After telling the world to dump it all, Marie Kondo, 34, the goddess of decluttering and Japanese author of international bestseller, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organising (2014), launched an online store last week in collaboration with Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten.
The e-commerce venture (shop.konmari.com), that features around 150 homeware and fashion items, ranging in price from $8 to $300, and currently shipping only within the United States, was met with much criticism on social media. Users called out Kondo for promoting consumerism after having encouraged people to get rid of unnecessary things. In fact, she even followed up her book with the 2019 Netflix hit show, Tidying Up With Marie Kondo, in which she helped people in the US declutter their homes.
Kondo, whose curiosity about tidying began early in her childhood had a thriving organising consultancy in Tokyo in her 20s. “My tidying method isn’t about getting rid of things — it’s about heightening your sensitivity to what brings you joy,” she wrote in a welcome note on her site. She had so many waitlisted clients that, at their request, she wrote what became The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and the rest was history. In 2015, Kondo, then 30, was sitting on a decluttering empire with over five million copies of the book sold worldwide, besides translations in several other languages. Tidying up was big business.
Like millions of others, I, too, was hit by the KonMari wave (contracted from Kondo Mariko, her name in Japanese style) and submitted to the belief that happiness and mental clarity can only be attained by having less. The KonMari method’s anchoring principle, that we hang onto only what “sparks joy,” hugely reconfigured the notion of tidying and decluttering, which, until then focused on what you got rid of rather than what you chose to keep. My son and I learned to fold clothes and arrange our closets and drawers the KonMari way and KonMari became a verb.
Of course, giving stuff away wasn’t as easy as Kondo made it to be. Clutter, which is mostly about memory, always evokes emotion and sentiment, and hence letting go is not an easy process. So, I did a systematic, crowd-sourced decluttering, offering all the items I owned but didn’t use to strangers (items ranging from tents to teapots, bags, satchels, shoes, saris, dresses, books and toys). They found many takers and they are now probably “sparking joy” in other people’s homes, while I am gloating over the empty spaces we created. It took me a good part of two months, but yes, I managed to declutter in a more calm, less panicky/ “let’s throw all this crap” way.
Meanwhile, in a deft move of capitalism- meets-minimalism, Kondo is selling tea scoops for $52 and kitchen ladles for $96. She explains that the listed products are an expression of her decluttering philosophy, with each of them chosen for their ability to “spark joy” in one’s daily life. Although how much joy one can derive from a crumb brush ($24) or a sponge for scrubbing carrots ($16) is beyond me. So, instead of acquiring joy by giving things away, you now have to actually buy it. And while you are at it, you can also buy tidiness: five different octagonal plates and different sized boxes to organise your house full of nothing will make it all better. Wading into wellness and spirituality (great things to monetise), Kondo sells you Palo Santo sticks for $68 to purify your spaces. You could also choose a tuning fork ($75) to reset the vibrations of your home.
For an annual fee of $500, you can also become a certified KonMari consultant. All you have to do is read her books, tidy your home, take a course, tidy at least two other people’s homes, and complete an exam.
On the home page of her website, Kondo says, “The goal of tidying is to make room for meaningful objects, people and experiences. I can think of no greater happiness in life than being surrounded by the things I love.” Seriously? But then you told me to let them go.
(Lalita Iyer writes for little people and big people and the little people in big people) This article appeared in the print edition with the headline : Don’t let them go