Let’s Talk About Marie Kondo

Because I’m a self-proclaimed minimalist, people often ask me about Marie Kondo. Most of the time, the people asking are fans of hers, which is where it gets awkward. They assume that I think she’s fabulous, and start getting upset when my response isn’t over-the-top praise. I give them my opinion, and then they jump in, start correcting me, and tell me that I don’t understand. Which, as a side note, is never the way to sway me over to your side. There’s science to back that up.

Marie Kondo Is Not A Minimalist

I have read her book twice, and I just finished watching all 10 episodes of her Netflix show. She and I are not playing the same sport. Her philosophy seems very materialistic to me, whereas my practice is very much a rejection of materialism and consumer culture. There is a fetishization of stuff that is the diametric opposite of what most modern minimalists practice. I’m not going to “wake up” my books, or thank my old clothes for their service. They’re inanimate objects. Stop anthropomorphizing possessions.

On some level I do get the “spark joy” thing, and most minimalists agree that having some decorative items in your home is nice. I have art on the walls, and a stuffed unicorn on my desk. They serve a purpose — they make the space pleasant to be in. But if you keep things because they spark joy, why can’t you just declare that everything sparks joy and keep it? Oh, right, because it’s old, worn out, unnecessary, redundant, and you want more space for other stuff that is useful, necessary, and sparks more joy.

You Do You

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t do KonMari if it works for you. This post isn’t meant to slag on people who have found it beneficial. All I want is for people to stop assuming that the journey toward simple living is the same for everyone. Tidying up isn’t minimalism. My simple living isn’t the simple living of Epicurus, or Henry David Thoreau, or the Luddites, or the Amish. And it’s not the obsessive-compulsive tidying up of Marie Kondo.


5 comments / Add your comment below

  1. Absolutely. Minimalism, like democracy and religion , can be practiced in different ways and one interpretation does not necessarily invalid another. It is not an all-or-nothing ideology.

  2. I am also not going to stop rolling or tying my socks and instead fold them and line them up in purpose-built container just to make the socks happier. It makes me happier to have the pairs together and clean and no, socks don’t have feelings.

    I might name my car and love her because she’s a workhorse and has a big trunk and starts reliably and manages to get us up the slippery hill in the winter, but I don’t wash her so she won’t be sad. I wash her because I don’t want me to be sad when my car’s undercarriage rusts or when I touch the road filth with my coat.

    Marie Kondo (and I’ve gotten some ways through her first book and then had to resist throwing phone against the wall because I value my phone and don’t need to replace it just yet) is garbage, and no, she’s not a minimalist, she’s someone rich white women can watch and try to emulate to create perfect magazine-cover home full of shiny new possessions. While you might not want to slag her off, I would. In fact, you mentioning her in this manner might ‘spark an idea’ and let me go off to my blog and slag her thoroughly when the mood strikes me. And it might.

  3. Never heard of this Marie Kondo, and from what you have to say, I don’t think I want to. I have plenty to read that interests me… sounds like her writings are not amonst that very broad category of ‘things that interest me’. Hate anthropomorphism, for a start. As for ‘stuff’, yes I probably have too much and its not tidy, but I can find what I want and everything has a meaning.

  4. You nailed it. I think there’s an almost racist element of the “magical wise Asian” that appeals to white people in the West. Her method is also more palatable than minimalist mantras of giving up excess stuff, because she plays to the emotional attachments the materialism and consumerism breed. I can only speculate as to what her appeal in Japan is, but it might be that she used to be a Shinto temple maiden. Her ideas seem to hook into traditional and conservative values. But I might be wrong, I’m outside looking in on that one.

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