Kondo vs. Upton

Almost everywhere I go for this ministry, I hear a version of this question: “Have you read the Kondo organizing book?”

They’re referring to The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, and the answer to their question is: Yes, I have read it. (I read everything I can about organizing!) And, I completely understand the natural urge to draw comparisons between Kondo’s methods and the ones I outline in Building Your House.

Kondo and I are alike in many ways and I did enjoy much of her book. We have a similar history of finding organizing just for organizing’s sake to be dissatisfying. We both believe that when organizing, you should gather like things together rather than going room by room. (For example, if you’re going to “clean out your closet,” consider all of your clothes at once—even related accessories, clothes in dressers, and coats and shoes that reside downstairs.) We both urge you to keep only things you need and love… so much of our actual organizing advice is the same!

But when we differ, we differ widely, sharing completely opposite methods. She recommends hand-washing all dishes and air-drying them outside; I talk about dishwasher-unloading a its best. She recommends keeping only one pair of scissors; I recommend putting scissors everywhere you routinely use them (with your wrapping paper, your crafting items, your office supplies, in your kitchen, even in your closet so you can cut the tags and little strings off of your clothes right away!).

The most glaring difference between us is a completely fundamental one: what grounds us. I believe that her book is enjoying so much success partially because of her cutesy, entertaining way of dealing with belongings. She recommends talking aloud to items as you’re sorting through them, thanking them for the service they’ve rendered as you let them go.

I, on the other hand, write from a decidedly Christian worldview based in scripture. I recommend praying when you’re sorting through belongings—thanking God for the blessings He’s given you as you allow those items you no longer need or love to bless others.

Giving belongings personalities that can receive thanks… well, that seems like a rough way to let them go, and this treads dangerously close to the concept of idolatry.  Why thank an old sweater for the good times when you can thank our living God for the blessings He brought you while you were wearing it?


Even my book reviewers have commented on these differences:

“After reading and loving Marie Kondo’s The Life Giving Magic of Tidying Up, I was excited to see an American Christian take on the same subject. I prefer Shannon’s book for many reasons, but two of the simplest are 1) I live in a house and therefore have more stuff than a Tokyo apartment and 2) I prefer to thank God for my blessings than inanimate objects. Thanking my possessions for their service before putting them away or throwing them out was never going to happen. However being grateful to God for my family and all of the blessings that we have is something I need to do more…” (from an Amazon review by MamaGiggles)

“…I like Shannon’s approach better! Instead of using an Eastern/mystic approach to getting rid of all that you don’t love in your home, Shannon takes a Biblical approach to de-cluttering our lives of what we don’t need. She uses scripture to encourage us to not hold on to our possessions too tightly and to not let our stuff interfere with our work in raising our families and serving Jesus. Win!” (Heather Creekmore, blogger, Compared to Who)


So, as objectively speaking as possible(!), who would win the Battle of Organizing Books?

Straight up, I’ve got to say that if you’re talking about book sales, Kondo wins. From a purely organizational standpoint, if you’re a single person in an apartment or very small home, Kondo’s advice about scissors and dishwashing makes some good sense. If you’re living in a slightly larger home, especially with a family, Building Your House gets the Organizing TKO.

But no matter where you’re living, if you’re a Christian, there’s no contest. We don’t need to thank our socks for the hard work they put in that day—we joyfully thank our Jesus for walking alongside us!



Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ.

-Colossians 2:8


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