Cleaning earlier this month, and we can’t stop thinking about it. The dark humor mixed with practicality is appealing, especially if you’re downsizing after retirement. Basically, you think about how your loved ones will deal with all your junk after you pass away.

Morbid? Yeah. But it’s also sensible. Don’t hold on to stuff that you don’t need–because you’re essentially just passing the problem on to your family.

2. Unf*ck Your Habit

This popular website spawned a book and an active social media community. The method focuses on helping people with mental illness or chronic health problems who struggle with taking care of their homes.

This site is built on the foundation of the 20/10–doing 20 minutes of focused cleaning or decluttering, followed by a 10-minute break. It also emphasizes doing what you can and celebrating small victories by clearing a surface.

3. The 4 Box Method

This decluttering style is super simple. You just need 4 boxes: Relocate, Donate, Trash, and Sell. You move from room to room (or zones in a room, if there’s a lot to tackle) and sort every item into those boxes.

The categories are pretty self-explanatory, which is a bonus. And it allows for more nuance than KonMari, which only asks whether you’re going to keep an item or get rid of it–but not whether it has resale value, donation potential, or should just go in the trash.

4. 90/90 and 20/20

Minimalism seems like it should be an easy thing to do–you just get rid of stuff, right? Well, not so fast. Minimalist experts invent a lot of rules and guidelines to make the lifestyle work. It can seem overwhelming at first, as if you’re going to take a quiz on it later.

The 90/90 rule states that if you haven’t used an item in the last 90 days and don’t anticipate using it in another 90 days, then it needs to go. The 20/20 is a little more strict: if you’re not using it right now and it would only take 20 minutes and $20 to replace, then chuck it.

These rules help you think about the items you actually use and the things that you only keep because you might need it someday.

5. The Minimalist Game

This is a very popular decluttering method on social media. The simple version is that you commit to getting rid of a certain number of items every day for a month. On the first day, you declutter 2 things. On the second day, it’s time to get rid of 3 things, and so on through the whole month.

The total number of things that will head out the door is 496! That might sound like a lot, but it’s easier to get rid of them a little at a time than to go all at once like in the Marie Kondo method.