As you probably know, Marie Kondo is the author of a bestselling book: The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. In 2011 it was published in Japanese and the English translation was issued three years later.
Beginning in January, Kondo also hosted “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo,” a reality television series developed for Netflix. The eight episodes showed Marie visiting families to help them organize and tidy up their homes.
Without question, many USAmericans need help/advice in decluttering their homes--and their lives. Much of what Kondo suggests in her KonMari method, which is explained on her website (here), is good, helpful advice.
Giving that advice has become lucrative for her. In helping people tidy up, Kondo and her husband have acquired a tidy fortune. They are said to be now worth $8,000,000.
In most cases, tidying up one’s home means getting rid of a lot of “stuff.” Most people, here and in Japan, have far more than they need--or have room to store or display in a comfortable manner.
A key point of the KonMari method is not deciding what to discard but rather in deciding what to keep. The “selection criterion” for the latter is this: “does it spark joy?”
In the English translation of her book, Kondo writes that “the best way to choose what to keep and what to throw away is to take each item in one’s hand and ask: ‘Does this spark joy?’ If it does, keep it. If not, dispose of it” (p. 41, bolding in original.)
It is interesting how “joy” is used in the English translation, but the Japanese book uses the word tokimeku which means to “flutter” or “sparkle.” In consulting with my Japanese daughter-in-law, I decided that a literal translation of the Japanese title would be something like The Magic of Tidying Up that Makes Life Sparkle.
The English translation, though, is about keeping only those things that “spark joy.” That emphasis raises some questions.
Why should material things spark joy (or cause our lives to sparkle)? I can think of two reasons: because they are decidedly beautiful or because they have deep sentimental value.
But can anyone live with only possessions that are beautiful and sentimental? Probably not--so there goes Kondo’s key criterion.
Kondo suggests starting decluttering by disposing of unnecessary clothing. Admittedly, probably all of us have some wearing apparel we like more than others. But should we, can we, daily wear only those clothes that “spark joy”?
It is suggested that the KonMari method is opposed to consumerism--and it may inspire some people to buy less. But for many people, discarding things that don’t spark joy probably means that when they go shopping again, they will see new things that do spark joy and buy them.
Consequently, as a January 2019 article in The Guardian points out, “Some of her clients may just make space for fresh purchases in an endless binge-purge cycle.”
In spite of my questions, though, I do like Kondo’s emphasis in the last paragraph of her book: “As for you, pour your time and passion into what brings you the most joy, your mission in life.”
Exactly. It is living to fulfill a mission rather than having things that produce real joy.