I recently watched Tidying Up with Marie Kondo (2019,) the popular Netflix series featuring the Japanese decluttering evangelist. The show is based on her bestselling manual, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (2011.)
In each episode, Kondo cheerfully proclaims, “I love mess!” With certain calm, she calls on various families and goes about clearing their tat-filled homes and bringing order to their chaos. Her trademark sense of minimalistic bliss is informed by Japanese aesthetic and a Zen-sense of orderliness.
Apparently, Marie Kondo isn’t attuned with Christianity.
Interestingly, Kondo has clients kneel on the floor and “ask” their dwelling for “permission” and “cooperation” before they get started. “I’d love for you to picture your vision for your home,” she pleads. “Communicate that to your home.” She encourages saying “thank you” to their piles of clothes as they sort and fold them. She daintily treats inanimate objects as living things and speaks to them. She encourages her show’s audiences to do the same.
That’s Buddhism/Shinto in force. Some flavors of native Japanese spirituality focus on inanimate objects’ sacredness. Several of Kondo’s critics in America have insisted that her methods aren’t compatible with Christianity. Kondo’s rituals of treating objects as if they have feelings, these critics have declared, is to be discouraged because her ways invoke animism, the religious notion that objects possess some sort of spiritual essence.
“Kondo-ing” Has Become a Verb.
With a translator in tow, Marie Kondo never treats her patrons as victims, and that’s exceptionally impressive.
By eschewing a victim mentality, Kondo encourages and empowers people in a way that actually brings about lasting change. Audiences particularly love her advice on organizing wardrobes and storage spaces and routinizing tasks into maintainable systems.
Kondo emphasizes prioritizing joy. She doggedly insists upon keeping only those objects that “spark joy” (she uses the Japanese intransitive verb “tokimeku,” roughly, “to flicker.”) Her “if in doubt, throw it out” commandment has helped millions of people ward off hoarding tendencies.
Kondo has become a cultural sensation, appealing to all sorts of homes bursting with cheap consumer goods. The “Marie Kondo Effect” is directly responsible for increasing donations to thrift stores and charity shops worldwide.
Keep what sparks joy. Own less stuff. Pursue what’s meaningful.
If you’d like to downsize or declutter without letting go of things you love, take the KonMari method to heart. But don’t go too far. Be careful about shedding items to which you have a deep sentimental connection. Put it into operation earnestly to get rid of clutter. Find joy, significance, and sacrament in simple everyday objects and tasks. Simplifying your priorities and refocus on things that you tend to overlook in the busyness of life.
- Only Consume What You Need. Supplement the Konmari method of paring down your belongings with the ongoing strategy for minimizing additional purchases. Buy only those things that will “spark joy” and continue to do so for many years. Never mind that the economy depends upon endless undifferentiated consumption.
- Reduce, but Don’t Refresh. If you have a bunch of empty space, be selective in how you fill it up. Cutting down your possessions isn’t an invitation to revert to a situation where decluttering again becomes necessary after a while. Restrain that impulse to acquire the new and the shiny—that’s what overwhelmed Kondo’s clients in the first place.
The real magic of Tidying Up with Marie Kondo is in shedding anxiety, living in the moment, and being your best self. Your happiest moments come when you’re lost to a conversation or an experience. You’ll avoid the helter-skelter of life has the power to deny and neglect what’s most important in your life.
Will the Marie Kondo Effect alleviate haywire consumerism?
The more profound significance of decluttering and minimalism is to help make better choices when making purchases in the future.
And beyond the individual convenience, it would be more productive to build up collective awareness and confront the modern consumption economy. It only presents overwhelming incentives to mass-produce and overconsume superficially appealing items.
Collectively, humanity needs to start questioning whether we should be pursuing growth at all. The economic system we have now can’t sustain forever. Our ecological systems can only sustain so much life. We’ve grown so much as a population, and we’ve started consuming so much that we’re straining the earth’s ability to support us. Hyperconsumerism needs to stop.
Idea for Impact: Negligent hyper-consumerism is shameful and embarrassing, even to this “card-carrying” capitalist.
Ironically, after making us get rid of everything, Marie Kondo has started peddling such things as therapeutic tuning fork and crystal ($75,) compost bin ($175,) and food storage container ($60) that are guaranteed to “spark joy.”
At any rate, I hope Marie Kondo and her ilk inspire a collective self-loathing at how much we consume. Utility should be the principal criterion for what we buy and keep.
I urge you to make strides towards more mindful consumption and consciously differentiate wants and needs.
Buy what you need. Buy the best quality stuff you can afford, and keep them for longer. Choose things that can be easily repaired—if possible, repurposed and recycled. Encourage businesses that peddle goods that are manufactured as responsibly and mindfully as possible.
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