Marie Kondo is a sweet little bird of a woman. I had somehow imagined that the best-selling author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing was a Michiko Kakutani of sorts. I expected her to look stringy, rigid and exacting, not be a tiny slip of a girl with a smile that stretches from ear to ear, who wears prim, feminine outfits and seems to be the human embodiment of the sunshine emoji.
Marie Kondo is the celebrity of tidying, hired to make sense of one’s life by helping one weed out, sort and organize the detritus that can accumulate simply through existing. She currently has a TV show on Netflix, where she helps people decide what to keep and what to throw out, and teaches them how to arrange the things they have decided to keep to spark the maximum amount of joy. Joy is her raison d’etre. The gist of her method, called KonMari, is to keep only the things that give you joy, and to honour the things that no longer do before casting them aside and donating them to charity.
What makes the KonMari method special is that she believes each item that you have in your home should bring you joy. She also believes that every sentimental item has a sort of life, one that needs to be respected. It sounds ridiculous and I suppose on the surface, it is. Inanimate objects are just that, objects. Because I subscribe to the notion that my things turn into the cast of Toy Story whenever I’m not looking (which is why one moment they’re missing and the next, they’re lying under my nose waiting to be picked up) the KonMari method and the philosophy behind it doesn’t strike me as particularly outlandish.
I like her philosophy on tidying up. One of the things Le Hubs does that drives me up the wall is whenever he forgets to put a thing back where he got it. (He does this fairly often. It’s a source of everlasting frustration.) The control freak in me loves the idea of organization, of knowing what goes where, the empowerment of knowing where everything and anything is at any given time.
The method may seem simple, but it is devilishly tricky and in some cases, unrealistic. Book lovers in particular, myself included, bristle at the notion of only keeping the books I am likely to re-read (she recommends having no more than thirty) and giving the rest – the unread ones, or ones I’ll never read again – away, as the KonMari method says to do. Please keep your happy, well-meaning paws off my books, Marie Kondo. All my books bring me joy. Everything else but the books!
It’s impossible to only keep the things that spark joy. Not everything I own does. Not everything has to, and that’s okay. I may not have a meaningful relationship with my spatula, but it’s not getting thrown out anytime soon.
To be fair, I don’t believe she means for people to start throwing everything out willy nilly in the pursuit of carving out a space in which to breathe. If anything, I see the KonMari method as a good way to re-evaluate the reasons we have for buying the things we do.
It’s helpful to have perspective when buying things, something that, in our mad dash to accrue, very often gets muddled. Sometimes we find ourselves buying things for the sake of buying things, stripping them of their meaning in the process, and the cycle of going out to buy things simply because it feels good to buy things becomes a vicious one that’s hard to break. Before you know it you’re surrounded by things that have no meaning beyond the initial impulse you had to buy them in the first place.
When it comes to acquiring movies and books in particular, I like to make sure the ones I get are ones I really enjoy. Either I’ve seen it at a theatre and loved it, or I’ve borrowed the digital version of a book from the library and have decided it deserves a spot on my bookshelf. This way I know I’m almost never going to throw it out, and they will never go unwatched or unread. Be selective. Aside from asking if something you already own brings you joy, it’s also a good idea to ask if something you want to own will bring you joy. It’ll help you ensure you’ll never have to throw anything out.