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Why Marie Kondo Sparks Joy For Me

Submitted by Bethany on Wed, 02/20/2019 - 09:04

I don't want to sound like a hipster, but I was in love with Marie Kondo way before it was cool. I first read her book "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying-Up" way back in 2015. Now, with an 8 episode series on Netflix, it seems that Kondo and her method of organizing - and people's reactions to her method of organizing - has taken the world by storm. 

Not to sound too dramatic or anything, but Marie Kondo really has been life-changing for me.

If you are familiar with her and her work just from the Netflix show, or the many (many) memes circulating about her, or from the talk show hosts who have featured her, I would like to recommend that you filter through all of that and go straight to the source - her book. I love this book.

When I first read it in April of 2015, less than a week later I purchased 8 more copies and gave them away to anyone I knew who said they would read it. That's how passionate I am about this book and its power to change people's lives. (And yes, I looked back through my Amazon purchase history to see when I got it and exactly how many copies I gave away.) I think I can truly say that I would not be where I am right now, sitting in England - traveling the world, had I not read Kondo's book 4 years ago. I also read it again last summer when we were preparing to sell most of what we owned - it's what helped me figure out what to part with and what was worth keeping. 

I'm writing this post today not just so I can brag about being ahead of the curve trend-wise (for literally the first time in my life) but because I have been annoyed by the number of misconceptions circling about Marie Kondo and her method. I kept ranting about it to Joel every time I saw another person on Facebook making a joke about only having 30 books, [Editor's Note: this was practically every day] so he told me to go write this post instead. Lucky you, reader!

Okay, so, books. I get it, in the social circles I run in, we love our books. Especially among clergy, there seems to be a sense of pride about how many books we own, how full to bursting our shelves are, and how much of our moving truck is taken up by boxes of books when it's time to change appointments. Don't get me wrong, I love books, too. So it seems obvious that of course everyone is annoyed that Marie Kondo says everyone should own only 30 books. How dare she?!

But here's the thing, y'all - she doesn't really say that. She has said that for herself, 30 books or less is the ideal amount. But you know how many books she prescribes for everyone else to have? The precise number that is perfect in her plan and she demands that her clients have no more and no less? That number doesn't exist! For Kondo, the test is "does it spark joy?" - if 1,000 books spark joy for you - more power to you. But if you feel overwhelmed by the number of books you have, if you never read them, or can't ever find the one you actually want, then maybe it's time to go through them, Konmari style. 

What I love most about Kondo's organizing method is that she doesn't really ever tell her clients what they can and cannot keep.

This comes through clearly in the book, but you can see it even in the Netflix show. Most of the families ended with still more stuff than I would be comfortable with, but they kept what worked for them. That is what Kondo's method does - it helps you interrogate yourself to find out what you really need, what really brings you joy, and to edit your life so those things come through more clearly.

I have also seen a lot of people saying something along the lines of - she's the lady that makes you throw everything away! So many people are dismissing her out of hand because of this misconception. Again, it just isn't true. She helps you decide what works for you and what doesn't. I can almost guarantee you have items in your home that aren't working for you, that are subconsciously bringing you down, that are contributing to a sense of unease. The Konmari method helps you work through every single item that you own so you can lose those things, and gain even more joy from the things that do spark joy for you. 

I guess my main point with all of this is - ignore the cultural clutter surrounding Marie Kondo and go read her book!

(Pun fully intended) It is magic! It is life changing! It sparks joy! Well, at least it did for me. Now, I will grant you, there are a few things in the book that I think are a bit crazy. So, like any life advice-giving book, you should take what works for you and leave what doesn't. 

For example, Kondo empties her purse when she gets home every single day, putting her wallet, keys, sunglasses, etc. into a drawer in her home. That's a little much for me. I use the same purse every day, so it makes no sense to empty it every night. She also believes in keeping the shower completely clear - as in she does not store any shampoo/conditioner/soap etc in the shower. Rather, she stores it all in a cupboard, takes what she needs into the shower, then wipes it all down and returns it to the cupboard afterward. If I tried this I would always end up soaking wet in the middle of my bathroom looking for the soap, so I don't follow this method. But again, it's about taking what works for you and leaving the rest. 

One of the most insightful pieces I found in her book was her philosophy on gifts. We all know what it's like to receive a gift from someone that we don't really like, right? And whether it's an item of clothing or a piece of art we feel compelled to show appreciation, and either wear or display that item in our home, regardless of how we actually feel about it. Often when we go through items we own, items we have received from others are the ones that always trip us up - I can't possibly get rid of that! So and so gave it to me! 

Marie Kondo states that the purpose of a gift was fulfilled when the gift-giver gave it to us. They felt joy upon giving it, and we felt joy upon receiving it, because of the meaning behind the gift, not because of the actual gift itself. Because of this, we should feel free to move on from these gifts, because their purpose has been fulfilled. We can thank them for their service and donate the item so someone else might find joy from it. 

The idea of thanking inanimate objects is another piece of her method that people are finding "silly" or "new-age woo-woo". I actually found it quite helpful when I first went through everything I owned. This article in the Huffington Post does an excellent job parsing some of the spiritual roots of Kondo's method and pointing out some of the subtle racism underlying Western reactions to her. I highly recommend you read it no matter what your thoughts on Kondo currently are. 

What it comes down to for me is this - Marie Kondo and her method changed my relationship to stuff - which has, in turn, sparked incredible joy in my life.

Now, it didn't fully take effect in 2015. I gradually let myself creep back into consumeristic habits, especially in late 2016 when we bought a too-big for us house and I felt compelled to fill it. But my refresher on her last summer helped me to adjust again, and this time I think it has taken for good. I know what sparks joy in my life and what doesn't. Someday when we settle down again I won't be in such a rush to fill my place with stuff just because I can. 

My experience with Marie Kondo has led me to be more mindful - about what I own, about what I consume, about what my relationship with stuff says about my relationship with myself, those around me, and my relationship with God. The book promises that tidying up can change your life, and I'm here to say that she's not wrong. It worked for me. 

If you read this entire manifesto about Marie Kondo may I just say, kudos! And thank you! And now I want to hear from you! Have you read her book? Watched her show? Seen her making the late-night TV rounds? Seen all the memes? What are your thoughts on Marie Kondo? Don't worry if you don't agree with me, I love a good critique!

XOXO, Bethany


Your thoughts?

Here is my hipster response to your opening: I knew you when you first discovered Marie Kondo's book :) ... and I can say, I saw that first transformation and how energetic you were about how it changed your relationship with stuff. I read it at your prompting way back then (look at you, trendsetter). It really helped me in my great minimization of 2016, leaving a 4 bedroom house and yes, the clergy-proud stacks of books (many remained, of course). And I too do not empty my purse or the shower each night, though funny enough, I do keep fewer things IN the shower now. Having read Marie's book, I get a lot from watching her in action on the Netflix show (besides just enjoying the curiosity of seeing other people and their relationship with stuff), but if I had not read the book, I think the show doesn't do the method justice. It is funny that it took the show to make it seem like it exploded onto the mainstream cultural forefront even though it had previously been a bestseller. 

I agree it's amusing that the books is a NYT #1 seller (and hit that spot a second time after the show) and yet it is definitely the Netflix show that got people talking. I agree that the show while entertaining and oddly satisfying to watch, does not do the book justice. It shows her methods without showing why those are her methods - and I think the why is just as important as the what. I did appreciate feeling like I got to know Marie better from watching the show, I love her personality and I could listen to her voice all day long even though I don't understand a word of Japanese. 

I'm glad you read the book way back when (and that we knew each other!) and I'm glad it helped you in 2016. I also keep fewer things in the shower now!