Marie Kondo is a Big Deal

Today’s post is by Steve Grooms

The title of this article is a joke. Marie Kondo is tiny, actually. Her height, according to the national press, is five inches short of five feet. And yet she is unquestionably a big deal in the culture. Kondo has become famous and influential by teaching folks how to reduce clutter in their homes. She wrote four books that have been translated into eight languages. She has produced a series of videos on the art of tidying up one’s home. A series of her videos has been airing on Netflix under the title of “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.” A newspaper article yesterday said Twin Cities resale shops are stuffed with bargains now because Kondo has encouraged so many people to offload unwanted stuff.

The title she prefers is The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Note how that differs from the simple idea that most people have way too much stuff. Kondo wants to change lives, not just tidy up messes, and she hopes to use “magic” to accomplish that. Working from her background in Japan’s Shinto religion, Kondo finds magic in inanimate objects. Before she helps a client declutter a home Kondo kneels reverently in an effort to introduce herself to the home. She asks clients to touch each object they own and keep it only if it “sparks joy” in their lives.

Kondo has a fairly rigid process for tidying up a home. It starts with clients making a pile of every single article of clothing they own. The piles are usually massive. Then she asks  clients to attack that pile, chucking out every item that fails to spark joy. The process moves along deliberately, taking several weeks to play out, concluding with an emotionally wrenching effort to jettison sentimental objects.

A few observers have criticized Kondo. Oddly enough, a woman who has written four books doesn’t seem to revere them. She has said nobody needs to keep more than 30 books. Kondo thinks a book one hasn’t read in three years is ripe for dumping, and she sees no value in keeping a book one has already read. My daughter, the person who urged me to get to know Kondo, vehemently disagrees on the topic of books!

Kondo could come off as a nag were it not for her sweet personality and spiritualism. Her approach to life and the stuff people accumulate keep attracting converts. I believe most people in our culture are troubled about how much stuff we own. Many of us would like ourselves better if we could dump a lot of that stuff and live in an uncluttered environment.

Do you currently suffer from having too much stuff? What sparks joy in your life?

31 thoughts on “Marie Kondo is a Big Deal”

  1. i ran into kondo a year ago in line st the bookstore at my daughters college bookstore
    we were picking up english 101 andcststistics andcthrre was spark joy in it little 5×7 60 page presentation
    i picked it up as reading in line material and was interested enough i paid the $15 to finish it later. i thought it would be good to plug into my life. well i can’t ever get through my sock drawer. i’m a mess. i don’t own clothes i cycle through them, i have many sports coats and shirts and pant and shoes i sell on ebay and so i don’t buy clothes i simply wear them
    they are used when i pick them up and so my wearing them for a while before i put them back in the pile to sell seems ok
    my boxes of stuff are a different story
    i am a sentimental idiot. i hang onto things because they spark joy when i look or touch or remember the story behind them. i think cold little souls that abort things after they touch them are pitiful little examples of what analytics can do to destroy society, i had a friend i went to school with who used to have a tabogganing party every year. we would go to his house and it always amazed me that he had no stuff. none. his garage was clean with a shovel and a broom as the only items. his basement had s couch and a chair and no stuff in the drawers of the end table or in the coffee table. i wondered out loud what life was to him and his wife and what they taught their children and i don’t think he liked it. i stooped gettingvinvited to the tabboganing party i don’t see him anymore. he stopped sending christmas cards. i’ll bet he is a happy guy and his orderly life will allow him to maintain his deal until he’s dead, i just have zero interest in sharing his vision. marie kondo is of interest but as an anomaly not a role model. she is the martha stewart if her little corner of life. god bless her and i feel bad for her. i know she doesn’t feel deeply about anything. it’s all breathing in and breathing out
    maybe with as easy as it is to access everything today a collection of books is not needed but what about the art institute or the smith sonia now? get rid of all that crap too, i mean how many pictures of trees and naked women do we need? the giant flag inside the door at the smith simian doesn’t even have the right number of stars on it. jettison right?
    poppycock marie kondo, go vacuume your floor mats.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I marvel at just about everything you say and do, tim. Love, love,love your free spirit, although I know you’d drive me crazy if I lived with you. But I love that you so enthusiastically embrace your life, complete with all it’s challenges, chaos and turmoil, the full catastrophe.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I didn’t think clothing was *ever* meant to ‘spark joy’… I have work clothes and good clothes. Shirts with sleeves and shirts without. Some are work, some are dressier than others.
    I buy shirts that are cotton and have two pockets. Color is secondary. They’re just utilitarian.
    T-shirts are for relaxing or when it’s cold. Some came from when I used to work as a stagehand. We liked the band better if they had T-shirts for the crew when the show was over. But that was a long time ago and the only I have left is a yellow Bob Dylan crew shirt which was the last show I worked on before getting the college job.

    But I can certainly see the point of reducing clutter. Our energy lady talks about that too; too much stuff clutters up your energy. And it certainly does. But that hasn’t made us get rid of too much stuff yet.
    We’re just lazy that way. 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I see two reasons Marie Condo is more emotionally invested in clothing than you are, Ben. She’s an adult who is the size of a large child, which surely makes clothes shopping frustrating. And she is a sort of entertainer who is seen in public (and judged on her appearance) daily.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Many of the children I work with have too many toys and have trouble picking them up to their parents’ satisfaction. It is especially hard for children with ADHD, as they have no sense of organization or sequencing that would make clean up easier. I invariably work with parents to declutter their children’s lives. The first step is getting the parents to set limits with extended family to not flood the children with toys. Parents seem to appreciate using me as a leverage with grandparents. I am such a bully!

    Liked by 5 people

  4. I am happy to report that I was able to find my Marie Kondo book on the life-changing magic… (and I note that the title is entirely in lower case).I liked a lot of what I read, esp. the section on tackling just one category at a time. For clothing, she does suggest sub-categories such as tops, bottoms, socks… For me this was far superior to the “tackle one room at a time” method I’d tried before.

    This post is inspiring me to sort one thing today – I have noticed that I have plastic food containers (for leftovers, etc.) taking up precious kitchen space in two cupboards and a much-needed drawer. Gonna get ’em all in the middle of the kitchen floor and purge.

    Then I’ll move on to what sparks joy in my life (though sorting and organizing is, admittedly, one of those things) – music, getting to gether with like-minded people, writing (esp. on this blog), t’ai chi, reading, cooking…

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I have a variety of responses to Kondo. (That’s typical of me.)

      The NetFlix “movie” features her working with eight client couples. The movie is interesting partly because the couples are so interesting, and Kondo works gently with them to inspire life-changing transformations. People living in circumstances approaching hoarding recluses abandon their junk and embrace the uncluttered life like drunks embracing sobriety. This is very much like shows like The Nanny that show families in chaos with uncivil children dominating dysfunctional parents who can’t assert themselves. The Nanny sets things straight with a few new rules and assertive leadership.

      The mean part of me always wondered what those families looked like a year after The Nanny waved her magic umbrella and changed everything. Similarly, I’m skeptical about the families Kondo changes with her declutter magic. What do their homes look like a year later? Everything still neat and folded with the Konmarie method? I wonder.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. BiR, you wrote a post about Marie Kondo when you were packing to move (nearly three years ago now – how time flies!), When you look back on it, do you feel you made good decisions about what to shed and what to bring along? Was the book helpful then?

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I could talk about this stuff all day, but I’ll try not to. I’ll also try to refrain from pointing out inaccuracies about MK’s statement about books – I’m pretty sure that she thinks 30 books is the right amount for her, but she doesn’t impose that limit on others. Oops, so much for refraining…

    I do not have too much stuff. That’s because I bought the Life Changing Magic book a few years ago and it really did change my life. Like BiR, I found the method of going through stuff by category instead of location revolutionary. There is something about seeing all of that category all piled together that is rather shocking as you realize how much you have. You realize that you don’t need 55 t-shirts, but you only need the ones that fit you and are ones you like.

    I used to think of all my books, and I had lots, as my friends, but as time went on, I realized that they were becoming an obligation rather than a source of happiness. I felt like they were reproaching me for my neglect of them. When I “kondoed” them, I kept way more than 30, but got rid of tons. It was such a relief and I feel happy with the ones I kept.

    It gets tricky when you live with other people. There’s one person in this household who has too much stuff – and it affects other people. For instance, I can’t get my bike out of the garage (and haven’t been able to for a few years) because there’s so much junk around it that I can’t get to it. That’s just wrong, when someone else’s stuff interferes with other people like that. Also, it’s harder to “kondo” the stuff that everyone in the household uses if they’re not on board with this – like kitchen stuff, for instance.

    What sparks joy in my life? You all know that it’s mainly being outdoors and shooting photos. Since I’m not able to do that now, my main source of joy is things like phone calls from my friend in Vermont, and emails from Steve , comments on my caringbridge site, and visits from friends.

    And believe it or not, the new clothes I’ve bought recently are a small source of joy, too. How shallow of me! Also, a few weeks ago, I got sick of my ugly hair and cut it very, very short and that made me happy.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. Great comment, ljb. I think Kondo has a problem with books. Since they don’t mean much to her personally, she seems tone deaf about what they mean to other people. (I’m waiting to hear vs chime in on this!)

      I don’t agree you are shallow for enjoying clothing. And as I understand her, Marie Kondo wouldn’t judge you that way, either. The real lesson is not to hate our stuff but to trim back so you aren’t swamped with stuff that doesn’t mean anything. If your new clothes spark joy, that’s a cool thing.

      As a person far from young I try hard to understand young people. Marie Kondo clearly connects with millenials . . . people I don’t have a way to meet personally. One thing I think I see in young people is a disregard for what they are supposed to do and a willingness to confront what really makes them happy. Kondo is attractive to them because of that.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Maybe you’re right about her attitude towards books. I watched the netflix shows and was surprised by her graciousness with people who had SO much stuff – some of them kept more than I would be comfortable with keeping, but she was encouraging and happy for each person because they were happy with what they kept. Like that lady who had an entire house full of Christmas stuff? She kept what I thought was still an inordinate amount of it – but Marie had only positive things to say about the end result.


      1. Well, it’s not the same, BiR, not the same at all. I’m glad to be more connected to people but boy do I miss being able to do more. There is nothing that replaces the “sparking joy” of spending a chunk of time outdoors, seeing beautiful things, and shooting photos. But, of course, my life would be even more miserable if I didn’t have the things I mentioned above.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I read Kondo a couple of years ago (thanks to folks on the Trail mentioning it) along with several other books and videos about de-cluttering. While I like her general tone and it’s clear that her method works for others, she’s not for me. Let’s face it, if I tried her method, it would seem so overwhelming to me that I would never start. Instead I’m doing the little bit every week method and this is working really well for me. I’m in this for the long haul – and no asking if my clothing sparks joy.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. There will probably come a time in my life when I’m forced to downsize, and maybe I’ll read the Kondo books then, and see if she has any wisdom for me. Right now, though, too much else going on.

    I have tons of stuff. I’m pretty sure, though, that I don’t have as much stuff as tim does. At least not yet.


    1. Damn, that didn’t work. I’ll have to see if I can find it again. Steve, I think you especially, would enjoy the first installment.


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