It seems like serendipity that I should happen to finish Marie Kondo’s well-known 2014 guide to tidying up at the commencement of Spring here in the southern hemisphere. I’ve been reading Kondo’s book on my bus to work (whenever I’m lucky enough to get a seat, that is), and have found it a delightful way to spend my commute. Almost everything about her book feels tidy, positive, and peaceful. I’m genuinely inspired to start my chattel cleanse.
Her method now is extremely well-known – only keep the things in your life that ‘spark joy’, therefore making room in your material life for the more immaterial things that really matter – time and space. For items that will be discarded, she urges you to thank them for their service. I understand what she’s going for here. It’s basically #Gratitude. It’s popular because it works.
Overall, I found her book to be a well-paced ‘how to start’ guide which repeatedly draws on her experience as a tidiness guru. By her reckoning, each of us has at least 20 garbage bags of possessions that could do with cleansing from our life. I am as guilty of this as anyone, and I will use her easy steps to start my own Spring clean.
There were only three issues I had with her book: the first being her inclination for the ‘woo woo’, the second being her apparent disregard for the environmental impact of accumulating and discarding possessions, and the third being her bizarrely brutal treatment of books.
First with the ‘woo woo’. Whenever Kondo moved from the practical, experience-based advice to the ‘magical’ space, she lost me a bit. This was most pronounced to me in her lengthy admonishment of those of us who choose to knot our tights when we store them. Apparently, this is the worst way one could possibly treat a garment. It causes the garment sadness and will bring negativity into your life and … I just… can’t with that. Ridiculous.
The environmental aspect was more jarring. Kondo has a massive platform – best-selling book, viral Netflix series, and legions of adoring fans. Yet I cannot recall her having spent any time, just a few paragraphs or even sentences, to discuss what exactly people should DO with these 20+ bags of discarded belongings. After Kondo’s popular Netflix series launched, donation bins across my city were stuffed to bursting for weeks. People clearly got the message about discarding, but I think some carefully chosen advice in her book on what is suitable for donation, recycling, or landfill would have helped her fans immeasurably. Dumping your unwanted junk on a charity is not always helpful. If you’re interested in the “do’s and don’ts” of charity donation bins, check this out: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-01-08/charities-feel-post-christmas-boom/8167860
The final part, which hurt my bookworm soul to read, was Kondo recounting how she dealt with purging her own books. In particular, she describes ripping her favourite passages from her books and keeping them, while discarding the rest. WHAT. THE. HELL. Why on EARTH would she think that defiling a book in that manner is sensible?! Sure, she discontinued this practice after a while but not in recognition of the damage and waste she was causing. There are innumerable ways to treasure the joy of books and none of them involve ripping physical pages from it. Honestly.
Those three gripes aside: I applaud Kondo for what she has achieved with her debut book. She’s turned a pass time into a career into a juggernaut. She has given your average consumer the tools to winnow down what they do not need and create space for joy and peace. Minimalism is key to reducing the footprint of our species on this planet, and Kondo should be applauded for bringing this message to the masses.
3 empty shoe-boxes out of 5.