Maria Kondo - Tidying Up

To Marie Kondo, tidying isn’t a chore or a necessity: it’s an art form. 


The 34-year-old tidying expert is the inventor of the ‘KonMari’ method of organisation, and is the latest Netflix darling to win the hearts of the general public, thanks to her new show “Tidying Up With Marie Kondo”. 


Kondo began her tidying consultant business at 19 when she was still a sociology student at Tokyo Woman’s Christian University, when her friends began to offer her money to tidy their belongings. 


 In 2011 she published “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” which became an instant bestseller in her native Japan. Her popularity skyrocketed in 2014 when New York Times journalist Penelope Green wrote a glowing recommendation of the KonMari method, declaring that it was a “more efficacious sorting mechanism” than traditional decluttering methods. 


But what exactly is the KonMari method? And does how does it work? 


Kondo’s approach to tidying is made up of two simple rules: discard anything that does not “spark joy” within you and do not buy organisational equipment- you already own all the tools you need to keep your space tidy. 


It revolves around personification and emotion. She asks that you take each item, whether it be clothing or old toys, hold it in your hands, and wait for it to evoke a particular feeling of happiness in you. If it doesn’t, you discard it, after thanking it for its hard work. 


For a woman whose mission is to “spark joy” Kondo has been met with a considerable amount of criticism from the Western World, many ridiculing the idea of a system based around sparking joy. Does your first aid kit “spark joy”, they ask? What about your toilet plunger? Does that mean you should get rid of all those practical, dull necessities, just because they don’t spark joy?   


In a 2016 article for the New York Times, Taffy Brodesser-Akner, attending the annual conference of the National Association of Professional Organisers, noted the disdain its members had for Kondo and her methods, noting that one woman's remark that the KonMari method only worked for “Japanese girls” with “a bunch of Hello Kitty toys and stuff” was “while not the only thing a professional organizer told me that was tinged with an aggressive xenophobia and racism, it is the only one that can run in a New York Times article.” 


Kondo also had a controversial appearance on the “Rachael Ray” talk show, where her methods were challenged by fellow organiser Peter Walsh. His comments on why her particular method of organization wouldn’t work in America were never relayed back to her through her interpreter, and she was thus denied the opportunity to defend herself.  


According to “Vox” writer Constance Grady, Marie Kondo doesn’t want to sell you a lifestyle brand or a high-tech storage unit. What makes KonMari so alluring, is the fantasy of a “tidy life, and a world under perfect control.” 


And that, at least, is something we can all empathise with.