Core 4 Declutter Method: KonMari Mash-Up or Effective Clutter Killer?

Woman sorting through her clothes on her bed, decluttering things from her bedroom closet.

There’s a new decluttering framework on the block, but is it really better than tried-and-true techniques like KonMari or Swedish Death Cleaning? Let’s take a look at how Core 4 weighs in.

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Decluttering your home is a bit more like running the Boston marathon as opposed to an Olympic sprint, so I’m a wee wary of new approaches that promise fast results. The latest decluttering trend making the rounds is called Core 4. Coined by professional organiser Kayleen Kelly, it was conceived to help people declutter pretty much any area of their homes, boiling down your clutter’s final destination into one of four groups: trash, donate, sell, or keep.

On the surface, Core 4 seems appealingly simple and straightforward. But as a type-A personality who occasionally leans too far into procrastination, I need a more intentional structure and underlying philosophy in my decluttering system.

After taking a closer look, I don’t believe the Core 4 declutter technique will work for my particular organising style and approach. In this article, I’ll outline the basic premise of Core 4 so you can see if it’s for you. I’ll also explain why it falls short for me compared to my preferred techniques like Swedish Death Cleaning and regular, small decluttering bursts.

Everybody is different, and everyone’s home and clutter situation is, too. For me personally, I like my decluttering sessions to feel thoughtful and purposeful. I don’t want to feel as if I’m hastily chucking things into semi-vague categories or shifting one bucket of clutter from one room to another. You do you though. There are definitely pros and cons to the various approaches out there, and it doesn’t take long to assess which aligns best with your mindset and decluttering goals.

Overview of the Core 4 Process for Reining in Clutter

At its foundation, the Core 4 decluttering method consists of four manageable steps: clear out, categorise, cut out, and contain. This straightforward process was conceived to declutter your whole home rapidly by making quick and confident decisions as to which one of four groups items should be delegated to: trash, donate, sell, or keep.

Core 4 provides an action-focused structure for quickly sorting through heaps of stuff, making decisions about those four categories, and thus significantly eliminating clutter. By swiftly moving through each zone of your home and removing everything using these four actions tied to their respective batches, the Core 4 framework aims to offer a simple path to a tidy home without getting bogged down in emotional decisions.

Before evaluating whether this approach is right for your needs, let me first break down my understanding of what each of these four simple steps entails in more detail.

Clear Out

  • Remove every single item from the area, room, or zone you are decluttering. No item gets left behind.
  • Pile and sort items quickly into general categories without fussing over each thing.
  • The goal is to empty the space without pausing to mull over the items.

Categorise

  • Go through your piles and make firm decisions about discarding or keeping each item. Sort them into one of the four above-mentioned groups: trash, donate, sell, or keep. Use bins assigned to each category for easier sorting.
  • Decide whether each item is functional, beautiful, sentimental, or valuable. If it doesn’t check at least one of those boxes, let it go.
  • Be ruthless and make these judgments quickly without second-guessing. Don’t get distracted with weighing pros and cons.
Woman bringing clutter she no longer wants to a donation and recycling point. Car trunk is packed with full plastic bags.
Weeded stuff out? Take it to the donation or recycling point pronto.

Cut Out

  • Physically remove the trash, donate, and sell items immediately. Don’t let them linger.
  • Trash should be disposed of fully. Donations should be placed directly in your car to drop off. Sales can be set aside for listing online.
  • Getting discarded items fully out of the house is critical to prevent reabsorbing the clutter.

Contain

  • For the keep pile, be sure every item has a designated spot or storage space to be put away.
  • Use organisational tools like containers, bins, shelves, and drawers to neatly contain items.
  • Proper containment prevents disorder and mess from resurfacing.

Following these steps should make decluttering easier to manage because they force you to make a quick decision in three seconds as to whether you want to keep something or not, or simply whether it even belongs in the space it was in.

While the Core 4 method presents a straightforward system for decluttering, it is just one of many popular tidying techniques. Obviously, what works well for some people may not be the best fit for others. To get a better sense of the unique strengths and limitations of the 4 box declutter method, I thought it’d be helpful to compare it to a few other well-known processes.

Examining how Core 4 differs from KonMari, Swedish death cleaning, decluttering bursts, and 30-day challenges highlights the key contrasts in philosophy and process. Whether you prefer swift action over sentimentality, or gradual maintenance over intense purges, depends greatly on your personality and motivations. With those factors in mind, let’s explore how Core 4 stacks up.

Core 4 vs KonMari

The KonMari method pioneered by Marie Kondo focuses on holding each object and feeling for those now-infamous sparks of joy, while the Core 4 declutter method prioritises efficient sorting actions over thoughtful rumination. KonMari encourages mindfully tuning into each item, whereas Core 4’s speed-focused approach leaves little room for sentimental evaluation.

Additionally, KonMari methodically goes through categories like clothing and books, while Core 4 tackles decluttering by location zone. The KonMari method concludes with thanking items for their purpose before letting them go (yup), which contrasts with Core 4’s emphasis on quickly discarding what no longer fits your life.

Woman sorting through piles and piles of clothes in a messy bedroom, tackling her clutter with the Core 4 declutter method.
Things are going to get messier before they get better.

Both of these methods make a pretty big mess because you’re going to essentially be dumping everything into a huge pile before sorting it. That’s something to factor into your time considerations, and it’s one of the reasons I’ve never been 100% on board with Marie Kondo. At the end of the day though, I think either method works well if you want to declutter one room at a time or your entire home – and if you plan for the time it will take you.

Core 4 vs Swedish Death Cleaning

Swedish Death Cleaning, coined by author Margareta Magnusson, involves gradually decluttering over many years to prepare your home for your last stage of life. There’s a huge emphasis here on reducing the burden on your loved ones after you leave this earth. This fundamentally differs from Core 4’s intensity that’s focused on present efficiency.

Swedish death cleaning encourages pragmatically keeping functional items and the stuff you use now, while Core 4 offers little framework for evaluating emotional significance. This thoughtful, ongoing edit with others in mind contrasts Core 4’s hurried clear-outs catered to your own immediate needs.

While both share the end goal of decluttering, Swedish death cleaning takes a gentle, very gradual approach rather than periodic frenzied purges. It’s my personal favourite approach, and I’ve written about the benefits of death cleaning in the past. I’ve basically adopted it as my North Star while I begin preparing my household for retirement with this simple checklist.

Core 4 vs Decluttering Bursts

Doing what I refer to as decluttering bursts simply involves brief, frequent sorting and tidying sessions integrated into daily and weekly routines for ongoing maintenance. I often do these “bursts” alongside my usual cleaning routine. This ad-hoc approach diverges from Core 4’s larger clutter-clearing sessions conducted more periodically.

Woman tidying up her sunlit standing desk with neat bookshelf unit to her right in the background.
Wiping down the desk? Tidy things up whilst you’re at it.

Bursts allow for gradual progress through hands-on tasks like cleaning out one single drawer or sorting through a solitary shelf of books. Comparatively, Core 4 requires an all-in commitment to massively clear out an entire zone. While decluttering bursts emphasise maintaining order, I feel Core 4 functions better as a reset after long periods of neglect. The burst approach strives for small wins, whereas Core 4 demands intense focus for big transformation all at once.

Core 4 vs Minsgame

The 30-day decluttering challenge aka minsgame provides a structured timeline and checklist of daily tasks to build habits over time. This differs from Core 4’s self-directed approach that demands concentrated effort in intense work sessions.

Four-week challenges focus on small, tangible tasks like weeding out one drawer or sorting a pile of papers each day. Core 4 favors marathon-type clearing of entire areas or rooms. While 30-day challenges encourage forming long-term decluttering habits through incremental progress, Core 4 is designed for short-term transformation through rapid, sweeping purges.

The minsgame methodology is about making permanent lifestyle changes versus Core 4’s periodic resetting of clutter. For those seeking lasting habits, the disciplined schedule of 30-day minimalist challenges may provide more benefit than Core 4’s intense bursts with no inherent continuity.

Pros and Cons to the Core 4 Method

As a professional declutterer, Kayleen Kelly came up with the Core 4 method to help overwhelmed clients make rapid progress in extremely cluttered homes. For individuals feeling overwhelmed with near-hoarding levels of stuff or those who have a natural inclination to messiness and just don’t know where to start, I think Core 4 definitely provides an actionable structure to start clearing out spaces without getting mired down by indecision. After all, Kaylee is specialised in chronic clutter and clients with ADHD.

The categorical decisiveness of β€œtrash, donate, sell, keep” cuts through any anxiety paralyzing your declutter process. By breaking down chaotic environments into manageable zones, Core 4 gives attainable focus to those suffering from attention deficiency and sheer overwhelm in terms of how to start actually clearing stuff out.

So this speed-centric approach can give you momentum if you’re faced with staggering clutter volume. While the lack of sentimental processing may seem cold for some, I can see that it would offer clarity for personality types who find open-ended decluttering overwhelming.

On the other hand, for those with minimalist or only moderately cluttered households, the Core 4 technique may feel too blunt of an instrument. When tidying is relatively well maintained, more nuanced approaches like Swedish death cleaning and regular mini-decluttering bursts allow for greater mindfulness and general lifestyle integration. But for digging out from under years of accumulation, Core 4 can provide direction.

“The success of your organising system is based on how easy it is to maintain.”

Kayleen Kelly

In the end, choosing a declutter s depends on your space, mindset and goals. As Kayleen explains on her immensely popular TikTok channel, “the success of your organising system is based on how easy it is to maintain.” Core 4 succeeds as an action-driven reset for significant clutter situations stemming from distraction or indecision. But for maintenance tidying like I do around my own home, other approaches may better suit the formation of conscious, lifelong habits.

Kayleen in action πŸ’ͺ

Why This Approach Doesn’t Work for My Home (but Might for Yours)

My own decluttering journey aligns more with gradual, mindful techniques like Swedish death cleaning and doing my regular tidying. As I plan on downsizing for retirement down the road, I aim to slowly pare back my possessions proactively now, while I still have the energy and physical stamina. I just don’t want to have to purge and deal with my entire inventory later on in old age.

Swedish death cleaning resonates with me because I can declutter slowly and independently, without any time pressure. I might need a good 5 years or longer, and that’s fine by me. Plus, it’s also yielding a better chunk of cash right now. I have more time to sell my nice clutter online and fetch good prices because I’m not in a rush.

Much like I always try to focus on practicality and functionality with any new things I buy – will this item improve my life today and in the future? – I’m pretty realistic when weeding through my stuff.

Am I ever going to wear my wet-look vinyl leggings again, or am I too old now? Am I finally going to read this book I bought 23 years ago, or can I get rid of it? And why did I buy the same striped jumper I already have? Questions like these keep me grounded when decluttering.

Together with likely my favourite decluttering tip, the one-in, one-out rule, occasional decluttering bursts also keep my own β€œjunk zones” of tools, tech stuff, and hobby supplies relatively orderly. This is all I really need to keep my flat shipshape. For the large part, my stuff is already contained, categorised, easy to find, and I have had a natural habit of putting things away since early childhood. Told you I was a neat freak!

Final Thoughts

The Core 4 technique doesn’t really mesh with my household style. For sprint-like cleanouts though, I can totally see that its structured categories and brisk pace can provide clarity. But for my personal maintenance approach, I prefer frameworks with slower-paced introspection over rapid-fire reactions, more focus on the “do I really still even like this?” rather than “where the heck does this belong?” That’s just me.

That said, Core 4 could supplement my process for concentrated projects like when I want to clean out the entire cellar in one afternoon. In those situations, having trash, donate, sell, keep actions delineated absolutely saves time and anguish.

While the Core 4 declutter approach offers clear structure for some, assessing your unique goals and temperament is key to choosing the right approach for your situation.

Woman sitting on the floor with head in hands and eyes shut, clearly overwhelmed by the clutter surrounding her. Caption reads Core 4 Declutter Method: What it is, who it's for and how it stacks up.
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