At our house, the following meme carries real meaning: “I assume I’ll die when my stack of unread books falls on top of me.”
But oh, Marie Kondo would definitely not approve! She is famously said to own about 30 books altogether at any given time. My husband and I have at least that many books at our bedside alone. And the total tomes in our possession, whether read, partially read or awaiting a reader? Too many to swiftly tally.
Kondo’s shtick, in case it’s eluded your awareness, is about considering whether or not one’s belongings “spark joy” in your soul. By that she means assessing the joy-inducing potential of EACH. INDIVIDUAL. ITEM.
Yes, that applies to every single sheet of paper that is piled, crammed or otherwise floating about your abode, not to mention all pieces of clothing (down to the individual socks for which she urges us to have respect). Does the woman think I’m going to live to be 150?
Kondo is a Japanese organizing expert whose 2014 work, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” along with its companion, “Spark Joy: An illustrated master class on the art of organizing and tidying up,” have in combination accounted for 11 million (and rising) book sales worldwide.
Additionally, Kondo stars in a Netflix series (“Tidying Up with Marie Kondo”), and she and her KonMari method of organizing can be seen in multiple YouTube videos.
But here’s why I’m a bit skeptical about whether Kondo’s soft-spoken, Origami-folding yet highly directive plan for handling material goods can work for everyone.
The woman is THIRTY-FOUR YEARS OLD. She began offering her organizational consultations as a 19-year-old college student. Can she possibly understand how long it would take two 50-somethings who are avid readers with sentimental tendencies, hoarder sensibilities and organizational challenges to sort through everything they own, item by item?
Because, literally, that is what she orders her clients to do. Kondo has “six basic rules of tidying,” asserting that it must be done in a particular categorical order. According to Kondo, we must touch each item — and if necessary, clutch it to our hearts — to determine if it sparks joy in us. If not, out the door with it!
If you’re thinking, “But I might need that,” or “It might come in handy,” Kondo’s advice remains consistent. “Believe me, it never will,” she writes. “You can always manage without it.”
Dear Marie, I beg to differ; that aging pair of authentic lederhosen wadded in the back of a closet proved perfect for a child’s Halloween costume one year, and much joy has been sparked in my heart when I’ve produced an important paper from a precarious pile or a random desk lamp for a college-bound kid — even though those would have otherwise been discarded if I was strictly following your direction.
Plus, surely the U.S. economy would suffer a serious downturn if hordes of us suddenly became Kondo devotees! There are over 48,500 self-storage facilities in the United States used by 9.4% of the population, and self-storage units are a $38 billion industry! Sparefoot.com confirms this (note: I am not contributing to those statistics, and hope never to do so).
Yes, there is value in striving for simplicity, clarity, neatness and one’s personal definition of joy, but when it’s time to purge, my method may involve dumping armfuls of papers, magazines and up to 75 T-shirts at once rather than spending hours in kittenish contemplation, coddling separate socks, sponges and sugar bowls.
But make no mistake, Kondo has brought me joy; adding her books to my bedside stack enhances the nighttime reading humor quotient, sending me off to slumber with a smile.